330 NATURAL HISTORY OF PRECIOUS STONES, &c.
in superficial extent. Epiphanins acutely (for once) notices a remarkable omission in the series—there is no Hyacinthus (our Sapphire). He conjectures that by the Ligurius, a
name not to be found in any of the authors he had consulted, the
Hyacinthus must be understood, on the ground that a gem ranking so high
in value could not but have had a conspicuous place in the catalogue.
But Isidores, a century and a half later, actually gives Ligurius as
synonymous with Lyncurium: "Ligurius vocatur quod fit ex urina lyncis
bestiae " (xvi. 8) ; and this was our Jacinth, a gem exactly resembling
amber, as clearly appears from what Theophrastus says of it. As for the
Onyx, there can be no doubt it was the kind now called Nicolo, for
De Boot mentions that in his times (circ. 1600) it had ever been
peculiarly valued by the Jews upon this very account, as being the true
species of the two large Onyx-stones engraved with the names (Exod.
xxviii. 9) of the tribes, six on one and six on the other, which being
set in ouches of gold, were fixed upon the ephod, and whence proceeded
the two wreathed chains by which the Breastplate hung. And without
doubt this tradition is correct, for Pliny notes that the popular name
for this kind was iEgyptilla, and that it came from Arabia.*
adds that all the stones were conspicuous for their size and beauty,
and of inestimable value. The names of the tribes were engraved in the
" national character ;" but the Breastplate known to him could not have
been the original one made by the directions of Moses, for a reason
hereafter to be considered. But before going further, one point
requires attention. By " national character" Josephus could only have
meant the Chaldee, or modern Hebrew letter, used in his times for the
Scriptures ; and this of
* In fact it is merely the Arabian Sardonyx, with the third or topmost layer removed.