The History, 23.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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6Our history here leads us to a digression explanatory of the situation of Persia. It has been already dilated upon by those who describe different nations, though but few of them have given a correct account; if my story should be a little longer, it will contribute to a better knowledge of the country. For whoever affects excessive conciseness while speaking of things but little known, does not so much consider how to explain matters intelligibly, as how much he may omit.

2This kingdom, formerly but small, and one which had been known by several names, from causes which we have often mentioned, after the death of Alexander at Babylon received the name of Parthia from Arsaces, a youth of obscure birth, who in his early youth was a leader of banditti, but who gradually improved his condition, and rose to high renown from his illustrious actions.

3After many splendid and gallant exploits he defeated Nicator Seleucus, the successor of the above-named Alexander, who had received the surname of Nicator from his repeated victories; and having expelled the Macedonian garrisons, he lived for the remainder of his life in peace, like a merciful ruler of willing subjects.

4At last, after all the neighbouring districts had been brought under his power, either by force or by fear, or by his reputation for justice, he died a peaceful death in middle age, after he had filled all Persia with flourishing cities and well-fortified camps and fortresses, and had made it an object of terror to its neighbours whom previously it used to fear. And he was the first of these kings who had by the unanimous consent of all his countrymen of all ranks, in accordance with the tenets of their religion, had his memory consecrated as one now placed among the stars.

5And it is from his era that the arrogant sovereigns of that nation have allowed themselves to be entitled brothers of the sun and moon. And, as the title of Augustus is sought for and desired by our emperors, so now the additional dignities first earned by the fortunate auspices of Arsaces are claimed by all the Parthian kings, who were formerly abject and inconsiderable.

6So that they still worship and honour Arsaces as a god, and down to our day have given him so much honour that, in conferring the royal power, one of his race has been always preferred to any one else. And also in intestine quarrels, such as are common in that nation, every one avoids as sacrilege wounding any descendant of Arsaces, whether in arms or living as a private individual.

7It is well known that this nation, after subduing many others by force, extended its dominions as far as the Propontis and Thrace; but that it subsequently became diminished and suffered great disasters, owing to the arrogance of its ambitious monarchs, who carried their licentious inroads into distant countries. First, in consequence of the conduct of Cyrus, who crossed the Bosphorus with a fabulous host, but was wholly destroyed by Tomyris, queen of the Scythians, who thus terribly avenged her sons.

8After him, when Darius, and subsequently Xerxes, changed the use of the elements and invaded Greece, they had nearly all their forces destroyed by land and sea, and could scarcely escape in safety themselves. I say nothing of the wars of Alexander, and of his leaving the sovereignty over the whole nation by will to his successor.

9Then, a long time after these events, while our republic was under consuls, and was afterwards brought under the power of the Cæsars, that nation was constantly warring with us, sometimes with equal fortune; being at one time defeated, and at another victorious.

10Now I will in a few words describe the situation and position of the country as well as I can. It is a region of great extent both in length and breadth, entirely surrounding on all sides the famous Persian gulf with its many islands. The mouth of this gulf is so narrow that from Harmozon, the promontory of Carmania, the opposite headland, which the natives call Maces, is easily seen.

11When the strait between these capes is passed, and the water becomes wider, they are navigable up to the city Teredon, where, after having suffered a great diminution of its waters, the Euphrates falls into the sea. The entire gulf, if measured round the shore, is 20,000 furlongs, being of a circular form as if turned in a lathe. And all round its coasts are towns and villages in great numbers; and the vessels which navigate its waters are likewise very numerous.

12Having then passed through this strait we come to the gulf of Armenia on the east, the gulf of Cantichus on the south, and on the west to a third, which they call Chalites. These gulfs, after washing many islands, of which but few are known, join the great Indian Ocean, which is the first to receive the glowing rising of the sun, and is itself of an excessive heat.

13As the pens of geographers delineate it, the whole of the region which we have been speaking of is thus divided. From the north to the Caspian gates it borders on the Cadusii, and on many Scythian tribes, and on the Arimaspi, a fierce one-eyed people. On the west it is bounded by the Armenians, and Mount Niphates, the Asiatic Albani, the Red Sea, and the Scenite Arabs, whom later times have called the Saracens. To the south it looks towards Mesopotamia, on the east it reaches to the Ganges, which falls into the Southern Ocean after intersecting the countries of the Indians.

