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Strabo - India 3 & Persia

Book XV. Chapter I . 69. India.

Historians also relate that the Indians worship Jupiter Ombrius (or, the Rainy), the river Ganges, and the indigenous deities of the country; that when the king washes his hair,(1) a great feast is celebrated, and large presents are sent, each person displaying his wealth in competition with his neighbour.

They say, that some of the gold-digging myrmeces (ants) have wings; and that the rivers, like those of Iberia,(2) bring down gold-dust.

In processions at their festivals, many elephants are in the train, adorned with gold and silver, numerous carriages drawn by four horses and by several pairs of oxen; then follows a body of attendants in full dress, (bearing) vessels of gold, large basins and goblets, an orguia(3) in breadth, tables, chairs of state, drinking-cups, and lavers of Indian copper, most of which were set with precious stones, as emeralds, beryls, and Indian carbuncles; garments embroidered and interwoven with gold; wild beasts, as buffaloes,(4) panthers, tame lions, and a multitude of birds of variegated plumage and of fine song.

Cleitarchus speaks of four-wheeled carriages bearing trees with large leaves, from which were suspended (in cages) different kinds of tame birds, among which the orion(5) was said to possess the sweetest note, but the catreus(6) was the most beautiful in appearance, and had the most variegated plumage. In shape it approached nearest to the peacock, but the rest of the description must be taken from Cleitarchus.

(1) On the day of his birth, Herod. ix. 109
(2) Of Armenia.
(3) About six feet.
(4) The text is corrupt. Tzchucke’s emendation is adopted. Groskurd translates the word by “hump-backed oxen,” or zebus.
(5) Aelian de Nat. Animal. xvii. 21.
(6) Bird of paradise?


Book XV. Chapter I . 70. India.

Opposed to the Brachmanes there are philosophers, called Pramnae, contentious people, and fond of argument. They ridicule the Brachmanes as boasters and fools for occupying themselves with physiology and astronomy. Some of the Pramnae are called Pramnae of the mountains, others Gymnetae, others again are called Townsmen and Country-men. The Pramnae of the mountains wear deer-skins, and carry scrips filled with roots and drugs; they profess to practise medicine by means of incantations, charms, and amulets.

The Gymnetae, as their name imports, are naked and live chiefly in the open air, practicing fortitude for the space of thirty-seven years; this I have before mentioned; women live in their society, but without cohabitation. The Gymnetae are held in singular estimation.


Book XV. Chapter I . 71. India.

The (Pramnae) Townsmen are occupied in civil affairs, dwell in cities, and wear fine linen, or (as Countrymen they live) in the fields, clothed in the skins of fawns or antelopes. In short, the Indians wear white garments, white linen and muslin, contrary to the accounts of those who say that they wear garments of a bright colour; all of them wear long hair and long beards, plait their hair, and bind it with a fillet.


Book XV. Chapter II . 1. Ariana.

Next to India is Ariana, the first portion of the country subject to the Persians, lying beyond the Indus, and the first of the higher satrapies without the Taurus. On the north it is bounded by the same mountains as India, on the south by the same sea, and by the same river Indus, which separates it from India. It stretches thence towards the west as far as the line drawn from the Caspian Gates to Carmania, whence its figure is quadrilateral.

The southern side begins from the mouths of the Indus, and from Patalene, and terminates at Carmania and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, by a promontory projecting a considerable distance to the south. It then makes a bend towards the gulf in the direction of Persia.

The Arbies, who have the same name as the river Arbis, are the first inhabitants we meet in this country. They are separated by the Arbis from the next tribe, the Oritae, and according to Nearchus, occupy a tract of sea-coast of about 1000 stadia in length; this country also is a part of India. Next are the Oritae, a people governed by their own laws. The voyage along the coast belonging to this people extends 1800 stadia, that along the country of the Ichthyophagi, who follow next, extends 7400 stadia; that along the country of the Carmani as far as Persia, 3700 stadia. The whole number of stadia is 13,900.


Book XV. Chapter II . 2. Ariana.

