The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio” IX – Cyrus Moves on Babylon [177-200]

Babylon Sisters, shake it!

The Histories by Herodotus – Book I, “Clio”

IX – Cyrus Moves on Babylon [177-200]

A – Background on Babylon [177-187]

  • Cyrus took care of the upper regions himself. He began with the Assyrians.
  • The Assyrians had Babylon, stronger than Nineveh, which had already been taken by the Persians. Babylon was 15 miles x 15 miles, it was surrounded by a massive moat. No city in the known world was larger.
  • The soil from the moat was made into brick and formed walls. They had horse archers to hold attacks. The gates were made of bronze.
  • The Euphrates split the city in 2. The walls sloped down to the river. Houses were 3-4 stories high. The city was in a grid form, streets went straight up to the river with fences by the banks.
  • There was a 2nd inner wall, a little thinner but not much weaker than the out wall. Each sector of town had a lock one was a palace and another was a temple to Jupiter. There were towers everywhere, even with places to hang out to watch over the land. One tower had a temple, with no statues but one of a female deity.
  • They say [Herodotus didn’t believe it] that their god comes into the chamber of the temple, sleep on the couch in Jupiter’s temple. She was not to talk to anyone.
  • There was another temple nearby with a golden statue of Jupiter was 45000 pounds, an altar to sacrifice young pigs with incense burning. Persian kings raided the place for generations.
  • Babylon had a long history. 1 famous woman, Semiramis, was monarch for 5 generations. She set out to wall the embankments to control the river which overflowed often.
  • The other woman, Nitocris, conquered many cities under her rule, including Nineveh, to protect the lands of Babylon. She made the River Euphrates change course, made it deeper and wider and added a basin to make the embankments. Roads into Media were made impassable to keep out any interference.
  • Before Nitocris’s time, you had to take a boat to different parts of the city. While taking the dirt/mud/clay from the basin, bricks were made to build quays and stone bridges to make travel easier. This cut the basin into a lake.
  • Nitocris’s tomb was placed by the gateways of the city above the people’s head with an inscription, “If one of my successor has fallen on really hard times, there’s some money in my tomb. If you don’t really need it, you’ll be cursed.” It remained untouched until Darius came to town. He hated the idea of money sitting idle and opened it. He only found a skeleton with a note reading, “If you hadn’t pissed your money away, you wouldn’t have been forced to rob tombs.”

B – Cyrus Attacks Babylon [188-192]

  • Cyrus went after the city, which was ruled by Labyrnetus of the Assyrians. Everywhere he went, Cyrus brought water from the River Choaspe, which flows through Susa.
  • On his way to the River Gyndes in Dardania lands, which flowed into the Tigris, but the city of Opis and then into the Euphrates. When the tried to cross the Gyndes, a horse drowned trying to cross. Cyrus decided to irrigate off the river to make it shallower. He lost a whole summer’s worth of a campaign doing this.
  • This ruined the Gyndes as a great river. He marched toward Babylon. They fought outside the city and the Persians won. The Babylonians retreated into the city and Cyrus besieged the city for years.
  • Cyrus became frustrated with the lack of progress. A plan was formulated – part of the army was placed by the inflows and outflows of the river outside the city. Another part of the army diverted the riverbed of the Euphrates to make it shallow enough to wade through. The Babylonians had no clue what was going on and were completely surprised as they had a festival going on.
  • The Babylonians had to pay tribute to Persia and supply food to Cyrus’s army. They also supplied food to other parts of Asia.

C – Babylonian Culture [193-200]

  • Assyria gets so little rain that crops are grown by irrigation. The river doesn’t overflow like the Nile but has to be made to be spread around. The area is covered with canals connecting parts of the Tigris and Euphrates, near Nineveh. It can only do grains but can grow 200-300 times more than anywhere else. The oil they used was from sesame. Their booze and fruit comes from Palm trees.
  • The boats were circular and made of skins. The frames were made of willow from Armenia. Straw is placed in the hill and skin is wrapped around the outside. They carried wines and rowed by standing oarsmen. The boats come in different sizes. Once they reached their destination, the boat frames were broken up and the skins were folded up and sent back up to Armenia to start the process all over again.
  • Babylonians dressed in linen tunics underneath and woolen ones over top of that as a cloak. They had long hair and wore turbans and perfume. They walked around with sticks with the seal of an animal or plant on top.
  • Babylonian customs – Women were all married at one time in the year. They were gathered in a central part of town and the single men would stand around them to look at them. A herald would start the bidding on the women. The prettiest women got the highest bids and the rich men would try really hard to outbid each other for them. The poor men would only bid on uglier women. In fact, men accepted money from the pot of money from the rich girls to take the uglier or crippled girls. No man could marry off his daughter to the man of his choice or the daughter’s choice. But if the pairing was not OK with all parties involved, the money was returned. The custom eventually ended. Afterwards, the poor men would whore their daughters out.
  • They had no doctors. When someone got sick, he’d sit in the village square and passersby would tell him how they got over their sickness when they had it and survived.
  • The dead were buried in honey and had similar lamentations to the Egyptians. When they had sex, they burn incense and afterwards, they’d stare at each other until dawn, after which they bathed.
  • Every woman was required to sit in the Venus precinct and sleep with a strange once. They sat with wreaths around their head in the town square. A stranger would throw a coin in her lap and take her to the “Holy Ground”. She went with the first one to choose her and she couldn’t refuse. Pretty women had it over and done with quickly. Uglier women had to wait until someone to choose them. Some even waited 3-4 years.
  • 3 Babylonian tribes ate only fish that they caught, dried, crushed into bits and strained. They were made into cakes or bread.

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