14The principal districts of Persia, under command of the Vitaxæ, that is to say of the generals of the cavalry, and of the king’s Satraps, for the many inferior provinces it would be difficult and superfluous to enumerate, are Assyria, Susiana, Media, Persia, Parthia, the greater Carmania, Hyrcania, Margiana, the Bactrians, the Sogdians, the Sacæ, Scythia beyond Mount Emodes, Serica, Aria, the Paropanisadæ, Drangiana, Arachosia, and Gedrosia.

15Superior to all the rest is that which is the nearest to us, Assyria, both in renown, and extent, and its varied riches and fertility. It was formerly divided among several peoples and tribes, but is now known under one common name as Assyria. It is in that country that amid its abundance of fruits and ordinary crops, there is a lake named Sosingites, near which bitumen is found. In this lake the Tigris is for a while absorbed, flowing beneath its bed, till, at a great distance, it emerges again.

16Here also is produced naphtha, an article of a pitchy and glutinous character, resembling bitumen: on which if ever so small a bird perches, it finds its flight impeded and speedily dies. It is a species of liquid, and when once it has taken fire, human ingenuity can find no means of extinguishing it except that of heaping dust on it.

17In the same district is seen an opening in the earth from which a deadly vapour arises, which by its foul odour destroys any animal which comes near it. The evil arises from a deep well, and if that odour spread beyond its wide mouth before it rose higher, it would make all the country around uninhabitable by its fetid effect.

18There used, as some affirm, to be a similar chasm near Hierapolis in Phrygia; from which a noxious vapour rose in like manner with a fetid smell which never ceased, and destroyed everything within the reach of its influence, except eunuchs; to what this was owing we leave natural philosophers to determine.

19Also near the temple of the Asbamæan Jupiter, in Cappadocia (in which district that eminent philosopher Apollonius is said to have been born near the town of Tyana), a spring rises from a marsh, which, however swollen with its rising floods, never overflows its banks.

20Within this circuit is Adiabene, which was formerly called Assyria, but by long custom has received its present name from the circumstance, that being placed between the two navigable rivers the Ona and the Tigris, it can never be approached by fording; for in Greek we use διαβαίνειν for to “cross:” this was the belief of the ancients.

21But we say that in this country there are two rivers which never fail, which we ourselves have crossed, the Diabas, and the Adiabas: both having bridges of boats over them; and that Adiabene has received its name from this last, as Homer tells us Egypt received its name from its great river, and India also, and Commagena which was formerly called Euphratensis, as did the country now called Spain, which was formerly called Iberia from the Iberus. And the great Spanish province of Bœtica from the river Bœtis.

22In this district of Adiabene is the city of Nineveh, named after Ninus, a most mighty sovereign of former times, and the husband of Semiramis, who was formerly queen of Persia, and also the cities of Ecbatana, Arbela, and Gaugamela, where Alexander, after several other battles, gave the crowning defeat to Darius.

23In Assyria there are many cities, among which one of the most eminent is Apamia, surnamed Mesene, and Teredon, and Apollonia, and Vologesia, and many others of equal importance. But the most splendid and celebrated are these three, Babylon, the walls of which Semiramis cemented with pitch; for its citadel indeed was founded by that most eminent monarch Belus. And Ctesiphon which Vardanes built long ago, and which subsequently King Pacorus enlarged by an immigration of many citizens, fortifying it also with walls, and giving it a name, made it the most splendid place in Persia—next to it Seleucia, the splendid work of Seleucus Nicator.

24This, however, as we have already related, was stormed by the generals of Verus Cæsar, who carried the image of the Cumæan Apollo to Rome, and placed it in the temple of the Palatine Apollo, where it was formally dedicated to that god by his priests. But it is said that after this statue was carried off, and the city was burnt, the soldiers, searching the temple, found a narrow hole, and when this was opened in the hope of finding something of value in it, from some deep gulf which the secret science of the Chaldæans had closed up, issued a pestilence, loaded with the force of incurable disease, which in the time of Verus and Marcus Antoninus polluted the whole world from the borders of Persia to the Rhine and Gaul with contagion and death.

