In which is described the most exquisite and beautiful table ever produced. Also other rich gifts, Interesting in the light of recent excavations in Egypt.
I WILL now Proceed to redeem my promise and give a description of the works of art.
2 They were wrought with exceptional skill, for the king spared no expense and personally superintended the workmen individually.
3 They could not therefore scamp any part of the work or finish it off negligently.
4 First of all I will give you a description of the table.
5 The king was anxious that this piece of work should be of exceptionally large dimensions, and he caused enquiries to be made of the Jews in the locality with regard to the size of the table already in the temple at Jerusalem.
6 And when they described the measurements, he proceeded to ask whether he might make a larger structure.
7 And some of the priests and the other Jews replied that there was nothing to prevent him.
8 And he said that he was anxious to make it five times the size, but he hesitated lest it should prove useless for the temple services.
9 He was desirous that his gift should not merely be stationed in the temple, for it would afford him much greater pleasure if the men whose duty it was to offer the fitting sacrifices were able to do so appropriately on the table which he had made.
10 He did not suppose that it was owing to lack of gold that the former table had been made of small size, but there seems to have been, he said, some reason why it was made of--this dimension.
11 For had the order been given, there would have been no lack of means.
12 Wherefore we must not transgress or go beyond the proper measure.
13 At the same time he ordered them to press into service all the manifold forms of art, for he was a man of the most lofty conceptions and nature had endowed him with a keen imagination which enabled him to picture the appearance which would be presented by the finished work.
14 He gave orders too, that where there were no instructions laid down in the Jewish Scriptures, everything should be made as beautiful as possible.--
15 When such instructions were laid down, they were to be carried out to the letter.
16 They made the table two cubits 1 long, one cubit broad, one and a half cubits high fashioning it of pure solid gold.
17 What I am describing was not thin gold laid over another foundation, but the whole structure was of massive gold welded together.
18 And they made a border of a hand's breadth round about it.
19 And there was a wreath of wave-work, engraved in relief in
the form of ropes marvellously wrought on its three sides.
20 For it was triangular in shape and the style of the work was exactly the same on each of the sides, so that whichever side they were turned, they presented the same appearance.
21 Of the two sides under the border, the one which sloped down to the table was a very beautiful piece of work, but it was the outer side which attracted the gaze of the spectator.
22 Now the upper edge of the two sides, being elevated, was sharp since, as we have said, the rim was three-sided, from whatever point of view one approached it.
23 And there were layers of precious stones on it in the midst of the embossed cord-work, and they were interwoven with one another by an inimitable artistic device.
24 For the sake of security they were all fixed by golden needles which were inserted in perforations in the stones.
25 At the sides they were clamped together by fastenings to hold them firm.
26 On the part of the border round the table which slanted upwards and met the eyes, there was wrought a pattern of eggs in precious stones, elaborately engraved by a continuous piece of fluted relief-work, closely connected together round the whole table.
27 And under the stones which had been arranged to represent eggs the artists made a crown containing all kinds of fruits, having at its top clusters of grapes and ears of corn, dates also and apples, and pomegranates and the like, conspicuously arranged.
28 These fruits were wrought out of precious stones, of the same colour as the fruits themselves and they fastened them edgeways round all the sides of the table with a band of gold.
29 And after the crown of fruit had been put on, underneath there was inserted another pattern of eggs in precious stones, and other fluting and embossed work, that both sides of the table might be used, according to the wishes of the owners and for this reason the wave-work and the border were extended down to the feet of the table.
30 They made and fastened under the whole width of the table a massive plate four fingers thick, that the feet might be inserted into it, and clamped fast with linch-pins which fitted into sockets under the border, so that which ever side of the table people preferred, might be used.
31 Thus it became manifestly clear that the work was intended to be used either way.
32 On the table itself they engraved a 'maeander,' having precious stones standing out in the middle of it, rubies and emeralds and an onyx too and many other kinds of stones which excel in beauty.
33 And next to the 'maeander' there was placed a wonderful piece of network, which made the centre of the table appear like a rhomboid in shape, and on it a crystal and amber, as it is called, had been wrought, which produced an incomparable impression on the beholders.
