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into the lake, which was before a swamp, he made the ancient channel fordable by the sinking of the river. When this took place, the Persians who were appointed to that purpose close to the stream of the river, which had now subsided to about the middle of a man's thigh, entered Babylon by this passage. If, however, the Babylonians had been aware of it beforehand, or had known what Cyrus was about, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the city, but would have utterly destroyed them ; for having shut all the little gates that lead down to the river, and mounting the walls that extend along the banks of the river, they would have caught them as in a net ; whereas the Persians came upon them by surprise. It is related by the people who inhabited this city, that by reason of its great extent, when they who were at the extremities were taken, those of the Babylonians who inhabited the centre knew nothing of the capture; (for it happened to be a festival ;) but they were dancing at the time, and enjoying themselves, till they received certain information of the truth: and thus Babylon was taken for the first time.” 192. How great was the power of the Babylonians, I can prove by many other circumstances, and especially by the following. The whole territory over which the great king reigns, is divided into districts for the purpose of furnishing subsistence for him and his army, in addition to the usual tribute; now, whereas there are twelve months in the year, the Babylonian territory provides him with subsistence for four months, and all the rest of Asia for the remaining eight: thus the territory of Assyria amounts to a third part of the power of all Asia, and the government of this region, which the Persians call a satrapy, is considerable; since it yielded a full artabe of silver every day to Tritachmes son of Artabazus, who held this district from the king: the artabe is a Persian measure, containing three Attic choenices more than the Attic medimnus. And he had a private stud of horses, in addition to those used in war, of eight hundred stallions, and sixteen thousand mares; for each stallion served twenty mares. He kept too such a number of Indian dogs, that four considerable towns in the plain were exempted from all other taxes, and appointed to find food for the dogs. Such were the advantages accruing to the governor of Babylon. 193. The land of Assyria is but little watered by rain, and that little nourishes the root of the corn; however, the stalk grows up, and the grain comes to maturity, by being irrigated from the river, not, as in Egypt, by the river overflowing the fields, but it is irrigated by the hand and by engines. For the Babylonian territory, like Egypt, is intersected by canals; and the largest of these is navigable, stretching in the direction of the winter sunrise;8 and it extends from the Euphrates to another river, the river Tigris, on which the city of Nineveh stood. This is, of all lands with which we are acquainted, by far the best for the growth of corn: but it does not carry any show of producing trees of any kind, neither the fig, nor the vine, nor the olive; yet it is so fruitful in the produce of corn, that it yields continually two hundred-fold, and when it produces its best, it yields even three hundred-fold. The blades of wheat and barley grow there to full four fingers in breadth ; and though I well know to what a height millet and sesama grow, I shall not mention it; for I am well assured, that to those who have never been in the Babylonian country, what has been said concerning its productions will appear to many incredible. They use no other oil than such as is drawn from sesama. They have palm trees growing all over the plain ; most of these bear fruit from which they make bread, wine, and honey. These they cultivate as fig trees, both in other respects, and they also tie the fruit of that which the Grecians call the male palm, about those trees that bear dates, in order that the fly entering the date may ripen it, lest otherwise the fruit fall before maturity; for the males have flies in the fruit, just like wild fig trees. 194. The most wonderful thing of all here, next to the city itself, is what I now proceed to describe: their vessels that sail down the river to Babylon are circular, and made of leather. For when they have cut the ribs out of willows that grow in Armenia above Babylon, they cover them with hides extended on the outside, by way of a bottom ; neither making any distinction in the stern, nor contracting the prow, but making them circular like a buckler ; then having lined this vessel throughout with reeds, they suffer it to be carried down by the river freighted with merchandise, but they chiefly take down casks of palm wine. The vessel is steered by two spars, and two men standing upright, one of whom draws his spar in and the other thrusts his out. Some of these vessels are made very large, and others of a smaller size; but the largest of them carry a cargo of five thousand talents. Every vessel has a live ass on board, and the larger ones more. For after they arrive at Babylon, and have disposed of their freight, they sell the ribs of the boat and all the reeds by public auction; then having piled the skins on the asses, they return by land to Armenia, for it is not possible by any means to sail up the river by reason of the rapidity of the current: and for this reason they make their vessels of skins and not of wood, and at their return to Armenia with their asses, they construct other vessels in the same manner. Such, then, is the description of their boats. 