25Near to this is the region of the Chaldæans, the nurse of the ancient philosophy, as the Chaldæans themselves affirm; and where the art of true divination has most especially been conspicuous. This district is watered by the noble rivers already mentioned, by the Marses, by the Royal river, and by that best of all, the Euphrates, which divides into three branches, and is navigable in them all, having many islands, and irrigating the fields around in a manner superior to any industry of cultivators, making them fit both for the plough and for the production of trees.

26Next to these come the Susians, in whose province there are not many towns; though Susa itself is celebrated as a city which has often been the home of kings, and Arsiana, and Sele, and Aracha. The other towns in this district are unimportant and obscure. Many rivers flow through this region, the chief of which are the Oroates, the Harax, and the Meseus, passing through the narrow sandy plain which separates the Caspian from the Red Sea, and then fall into the sea.

27On the left, Media is bounded by the Hyrcanian Sea; a country which, before the reign of the elder Cyrus and the rise of Persia, we read was the supreme mistress of all Asia after the Assyrians had been conquered; the greater part of whose cantons had their name changed into one general appellation of Acrapatena, and fell by right of war under the power of the Medes.

28They are a warlike nation, and the most formidable of all the eastern tribes, next to the Parthians, by whom alone they are conquered. The region which they inhabit is in the form of a square. All the inhabitants of these districts extend over great breadth of country, reaching to the foot of a lofty chain of mountains known by the names of Zagrus, Orontes, and Jasonium.

29There is another very lofty mountain called Coronus; and those who dwell on its western side abound in corn land and vineyards, being blessed with a most fertile soil, and one enriched by rivers and fountains.

30They have also green meadows, and breeds of noble horses, on which (as ancient writers relate, and as we ourselves have witnessed) their men when going to battle mount with great exultation. They call them Nesæi.

31They have also as many cities as Media, and villages as strongly built as towns in other countries, inhabited by large bodies of citizens. In short, it is the richest quarter of the kingdom.

32In these districts the lands of the Magi are fertile; and it may be as well to give a short account of that sect and their studies, since we have occasion to mention their name. Plato, that most learned deliverer of wise opinions, teaches us that Magiæ is by a mystic name Machagistia, that is to say, the purest worship of divine beings; of which knowledge in olden times the Bactrian Zoroaster derived much from the secret rites of the Chaldæans; and after him Hystaspes, a very wise monarch, the father of Darius.

33Who while boldly penetrating into the remoter districts of upper India, came to a certain woody retreat, of which with its tranquil silence the Brahmans, men of sublime genius, were the possessors. From their teaching he learnt the principles of the motion of the world and of the stars, and the pure rites of sacrifice, as far as he could; and of what he learnt he infused some portion into the minds of the Magi, which they have handed down by tradition to later ages, each instructing his own children, and adding to it their own system of divination.

34From his time, through many ages to the present era, a number of priests of one and the same race has arisen, dedicated to the worship of the gods. And they say, if it can be believed, that they even keep alive in everlasting fires a flame which descended from heaven among them; a small portion of which, as a favourable omen, used to be borne before the kings of Asia.

35Of this class the number among the ancients was small, and the Persian sovereigns employed their ministry in the solemn performance of divine sacrifices, and it was profanation to approach the altars, or to touch a victim before a Magus with solemn prayers had poured over it a preliminary libation. But becoming gradually more numerous they arrived at the dignity and reputation of a substantial race; inhabiting towns protected by no fortifications, allowed to live by their own laws, and honoured from the regard borne to their religion.

36It was of this race of Magi that the ancient volumes relate that after the death of Cambyses, seven men seized on the kingdom of Persia, who were put down by Darius, after he obtained the kingdom through the neighing of his horse.

37In this district a medical oil is prepared with which if an arrow be smeared, and it be shot gently from a loose bow (for it loses its effect in a rapid flight), wherever it sticks it burns steadily, and if any one attempts to quench it with water it only burns more fiercely, nor can it be put out by any means except by throwing dust on it.