The greater part of the country inhabited by the Ichthyophagi is on a level with the sea. No trees, except palms and a kind of thorn, and the tamarisk, grow there. There is also a scarcity of water, and of food produced by cultivation. Both they and their cattle subsist upon fish and are supplied by rain water and wells. The flesh of the animals has the smell of fish. Their dwellings are built with the bones of large whales and shells, the ribs furnishing beams and supports, and the jaw-bones, door-ways. The vertebral bones serve as mortars in which fish, which have been previously dried in the sun, are pounded. Of this, with the addition of flour, cakes are made; for they have grinding mills (for corn), although they have no iron. This however is not so surprising, because it is possible for them to import it from other parts. But how do they hollow out the mills again, when worn away? with the same stones, they say, with which their arrows and javelins, which are hardened in the fire, are sharpened. Some fish are dressed in ovens, but the greater part is eaten raw. The fish are taken in nets made of the bark of the palm.


Book XV. Chapter II . 3. Ariana.

Above the Ichthyophagi is situated Gedrosia,* a country less exposed to the heat of the sun than India, but more so than the rest of Asia. As it is without fruits and water, except in the summer, it is not much better than the country of the Ichthyophagi. But it produces aromatics, particularly nard and myrrh, in such quantity, that the army of Alexander used them on the march for tent coverings and beds; they thus breathed an air full of odours, and at the same time more salubrious.

The summer was purposely chosen for leaving India, for at that season it rains in Gedrosia, and the rivers and wells are filled, but in winter they fail. The rain falls in the higher parts to the north, and near the mountains; when the rivers swell, the plains near the sea are watered, and the wells are also filled. Alexander sent persons before him into the desert country to dig wells and to prepare stations for himself and his fleet.

*Mekran.


Book XV. Chapter II . 4. Ariana.

Having separated his forces into three divisions, he set out with one division through Gedrosia, keeping at the utmost from the sea not more than 500 stadia, in order to secure the coast for his fleet; but he frequently approached the sea-side, although the beach was impracticable and rugged. The second division he sent forward under the command of Craterus through the interior, with a view of reducing Ariana, and of proceeding to the same places which he himself was directing his march. (The third division) the fleet he entrusted to Nearchus and Onesicritus, his master pilot, giving them orders to take up the convenient positions in following him, and to sail along the coast parallel to his line of march.


Book XV. Chapter II . 5. Ariana.

Nearchus says, that while Alexander was on his march, he himself commenced his voyage, in the autumn, about the achronical rising of the Pleiades,(1) the wind not being before favourable. The Barbarians however, taking courage at the departure of the king, became daring, and attempted to throw off their subjection, attacked them, and endeavoured to drive them out of the country. But Craterus set out from the Hydaspes, and proceeded through the country of the Arachoti and of the Drangae into Carmania.

Alexander was greatly distressed throughout the whole march, as his road lay through a barren country. The supplies of provisions which he obtained came from a distance, and were scanty and unfrequent, so much so that the army suffered greatly from hunger, the beasts of burden dropped down, and the baggage was abandoned, both in the march and in the camp. The army was saved by eating dates and the marrow of the palm-tree.(2)

Alexander however (says Nearchus), although acquainted with the hardships of the enterprise, was ambitious of conducting this large army in safety, as a conqueror, through the same country where, according to the prevailing report, Semiramis escaped by flight from India with about twenty, and Cyrus with about seven men.

(1) By the achronical rising of the Pleiades is meant the rising of the constellation, or its first becoming visible, after sun-set. Vincent (Voyage of Nearchus) fixes on the 23rd October, 327 B.C., as the date of departure of Alexander from Nicaea; August, 326 B.C., as the date of his arrival at Pattala; and the 2nd of October, 326 B.C., as the date of departure of the fleet from the Indus.
(2) The pith in the young head-shoot of the palm-tree.


Book XV. Chapter II . 6. Ariana.

Besides the want of provision, the scorching heat was distressing, as also the deep and burning sand. In some places there were sand-hills, so that in addition to the difficulty of lifting the legs, as out of a pit, there were ascents and descents. It was necessary also, on account of the watering places, to make long marches of two, four, and sometimes even of six hundred stadia, for the most part during the night. Frequently the encampment was at a distance of 30 stadia from the watering places, in order that the soldiers might not be induced by thirst to drink to excess. For many of them plunged into the water in their armour, and continued drinking until they were drowned; when swollen after death they floated, and corrupted the shallow water of the cisterns. Others, exhausted by thirst, lay exposed to the sun, in the middle of the road. They then became tremulous, their hands and their feet shook, and they died like persons seized with cold and shivering. Some turned out of the road to indulge in sleep, overcome with drowsiness and fatigue; some were left behind and perished, being ignorant of the road, destitute of everything, and overpowered by heat. Others escaped after great sufferings. A torrent of water, which fell in the night time, overwhelmed and destroyed many persons, and much baggage; a great part even of the royal equipage was swept away.

