My watch list  


Orichalcum is a legendary metal mentioned in several ancient writings, most notably the story of Atlantis as recounted in the Critias dialogue, recorded by Plato. According to Critias, orichalcum was considered second only to gold in value, and was found and mined in many parts of Atlantis in ancient times. By the time of Critias, however, it was known only by name.


Instances of orichalcum

Orichalcum is first mentioned in the 7th century BC by Hesiod and in the homeric hymn dedicated to Aphrodite, dated to the 630s.

According to Critias, recorded by Plato, the three outer walls of the Temple to Poseidon and Cleito on Atlantis were clad respectively with brass, tin, and the third, which encompassed the whole citadel, "flashed with the red light of orichalcum." The interior walls, pillars and floors of the temple were completely covered in orichalcum, and the roof was variegated with gold, silver, and orichalcum. In the center of the temple stood a pillar of orichalcum, on which the laws of Poseidon and records of the first princes after Poseidon were inscribed. (Crit. 116–119)

Orichalcum is also mentioned in the Antiquities of the Jews - Book XI by Josephus, who stated that the vessels in the Temple of Solomon were made of orichalcum. Pliny the Elder points out that the metal has lost currency due to the mines being exhausted. Pseudo-Aristotle in De mirabilibus auscultationibus describes orichalcum as a shining metal obtained during the smelting of copper with the addition of "calmia", a kind of earth formerly found on the shores of the Black Sea.[1]

In more modern times, orichalcum was discussed by Sir Francis Bacon in The New Atlantis. The Golden Plates of Mormonism, although not called orichalcum, were reported by Joseph Smith's brother William to be a mixture of copper and gold, and have "the appearance of gold."

What is orichalcum?

The term derives from the Greek ορείχαλκος, oreichalkos (from όρος, oros, mountain and χαλκός, chalkos, copper or bronze), meaning "mountain copper" or "mountain metal". The Romans transliterated "orichalcum" as "aurichalcum", which was thought to literally mean "gold copper". It has been alternatively held to be a gold/copper alloy, a copper-tin or copper-zinc brass, or a metal no longer known to man. The Andean alloy tumbaga fits the same description, being a gold/copper alloy.

Actually, it is not known for certain what orichalcum was. In later years, "orichalcum" was used to describe the sulphide mineral chalcopyrite or brass. However, these are difficult to reconcile with the text of Critias, because he states that the metal was "only a name" by his time, while brass and chalcopyrite continued to be very important through the time of Plato until today. For that reason, other authors on the subject conclude that orichalcum is either the gold-copper alloy tumbaga, or possibly amber.


In numismatics, orichalcum is the golden-colored bronze alloy used for the sestertius and dupondius coins. It was considered more valuable than copper, of which the as coin was made. Some scientist believe that the orichalcum could have been used for jewelry for poor people as it appeared to look like gold.


Orichalcum is present in many video and tabletop role-playing games, Age of Mythology: The Titans Expansion, Final Fantasy, the Star Ocean series, Shadowrun, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the Harvest Moon series, the Kingdom Hearts series, Riviera: The Promised Land, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Exalted.

The metal is also present in various Japanese Manga, such as Black Cat, Slayers and Spriggan.

It should be noted that Orichalcum is often spelled differently in Japanese games and Manga pertaining to the Japanese pronunciation.

See also


  1. ^ Nicholas F. Zhirov. Atlantis: Atlantology: Basic Problems. The Minerva Group, Inc, 2001. ISBN 0-89875-591-3
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Orichalcum". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE