« AnteriorContinuar »
NOTE 4. p.78.
This superstition still prevails in many parts of England, especially in Cornwall, where the peasants on certain days of the year assemble at the springs, or holy wells, and in the manner stated in the text, proceed to settle such doubts and enquiries as will not let the idle and anxious rest. Here, therefore, they come, and, instead of allaying, deservedly feed their uneasiness; the supposed responses serving equally to increase the gloom of the low-spirited, the suspicions of the jealous, and the passion of the enamoured. The superstition, however, is sanctioned by the highest antiquity. The Castalian fountain, and many others among the Grecians, was supposed to be of a prophetic nature. By dipping a fair mirror into a well, the Patræans of Greece received, as they supposed, some notice of ensuing sickness or health, from the various figures portrayed upon the surface.
In Laconia they cast into a pool, sacred to Juno, cakes of bread-corn; if they sank, good was portended ; if they swam, some thing dreadful was to ensue. Sometimes they threw three stones into the water, and formed their conclusions from the several turns they made in sinking. “From the several waves and eddies, which the sea, river, or other water exhibited,” says Dr. Borlase, “ when put into agitation after a ritual manner, the ancients pretended to foretel with great certainty the event of battles ; a way of divining recorded by Plutarch, in his life of Cæsar, and is still usual among the vulgar in Cornwall ; who go to some noted well, at particular times of the year, and there observe the bubbles that rise, and the aptness of the water to be troubled, or to remain pure, on their throwing in pins or pebbles, and thence conjecture what shall, or shall not befall them. The Druids also, as we have great reason to think, pretended to predict future events, not only from holy wells, and running streams, but from the rain and snow water, which, when settled, and afterwards stirred, either by oak-leaf or branch, or magic wand, might exhibit appearances of great information to the quick-sighted Druid, or seem so to do to the credulous enquirer, when the priest was at full liberty to represent the appearances as he thought most for his purpose.” — BORLASE's Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 140.
NOTE 5. p. 94.
The Latin word moneta, for money, is probably more modern than pecunia, and is said to be derived from moneo, to advise or mark, that is, to show by some mark the weight and fineness of the metal of which coins were composed. Thus, according to Isidorus, “ Moneta ita appellatur, quia monet nè qua fraus in pondere vel metallo fiat.” The origin of money seems to have been coeval with the first regulations of civil society, or, at least, it is too remote to be traced by any authentic history. Barter, that is the exchange of one commodity for another, was the ordinary mode of traffic in the earlier periods of the world; a practice which must soon have been discovered extremely inconvenient, and inadequate to the purposes of commerce, and hence the invention of a common measure, or standard, according to which all other things should be estimated. Writers very generally agree in
believing that the metals were first used for such a purpose, as being almost the only substances, whose goodness, and, as it were integrity, were not injured by partition; and which admitted of being melted, and returned again into a mass of any size or weight. At first, it is probable, that each person cut his metal into pieces of different sizes and forms, according to the quantity to be given for any merchandize, or according to the demand of the seller, or the quantity stipulated between them; to this end they went to market, laden with metal, in proportion to the purchase to be made, and furnished with instruments for apportioning it, and with scales for dealing it out, according as occasion required. By degrees it must have been found commodious to have pieces ready weighed; and Mr. Pinkerton observes that such were prepared without any stated form or impression, but merely regulated to a certain weight; for weight was the grand standard of ancient coinage, so that all large sums were paid in weight, even down to the Saxon period of England. As in Greece the first estimation of money was merely by weight, so was it in Rome. Silver was the metal first used in Grecian coinage, but copper in the
the former metal having been long unknown to the Romans. The first valuation of Roman money was by the libra gravis æris, or pound of heavy brass; and when by the progress of their conquests they obtained silver and gold, these were regulated in the same manner. Let us proceed one step farther in the history of coins ; it is easy to imagine that the growing commerce of money being disturbed with frauds, both in the weight and the material, the interposition of public authority became
necessary, and that hence arose the first stamps or impressions of money; to which succeeded the names of the moneyers, and at length the effigy of the prince, the date, legend, and other precautions to prevent the alteration of the species; and thus were coins completed. Gold and silver, in their pure or unmixed state, are too flexible to make coins sufficiently firm for general use; and hence the necessity of mixing with them a certain proportion of some harder metal, and this mixture is called the alloy. The quality of this alloy has been always considered of great importance with respect to the durability of coins. The most common metal, used for this purpose,
copper; and sometimes, for gold, a mixture of silver and copper.
In all well-regulated governments, there has been a standard fixed by law; that is, a certain proportion between the quantity of pure metal and its alloy. In England the standard for gold is 1, that is eleven parts of pure metal, and one part of alloy. The standard for silver is 27, a proportion which is said to have been fixed in the reign of Richard I., by certain persons from the eastern parts of Germany, called Easterlings ; and hence the word Sterling, which was afterwards the name given to the silver penny, and which is now applied to all lawful money of Great Britain.
By the term MEDAL, we understand a piece of metal, in the form of a coin, destined to preserve to posterity the portrait of some great man, or the memory of some illustrious action. They are distinguished by their different sizes; those of the larger size, or volume, are called medallions. Medallets is a name given by Pinkerton to those small pieces, or missilia, scattered among the people on solemn occasions; those struck for the slaves in the Saturnalia, private counters for gaming, tickets for baths and feasts, tokens in copper and lead, and the like. Medallions were certainly never intended to become current coin, as some medals probably were; they were struck purely to serve as public monuments, or to be presented by the emperor to his friends, and by the mint-makers to the emperor, as specimens of fine workmanship. They were struck upon the commencement of the reign of a new emperor, and other solemn occasions; and frequently, especially the Greek medallions, as monuments of gratitude, or of flattery. Sometimes they were trial or pattern pieces, testimonia probatæ monetæ ; and such abound after the reign of Maximilian, with the “ Tres monetæ" on the reverse. It is observed, that all the Roman pieces in gold, exceeding the denarius aureus ; all in silver, superior to the denarius ; and all in brass, superior to the sestertius, or what the medallist terms large brass, are comprehended under the description of medallions. Mr. Pinkerton, however, thinks that the gold medallions, weighing two, three, or four aurei only, passed in currency according to their size. Medallions from the time of Julius to that of Adrian, are very uncommon, and of very high price; from Adrian to the close of the western empire they are, generally speaking, less rare. The types of the Roman medallions are often repeated upon common coin; hence they appear of less importance than the Greek; impressions of which are frequently most uncommon, and no where else to be found. Many Roman medallions have S. C., as being struck by order of the senate; those without these initials, were struck by order