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Ch. 11: Sacred Jewels

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SACRED JEWELS.
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of people of fashion, but such had become the regular prac­tice with the superstitious, semi-Oriental devotees of the Lower Empire. The Persian envoy presented to Sev. Alexander, for his empress, a pair of round pearls of extra­ordinary weight and beauty. The Roman ordered them to be sold, but no one was found able to pay their estimated value. He, therefore, not choosing that his wife should set a bad example by wearing such costly decorations, dedi­cated them in the ear-rings of Venus, where, it may be supposed, the perfect twins replaced the split one of Cleo­patra'.-. Another remarkable example is the necklace of the most costly stones upon the statue of Vesta, to whose vengeance Zosimus (a devoted adherent to the ancient faith) ascribes the tragic end of Serena, Stilicho's widow, who had despoiled her of it. This was done after her temple had been deserted by its former guardians, in con­sequence of the confiscation of its revenues by the needy government, though still for some time protected from rob­bery by the religio loci. The historian, though lamenting the cruel fate of so worthy a princess—she had been stran­gled by the command of the miserable Honorius—cannot refrain from instancing the poetical justice of the mode of execution, " which encircled with the cord a throat pre­viously decorated with a necklace obtained by sacrilege from the most venerable of the Roman shrines." *
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