38It is made in this manner. Those skilful in such arts mix common oil with a certain herb, keep it a long time, and when the mixture is completed they thicken it with a material derived from some natural source, like a thicker oil. The material being a liquor produced in Persia, and called, as I have already said, naphtha in their native language.

39In this district there are many cities, the most celebrated of which are Zombis, Patigran, and Gazaca; but the richest and most strongly fortified are Heraclia, Arsacia, Europos, Cyropolis, and Ecbatana, all of which are situated in the Syromedian region at the foot of Mount Jasonius.

40There are many rivers in this country, the principal of which are the Choaspes, the Gyndes, the Amardus, the Charinda, the Cambyses, and the Cyrus, to which, on account of its size and beauty, the elder Cyrus, that amiable king, gave its present name, abolishing that which it used to bear, when he was proceeding on his expedition against Scythia; his reason being that it was strong, as he accounted himself to be, and that making its way with great violence, as he proposed to do, it falls into the Caspian Sea.

41Beyond this frontier ancient Persia, stretching towards the south, extends as far as the sea, and is very thickly peopled, being also rich in grain and date-trees, and well supplied with excellent water. Many of its rivers fall into the gulf already mentioned, the chief of which are the Vatrachites, the Rogomanis, the Brisoana, and the Bagrada.

42Its inland towns are very considerable; it is uncertain why they built nothing remarkable on the sea-coast. Those of most note are Persepolis, Ardea, Obroatis, and Tragonice. The only islands visible from that coast are these:—Tabiana, Fara, and Alexandria.

43On the borders of this ancient Persia towards the north is Parthia, a country subject to snow and frost; the principal river which intersects that region is the Choatres; the chief towns are Genonia, Mœsia, Charax, Apamia, Artacana, and Hecatompylos; from its frontier along the shores of the Caspian Sea to the Caspian gates is a distance of 1040 furlongs.

44The inhabitants of all the countries in that district are fierce and warlike, and they are so fond of war and battle that he who is slain in battle is accounted the happiest of men, while those who die a natural death are reproached as degenerate and cowardly.

45These tribes are bounded on the east and the south by Arabia Felix, so called because it abounds equally in corn, cattle, vines, and every kind of spice: a great portion of that country reaches on the right down to the Red Sea, and on its left extends to the Persian Gulf; so that the inhabitants reap the benefits of both.

46There are in that country many havens and secure harbours, and well-frequented marts; many spacious and splendid abodes for their kings, and wholesome springs of water naturally warm, and a great number of rivers and streams; the climate is temperate and healthy, so that if one considers the matter rightly, the natives seem to want nothing to perfect their happiness.

47There are in it very many cities both on the coast and inland; many fertile hills and valleys. The chief cities are Geapolis, Nascon, Baraba, Nagara, Mephra, Taphra, and Dioscurias. And in both seas it possesses several islands lying off the coast, which it is not worth while to enumerate. But the most important of them is Turgana, in which there is said to be a magnificent temple of Serapis.

48Beyond the frontier of this nation is the greater Carmania, lying on high ground, and stretching to the Indian Sea; fertile in fruit and timber trees, but neither so productive nor so extensive as Arabia. With rivers it is as well supplied, and in grass and herbage scarcely inferior.

49The most important rivers are the Sagareus, the Saganis, and the Hydriacus. The cities are not numerous, but admirably supplied with all the necessaries and luxuries of life; the most celebrated of them all are Carmania the metropolis, Portospana, Alexandria, and Hermopolis.

50Proceeding inland, we next come to the Hyrcanians, who live on the coast of the sea of that name. Here the land is so poor that it kills the seed crops, so that agriculture is not much attended to; but they live by hunting, taking wonderful pleasure in every kind of sport. Thousands of tigers are found among them, and all kinds of wild beasts; we have already mentioned the various devices by which they are caught.

51Not indeed that they are ignorant of the art of ploughing, and some districts where the soil is fertile are regularly sown; nor are trees wanting to plant in suitable spots: many of the people too support themselves by commerce.

