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The History Of Herodotus Volume 1 of 2

Page: 65

188. This queen then is reported to have been such as I have described: and it was the son of this woman, bearing the same name as his father, Labynetos, and being ruler over the Assyrians, against whom Cyrus was marching. Now the great king makes his marches not only well furnished 192 from home with provisions for his table and with cattle, but also taking with him water from the river Choaspes, which flows by Susa, of which alone and of no other river the king drinks: and of this water of the Choaspes boiled, a very great number of waggons, four-wheeled and drawn by mules, carry a supply in silver vessels, and go with him wherever he may march at any time.

189. Now when Cyrus on his way towards Babylon arrived at the river Gyndes,—of which river the springs are in the mountains of the Matienians, and it flows through the Dardanians and runs into another river, the Tigris, which flowing by the city of Opis runs out into the Erythraian Sea,—when Cyrus, I say, was endeavouring to cross this river Gyndes, which is a navigable stream, then one of his sacred white horses in high spirit and wantonness went into the river and endeavoured to cross, but the stream swept it under water and carried it off forthwith. And Cyrus was greatly moved with anger against the river for having done thus insolently, and he threatened to make it so feeble that for the future even women could cross it easily without wetting the knee. So after this threat he ceased from his march against Babylon and divided his army into two parts; and having divided it he stretched lines and marked out straight channels, 193 one hundred and eighty on each bank of the Gyndes, directed every way, and having disposed his army along them he commanded them to dig: so, as a great multitude was working, the work was completed indeed, but they spent the whole summer season at this spot working.

190. When Cyrus had taken vengeance on the river Gyndes by dividing it into three hundred and sixty channels, and when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand 194 for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards.

191. Therefore, whether it was some other man who suggested it to him when he was in a strait what to do, or whether he of himself perceived what he ought to do, he did as follows:—The main body of his army 195 he posted at the place where the river runs into the city, and then again behind the city he set others, where the river issues forth from the city; and he proclaimed to his army that so soon as they should see that the stream had become passable, they should enter by this way into the city. Having thus set them in their places and in this manner exhorted them he marched away himself with that part of his army which was not fit for fighting: and when he came to the lake, Cyrus also did the same things which the queen of the Babylonians had done as regards the river and the lake; that is to say, he conducted the river by a channel into the lake, which was at that time a swamp, and so made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done in such a manner, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man's thigh. Now if the Babylonians had had knowledge of it beforehand or had perceived that which was being done by Cyrus, they would have allowed 196 the Persians to enter the city and then destroyed them miserably; for if they had closed all the gates that led to the river and mounted themselves upon the ramparts which were carried along the banks of the stream, they would have caught them as it were in a fish-wheal: but as it was, the Persians came upon them unexpectedly; and owing to the size of the city (so it is said by those who dwell there) after those about the extremities of the city had suffered capture, those Babylonians who dwelt in the middle did not know that they had been captured; but as they chanced to be holding a festival, they went on dancing and rejoicing during this time until they learnt the truth only too well.


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