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Again, that the practice of the ancients had any such respect of cordiality or reference unto the heart, will much be doubted, if we consider their rings were made of iron ;4 such was that of Prometheus, who is conceived the first that brought them in use. So, as Pliny affirmeth, for many years the senators of Rome did not wear any rings of gold, but the slaves wore generally iron rings until their manumission or preferment to some dignity. That the Lacedemonians continued their iron rings unto his days, Pliny also delivereth, and surely they used few of gold; for beside that Lycurgus prohibited that metal, we read in Athenæus, that,
4 will much be doubted, &c.] Yet Pliny says, etiam nunc sponsce annulus ferreus mittitur, isque sine gemma.—Nat. Hist. 1. xxxiii. cap. 1.
At Silchester in Hampshire (the Vindonum of the Romans), was found an iron ring, with a singular-shaped key attached to it; now in the possession of Mrs. Keep, at the farm-house, where I saw it, June 26, 1811.-Jeff'.
5 the senators, doc.] Juvenal, comparing the extravagance of his own times with those of the old Romans, has annulus in digito non ferreus. Sat. xi. 129. Kennet observes that the Roman knights were allowed a gold ring, and a horse at the public charge, hence eques auratus.Roman Antiquities. Tacitus says, De Mor. German. s. 31 :-Fortissimus quisque (Cattorum) ferreum insuper annulum (ignominiosum id genti) velut vinculum gestat, donec se cæde hostis absolvet.” Among the Eastern nations also was the ring worn as a badge of slavery.-See Lowth, note on Isa. xlix. 23.-Jeff.
We may add that rings were frequently used by medical practitioners, as charms and talismans, against all sorts of calamities inflicted by all kinds of beings :-Hippocrates and Galen both enjoin on physicians the use of rings. See a curious paper on this subject in the Archæologiæ, vol. xxi. p. 119.
Patriotism has, in our own days, induced the exchange of gold for iron rings. The women of Prussia, in 1813, offered up their wedding: rings upon the altars of their country, and the government, in exchange,
distributed iron rings with this inscription, “I exchange gold for iron.”
Rings however have not only been deemed badges of slavery, but very anciently and far more generally they denoted authority and government. Pharaoh in committing that of Egypt to Joseph gave him his ring—so Ahasuerus to Mordecai. With great probability has it been conjectured, that, in conformity with the Scriptural examples of this ancient usage, the Christian church afterwards adopted the ring in marriage, as a symbol of the authority which the husband gave the wife over his household, and over the “ worldly goods” with which he endowed her ; accompanying it, in many of the early Catholic rituals, with the betrothing or earnest penny, which was deposited either in the bride's right hand, or in a purse brought by her for the purpose.
having a desire to gild the face of Apollo, they enquired of the oracle where they might purchase so much gold; and were directed unto Cresus King of Lydia. Moreover, whether the ancients had any such intention,
, the grounds which they conceived in vein, nerve or artery, are not to be justified, nor will inspection confirm a peculiar vessel in this finger. For as anatomy informeth, the basilica vein dividing into two branches below the cubit, the outward sendeth two surcles unto the thumb, two unto the forefinger, and one unto the middle finger in the inward side; the other branch of the basilica sendeth one surcle unto the outside of the middle finger, two unto the ring, and as many unto the little fingers; so that they all proceed from the basilica, and are in equal numbers derived unto every one. In the same manner are the branches of the axillary artery distributed into the hand: for below the cubit it divideth into two parts, the one running along the radius, and, passing by the wrist or pulse, is at the fingers subdivided into three branches ; whereof the first conveyeth two surcles unto the thumb, the second as many to the forefinger, and the third one unto the middle finger, and the other or lower division of the artery descendeth by the ulna, and furnisheth the other fingers; that is the middle with one surcle, and the ring and little fingers with two. As for the nerves, they are disposed much after the same manner, and have their original from the brain, and not the heart, as many of the ancients conceived, which is so far from affording nerves unto other parts, that it receiveth very few itself from the sixth conjugation, or pair of nerves in the brain.
Lastly, these propagations being communicated unto both hands, we have no greater reason to wear our rings on the left, than on the right; nor are there cordial considerations in the one, more than the other. And therefore when Fores. tus for the stanching of blood makes use of medical applications unto the fourth finger, he confines not that practice unto the left, but varieth the side according to the nostril bleeding. So in fevers, where the heart primarily suffereth, we apply medicines unto the wrists of either arms; so we touch the pulse of both, and judge of the affections of the
as many of the ancients conceived.] With whom Ross, as usual, is disposed to agree.- See Arcana Microcosmi, p. 35.
heart by the one as well as the other. And although in lispositions of liver or spleen, considerations are made in phlebotomy respectively to their situation ; yet when the heart is affected, men have thought it as effectual to bleed on the right as the left; and although also it may be thought
; a nearer respect is to be had of the left, because the great artery proceeds from the left ventricle, and so is nearer that arm, it admits not that consideration. For under the channel-bones the artery divideth into two great branches, from which trunk or point of division, the distance unto either hand is equal, and the consideration also answerable.
