Advertisement

Gold Bulletin

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 60–66 | Cite as

Corinthian bronze and the gold of the alchemists

  • David M Jacobson
Open Access
Article

Abstract

Alloys that went under the name of Corinthian Bronze were highly prized in the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era, when Corinthian Bronze was used to embellish the great gate of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. From the ancient texts it emerges that Corinthian Bronze was the name given to a family of copper alloys with gold and silver which were depletion gilded to give them a golden or silver lustre. An important centre of production appears to have been Egypt where, by tradition, alchemy had its origins. From an analysis of the earliest alchemical texts, it is suggested that the concept of transmutation of base metals into gold arose from the depletion gilding process.

Keywords

Copper Alloy Ancient Text Acid Pickling Precious Metal Content Roman Wall Painting 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. 1.
    Pliny,Naturalis Historia, 34. 1Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pliny,Naturalis Historia, 34. 8Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pliny,Naturalis Historia, 37. 49Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    D. M. Jacobson and M. P. Weitzman,Amer. J. Archaeol., 1992,96, 238–39Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    PlutarchMoralia, De Pythiae oraculis, 2 (395B-D); Petronius,Satyricon 50; Pliny,Naturalis Historia, 34. 6; Florus 1. 32; Orosius 5. 3Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    CiceroTusculanae Disputationes, 4. 32; PlutarchMoralia, De Pythiae oraculis, 2 (395B)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Josephus,Bellum Judaicum, 5. 201. On other ancient references to the Nicanor Gate, see Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 4), pp. 240–41Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mishnah,Middoth 2:3Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Tosephta,Yoma, 2:4; Yoma 3:8, on Mishnah Yoma 3:10; see Jacobson and Weitzman 1992 (reference 4), p. 240 and note 29Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J. P. Kane,Journal of Jewish Studies, 1978,23, 268–82Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tosephta, Yoma, 2:4; Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma, 3:8; Babylonian Talmud, Yoma, 38aGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 4), p. 240Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    M. P. Weitzman, ‘The Syriac version of the Old Testament,’ Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, p. 261Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    D. M. Jacobson and M. P. Weitzman,The Classical Quarterly, 1995,45 (2), 581Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cambridge MS. Mm 6. 29, folio 41v. See W. Wright, ‘A Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts Preserved in the Library of the University of Cambridge,’ Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1901, pp. 1036–1037Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 14), p. 582Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    R. Duval (ed. ), ‘Lexicon Syriacum auctore Hassano bar Bahlule,’ Typographaeus Republicae, Paris, 1888–1901, p. 1238Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 4), pp. 241–44Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pausanias ii 3, 3 (heating and quenching). In the Syriac “Peshitta” translation of 1 Kings, the Hebrew phrase “burnished bronze.” is rendered as “Corinthian Bronze”.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    E. R., Caley,Journal of Chemical Education, 1926,3, 1149–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    R. Halleux, R., ‘Les alchimistes grecs. I: Papyrus de Leyde, Papyrus de Stockholm, fragments de recettes,’ Editions Budé, Paris, 1981, pp. 84–109Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    L. B. Hunt,Gold Bull., 1976,9, 21–31Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Caley (reference 20), p. 1153Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 4), p. 242Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    J. W. Mellor, ‘A Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry,’ Longmans, Green and Co., London and New York, 1935, Vol. 14, 329–30Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    T. del Solar and M. Grimwade,Aurum, 1982,12, 37–45Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 4), p. 244Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    D. M. Jacobson and J. S. McKenzie,Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 1992,17, 327Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    H. Lechtman, in ‘The Beginning of the Use of Metals and Alloys: Papers from the Second International Conference on the Beginnings of the Use of Metals and Alloys, Zhengzhou, China, 21–26 October 1986,’ ed. R Maddin, M. I. T. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1988, p. 374Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    L. Cope, in ‘Methods of Chemical and Metallurgical Investigations of Ancient Coinage: A Symposium Held by the Royal Numismatic Society at Burlington House, London, on 9–11 December 1970 (RNS Special Publication No. 8),’ ed. E. T. Hall and D. M. Metcalf, Royal Numismatic Society, London, 1972, pp. 267–268Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lechtman (reference 29), p. 373Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Pliny,Naturalis Historia, 34. 