The guides, through ignorance, deviated so far into the interior that the sea was no longer in sight. The king, perceiving the danger, immediately set out in search of the coast; when he had discovered it, and by sinking wells had found water fit for drinking, he sent for the army; afterwards he continued his march for seven days near the shore, with a good supply of water. He then again returned into the interior.


Book XV. Chapter II . 7. Ariana.

There was a plant resembling the laurel, which if eaten by the beasts of burden, caused them to die of epilepsy, accompanied with foaming at the mouth. A thorn also, the fruit of which, like gourds, strewed the ground, and was full of a juice; if drops of it fell into the eyes of any kind of animal it became completely blind. Many persons were suffocated by eating unripe dates. Danger also was to be apprehended from serpents; for on the sand-hills there grew a plant, underneath which they crept and hid themselves. The persons wounded by them died.

The Oritae, it was said, smeared the points of their arrows, which were of wood hardened in the fire, with deadly poisons. When Ptolemy was wounded and in danger of his life, a person appeared in a dream to Alexander, and showed him a root with leaves and branches, which he told him to bruise and place upon the wound. Alexander awoke from his dream, and remembering the vision, searched and found the root growing in abundance, of which both he and others made use; when the Barbarians perceived that the antidote for the poison was discovered, they surrendered to the king. It is probable, however, that some one acquainted with the plant informed the king of its virtues, and that the fabulous part of the story was invented for the purpose of flattery.

Having arrived at the palace(1) of the Gedrosii on the sixtieth day after leaving the Ori,(2) and allowed his army a shore period of rest, he set out for Carmania.

(1) Called Pura by Arrian.
(2) The Oritae are no doubt here meant.


Book XV. Chapter II . 9. Ariana.

The order in which these nations are disposed is as follows. Along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the mountain Paropamisus; then towards the south are the Arachoti; then next to these towards the south, the Gedroseni, together with other tribes who occupy the sea-coast; the Indus runs parallel along the breadth of these tracts. The Indians occupy (in part) some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract, and received in return five hundred elephants.

The Arii are situated on the west, by the side of the Paropamisadae, and the Drangae* by the Arachoti and Gedrosii. The Arii are situated by the side of the Drangae both on the north and west, and nearly encompass them. Bactriana adjoins Aria on the north, and the Paropamisadae, through whose territory Alexander passed when he crossed the Caucasus on his way to Bactria. Towards the west, next to the Arii, are the Parthians, and the parts about the Caspian Gates. Towards the south of Parthia is the desert of Carmania; then follows the remainder of Carmania and Gedrosia.

*The same as the Zarange; they probably dwelt on the lake Zarah, which undoubtedly retains its Zend name. Wilson’s Ariana.


Book XV. Chapter II . 10. Ariana.

We shall better understand the position of the places about the above-mentioned mountainous tract, if we further examine the route which Alexander took from the Parthian territory to Bactriana, when he was in pursuit of Bessus. He came first to Ariana, next to the Drangae, where he put to death Philotas, the son of Parmenio, having detected his traitorous intentions. He dispatched persons to Ecbatana(1) also to put the father to death as an accomplice in the conspiracy. It is said that these persons performed in eleven days, upon dromedaries, a journey of 30 or 40 days, and executed their business.

The Drangae resemble the Persians in all other respects in their mode of life, except that they have little wine. Tin is found in the country.(2)

Alexander next went from the Drangae to the Euergetae,(3) (to whom Cyrus gave this name,) and to the Arachoti; then through the territory of the Paropamisadae at the setting of the Pleiad.(4) It is a mountainous country, and at that time was covered with snow, so that the march was performed with difficulty. The numerous villages, however, on their march, which were well provided with everything except oil, afforded relief in their distress. On their left hand were the summits of the mountains.

