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p845 Orichalcum

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on p845 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ORICHALCUM (ὀρείχαλκος), a metallic compound, akin to copper and bronze, which was highly prized by the ancients (see the passages in Forcellini, and the other Latin Lexicons). The word has given rise to much doubt; but the truth seems to be that it denotes brass, with which the ancients became acquainted by fusing zinc ore (cadmium, calamine) with copper, although they appear to have had scarcely any knowledge of zinc as a metal. They appear to have regarded orichalcum as a sort of bronze. How little acquainted they were with its true formation is shown by the fact that, deceived by its colour, they supposed gold to be one of its constituents, and then perpetuated their error by a false orthography, aurichalcum. The true derivation is no doubt from ὄρος and χαλκος, that is, mountain-bronze, so called probably because it was obtain by fusing copper with an ore (metal as found in the mountain), and not with an already reduced metal (see especially Strabo, with Groskurd's note, and Beckman, as quoted in the article Metallum).


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