Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Clio

Previous | Next


the fall of Nineveh, the seat of government had been removed. The
following is a description of the place:- The city stands on a broad
plain, and is an exact square, a hundred and twenty furlongs in length
each way, so that the entire circuit is four hundred and eighty
furlongs. While such is its size, in magnificence there is no other
city that approaches to it. It is surrounded, in the first place, by a
broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall fifty
royal cubits in width, and two hundred in height. (The royal cubit
is longer by three fingers' breadth than the common cubit.)
And here I may not omit to tell the use to which the mould dug out
of the great moat was turned, nor the manner wherein the wall was
wrought. As fast as they dug the moat the soil which they got from the
cutting was made into bricks, and when a sufficient number were
completed they baked the bricks in kilns. Then they set to building,
and began with bricking the borders of the moat, after which they
proceeded to construct the wall itself, using throughout for their
cement hot bitumen, and interposing a layer of wattled reeds at
every thirtieth course of the bricks. On the top, along the edges of
the wall, they constructed buildings of a single chamber facing one
another, leaving between them room for a four-horse chariot to turn.
In the circuit of the wall are a hundred gates, all of brass, with
brazen lintels and side-posts. The bitumen used in the work was
brought to Babylon from the Is, a small stream which flows into the
Euphrates at the point where the city of the same name stands, eight
days' journey from Babylon. Lumps of bitumen are found in great
abundance in this river.
The city is divided into two portions by the river which runs
through the midst of it. This river is the Euphrates, a broad, deep,
swift stream, which rises in Armenia, and empties itself into the
Erythraean sea. The city wall is brought down on both sides to the
edge of the stream: thence, from the corners of the wall, there is
carried along each bank of the river a fence of burnt bricks. The
houses are mostly three and four stories high; the streets all run
in straight lines, not only those parallel to the river, but also
the cross streets which lead down to the water-side. At the river
end of these cross streets are low gates in the fence that skirts
the stream, which are, like the great gates in the outer wall, of
brass, and open on the water.
The outer wall is the main defence of the city. There is, however,
a second inner wall, of less thickness than the first, but very little
inferior to it in strength. The centre of each division of the town
was occupied by a fortress. In the one stood the palace of the
kings, surrounded by a wall of great strength and size: in the other
was the sacred precinct of Jupiter Belus, a square enclosure two
furlongs each way, with gates of solid brass; which was also remaining
in my time. In the middle of the precinct there was a tower of solid
masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, upon which was raised a
second tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight. The ascent
to the top is on the outside, by a path which winds round all the
towers. When one is about half-way up, one finds a resting-place and
seats, where persons are wont to sit some time on their way to the
summit. On the topmost tower there is a spacious temple, and inside
the temple stands a couch of unusual size, richly adorned, with a
golden table by its side. There is no statue of any kind set up in the
place, nor is the chamber occupied of nights by any one but a single
native woman, who, as the Chaldaeans, the priests of this god, affirm,
is chosen for himself by the deity out of all the women of the land.
They also declare- but I for my part do not credit it- that the
god comes down in person into this chamber, and sleeps upon the couch.
This is like the story told by the Egyptians of what takes place in
their city of Thebes, where a woman always passes the night in the
temple of the Theban Jupiter. In each case the woman is said to be
debarred all intercourse with men. It is also like the custom of
Patara, in Lycia, where the priestess who delivers the oracles, during

Previous | Next
Site Search