Poli remarks that it rarely appears in the Neapolitan markets. He says that it is cooked at Naples with pepper, oil, and lemou-juice, and served with baked prunes.
The large triangular-shaped Pinna rudis may be seen in the markets at Athens.
Pearls are found in the Pinna, as I have already stated, and the Oriental pearls, in the Pearl-oyster, Meleagrina margaritifera, which belongs to the "Avicu-lidae". According to Pliny, the island of Taprobane (Ceylon) was most productive of pearls, and he considers that the most valuable were those found in the vicinity of Arabia, in the Persian Gulf. Chares of Mytilene, in his seventh book of his " Histories of Alexander," tells us that in the Indian Sea, and also off the coast of Armenia, Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia, a fish is caught very like an oyster, large and of oblong shape, containing within its shell flesh which is plentiful, white, and very fragrant, and from it the men pick out white bones, called by them pearls. And of these they make necklaces and chains for the hands and feet, of which the Persians are very fond, as are the Medes, and all Asiatics, esteeming them as much more valuable than golden ornaments.* Occasionally, they are called stones; and bones, by Greek Authors; and Tertullian calls them maladies of shellfish and warts - "concharum vitia et verrucas". Pliny states† that when pearls grow old they become thick and adhere to the shell, from which they can only be separated by a file; again, that pearls which have one surface flat and the other spherical, opposite to the plane side, are for that reason called tympania, or tambour-pearls, "quibus una tanturn est facies, et ab ea rotunditas, aversis planities, ob id tympania nominatur". The "tympana," or hand-drums of the ancients, were often of a semi-globular shape, like the kettle-drums of the present day. Shells which had pearls still adhering to them were used as boxes for unguents.‡ Long pear-shaped pearls, called elenchi, had their peculiar value, resembling in form the alabaster boxes which were used for ointments. Earrings were invented by the Roman ladies, called crotalia, or castanet pendants, from the pearls rattling as they knocked against each other.§ The story of Cleopatra swallowing the pearl in order that she might say she had expended on a single entertainment ten millions of sesterces, is too well known to require repeating here; suffice it to say, that Pliny informs us that before the time of Antony and Cleopatra, Clodius, the son of the tragic actor Aesopus, had done the same at Rome; "he, having dissolved in vinegar (or at least attempted to do so), a pearl worth about £8000, which he took from the earring of Csecilia Metella"*. Pliny further adds, that by way of glorification to his palate, Clodius -Aesopus was desirous of trying what was the taste of pearls, and as he found it wonderfully pleasing, that he might not be the only one to know it, he had a pearl set before each of his guests for him to swallow.†
* 'Athenseus,' vol. i. p. 155.
† Ibid. vol. ii., bk. ix., p. 433.
‡ Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.' vol. ii. bk. ix. p. 432.
§ Ibid. vol. ii. bk. ix., p. 435.
In the ' History of Banking,' by Mr. W. J. Lawson, as quoted by Madame de Barrera, is an account of a similar piece of ostentatious folly perpetrated in modern times by the wealthy English merchant, Sir Thomas Gresham. We read that "the Spanish Ambassador to the English Court, having extolled the great riches of the King his master, and of the grandees of his master, before Queen Elizabeth, Sir Thomas Gresham who was present, told him that the Queen had subjects who at one meal expended not only as much as the daily revenues of his kingdom, but also of all his grandees; and added, "This I will prove any day, and lay you a considerable sum on the result". The Spanish Ambassador soon afterwards came unexpectedly to the house of Sir Thomas, and dined with him; and finding only an ordinary meal, said "Well, sir, you have lost your wager". "Not at all," replied Sir Thomas, "and this you shall presently see". He then pulled out a box from his pocket and taking one of the largest and finest eastern pearls from it exhibited it bo the Ambassador, and then ground it, and drank the powder in a glass of wine to the health of the Queen. "My lord Ambassador," said Sir Thomas, "you know I have often refused £15,000 for that pearl: have I lost or won?" "I yield the wager as lost," said the Ambassador, "and I do not think there are four subjects in the world who would do as much for their sovereign".
* Hor. ii. Sat. iii. 239.
† Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.' vol. ii., bk. ix., chap. 59.
It was not unusual for the Romans to adorn their horses and other favourite animals, with splendid necklaces; and we are told that 'Incitatus,' the favourite horse of the Emperor Caligula, wore a pearl collar. The Roman ladies even wore pearls at night, that in their sleep they might be conscious of the possession of these valuable gems. Julius Caesar prohibited the use of purple and pearls to all persons who were not of a certain rank, and the latter also to unmarried women.
Marco Polo speaks of the pearl-fisheries of the Great Province of "Maabar" (Ma'bar), the name given by the Mahomedans in the 14th and 15th centuries to a tract corresponding in a general way with what we call the Coromandel Coast, and "that the king of that state hath a very great receipt and treasure from his dues upon those pearls". He gives a description of the king, viz., as follows: - "Round his loins he has a piece of fine cloth, round his neck a necklace entirely of precious stones, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, and the like of great value. He also wears, hanging in front of his chest, from the neck downwards, a fine silk thread, strung with 104 large pearls and rubies of great price. The reason why he wears this cord of 104 great pearls and rubies, is (according to what they tell), that every morning and evening he has to say 104 prayers to his idols. Such is their religion and custom, and thus did all the kings his ancestors before him, and they bequeathed the string of pearls to him, that he should do the like. The prayer consists of these words, Pacauta, Pacauta, Pacauta, repeated 104 times. No one is permitted to take out of the kingdom a pearl weighing more than half a saggio,* unless he manages to do so secretly. This order has been given because the king desires to reserve all such to himself. Several times a year he sends a proclamation through the realm, that if any one who possesses a pearl or stone of great value will bring it to him, he will pay for this, twice as much as it cost".† In a note to the above, Dr. Caldwell says, that the word Pacauta was probably Bagavā or Pagavā the Tamil form of the vocative Bhagavata, "Lord". The Hindus believe the repetition of the name of God is an act of adoration; Jăpă, as this act is called, makes an essential part of the daily worship. No doubt the number of prayers should have been 108 (not 104), which is the mystic number among both Brahmans and Buddhists.