180 NATURAL HISTORY OF PRECIOUS METALS, &c.
an immensity of gold and silver in the region of the Suani, and in other parts of his kingdom famous for the golden fleece." To the present day the Chinese miners in Australia employ sheepskins to collect the gold-dust in their washings.
interesting account of the Persian treasury is preserved by Athenaeus
(xii. 514), copied from the biography of Alexander by Chares of
Mitylene : " Close to the king's bed there was overhead a chamber in
which were always kept 5000 talents (300,000 lbs. in weight) of coined
gold : this was called the king's pillow. At his feet was another
chamber, somewhat smaller, wherein were always kept 3000 talents of
silver coin : this was called the king's footstool. In the bedchamber
there was a vine in gold (the gift of Pythius ?) set with gems,
spreading above the couch. This vine, according to Amyntas, had bunches
of grapes made out of the most precious gems." For the sake of
comparing the revenues of the two greatest empires the world has ever
seen, take this glance at the Roman treasury when at its fullest, as
Pliny observes (xxxiii. 17). This chanced to be precisely at the moment
when Caesar upon his first entry into the metropolis appropriated its
contents without ceremony, drawing out in gold ingots 15,000 pounds
weight, in silver ingots 30,000, and in coined silver 300,000.
captured treasures of Mithridates, the spoils of Asia, raised (says
Plutarch) the Roman revenue from fifty millions of denarii
(2,000,000Z.) up to eighty-three at one stroke. Besides this accession
of annual revenue, the amount of 20,000 talents in specie and plate was
brought by the same conquest into the treasury.
describes the Median palace at Ecbatana (x. 27) as having all its
timber-work, though of cedar and cypress-wood, the beams, the ceilings,
and the pillars, entirely plated over with scales of gold and of silver ; the tiles being