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The History Of Herodotus Volume 1 of 2

Page: 67

194. But the greatest marvel of all the things in the land after the city itself, to my mind is this which I am about to tell: Their boats, those I mean which go down the river to Babylon, are round and all of leather: for they make ribs for them of willow which they cut in the land of the Armenians who dwell above the Assyrians, and round these they stretch hides which serve as a covering outside by way of hull, not making broad the stern nor gathering in the prow to a point, but making the boats round like a shield: and after that they stow the whole boat with straw and suffer it to be carried down the stream full of cargo; and for the most part these boats bring down casks of palm-wood 200 filled with wine. The boat is kept straight by two steering-oars and two men standing upright, and the man inside pulls his oar while the man outside pushes. 201 These vessels are made both of very large size and also smaller, the largest of them having a burden of as much as five thousand talents' weight; 202 and in each one there is a live ass, and in those of larger size several. So when they have arrived at Babylon in their voyage and have disposed of their cargo, they sell by auction the ribs of the boat and all the straw, but they pack the hides upon their asses and drive them off to Armenia: for up the stream of the river it is not possible by any means to sail, owing to the swiftness of the current; and for this reason they make their boats not of timber but of hides. Then when they have come back to the land of the Armenians, driving their asses with them, they make other boats in the same manner.

195. Such are their boats; and the following is the manner of dress which they use, namely a linen tunic reaching to the feet, and over this they put on another of wool, and then a white mantle thrown round, while they have shoes of a native fashion rather like the Boeotian slippers. They wear their hair long and bind their heads round with fillets, 203 and they are anointed over the whole of their body with perfumes. Each man has a seal and a staff carved by hand, and on each staff is carved either an apple or a rose or a lily or an eagle or some other device, for it is not their custom to have a staff without a device upon it.

196. Such is the equipment of their bodies: and the customs which are established among them are as follows, the wisest in our opinion being this, which I am informed that the Enetoi in Illyria also have. In every village once in each year it was done as follows:—When the maidens 204 grew to the age for marriage, they gathered these all together and brought them in a body to one place, and round them stood a company of men: and the crier caused each one severally to stand up, and proceeded to sell them, first the most comely of all, and afterwards, when she had been sold and had fetched a large sum of money, he would put up another who was the most comely after her: and they were sold for marriage. Now all the wealthy men of the Babylonians who were ready to marry vied with one another in bidding for the most beautiful maidens; those however of the common sort who were ready to marry did not require a fine form, but they would accept money together with less comely maidens. For when the crier had made an end of selling the most comely of the maidens, then he would cause to stand up that one who was least shapely, or any one of them who might be crippled in any way, and he would make proclamation of her, asking who was willing for least gold to have her in marriage, until she was assigned to him who was willing to accept least: and the gold would be got from the sale of the comely maidens, and so those of beautiful form provided dowries for those which were unshapely or crippled; but to give in marriage one's own daughter to whomsoever each man would, was not allowed, nor to carry off the maiden after buying her without a surety; for it was necessary for the man to provide sureties that he would marry her, before he took her away; and if they did not agree well together, the law was laid down that he should pay back the money. It was allowed also for any one who wished it to come from another village and buy. This then was their most honourable custom; it does not however still exist at the present time, but they have found out of late another way, in order that the men may not ill-treat them or take them to another city: 205 for since the time when being conquered they were oppressed and ruined, each one of the common people when he is in want of livelihood prostitutes his female children.


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