The southern parts of the Paropamisus belong to India and Ariana; the northern parts towards the west belong to Bactriana (towards the east to Sogdiana * * (5) Bactrian barbarians). Having wintered there, with India above to the right hand, and having founded a city, he crossed the summits of the mountains into Bactriana. The road was bare of everything except a few trees of the bushy terminthus;(6) the army was driven from want of food to eat the flesh of the beasts of burden, and that in a raw state for want of firewood; but silphium grew in great abundance, which promoted the digestion of this raw food. Fifteen days after founding the city and leaving winter quarters, he came to Adrapsa(7) (Darapsa?), a city of Bactriana.

(1) Corresponding nearly with the present Hamadan.
(2) None is said to be found there at the present day.
(3) They were called Ariaspi; Cyrus, son of Cambyses, gae them the name Euergetae, “benefactors,” in consideration of the services which they had rendered in his expedition against the Scythians.
(4) At the beginning of winter.
(5) The text is corrupt; the words between brackets are supplied by Kramer’s conjecture.
(6) Theophrastus, iv. 5. The Pistatia-nu tree.
(7) Bamian.


Book XV. Chapter II . 11. Ariana.

Chaarene is situated somewhere about this part of the country bordering upon India. This, of all the places subject to the Parthians, lies nearest to India. It is distant 10,000 or 9,000 stadia(1) from Bactriana,(2) through the country of the Arachoti, and the above-mentioned mountainous tract. Craterus traversed this country, subjugating those who refused to submit, and hastened with the greatest expedition to form a junction with the king. Nearly about the same time both armies, consisting of infantry, entered Carmania together, and at a short interval afterwards Nearchus sailed with his fleet into the Persian Gulf, having undergone great danger and distress from wandering in his course, and among other causes, from great whales.

(1) In the text, 19,000. Kramer’s proposed reading is adopted of separating the amount.
(2) Ariana in the text. Groskurd proposes to read Carmania; Kramer, Bactriana.


Book XV. Chapter II . 12. Ariana.

It is probable that those who sailed in the expedition greatly exaggerated many circumstances; yet their statements prove the sufferings to which they were exposed, and that their apprehensions were greater than the real danger. That which alarmed them the most was the magnitude of the whales, which occasioned great commotion in the sea from their numbers; their blowing was attended with so great a darkness that the sailors could not see where they stood. But when the pilots informed the sailors, who were terrified at the sight and ignorant of the cause, that they were animals which might easily be driven away by the sound of a trumpet and by loud noises. Nearchus impelled the vessels with violence in the direction of the impediment, and at the same time frightened the animals with the sound of trumpets. The whales dived, and again rose at the prow of the vessels, so as to give the appearance of a naval combat, but they soon made off.


Book XV. Chapter II . 13. Ariana.

Those who now sail to India speak of the size of these animals and their mode of appearance, but as coming neither in bodies nor frequently, yet as repulsed by shouts and by the sound of trumpets. They affirm that they do not approach the land, but that the bones of those which die, bared of flesh, are readily thrown up by the waves, and supply the Ichthyophagi with the above-mentioned material for the construction of their cabins. According to Nearchus, the size of these animals is three and twenty orguiae in length.*

*About 140 feet. Arrian says twenty-five orguiae, or about 150 feet.

Nearchus says that he proved the confident belief of the sailors in the existence of an island situated in the passage, and destructive to those who anchored near it, to be false.

A bark in its course, when it comes opposite to this island, was never afterwards seen, and some men who were sent in search did not venture to disembark upon the island, but shouted and called to the crew, when, receiving no answer, they returned. But as all imputed this disappearance to the island, Nearchus said that he himself sailed to it, went ashore, disembarked with a part of his crew, and went round it. But not discovering any trace of those of whom he was in search, he abandoned the attempt, and informed his men that no fault was to be imputed to the island (for otherwise destruction would have come upon himself and those who disembarked with him), but that some other cause (and innumerable others were possible) might have occasioned the loss of the vessel.


Book XV. Chapter III. 6. Persis.

There are many other narrow defiles in passing out through the territory of the Uxii, and entering Persia. These Alexander forced in his march through the country at the Persian Gates, and at other places, when he was hastening to see the principal parts of Persia, and the treasure-holds, in which wealth had been accumulated during the long period that Asia was tributary to Persis.

