The Library of History

Page 90

Page 90 in Fetters, where they work continually, without being admitted any rest Night or Day, and so strictly guarded, that there's no possibility or way left to make an escape. For they set over them Barbarians, Souldiers of various and strange Languages, so that it's not possible to corrupt any of the Guard, by discoursing one with another, or by the gaining Insinuations of a familiar Converse.

The Earth which is hardest and full of Gold, they soften by putting Fire under it, and then work it out with their Hands: The Rocks thus softn'd, and made more pliant and yielding, several Thousands of profligat Wretches break it in pieces with Hammers and Pickaxes. There's one Artist that is the Overseer of the whole Work, who marks out the Stone, and shews the Labourers the way and manner how he would have it done. Those that are the Strongest amongst them, that are appointed to this Slavery, provided with sharp Iron Pickaxes, cleave the Marble-shining Rock by meer Force and Strength, and not by Art or Slight of Hand. They undermine not the Rock in a direct Line, but follow the bright shining Vein of the Mine.

They carry Lamps fastn'd to their Forheads to give them Light, being otherways in perfect Darkness in the various windings and turnings wrought in the Mine; and having their Bodies appearing sometimes of one Colour, and sometimes of another (according to the nature of the Mine where they work) they throw the Lumps and Pieces of the Stone cut out of the Rock upon the Floor. And thus they are imploy'd continually without intermission, at the very nod of the Overseer or Tax-master, who lashes them severely besides. And there are little Boys that attend upon the Labourers in the Mine, and with great labour and toyl gather up the Lumps and Pieces hew'd out of the Rock as they are cast upon the Ground, and carry them forth and lay them upon the Bank. Those that are about Thirty Years of Age take a Piece of the Rock of such a certain quantity, and pound it in a Stone Mortar with Iron Pestels till it be as small as a Vetch, then those little Stones so pounded are taken from them by Women and older Men, who cast them into Mills that stand together there near at hand in a long Row, and Two or Three of them being imploy'd at one Mill, they grind it so long till it be as small as fine Meal, according to the pattern given them. No care at all is taken of the Bodies of these poor Creatures, so that they have not a Rag so much as to cover their Nakedness, and no Man that sees them can chuse but must commiserate their sad and deplorable Condition. For tho they are Sick, Maim'd or Lame, no rest no intermission in the least is allow'd them: Neither the weakness of Old age, nor Womens Infirmities are any plea to excuse them; but all are driven to their work with Blows and Cudgelling, till at length overborn with the intollerable weight of their misery, they drop down dead in the midst of their insufferable Labours; so that these miserable Creatures always expect worse to come than that which they then at present indure, and therefore long for Death as far more desirable than Life.

At length the Masters of the Work take Stone thus ground to Powder, and carry it away in order to the perfecting of it. They spread the Mineral so ground upon a broad Board somewhat hollow and lying shelving, and pouring Water upon it, rub it and cleanse it, and so all the Earthy and Drossy part being separated from the rest by the Water, it runs off the Board, and the Gold by reason of its weight remains behind. Then washing it several times again, they first rub it lightly with their Hands; afterwards they draw up the Earthy and Drossy Matter with slender Spunges gently apply'd to the Pouder'd Dust, till it be clean pure Gold. At last other Workmen take it away by Weight and Measure, and these put it into Earthen Urns, and according to the quantity of the Gold in every Urn, they mix with it some Lead, Grains of Salt, a little Tin and Barley Bran. Then covering every Pot close, and carefully dawbing them over with Clay, they put them in a Furnace where they abide Five Days and Nights together; then after a convenient time that they have stood to cool, nothing of the other matter is to be found in the Pots but only pure refin'd Gold, some little thing diminish'd in the weight.

And thus is Gold prepar'd in the Borders of Egypt, and perfected and compleated with so many and so great toyls and Vexations. And therefore I cannot but conclude that Nature itself teaches us, that as Gold is got with Labour and Toyl, so its kept with difficulty; creates every where the greatest cares; and the use of it mixt both with Pleasure and Sorrow.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books