Versions of ambers’ origins – Ancient Greece, Rome and Slavic
Pliny the Elder in his Historia Naturalis presented a more realistic origin of amber. He believed that amber has its origins in a pine tree growing on the islands of the North Ocean, and to be more precise, from the juices of those trees.
Believed that the juice thickened under the influence of low temperature and seawater when in spring rough waves washed the drops to the North Ocean. Next theories about the amber’s origins did not get any closer to the real ones. Paradoxically, the stayed in contradiction to the truth. In the Renaissance, the search for trees began in order to find a way to find amber-bearing resin. The Baltic Sea since ancient times was considered as the best source of amber, thanks to many beautiful pieces being found on the beaches.
Because the said trees were never found, Pliny’s theory was rejected. However, these doubts began a new search. This time people wanted to find the mythical Eridanus River. Many believed that the river is in Spain, while the others claimed it can be found in Italy. A famous renaissance researcher (a naturalist and a mining theoretician) George Agricola in his De natura fossilium explains claimed that amber is a hardened rock oil that comes out from the depths of the earth.
Andreas Aurifaber (a doctor and a naturalist), a teacher of the Gdańsk and Elbląg schools, and a professor of the Królewiec University expressed similar claims. Thanks to him, amber became more interesting for people of Gdańsk and the Sambian peninsula. There were many amber collectors who wanted to learn more about amber’s properties. In the Renaissance, the knowledge about possible changes on the Earth surface and could not accept the possibility of the fact that at some point the amber forests could exist.
In the XVII Italian researcher Paolo Boceone confirmed the old theory that amber in fact is the fossilized resin of coniferous trees. The Swede, Johan Chesnecopher, claimed that amber was extracted from tar. He did not approve of the theory of the Italian scientist. Another theory was given by Jost Fidus Klobius from Württemberg. In his Ambrae hisotira he claims that amber is made of hardened excrement of birds and whales. Jesuit from Braniewo, Wojciech Tylkowski returned to the original theory of amber as a fossilized resin. However, in his head, many questions arose, such as how the resin flowing down the trees very slowly could sink insects into amber.
Ancient Greece and Rome:
Amber in ancient Greece and Rome was being burnt for its soft and pleasant smell. Nowadays amber incense is being produced because it is believed to have a positive effect on the ionic structure of the air. It reduces stress and anxiety level, improves nervous system immunity, has a soothing effect and is a source of a pleasant aroma. In ancient Greece, it was observed that amber, which was believed to be holy, rubbed on cloth, had attractive properties. For ancient Greeks, it was a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon. Thales of Miletus, 640 years BC, believed that amber has a soul. He based this thesis on his observations of the attraction of pieces of grass by amber. The term “electricity” has its source in the Greek word for amber – “elektron”, which means “shines and sparkles”. Other sources translate that name as “coming from the sun”. Mineralogists call amber succinite. This term derives from the Latin word “succus” and means “juice” or “resin”. In Ancient Greece and Rome, amber was used to prepare medications and to decorate jewelry. It was also used during religious ceremonies and in magical practices. Ancient Greeks used amber cubes to play games and used the stones as incense. Roman Gladiators often used amber as their amulets. It was also an ingredient used for medicines and perfume.
In the past Slavic people believed that amber brings luck to its owners and especially the pieces with inclusions were believed to have magical properties. It was believed that a man should hand over an amber piece to his loved lady as a gift, to gain eternal love. There was also another belief that amber could test virginity. If a girl lost her virginity, after drinking amber tincture a stone was supposed to form in her balder.