He crossed many rivers, which flow through the country and discharge themselves into the Persian Gulf.

Next to the Choaspes are the Copratas(1) and the Pasitigris, which has its source in the country of the Uxii. There is also the river Cyrus, which flows through Coele Persis,(2) as it is called, near Pasargadae. The king changed his name, which was formerly Agradatus, to that of this river. Alexander crossed the Araxes(3) close to Persepolis. Persepolis was distinguished for the magnificence of the treasures which it contained. The Araxes flows out of the Paraetacene,(4) and receives the Medus,(5) which has its source in Media. These rivers run through a very fruitful valley, which, like Persepolis, lies close to Carmania and the eastern parts of the country. Alexander burnt the palace at Persepolis, to avenge the Greeks, whose temples and cities the Persians had destroyed by fire and sword.

(1) Ab-Zal. (2) Hollow Persis. (3) Bendamir. (4) The capital of Paraetacene is Ispahan.
(5) Probably the Ab-Kuren.


Book XV. Chapter III. 7. Persis.

He next came to Pasargadae,(1) which also was an ancient royal residence. Here he saw in a park the tomb of Cyrus. It was a small tower, concealed within a thick plantation of trees, solid below, but above consisting of one story and a shrine which had a very narrow opening; Aristobulus says, he entered through this opening, by order of Alexander, and decorated the tomb. He saw there a golden couch, a table with cups, a golden coffin, and a large quantity of garments and dresses ornamented with precious stones. These objects he saw at his first visit, but on a subsequent visit the place had been robbed, and everything had been removed except the couch and the coffin which were only broken. The dead body had been removed from its place; whence it was evident that it was the act not of the Satrap,(2) but of robbers, who had left behind what they could not easily carry off. And this occurred although there was a guard of Magi stationed about the place, who received for their daily subsistence a sheep, and every month a horse.(3) The remote distance to which the army of Alexander had advanced, to Bactra and India, gave occasion to the introduction of many disorderly acts, and to this among others.

Such is the account of Aristobulus, who records the following inscription on the tomb. “O MAN, I AM CYRUS,(4) I ESTABLISHED THE PERSIAN EMPIRE AND WAS KING OF ASIA. GRUDGE ME NOT THEREFORE THIS MONUMENT.”

Onesicritus however says that the tower had ten stories, that Cyrus lay in the uppermost, and that there was an inscription in Greek, cut in Persian letters, “I CYRUS, KING OF KINGS, LIE HERE.” And another inscription to the same effect in the Persian language.

(1) Pasa or Fesa.
(2) Orxines, Quint. Cur. x. c. 1.
(3) For sacrifice to Cyrus. Arrian, vi. c. 29.
(4) Arrian adds, “Son of Cambyses.”


Book XV. Chapter III. 8. Persis.

Onesicritus mentions also this inscription on the tomb of Darius: “I WAS A FRIEND TO MY FRIENDS, I WAS THE FIRST OF HORSEMEN AND ARCHERS, I EXCELLED AS HUNTER, I COULD DO EVERYTHING.”

Aristus of Salamis, a writer of a much later age than these, says, that the tower consisted of two stories, and was large; that it was built at the time the Persians succeeded to the kingdom (of the Medes); that the tomb was preserved; that the above-mentioned inscription was in the Greek, and that there was another to the same purport in the Persian language.

Cyrus held in honour Pasargadae, because he there conquered, in his last battle, Astyages the Mede, and transferred to himself the empire of Asia; he raised it to the rank of a city, and built a palace in memory of his victory.


Book XV. Chapter III. 9. Persis.

Alexander transferred everything that was precious in Persis to Susa, which was itself full of treasures and costly materials; he did not, however, consider this place, but Babylon, as the royal residence, and intended to embellish it. There too his treasure was deposited.

They say that, besides the treasures in Babylon and in the camp of Alexander, which were not included in the sum, the treasure found at Susa and in Persis was reckoned to amount to 40,000, and according to some writers to 50,000, talents. But others say, that the whole treasure, collected from all quarters, and transported to Ecbatana, amounted to 180,000 talents, and that the 8,000 talents which Darius carried away with him in his flight from Media became the booty of those who put him to death.


Book XV. Chapter III. 10. Persis.

