Diamonds may hold the power to sway a woman’s heart today, but the simple truth is that they’ve been popular stones throughout history, though often for other reasons outside of today’s norms. Diamonds are even mentioned in both Greek and Roman mythology, holding a place of importance in both.
Diamonds in Greek Mythology
Diamonds appear in a number of different Greek myths. In one myth, Zeus transforms some children into adamastos, which actually gave us two words – diamond and adamant. You then see that term (and its derivatives) used throughout the mythology. Adamas, and it’s brother adamant, are used throughout mythology to further the connection to diamonds. Cronus castrated Uranus (his father) with an adamant (or diamond) sickle that was given to him by Gaia, his mother. This same type of instrument is later used by the hero Perseus to decapitate Medusa as she sleeps.
Classic Greek philosopher Plato went so far as to write about diamonds within the body of his work. He suggested that they were actually living celestial spirits embodied in stones, further adding to the mystique and power that surrounded the stones. The Greek people believed the diamonds were something similar, tears of the gods or broken splinters from fallen stars. Given that the stars were believed to have been children of gods Eos and Astraios, it only follows that they thought the diamonds were actually a piece of the mythological universe.
Diamonds and Roman Mythology
Much of Roman mythology is similar to Greek mythology, with notable differences, and the role of diamonds don’t escape these differences. Literature as early as the first century AD mentions that Cupid’s arrows were diamond tipped, clearly continuing the power that Greeks had placed within these magnificent stones. In fact, the Romans placed so much value in these minerals that they believed to be pieces of their gods that they began to wear them as a fairly common practice. They valued them above all else, including gold. They myths took such a powerful hold that many believed these godly gifts to be a charm of protect that could help keep them safe from harm. Soldiers wore them on the battlefield routinely to help them survive from one campaign to the next.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that these aren’t the kinds of diamonds you might see today. Instead, they were raw and uncut forms of the stones. To cut a diamond was considered a cultural taboo. Romans believed it would be like an injury to their gods, and that might cause the stone to lose the protective properties that were so important to them.
Many other world mythologies mention diamonds, but in very few of them do they play such a prominent role. unfortunately, with the decline of the Roman Empire came a decline in the mythology that surrounded the stones, and diamonds didn’t become part of the world in any major fashion again until the Renaissance occurred, bringing them to light (and literature) once more.