A. Sutherland - Ancient Pages.com - Gods and other mythical creatures often had the help of magical and powerful objects.
In myths and legends, these objects are often forged by dwarfs who are highly skilled craftsmen and who also have the ability to provide magical functions to their works.
One such famous object is Andvaranaut, a magical ring, which worked like a magnet to attract gold. This ring was in possession of the dwarf Andvari but was stolen by the trickster god Loki. It forced Andvari to put a curse upon his golden treasure, including the ring. His curse meant the owner’s accident and terrible death.
Another amazing magical ring was Draupnir (Draupner – ‘the dripper’) in Norse mythology. It belonged to god Odin and was also forged by dwarfs. Draupnir had the ability to multiply itself, which means every ninth night, eight new rings 'drip' from Draupnir, each one of the same size and weight as the original.
The Ring of Gyges is yet another magical artifact mentioned by the philosopher Plato in Book 2 of his work ‘Republic’. It granted its owner the ability to become invisible at will.
Gyges was the founder of the third or Mermnad dynasty of Lydian kings and reigned from 716 BC to 678 BC. There are different accounts of his rise to power but one of them is that of Glaucon (c. 445 BC – 4 BC), an ancient Athenian and the philosopher Plato's older brother.
His version of the story is that an unidentified ancestor of Gyges was a shepherd who served the ruler of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (that is today, modern-day Turkey). After an earthquake, a cave was exposed in a mountainside where he was feeding his flock. The shepherd entered the cave and found a tomb with a bronze horse containing a corpse, larger than that of a man, who wore a golden ring.
He took the ring and when he carried it, he suddenly realized that something unusual happened.
A rare depiction of the legend of Gyges finding the magic ring, Ferrara, 16th century. Image: dorotheum/Wikipedia
The ring gave him the power to become invisible by adjusting it. He then arranged to be chosen as one of the messengers who reported to the king as to the status of the flocks. With his power of invisibility, he seduced the queen who helped him to murder the king. Thus the shepherd became king of Lydia himself.
The magical ring known as ‘Ring of Gyges’ is perhaps a mythical object, but Gyges himself existed and was in fact, a historical figure, though barely anything is known about his life and reign.
According to ‘The Histories of Herodotus’, Gyges, a subordinate of King Candaules of Lydia, killed this royal figure and seized the throne, and that he had seduced Candaules' Queen before killing him and married her afterwards.
Was the magical ring, which helped him to obtain these achievements?
There are different interpretations of this legend about the ring of Gyges.
Through the story of this ring, one asks whether a person who finds such a ring will misuse its power.
In Plato’s ‘Republic, the role of the legend about the ring has a moral meaning. One important question arises, whether any man can be so honorable and good that he could resist the temptation of being able to perform any act without being known or discovered.
If we assume that morality is only a social construction, the source of which is the desire to maintain one's reputation for virtue and justice, but what would happen, if that sanction was removed?
Would one's moral character fade away? Would an intelligent person be moral if he did not have fear being caught and punished for his deeds?
The story raises a number of interesting moral issues. How far would we go if we were granted the power to become invisible?
The story of the ‘Ring of Gyges’ became food for thoughts for thinkers and authors. The example can be ‘The Invisible Man’ of H.G. Wells as well as the story of the ring of JRR Tolkien.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer