An artifact that changes color

The Lycurgus Cup is the only preserved from the ancient times of diatreta — a product made in the shape of a bell with double glass walls, covered with a figured pattern. The inner part of the top is decorated with carved patterned mesh. The Cup height — 165 mm, diameter — 132 mm. Scientists suggest that it was produced in Alexandria or Rome in the fourth century. The Lycurgus Cup can be admired in the British Museum.

This artifact is known primarily for its unusual properties. Under normal lighting, where the light comes from the front, the Cup is green, but if it illuminate from behind, he turns red.

Changing the artifact color and depending on what liquid is poured into it. For example, the Cup glowed blue when it had water, but filled with oil, became bright red.

The story about the dangers of alcohol

In this mystery we shall return. But first try to figure out why diatreta called the Lycurgus Cup. The surface of the bowl is decorated with a beautiful relief depicting the suffering of a bearded man, entangled with vines. All known myths of Ancient Greece and Rome most of all under this story fits the myth of the death of the Thracian king Lycurgus, probably lived about 800 years before our era.

According to legend, Lycurgus, a staunch opponent of the Bacchic orgies, attacked the God of wine, Dionysus,killed many of his companions-maenads, and drove them from all their possessions. Recovering from such impudence, Dionysus sent him to the king insulted one of the nymphs, the Hyades, named Ambrose. Going to the Island in the form of the sultry beauty, Giada managed to charm and persuaded her to drink wine.

Drunken king embraced the madness, he attacked his own mother and tried to rape her. Then he rushed to cut down the vineyard and cut into pieces with an axe of his own son Dryanta, mistaking him for a vine. Then the same fate befell his wife.

Eventually, Lycurgus became easy prey of Dionysus, of pan and satyrs, who, having the appearance of grape vines that covered his body, whirled and tortured to death. Trying to disengage from these tenacious arms, the king swung his axe and cut off his own leg. After that he bled out and died. Historians believe that the relief was not chosen randomly. It supposedly symbolized the victory in 324 year was won by the Roman Emperor Constantine over greedy and despotic co-Emperor Licinius. And this conclusion they do, most likely under the assumption of experts that the Cup is made in the IV century. Note that the exact time of the manufacture of products from inorganic materials to define practically impossible. It is possible that diatreta came to us from an epoch much more ancient than Antiquity. Moreover, it is unclear on what basis Licinia identify the man depicted on the Cup. No logical prerequisites for this.

Also not the fact that the relief illustrates the myth of king Lycurgus. With the same success it is possible to assume, what is here is a parable about the dangers of alcohol abuse — a warning feasting, so do not lose your head. Place of manufacture is also defined presumably on the basis that Alexandria and Rome were famous in ancient times as centers of glassblowing arts. The Cup has the awesome beauty of the lattice ornament that can give an image depth. These products are in the late ancient era was considered very expensive and were affordable only to the rich.

There is no consensus about the purpose of the Cup. Some believe that it was used by the priests in the Dionysian mysteries. Another version says that the Cup served as a qualifier, does the drink venom. And some believe that the bowl is determined by the level of maturity of the grapes from which wine is made.

The monument of an ancient civilization

Similarly, no one knows where the artifact is. There is an assumption that he was found by black diggers in the tomb of a noble Roman. Then several centuries lay in the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church. In the XVIII century it was confiscated by French revolutionaries in need of funds. It is known that in 1800 to provide safety to the bowl attached to the rim of gilded bronze and the same stand, decorated with vine leaves. In 1845 the Lycurgus Cup was purchased by Lionel de Rothschild, and in 1857 it saw the collection of a banker, a famous German art critic and historian Gustav waagen. Amazed by the cleanliness of the cut and the properties of glass, waagen several years begged Rothschild to put the artifact on display. In the end, the banker agreed, and in 1862 the Cup was on display in the Victoria and albert Museum in London. However, after this he again became inaccessible to scholars for nearly a century.

In 1950 a group of researchers asked the descendant of banker Victor Rothschild, for access to study the relics. Then finally, it was found that the Cup made of precious stone, and dichroic glass (multilayer with impurities of metal oxides). Under the influence of public opinion in 1958, Rothschild has agreed to sell the Lycurgus Cup for a nominal 20 thousand pounds to the British Museum. Finally, scientists were able to carefully study the artifact and solve the mystery of its unusual properties. But the answer was not given very long.

Only in 1990 with the help of electron microscope it was found out that all the matter in the special glass composition. Into a million pieces of glass masters added 330 particles of silver and 40 of gold particles. Surprised by the size of these particles. They are approximately 50 nanometers in diameter -a thousand times smaller than a salt crystal. The resulting gold-silver colloid and have the property to change color depending on lighting. The question arises: if the Cup really made the Alexandrians or Romans, how they were able to grind silver and gold to the level of nanoparticles?

Where did the ancient masters took the equipment and technology that enables them to work at the molecular level? Someone very creative pundits have put forward a hypothesis. The ancient masters and before the creation of this masterpiece sometimes added to molten glass particles of silver. And gold could get there by accident. For example, the silver was not pure and contained a gold impurity. Or in the Studio remained particles of gold leaf from a previous order, and they landed in the alloy. And it did this amazing artifact, perhaps the only one in the world. Version almost sounds convincing, but… the product To change color like the Lycurgus Cup, gold and silver have to be shredded to nanoparticles, otherwise the color effect will be. But such technologies in the fourth century simply could not be.

One could assume that the Lycurgus Cup is much more ancient, than was considered still. Maybe he created by masters of an advanced civilization that preceded ours and who died as a result of planetary cataclysm (remember the legend of Atlantis).

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