7; Petronius,Satyricon, 50; Suetonius,Augustus, 70. 2Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    D. Gruben and G. Gruben,Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung, 1997,104, 3–52Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Josephus,Bellum Judaicum 6. 293Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    L. H. Cope, in ‘Methods of Chemical and Metallurgical Investigation of Ancient Coinage,’ ed. E. T. Hall and D. M. Metcalfe, Royal Numismatic Society, London, 1972, pp. 266–71Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    W. B. Stern, in ‘Prehistoric Gold in Europe,’ ed. G. Morteani and J. P. Northover, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 1995, pp. 317–28Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    R. F. Tylecote, ‘A History of Metallurgy,’ The Metals Society, London, 1976, p. 48Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    A. E. Riz, ‘Bronzegefässe in der römisch-pompejanischen Wandmalerei,’ Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1990, p. 21Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    R. Fuchset al., ‘Gold und Vergoldung bei Plinius dem Älteren,’ Attempto Verlag, Tübingen, 1993, pp. 56–70Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    S. La Niece,Iraq, 1995,57, 41–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Halleux (reference 21), p. 41Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pliny,Epistulae 3. 6Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    J. Murphy-O’Connor,Revue Biblique, 1983,90, 80–93Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    D. W. Engels, ‘Roman Corinth. An alternative model for the Classical city,’ University of Chicago, Chicago / London, 1990, pp. 36–37Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    A. R. Giumlia-Mair and P. T. Craddock,Antike Welt, 1993,24 (5), 1–62; Craddock and Giumlia-Mair, in S. La Niece and P. Craddock (eds. ), ‘Metal plating and patination: cultural, technical and historical developments,’ Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 1993, pp. 102–127; Craddock,Gold Bull., 1982,15, 69–72Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    P. T. Craddock,Gold Bull., 1982,15, 69–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Jacobson and Weitzman (reference 14), pp. 580–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Engels (reference 44), pp. 206–207, note 66Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    P. E. M. Berthelot and C. E. Ruelle, ‘Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs,’ F. Steinheil, Paris, 1888, Vol. 2, pp. 107–252Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    F. Sezgin, ‘Geschichte der arabischen Schrifttums,’ E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1971, Vol. 4, pp. 7–77Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    J. M. Stillman, ‘The Story of Early Chemistry,’ Appleton & Co., New York / London, 1924, pp. 135–83Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Berthelot and Ruelle (reference 49), Vol. 1, pp 19–20Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    P. E. M. Berthelot, ‘Introduction a l’etude de la chimie des anciens et du moyen age,’ G. Steinheil, Paris, 1889, pp. 53–62Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    G. B. Kauffman,Gold Bull., 1985,18, 38–40Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Jacobson and McKenzie (reference 28), p. 327Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Berthelot and Ruelle (reference 49), Vol. 1, pp. 142–51Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    J. Lindsay, ‘The Origins of Alchemy in Graeco-Roman Egypt,’ Muller, London, 1970, 246Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Berthelot and Ruelle (reference 49), Vol. 2, p. 46Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    C. S. Smith and J. G. Hawthorne,Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc., New Series, 1974,64 (4), pp. 32, 39, 59Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Berthelot and Ruelle (reference 49), Vol. 1, p. 20Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Kauffman (reference 54), 39–40Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Berthelot and Ruelle (reference 49), Vol. 2, p. 115Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Kauffman (reference 54), pp. 69–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    D. A. Scott,Journal of the Historical Metallurgical Society, 1983,17, 110; Jacobson and McKenzie D. M. Jacobson and J. S. McKenzie, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 1992,17 (reference 28), 242Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Kauffman (reference 54), 113–114 and Figure 32Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    V. Karpenko,Ambix, 1988,35, 73–74Google Scholar

Copyright information

© World Gold Council 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M Jacobson
    • 1
  1. 1.The Centre for Rapid Design and ManufactureBuckingham Chilterns University CollegeHigh WycombeUK

Personalised recommendations