ONYX : 'Ïíý÷ùí : ¼ííãßôçò : Nicola.
of Onyx was given by the Romans to two totally distinct substances : a
species of marble, and a silicious gem. Pliny states this expressly : "
hoc aliubi lapidis, hic gemmas vocabulum." As it would appear, from a
circumstance hereafter to be noticed, that the marble was the first of
the two to be known under that name to the Romans, it is properly the
first to be here considered. It was the carbonate of lime, now called
Oriental alabaster, and re-ceived its original appellation from the
fancied resemblance of its clearly defined white and yellow veins to
the shades in the human finger-nail (ïííî). The Greeks, as was
their wont, discovered this familiar word in the Semitic " Oneg," "a
delight," or "the jewel" above all others ; seeing the paramount value
that race have ever attached to the gem, of which more shall be said
anon. " Oneg " in the sense of "jewel" is exactly analogous to our
derivation of the latter word from "joyau" and " gioiello."
In the republican times of Rome the marble was
a material of incredible value and rarity, supposed to be peculiar to
Arabia, and solely employed for making drinking-cups and the feet of
couches. Some singular illustrations of its original scarcity in that
city, and of the rapidity with which it became plentiful there under
the stimulating influence of the fast-growing luxury of the early
empire, will be found collected under Alabastrites. Being con-