Alexander preferred Babylon, because he saw that it far surpassed the other cities in magnitude, and had other advantages. Although Susis is fertile, it has a glowing scorching atmosphere, particularly near the city, as he (Aristobulus?) says. Lizards and serpents at mid-day in the summer, when the sun is at its greatest height, cannot cross the streets of the city quick enough to prevent their being burnt to death mid-way by the heat. This happens nowhere in Persis, although it lies more towards the south.

Cold water for baths is suddenly heated by exposure to the sun. Barley spread out in the sun is roasted like barely prepared in ovens. For this reason earth is laid to the depth of two cubits upon the roofs of the houses. They are obliged to construct their houses narrow, on account of the weight placed upon them, and from want of long beams, but, as large dwellings are required to obviate the suffocating heat, the houses are long.

The beam made of the palm tree has a peculiar property, for although it retains it solidity, it does not as it grows old give way downwards, but curves upwards with the weight, and is a better support to the roof.

The cause of the scorching heat is said to be high, over-hanging mountains on the north, which intercept the northern winds. These, blowing from the tops of the mountains at a great height, fly over without touching the plains, to the more southern parts of Susis. There the air is still, particularly when the Etesian winds cool the other parts of the country which are burnt up by heat.


Book XV. Chapter III. 11. Persis.

Susis is so fertile in grain, that barley and wheat produce, generally, one hundred, and sometimes two hundred fold. Hence the furrows are not ploughed close together, for the roots when crowed impede the sprouting of the plant.

The vine did not grow there before the Macedonians planted it, both there and at Babylon. They do not dig trenches, but thrust down into the ground iron-headed stakes, which when drawn out are immediately replaced by the plants.

Such is the character of the inland parts. The sea-coast is marshy and without harbours; hence Nearchus says, that he met with no native guides, when coasting with his fleet from India to Babylonia, for nowhere could his vessels put in, nor was he able to procure persons who could direct him by their knowledge and experience.


Book XV. Chapter III. 13. Persis.

The manners and customs of the Persians are the same as those of the Susians and the Medes, and many other people; and they have been described by several writers, yet I must mention what is suitable to my purpose.

The Persians do not erect statues nor altars, but, considering the heaven as Jupiter, sacrifice on a high place.(1) They worship the sun also, whom they call Mithras, the moon, Venus, fire, earth, winds, and water. They sacrifice, having offered up prayers, in a place free from impurities, and present the victim crowned.(2)

After the Magus, who directs the sacrifice, has divided the flesh, each goes away with his share, without setting apart any portion to the gods; for the god, they say, requires the soul of the victim, and nothing more. Nevertheless, according to some writers, they lay a small piece of the caul upon the fire.

(1) The account of the Persians is taken from Herodotus, i. 131, &c.
(2) According to Herodotus, the priest who sacrificed was crowned.


Book XV. Chapter III. 14. Persis.

But it is to fire and water especially that they offer sacrifice. They throw upon the fire dry wood without the bark, and place fat over it; they then pour oil upon it, and light it below; they do not blow the flame with their breath, but fan it; those who have blown the flame with their breath, or thrown any dead thing or dirt upon the fire, are put to death.

They sacrifice to water by going to a lake, river, or fountain; having dug a pit, they slaughter the victim over it, taking care that none of the pure water near be sprinkled with blood, and thus be polluted. They then lay the flesh in order upon myrtle or laurel branches; the Magi touch it with slender twigs,* and make incantations, pouring oil mixed with milk and honey, not into the fire, nor into the water, but upon the earth. They continue their incantations for a long time, holding in the hands a bundle of slender myrtle rods.

*Roused the sacred fire, as the law bids,
Touching the god with consecrated wand.
Athenaeus xii. 40, Bohn’s Classical Library.


Book XV. Chapter III. 15. Persis.

In Cappadocia (for in this country there is a great body of Magi, called Pyraethi,(1) and there are many temples dedicated to the Persian deities) the sacrifice is not performed with a knife, but the victim is beaten to death with a log of wood, as with a mallet.

The Persians have also certain large shrines, called Pyraetheia.(2) In the middle of these is an altar, on which is a great quantity of ashes, where the Magi maintain an unextinguished fire. They enter daily, and continue their incantation for nearly an hour, holding before the fire a bundle of rods, and wear round their heads high turbans of felt, reaching down on each side so as to cover the lips and the sides of the cheeks. The same customs are observed in the temples of Anaitis and of Omanus. Belonging to these temples are shrines, and a wooden statue of Omanus is carried in procession. These we have seen ourselves. Other usages, and such as follow, are related by historians.

