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Amber is discussed by Theophrastus, possibly the first historical mention of the material, in the 4th century BC. The Greek name for amber was ηλεκτρον (electron) and was connected to the Sun God, one of whose titles was Elector or the Awakener. The modern terms "electricity" and "electron" derive from the Greek word for amber and come from William Gilbert's research showing that amber could attract other substances.
Amber is mentioned in great works of literature, such as the Odyssey. Homer mentions amber jewelry - earrings and a necklace of amber beads - as a princely gift in the Odyssey.
There are many myths surrounding the origin of amber. In Greek mythology, Ovid wrote about Phaethon, who convinced his father Helios, the Sun God, to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky for a day. He drove too close to the earth, setting it on fire. To save the earth, Zeus struck Phaethon out of the sky with his thunderbolts, plunging him into the sea. His sisters (the Heliades, the daughters of Helios, the Sun), turned into poplar trees on the bank of the Eridanus River,
Where sorrowing they weep into the stream forever. And each tear as it falls shines in the water, a glistening drop of amber.
A Lithuanian amber myth tells about the story of lost love. Perkunas, God of Thunder, was the father God and his daughter was Jurate, a mermaid who lived in an amber palace in the Baltic. One day a fisherman named Kastytis would cast his nets to catch fish from Jurate's kingdom. The goddess sent her mermaids to warn him to stop fishing in her domain. He did not stop, so Jurate went herself to demand he stop. Once she saw him she fell in love and brought him back to her amber palace. Perkunas, knowing Jurate was promised to Patrimpas, God of Water, was angered to find his daughter in love with a mortal. Perkunas destroyed the amber palace with a bolt of lightening to kill her mortal lover. Her palace was destroyed and Jurate was chained to the ruins for eternity. When storms in the Baltic stir the sea, fragments from the amber palace wash up on shore. Pieces in the shape of tears are particularly treasured, as they are the tears from the grieving goddess, as she weeps tears of amber for her tragic love.
Amber has a pine aroma when heated, and the ancient Germans used amber and burned it as incense, and called it bernstein, or "burn stone."