34 They made the feet of the table with heads like lilies, so that they seemed to be like lilies bending down beneath the table, and the parts which were visible represented leaves which stood upright.
35 The basis of the foot on the ground consisted of a ruby and measured a hand's breadth high all round.
36 It had the appearance of a shoe and was eight fingers broad.
37 Upon it the whole expanse of the foot rested.
38 And they made the foot
appear like ivy growing out of the stone, interwoven with akanthus and surrounded with a vine which encircled it with clusters of grapes, which were worked in stones, up to the top of the foot.
39 All the four feet were made in the same style, and everything was wrought and fitted so skilfully, and such remarkable skill and knowledge were expended upon making it true to nature, that when the air was stirred by a breath of wind, movement was imparted to the leaves, and everything was fashioned to correspond with the actual reality which it represented.
40 And they made the top of the table in three parts like a triptychon, and they were so fitted and dovetailed together with spigots along the whole breadth of the work, that the meeting of the joints could not be seen or even discovered.
41 The thickness of the table was not less than half a cubit, so that the whole work must have cost many talents.
42 For since the king did not wish to add to its size he expended on the details the same sum of money which would have been required if the table could have been of larger dimensions.
43 And everything was completed in accordance with his plan, in a most wonderful and remarkable way, with inimitable art and incomparable beauty.
44 Of the mixing bowls, two were wrought in gold, and from the base to the middle were engraved with relief work in the pattern of scales, and between the scales Precious stones were inserted with great artistic skill.
45 Then there was a 'maeander' a cubit in height, with its surface. wrought out of precious stones of many colours, displaying great artistic effort and beauty.
46 Upon this there was a mosaic, worked in the form of a rhombus, having a net-like appearance and reaching right up to the brim.
47 In the middle, small shields which were made of different precious stones, placed alternately, and varying in kind, not less than four fingers broad, enhanced the beauty of their appearance.
48 On the top of the brim there was an ornament of lilies in bloom, and intertwining clusters of grapes were engraven all round.
49 Such then was the construction of the golden bowls, and they held more than two firkins each.
50 The silver bowls had a smooth surface, and were wonderfully made as if they were intended for looking-glasses, so that everything which was brought near to them was reflected even more clearly than in mirrors.
51 But it is impossible to describe the real impression which these works of art produced upon the mind when they were finished.
52 For, when these vessels had been completed and placed side by side, first a silver bowl and then a golden, then another silver, and then another golden, the appearance they presented is altogether indescribable, and those who came to see them were not able to tear themselves from the brilliant sight and entrancing spectacle.
53 The impressions produced by the spectacle were various in kind.
54 When men looked at the golden vessels, and their minds made a complete survey of each detail of workmanship, their souls were thrilled with wonder.
55 Again when a man wished
to direct his gaze to the silver vessels, as they stood before him, everything seemed to flash with light round about the place where he was standing, and afforded a still greater delight to the onlookers.
56 So that it is really impossible to describe the artistic beauty of the works.
57 The golden vials they engraved in the centre with vine wreaths.
58 And about the rims they wove a wreath of ivy and myrtle and olive in relief work and inserted precious stones in it.
59 The other parts of the relief work they wrought in different patterns, since they made it a point of honour to complete everything in a way worthy of the majesty of the king.
60 In a word it may be said that neither in the king's treasury nor in any other, were there any works which equalled these in costliness or in artistic skill.
61 For the king spent no little thought upon them, for he loved to gain glory for the excellence of his designs.
62 For oftentimes he would neglect his official business, and spend his time with the artists in his anxiety that they should complete everything in a manner worthy of the place to which the gifts were to be sent.
63 So everything was carried out on a grand scale, in a manner worthy of the king who sent the gifts and of the high priest who was the ruler of the land.
64 There was no stint of precious stones, for not less than five thousand were used and they were all of large size.
65 The most exceptional artistic skill was employed, so that the cost of the stones and the workmanship was five times as much as that of the gold.
148:1 A cubit is 18 inches.