(1) i.e., who kindle fire.
(2) i.e., places where fire is kindled.


Book XV. Chapter III. 16. Persis.

The Persians never pollute a river with urine, nor wash nor bathe in it; they never throw a dead body, nor anything unclean into it. To whatever god they intend to sacrifice, they first address a prayer to fire.


Book XV. Chapter III. 17. Persis.

They are governed by hereditary kings. Disobedience is punished by the head and arms being cut off, and the body cast forth. They marry many women, and maintain at the same time a great number of concubines, with a view to a numerous offspring.

The kings propose annual prizes for a numerous family of children. Children are not brought into the presence of their parents until they are four years old.

Marriages are celebrated at the beginning of the vernal equinox. The bridegroom passes into the bride-chamber, having previously eaten some fruit, or camel’s marrow, but nothing else during the day.


Book XV. Chapter III. 18. Persis.

From the age of five to twenty-four years they are taught to use the bow, to throw the javelin, to ride, and to speak the truth. They have the most virtuous preceptors, who interweave useful fables in their discourses, and rehearse sometimes with, sometimes without, music, the actions of the gods and of illustrious men.

The youths are called to rise before day-break, at the sound of brazen instruments, and assemble in one spot, as if for arming themselves for the chase. They are arranged in companies of fifty, to each of which one of the king’s or a satrap’s son is appointed as leader, who runs, followed at command by the others, an appointed distance of thirty or forty stadia.

They require them to give an account of each lesson, when they practise loud speaking, and exercise the breath and lungs. They are taught to endure heat, cold, and rains; to cross torrents, and keep their armour and clothes dry; to pasture animals, to watch all night in the open air, and to eat wild fruits, as the terminthus,(1) acorns, and wild pear.

(These person are called Cardaces, who live upon plunder, for “carda” means a manly and warlike spirit.)(2)

The daily food after the exercise of the gymnasium is bread, a cake, cardamom,(3) a piece of salt, and dressed meat either roasted or boiled, and their drink is water.

Their mode of hunting is by throwing spears from horseback, or with the bow or the sling.

In the evening they are employed in planting trees, cutting roots, fabricating armour, and making lines and nets. The youth do not eat the game, but carry it home. The king gives rewards for running, and to the victors in the other contests of the pentathla (or five games). The youths are adorned with gold, esteeming it for its fiery appearance. They do not ornament the dead with gold, nor apply fire to them, on account of its being an object of veneration.

(1) Not the same plant as mentioned previously, but the pistacia terebinthus.
(2) An interpolation. The Cardaces were not Persians, but foreign soldiers
(3) Cardamum is probably the “lepidum perfoliatum” of Linnaeus, or the “nasturtium orientale” o Tournefort. Xenephon also, Expedit. Cyr. iii. 5. and vii. 8, speaks of great use made of this plant by the Persians..


Book XV. Chapter III. 19. Persis.

They serve as soldiers in subordinate stations, and in those of command from twenty to fifty years of age, both on foot and on horseback. They do not concern themselves with the public markets, for they neither buy nor sell. They are armed with a tomb-shaped shield. Besides quivers, they have battle-axes and short swords. On their heads they wear a cap rising like a tower. The breastplate is composed of scales of iron.

The dress of the chiefs consists of triple drawers, a double tunic with sleeves reaching to the knees; the under garment is white, the upper of a variegated colour. The cloak for summer is of a purple or violet colour. The turbans are similar to those of the Magi; and a deep double shoe. The generality of people wear a double tunic reaching to the half of the leg. A piece of fine linen is wrapped around the head. Each person has a bow and a sling.

The entertainments of the Persians are expensive. They set upon their table entire animals in great number, and of various kinds. Their couches, drinking-cups, and other articles are so brilliantly ornamented that they gleam with gold and silver.


Book XV. Chapter III. 20. Persis.

Their consultations on the most important affairs are carried on while they are drinking, and they consider the resolutions made at that time more to be depended upon than those made when sober.

