oc: arabia

[3.107] Arabia is the last of inhabited lands towards the south, and it is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and ledanum. The Arabians do not get any of these, except the myrrh, without trouble. The frankincense they procure by means of the gum styrax, which the Greeks obtain from the Phoenicians; this they burn, and thereby obtain the spice. For the trees which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang about every tree. They are of the same kind as the serpents that invade Egypt; and there is nothing but the smoke of the styrax which will drive them from the trees.

[3.108] The Arabians say that the whole world would swarm with these serpents, if they were not kept in check in the way in which I know that vipers are. […]

[3.109] […] Vipers are found in all parts of the world, but the winged serpents are nowhere seen except in Arabia, where they are all congregated together. This makes them appear so numerous.

—  Herodotus, The Histories: Book 3 (Rawlinson translation)

People in the incense/spice trade were telling some amazingly tall tales.

Inscribed Sapphire Ring

Late 14th century (gold setting); 10th century? (sapphire)


Many rings employ stones repurposed from other pieces of jewelry. This extraordinary ring showcases a large sapphire inscribed in Arabic with the name: “Abd as-Salam ibn Ahmad.” The stone, engraved centuries before the ring was created, was clearly highly prized. Sapphire, which was quarried in Ceylon, Arabia, and Persia, came west through trade. The stone was associated with chastity and purity. A second inscription reads: “For love you were made and for love I wear you.” This work, with its mixture of eastern and western elements, is among one of the rarest in the Griffin Collection.