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no small sum of money, he offered for sale the one who came next to
her in beauty. All of them were sold to be wives. The richest of the
Babylonians who wished to wed bid against each other for the loveliest
maidens, while the humbler wife-seekers, who were indifferent about
beauty, took the more homely damsels with marriage-portions. For the
custom was that when the herald had gone through the whole number of
the beautiful damsels, he should then call up the ugliest- a
cripple, if there chanced to be one- and offer her to the men,
asking who would agree to take her with the smallest marriage-portion.
And the man who offered to take the smallest sum had her assigned to
him. The marriage-portions were furnished by the money paid for the
beautiful damsels, and thus the fairer maidens portioned out the
uglier. No one was allowed to give his daughter in marriage to the man
of his choice, nor might any one carry away the damsel whom he had
purchased without finding bail really and truly to make her his
wife; if, however, it turned out that they did not agree, the money
might be paid back. All who liked might come even from distant
villages and bid for the women. This was the best of all their
customs, but it has now fallen into disuse. They have lately hit
upon a very different plan to save their maidens from violence, and
prevent their being torn from them and carried to distant cities,
which is to bring up their daughters to be courtesans. This is now
done by all the poorer of the common people, who since the conquest
have been maltreated by their lords, and have had ruin brought upon
their families.
The following custom seems to me the wisest of their
institutions next to the one lately praised. They have no
physicians, but when a man is ill, they lay him in the public
square, and the passers-by come up to him, and if they have ever had
his disease themselves or have known any one who has suffered from it,
they give him advice, recommending him to do whatever they found
good in their own case, or in the case known to them; and no one is
allowed to pass the sick man in silence without asking him what his
ailment is.
They bury their dead in honey, and have funeral lamentations
like the Egyptians. When a Babylonian has consorted with his wife,
he sits down before a censer of burning incense, and the woman sits
opposite to him. At dawn of day they wash; for till they are washed
they will not touch any of their common vessels. This practice is
observed also by the Arabians.
The Babylonians have one most shameful custom. Every woman born in
the country must once in her life go and sit down in the precinct of
Venus, and there consort with a stranger. Many of the wealthier
sort, who are too proud to mix with the others, drive in covered
carriages to the precinct, followed by a goodly train of attendants,
and there take their station. But the larger number seat themselves
within the holy enclosure with wreaths of string about their heads-
and here there is always a great crowd, some coming and others
going; lines of cord mark out paths in all directions the women, and
the strangers pass along them to make their choice. A woman who has
once taken her seat is not allowed to return home till one of the
strangers throws a silver coin into her lap, and takes her with him
beyond the holy ground. When he throws the coin he says these words-
"The goddess Mylitta prosper thee." (Venus is called Mylitta by the
Assyrians.) The silver coin may be of any size; it cannot be
refused, for that is forbidden by the law, since once thrown it is
sacred. The woman goes with the first man who throws her money, and
rejects no one. When she has gone with him, and so satisfied the
goddess, she returns home, and from that time forth no gift however
great will prevail with her. Such of the women as are tall and
beautiful are soon released, but others who are ugly have to stay a
long time before they can fulfil the law. Some have waited three or
four years in the precinct. A custom very much like this is found also
in certain parts of the island of Cyprus.

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