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Orichalcum

From Academic Kids

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. (Crit. 114E)

It is not known for certain what orichalcum was. Orichalcum (or Aurichalcum) literally means "gold copper," but the term has also been said to derive from the Greek words for "mountain bronze." It is alternatively held to be a gold/copper alloy, a copper-tin or copper-zinc brass, or a metal no longer known to man.

In later years, "orichalcum" was used to describe 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 chalkopyrite 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 a metal that is, in the words of Critias, "known only by name today, but was once more than a name."

Instances of orichalcum

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.

The Golden Plates of Mormonism, although not called oreichalcum, were reported by Joseph Smith's son William to be a mixture of copper and gold, and have "the appearance of gold." The Andean alloy tumbaga fits the same description, being a gold/copper alloy.


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.


In several video games, particularly in the role-playing genre, orichalcum can be worked into jewelry; examples of games employing this device include Star Ocean on Super Famicon, Star Ocean: The Second Story for the PlayStation, Kingdom Hearts for PlayStation 2 and Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for the Game Boy Advance. Kirby Superstar for the Super Nintendo featured Orihalcon (a variant spelling) as a collectible treasure, though it appeared as a light blue crystal rather than the usual red, gold, or silver metal. In Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the Nazis hope to use orichalcum to create a weapon as powerful as the atom bomb, but without the radiation. This is suggested in an early cut scene where a single bead of orcalcium gives a small machine enough power to tunnel through a thick concrete wall in seconds.

In Final Fantasy XI FFXI an MMORPG, Orichalcum Ore can be dug up or mined, and crafted into ingots, which are used for high level rings and other expensive gear.

Ther Slayers animated series, manga, and novels commonly used orichalcum, which has been mistranslated in the English versions as "orihalcon".

In the Yu-Gi-Oh! animated series, the Doma/Waking the Dragons saga features Atlantis and Orichalcum. Here, the material, referred to as "the Orichalcos" (Orichalcos being another name for Orichalcum), is said to have rained down upon the city in fragments, where its power was used to advance the city's technology, only to have it start to transform Atlantis's inhabitants into monsters. The villain of this story arc, Dartz, is corrupted by the power of the Orichalcos, and bestows upon his minions fragments of the stones, and also imbues several of the series' signature playing cards with the mystical properties of the Orichalcos.

In the Transformers Armada animated series, when the characters visit an ancient sunken city (apparently Atlantis), the Mini-Cons - a small race of robots that had previously come into contact with the city's civilisation and were used as a power source and weapon that eventually destroyed the city - are referred to as Orichalcum (mistakenly translated as "Olihalicons" in the English dub).

In the anime TV series Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (Nadia of the Mysterious Seas, also known in translation as The Secret of Blue Water), the eponymous heroine wears a pendant of blue crystal (the "Blue Water" of the English title) which glows whenever danger threatens, and which is eventually revealed to be made of orichalcum. This portrayal is similar to that of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, as the Blue Water/orichalcum is the power source for an inconceivably destructive energy weapon of Atlantean origin.

fr:Orichalque it:Oricalco ja:オリハルコン nl:Orichalcum

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