195. For their dress, they wear a linen tunic that reaches down to the feet, over this they put another garment of wool, and over all a short white cloak; they have sandals peculiar to the country, very like the Boeotian clogs. They wear long hair, binding their heads with turbans, and anoint the whole body with perfumes. Every man has a seal, and a staff curiously wrought; and on every staff is carved either an apple, a rose, a lily, an eagle, or something of the kind; for it is not allowable to wear a stick without a device. Such, then, is their manner of adorning the body. 196. The following customs prevail amongst them. This, in my opinion, is the wisest, which I hear the Venetians, of Illyria, also practise. Once in every year the following course is pursued in every village. Whatever maidens were of a marriageable age, they used to collect together and bring in a body to one place; around them stood a crowd of men. Then a crier having made them stand up one by one, offered them for sale, beginning with the most beautiful; and when she had been sold for a large sum, he put up another who was next in beauty. They were sold on condition that they should be married. Such men among the Babylonians as were rich and desirous of marrying, used to bid against one another, and purchase the handsomest. But such of the lower classes as were desirous of marrying, did not require a beautiful form, but were willing to take the plainer damsels with a sum of money. For when the crier had finished selling the handsomest of the maidens, he made the ugliest stand up, or one that was a cripple, and put her up to auction, for the person who would marry her with the least sum, until she was adjudged to the man who offered to take the smallest sum. This money was obtained from the sale of the handsome maidens; and thus the beautiful ones portioned out the ugly and the crippled. A father was not allowed to give his daughter in marriage to whom he pleased, neither might a purchaser carry off a maiden without security, but he was first obliged to give security that he would certainly marry her, and then he might take her away. If they did not agree, a law was enacted that the money should be repaid. It was also lawful for any one who pleased, to come from another village and purchase. Such was their best institution; it has not, however, continued to exist. They have lately adopted another regulation to prevent them from ill-treating the women, or carrying them away to another city; for now that, since the taking of the city, they have been harshly treated, and ruined in fortune, all the meaner sort, from want of a livelihood, prostitute their daughters. 197. They have also this other custom, second to the former in wisdom. They bring out their sick to the marketplace, for they have no physicians; then those who pass by the sick person, confer with him about the disease, to discover whether they have themselves been afflicted with the same disease as the sick person, or have seen others so afflicted: thus the passers-by confer with him, and advise him to have recourse to the same treatment as that by which they escaped a similar disease, or as they have known cure others. And they are not allowed to pass by a sick person in silence, without inquiring into the nature of his distemper. 198. They embalm the dead in honey, and their funeral lamentations are like those of the Egyptians. As often as a Babylonian has had intercourse with his wife, he sits over burning incense, and his wife does the same in some other place; at break of day both wash, for they will not touch any vessel till they have washed. The same practice is observed by the Arabians. 199. The most disgraceful of the Babylonian customs is the following : every native woman is obliged, once in her life, to sit in the temple of Venus, and have intercourse with some stranger. And many disdaining to mix with the rest, being proud on account of their wealth, come in covered carriages, and take up their station at the temple with a numerous train of servants attending them. But the far greater part do thus: many sit down in the temple of Venus, wearing a crown of cord round their heads; some are continually coming in, and others are going out. Passages marked out in a straight line lead in every direction through the women, along which strangers pass and make their choice. When a woman has once seated herself, she must not return home till some stranger has thrown a piece of silver into her lap, and lain with her outside the temple. He who throws the silver must say thus: “I beseech the goddess Mylitta to favour thee:” for the Assyrians call Venus Mylitta. The silver may be ever so small, for she will not reject it, inasmuch as it is not lawful for her to do so, for such silver is accounted sacred. The woman follows the first man that throws, and refuses no one. But when she has had intercourse and has absolved herself from her obligation to the goddess, she returns home; and after that time, however great a sum you may give her you will not gain possession of her. Those that are endowed with beauty and symmetry of shape are soon set free; but the deformed are detained a long time, from inability to satisfy the law, for some wait for a space of three or four years. In some parts of Cyprus there is a custom very similar. 200. These customs, then, prevail amongst the Babylonians. There are three tribes among them that eat nothing but fish; these, when they have taken and dried them in the sun, they treat in the following manner: they put them into a mortar, and having pounded them with a pestle, sift them through a fine cloth; then, whoever pleases, kneads them into a cake, or bakes them like bread. 201. When Cyrus had conquered this nation, he was anxious to reduce the Massageta° to subjection. Now, this nation is said to be both powerful and valiant, dwelling towards the east and the rising sun beyond the river Araxes, over against the Issedonians; there are some who say that this nation is Scythian. 202. The Araxes is reported by some persons to be greater, by others less, than the Ister; they say that there are many islands in it, some nearly equal in size to Lesbos; and that in them are men, who during the summer feed upon all manner of roots, which they dig out of the ground ; and that they store up for food ripe fruits which they find on the trees, and feed upon these during the winter. They add,
* It was again taken by Darius. See Book III. chap. 159.