On meeting persons of their acquaintance, and of equal rank with themselves, on the road, they approach and kiss them, but to persons of an inferior station they offer the cheek, and in that manner receive the kiss. But to persons of still lower condition they only bend the body.

Their mode of burial is to smear the bodies over with wax, and then to inter them. The Magi are not buried, but the birds are allowed to devour them. These persons, according to the usage of the country, espouse even their mothers.

Such are the customs of the Persians.


Book XV. Chapter III. 21. Persis.

The following, mentioned by Polycletus, are perhaps customary practices:

At Susa each king builds in the citadel, as memorials of the administration of his government, a dwelling for himself, treasure-houses, and magazines for tribute collected (in kind).

From the sea-coast they obtain silver, from the interior the produce of each province, as dyes, drugs, hair, wool, or anything else of this sort, and cattle. The apportionment of the tribute was settled by Darius (Longimanus, who was a very handsome person with the exception of the length of his arms, which reached to his knees).(1) The greater part both of gold and silver is wrought up, and there is not much in coined money. The former they consider as best adapted for presents, and for depositing in store-houses. So much coined money as suffices for their wants they think enough; but, on the other hand, money is coined in proportion to what is required for their expenditure.(2)

(1) The length of the arms and the surname “Longhand” here given to Darius are assigned by others to Artaxeres. It was in fact the latter to whom this surname was given, according to Plutarch, in consequence of the right arm being longer than the left. Therefore Falconer considers this passage an interpolation. Coray.
(2) This, says Gossellin, may account for the rarity of the Persian Darius, badly struck, and coined long before the time of Alexander, and appearing to belong to a period anterior to the reign of Darius Hystaspes.


Book XV. Chapter III. 22. Persis.

Their habits are in general temperate. But their kings, from the great wealth which they possessed, degenerated into a luxurious way of life. They sent for wheat from Assos in Aeolia, for Chalybonian* wine from Syria, and water from the Eulaeus, which is the lightest of all, for an Attic cotylus measure of it weighs less by a drachm (than the same quantity of any other water).

*Chalybon was the name of the modern Aleppo, but the wine of Damascus must have possessed the same qualities, and had the same name. “The Chalybonean wine, Posidonius says, is made in Damascus in Syria, from vines which were planted there by the Persians.


Book XV. Chapter III. 23. Persis.

Of the barbarians the Persians were the best known to the Greeks, for none of the other barbarians who governed Asia governed Greece. The barbarians were not acquainted with the Greeks, and the Greeks were but slightly acquainted, and by distant report only, with the barbarians. As an instance, Homer was not acquainted with the empire of the Syrians nor of the Medes, for otherwise he mentions the wealth of Egyptian Thebes and of Phoenicia, he would not have passed over in silence the wealth of Babylon, of Ninus, and of Ecbatana.

The Persians were first people that brought Greeks under their domain; the Lydians (before them) did the same, they were not however masters of the whole, but of a small portion only of Asia, that within the river Halys; their empire lasted for a short time, during the reigns of Croesus and Alyattes; and they were deprived of what little glory they had acquired, when conquered by the Persians.

The Persians, (on the contrary, increased in power and,) as soon as they destroyed the Median empire, subdued the Lydians and brought the Greeks of Asia under their dominion. At a later period they even passed over into Greece and were worsted in many great battles, but still they continued to keep possession of Asia, as far as the places on the sea-coast, until they were completely subdued by the Macedonians.


Book XV. Chapter III. 24. Persis.

The founder of their empire was Cyrus. He was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who was put to death by the Magi. The seven Persians who killed the Magi delivered the kingdom into the hands of Darius, the son of Hystaspes. The succession terminated with Arses, whom Bagous the eunuch having killed set up Darius, who was not of the royal family. Alexander overthrew Darius, and reigned himself twelve years.(1) The empire of Asia was partitioned out among his successors, and transmitted to their descendants, but was dissolved after it had lasted about two hundred and fifty years.(2)

At present the Persians are a separate people, governed by kings, who are subject to other kings; to the kings of Macedon in former times, but now to those of Parthia.

(1) In the text “ten or eleven years,” which reading is contrary to all other authorities, and is rejected by Kramer.
(2) This is only an approximation. From the conquest of the Medes by Cyrus to the death of Darius Codomanus, the last king of Persia, is a period of 225 years.

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