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Roman amber

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Ancient Romans called amber as lyncurium (other names are lyngurium or ligurium), meaning “lynx urine” because according to the beliefs, the golden object was created from the petrified urine of this predator (apparently the best came from male urine).

Such parables were preached by, among others, the Greek scholar and philosopher Theophrastus of Eresos (3rd century BCE). Gaius Julius Solinus describes the lynx:

The urine of the lynx is said to collect and harden into precious stones by those who have narrowly investigated the nature of stones. That this is known to the lynxes themselves is proved by this example: when they discharge liquid, they immediately cover it, as much as they are able, with hillocks of sand. No doubt they do this from spite, lest such matter as issues from them be useful to us. As Theophrastus holds, these stones are the colour of amber. The substance attracts by a breath things that are near at hand. It cures diseases of the kidneys and assuages the jaundice; it is called luncurium.

Gaius Julius Solinus, Polyhistor, II, 38, 39

However, these stories did not disturb the Romans, who massively imported goods that were a respected ornament, especially among Roman patricians. Pliny the Elder, a Roman scientist and encyclopedist, did not believe these stories himself.

How was amber brought to Rome?

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