Gold is a chemical element, the most ductile and malleable of all pure metals in the world. It is found in grains or nuggets in rocks and other natural formations. Gold has a bright yellow color. The hue varies from one type of gold to another, as does its value. Arabian gold and Bangkok gold may be considered superior to Italian or Chinese gold.
Nothing on earth is more fascinating and desirable to humans than gold. Because gold occurs in an uncompounded form, it was probably the first metal ever discovered and used by man.
Discovery and Early Use of Gold
Gold occurs in various parts of the world. No single person discovered gold but there are many traces of its use by ancient peoples. One early reference to it was made by Tushratta, a king of Mitanni (now northern Syria) in 2600 BC. He remarked that there was more gold than dust in Egypt. Such abundance of gold especially in Nubia made Egypt a rich country. By 1500 BC the metal was being used as a means of exchange in international trade. Later in 1200 BC the Egyptians figured out how to beat gold into leaf and mix it with other metals to form alloys.
The Greeks were keener on gold’s monetary value than anything else. By 500 BC, this had led them seek out gold mines everywhere in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. In war, gold was among the most precious of the loot as when Alexander conquered Persia. Noblemen were buried with golden funeral masks, such as the Mask of Agamemnon recovered by archeologists.
The Romans also sought gold as they needed it to fund their military expeditions. One man took his greed too far. A member of the First Triumvirate, Crassus, invaded the Parthian Empire for his lust for gold. The Parthians defeated him at war and then gave him what he wanted – by pouring molten gold down his throat.
Symbolism of Gold
Gold has long been a symbol for divinity and royalty. Just as silver was associated with the moon, so gold was connected with the sun. If the sun was the king of the heavens, gold was the noblest of all metals on earth. In Greek mythology, gold was sacred to Apollo, the sun god. In alchemy and astrology, the glyph of the sun was circle with a dot in the center. The same was used to symbolize gold. Alchemists believed they could discover gold from lead through special operations. Others said gold symbolized the perfection of the human being.