An ancient Greek ring tale: The ring of Polycrates

ancient greek signet ring

We are fascinated by ancient Greek tales! When it comes to jewelry, we absolutely allow ourselves to get lost in the stories. After all, they are part of the huge Greek Jewelry heritage that is present thousands of years and inspires us as modern Greek artists!

Rings have always been a precious and prideful possesion in ancient Greek times, while their beauty and value inspired many stories and myths about men who felt special about these extraordinary pieces of jewelry. From the beautiful island of Samos, that lies in the Aegean Sea, near the coast of Asia Minor, comes this ancient Greek tale, about a man who had a precious, beloved ring that he could not be separated from…

Near 500 BC,  fortune seemed to favour the bold and ambitious tyrant Polycrates, who had managed to seize absolute power in the island, as well as a dominating presence in the south-east Mediterranean sea. His personal wealth had increased substantially by the depredation of his political adversaries’ fortunes and the incomes of that bright and fruitful corner of Greece, while his numerous fleet was delivering one victory after another in the plundering campaigns that he had unleashed upon the cities of the Aegean Sea. Polycrates had adorned his city with huge and magnificent buildings, while his palace competed  in luxury the most lavish  palaces of the East and his treasures were, now, beyond count.

The Temple of Hera, Samos island

Nevertheless, according to the ancient Greek tale about him, the most precious object that he had in his possession was a marvellous emerald signet ring. Polycrates had ordered it for himself from the celebrated metal-worker Theodoros, while he was still rising in power and wealth. Polycrates was convinced  that the ring  was sacred and fortunate to him. He loved it so much that he spend many hours in the palace looking at the astonishing masterpiece.

An ancient Greek shipBut, in the ancient world, there was a common belief that the excessive luck and success provoked the punishment of the Gods, and that led his friend Amasis, Pharao of Egypt, to send him a letter warning him to be careful and ask for the divine forgiveness by throwing away his most precious possession. Polycrates decided to obey and in despair he manned a ship and sailed to the open sea of Samos. There, with deep pain, he took the ring in his hands and let it fall into the blue.

Days after, Polycrates remained inconsolable, grieving about what he thought was the end of his good fortune. Unwilling and silent, he received a local fisherman who had come to offer an unusually big fish he had caught that day, to his great king. Polycrates ordered that the catch would be sent to the kitchen and returned to his chambers. But soon, he was called again to the kitchen, where he faced a sight that rejoiced his heart. Right inside the belly of the fish, that had been opened up on the kitchen’s wooden table, lied his precious flashing signet ring! The Gods had appreciated Polycrates’ gesture to deny his most precious thing, his ring, and they had returned it back to him as a reward. Fascinating story..!

It is kind of hard to give away something you adore. No need though, we can all keep our precious jewelry !

Thanks for reading,

The Team@SilverTownArt Greek Jewelry Shop

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About SilverTownArt

We are a small team of jewelry designers living and working in Greece. We produce unique, statement creations only by hand using the finest materials and fusing contemporary and tradiotional techniques that have a special cultural meaning for the Greek Jewelry heritage. We would like to welcome you to our blog and social media pages and invite you to see our work at our Etsy Shop!
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