All which with many respective niceties, in order unto parts, sides, and veins, are now become of less consideration, by the new and noble doctrine of the circulation of the blood.
And therefore Macrobius, discussing the point, hath alleged another reason; affirming that the gestation of rings upon this hand and finger, might rather be used for their conveniency and preservation, than any cordial relation. For at first (saith he) it was both free and usual to wear rings on either hand; but after that luxury increased, when precious gems and rich insculptures were added, the custom of wearing them on the right hand was translated
unto the left; for, that hand being less employed, thereby - they were best preserved. And for the same reason, they
placed them on this finger : for the thumb was too active à finger, and is commonly employed with either of the rest; the index or forefinger was too naked whereto to commit their precosities, and hath the tuition of the thumb scarce unto the second joint: the middle and little finger they rejected as extremes, and too big or too little for their rings, and of all choose out the fourth, as being least used of any, as being guarded on either side, and having in most this peculiar condition, that it cannot be extended alone and by itself, but will be accompanied by some finger on either side. And to this opinion assenteth Alexander ab Alexandro, annulum nuptialem prior. ætas in sinistra ferebat, crediderim nè attereretur.
7 All which, &c.] First added in 6th edition. s and having, &c.] This is not true.— Wr.
But indeed, Mr. Dean, it is true. The annularis is the only finger in the human hand, not possessed of the power of separate movement.
Now that which begat or promoted the common opinion, was the common conceit that the heart was seated on the left side; but how far this is verified, we have before declared. The Egyptian practice hath much advanced the same, who unto this finger derived a nerve from the heart; and therefore the priest anointed the same with precious oils before the altar. But how weak anatomists they were, which were so good embalmers, we have already showed. And though this reason took most place, yet had they another which more commended that practice: and that was the number whereof this finger was an hieroglyphick. For by holding down the fourth finger of the left hand, while the rest were extended, they signified the perfect and magnified number of six. For as Pierius hath graphically declared, antiquity expresed numbers by the fingers of either hand : on the left they accounted their digits and articulate numbers unto an hundred ; on the right hand hundreds and thousands; the depressing this finger, which in the left hand implied but six, in the right indigitated six hundred. In this way of numeration, may we construe that of Juvenal concerning Nestor.
Qui pertot sæcula mortem
Distulit, atque suos jam dextrâ computat annos. And however it were intended, in this sense it will be very elegant what is delivered of wisdom, Prov. iii. “Length of days in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour.'
As for the observation of Lemnius, an eminent physician, concerning the gout, however it happened in his country, we may observe it otherwise in ours; that is, chiragrical persons do suffer in this finger as well as in the rest, and sometimes first of all, and sometimes nowhere else. And for the mixing up medicines herewith, it is rather an argument of opinion than any considerable effect; and we as highly conceive of the practice in diapalma; that is, in the making of that plaster to stir it with the stick of a palm.
Of the Right and Left Hand. It is also suspicious, and not with that certainty to be received, what is generally believed concerning the right and left hand; that men naturally make use of the right, and that the use of the other is a digression or aberration from that way which nature generally intendeth. We do not deny that almost all nations have used this hand, and ascribed a pre-eminence thereto: hereof a remarkable passage there is in Genesis : “ And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand towards Israel's left hand, and Manasses in his left hand towards Israel's right hand. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasses' head, guiding his hand wittingly, for Manasses was the first-born. And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he held up his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasses' head; and Joseph said, Not so my father, for this is the first-born: put thy right hand upon his head.” The like appeareth from the ordinance of Moses in the consecration of their priests : " Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot, and sprinkle the blood on the altar round about.' That the Persians were wont herewith to plight their faith, is testified by Diodorus; that the Greeks and Romans made use hereof, beside the testimony of divers authors, is evident from their custom of discumbency at their meals, which was upon their left side, for so their right was free, and ready for all service. As also from the conjunction of the right hands and not the left, observable in the Roman medals of
men naturally, &c.] Cann this be denyed? or yf there be some exceptions, i. e. aberrations from the generall rule, doe they not the more confirme itt? Omnis exceptio stabilit regulam in non exceptis, is an axiome invincible.- Wr.