Sunday, February 10, 2008

lord of the rings, part 1



So Pharaoh said to Joseph: "Since God has made all this known to you, no one can be as wise and discerning as you are. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people shall dart at your command. Only in respect to the throne shall I outrank you.
Herewith," Pharaoh told Joseph, "I place you in charge of the whole land of Egypt."
With that, Pharaoh took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph's finger. He had him dressed in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. He then had him ride in the chariot of his vizier, and they shouted "Abrek!" before him. Thus was Joseph installed over the whole land of Egypt.
from The New American Bible, Genesis 41



The use of signet-rings as symbols of great respect and authority is mentioned in several parts of the Holy Scriptures, from which it would seem that they were then common among persons of rank. They were sometimes wholly of metal, but frequently the inscription was borne on a stone, set in gold or silver. The impression from the signet-ring of a monarch gave the force of a royal decree to any instrument to which it was attached. Hence the delivery or transfer of it gave the power of using the royal name, and created the highest office in the State.
from William Jones' Finger-ring Lore, 1877



And, coupled with mythology, we have, according to the ancients, the origin of the ring. Jupiter, from revenge, caused Strength, Force and Vulcan to chain his cousin-german Prometheus to the frosty Caucasus, where a vulture, all the livelong day, banqueted his fill on the black viands of his hot liver. [...] but as Jupiter had sworn to keep Prometheus bound for the space of time mentioned, he, in order not to violate his oath, commanded that Prometheus should always wear upon his finger an iron ring, to or in which should be fastened a small fragment of Caucasus, so that it might be true, in a certain sense, that Prometheus still continued bound to that rock. Thus, as we have said, came the idea of the first ring, and, we may add, the insertion of a stone.
from Charles Edwards' The History and Poetry of Finger-rings, 1855



Pliny believed that the use of rings had not existed even in Greece at the time of the Trojan war, and he tells us that the first date in Roman history at which ho could trace any general use of them was in A.u.c. 449, in the time of Cneius Flavius, the son of Annius. Yet, as he adds, after this date they must have come into use very rapidly, for, in the second Punic war, they were so abundant that Hannibal was able to send from Italy to Carthage three modii of thorn. The next advance in luxury was the practice of inserting or setting a precious stone in the gold of the ring, and it was not till a still later period that the use of signet rings was adopted, which implied the engraving of a device, of some kind or other, on the stone of the ring.
from The Intellectual Observer, Review of Natural History, 1867