had killed Scipio instead of being killed by him.38
the Roman world the custom of removing the rings in case of death is
noted by Pliny, who says that they were taken from the fingers of those
in the comatose state of the dying; the rings were often replaced
after death.39 An instance in point is noted by Suetonius,
who reports that when Tiberius became unconscious, and was believed to
be about to die, his seal ring was slipped from his finger, but on
regaining consciousness the emperor demanded that it should be replaced.40
To have a ring drop from the finger was regarded as a bad omen, and
when an accident of this kind happened to Emperor Hadrian, he is said
to have exclaimed: " This is a sign of death." The ring which fell from
his finger bore a gem engraved with his own image.
The elegy of Propertius (49-15? b.c.) on
the" Shade of Cynthia," gives proof that a valuable ring was often left
on the hand of the corpse when it was burned on the funeral pyre. The
Latin verses describing the apparition may be thus rendered in prose:41
She still had the same eyes and hair as when on the funeral couch; but
her garments had been burned away. The flame had destroyed the beryl
which used to grace her finger, and the infernal stream had discolored
sense of intimate connection between a valued ring and the wearer,
finds expression in Shakespeare's lines (Cymbeline Act I, sc. 5) :
My ring I hold dear as my finger ; 'tis part of it. And if we go back 2200 years to a far distant quarter of the globe we meet with the same feeling of intimate
39 Plinii, " Naturalis Historia," lib. xxxiii.
40 Suetonii, " Vita Cassarum," Tiberius.
41 Lib. iv, No. vii.