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ears formed by means of irrigation from the river. For the river
does not, as in Egypt, overflow the corn-lands of its own accord,
but is spread over them by the hand, or by the help of engines. The
whole of Babylonia is, like Egypt, intersected with canals. The
largest of them all, which runs towards the winter sun, and is
impassable except in boats, is carried from the Euphrates into another
stream, called the Tigris, the river upon which the town of Nineveh
formerly stood. Of all the countries that we know there is none
which is so fruitful in grain. It makes no pretension indeed of
growing the fig, the olive, the vine, or any other tree of the kind;
but in grain it is so fruitful as to yield commonly
two-hundred-fold, and when the production is the greatest, even
three-hundred-fold. The blade of the wheat-plant and barley-plant is
often four fingers in breadth. As for the millet and the sesame, I
shall not say to what height they grow, though within my own
knowledge; for I am not ignorant that what I have already written
concerning the fruitfulness of Babylonia must seem incredible to those
who have never visited the country. The only oil they use is made from
the sesame-plant. Palm-trees grow in great numbers over the whole of
the flat country, mostly of the kind which bears fruit, and this fruit
supplies them with bread, wine, and honey. They are cultivated like
the fig-tree in all respects, among others in this. The natives tie
the fruit of the male-palms, as they are called by the Greeks, to
the branches of the date-bearing palm, to let the gall-fly enter the
dates and ripen them, and to prevent the fruit from falling off. The
male-palms, like the wild fig-trees, have usually the gall-fly in
their fruit.
But that which surprises me most in the land, after the city
itself, I will now proceed to mention. The boats which come down the
river to Babylon are circular, and made of skins. The frames, which
are of willow, are cut in the country of the Armenians above
Assyria, and on these, which serve for hulls, a covering of skins is
stretched outside, and thus the boats are made, without either stem or
stern, quite round like a shield. They are then entirely filled with
straw, and their cargo is put on board, after which they are
suffered to float down the stream. Their chief freight is wine, stored
in casks made of the wood of the palm-tree. They are managed by two
men who stand upright in them, each plying an oar, one pulling and the
other pushing. The boats are of various sizes, some larger, some
smaller; the biggest reach as high as five thousand talents'
burthen. Each vessel has a live ass on board; those of larger size
have more than one. When they reach Babylon, the cargo is landed and
offered for sale; after which the men break up their boats, sell the
straw and the frames, and loading their asses with the skins, set
off on their way back to Armenia. The current is too strong to allow a
boat to return upstream, for which reason they make their boats of
skins rather than wood. On their return to Armenia they build fresh
boats for the next voyage.
The dress of the Babylonians is a linen tunic reaching to the
feet, and above it another tunic made in wool, besides which they have
a short white cloak thrown round them, and shoes of a peculiar
fashion, not unlike those worn by the Boeotians. They have long
hair, wear turbans on their heads, and anoint their whole body with
perfumes. Every one carries a seal, and a walking-stick, carved at the
top into the form of an apple, a rose, a lily, an eagle, or
something similar; for it is not their habit to use a stick without an
Of their customs, whereof I shall now proceed to give an
account, the following (which I understand belongs to them in common
with the Illyrian tribe of the Eneti) is the wisest in my judgment.
Once a year in each village the maidens of age to marry were collected
all together into one place; while the men stood round them in a
circle. Then a herald called up the damsels one by one, and offered
them for sale. He began with the most beautiful. When she was sold for

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