52In this province are two rivers of universal celebrity the Oxus and the Maxera, which tigers sometimes, when urged by hunger, cross by swimming, and unexpectedly ravage the neighbouring districts. It has also besides other smaller towns some strong cities, two on the sea-shore named Socunda and Saramanna; and some inland, such as Azmorna and Sole, and Hyrcana, of higher reputation than either.

53Opposite to this tribe, towards the north, live the Abii, a very devout nation, accustomed to trample under foot all worldly things, and whom, as Homer somewhat fabulously says, Jupiter keeps in view from Mount Ida.

54The regions next to the Hyrcaneans are possessed by the Margiani, whose district is almost wholly surrounded by high hills, by which they are separated from the sea; and although the greater part of this province is deserted from want of water, still there are some towns in it; the best known of which are Jasonium Antiochia, and Nisæa.

55Next to them are the Bactrians, a nation formerly very warlike and powerful, and always hostile to the Persians, till they drew all the nations around under their dominion, and united them under their own name; and in old time the Bactrian kings were formidable even to Arsaces.

56The greater part of their country, like that of the Margiani, is situated far from the sea-shore, but its soil is fertile, and the cattle which feed both on the plains and on the mountains in that district are very large and powerful; of this the camels which Mithridates brought from thence, and which were first seen by the Romans at the siege of Cyzicus, are a proof.

57Many tribes are subject to the Bactrians, the most considerable of which are the Tochari: their country is like Italy in the number of its rivers, some of which are the Artemis and the Zariaspes, which were formerly joined, and the Ochus and Orchomanes, which also unite and afterwards fall into the Oxus, and increase that large river with their streams.

58There are also cities in that country, many of them on the border of different rivers, the best of which are Chatra, Charte, Alicodra, Astacea, Menapila, and Bactra itself, which has given its name both to the region and to the people.

59At the foot of the mountains lie a people called the Sogdians, in whose country are two rivers navigable for large vessels, the Araxates and the Dymas, which, flowing among the hills and through the valleys into the open plain, form the extensive Oxian marsh. In this district the most celebrated towns are Alexandria, Cyreschata, and Drepsa the metropolis.

60Bordering on these are the Sacæ, a fierce nation dwelling in a gloomy-looking district, only fit for cattle, and on that account destitute of cities. They are at the foot of Mount Ascanimia and Mount Comedus, along the bottom of which, and by a town called the Stone Tower, is the long road much frequented by merchants which leads to China.

61Around the glens at the bottom of the Imauian and Tapurian mountains, and within the Persian frontier, is a tribe of Scythians, bordering on the Asiatic Sarmatians, and touching the furthest side of the Allemanni, who, like dwellers in a secluded spot, and made for solitude, are scattered over the regions at long distances from one another, and live on hard and poor food.

62And various tribes inhabit these districts, which, as I am hastening to other topics, I think superfluous to enumerate. But this is worth knowing, that among these tribes, which are almost unapproachable on account of their excessive ferocity, there are some races of gentle and devout men, as the Jaxartæ and the Galactophagi, whom Homer mentions in his verses:—

Γλακτοφάγων, Ἀβίωντε, δικαιοτάτων ἀνθρώπων.

63Among the many rivers which flow through this land, either uniting at last with larger streams, or proceeding straight to the sea, the most celebrated are the Rœmnus, the Jaxartes, and the Talicus. There are but three cities there of any note, Aspabota, Chauriana, and Saga.

64Beyond the districts of the two Scythias, on the eastern side, is a ring of mountains which surround Serica, a country considerable both for its extent and the fertility of its soil. This tribe on their western side border on the Scythians, on the north and the east they look towards snowy deserts; towards the south they extend as far as India and the Ganges. The best known of its mountains are Annib, Nazavicium, Asmira, Emodon, and Opurocarra.

65The plain, which descends very suddenly from the hills, and is of considerable extent, is watered by two famous rivers, the Œchardes and the Bautis, which is less rapid than the other. The character too of the different districts is very varied. One is extensive and level, the other is on a gentle slope, and therefore very fertile in corn, and cattle, and trees.

66The most fertile part of the country is inhabited by various tribes, of which the Alitrophagi, the Annibi, the Sisyges, and the Chardi lie to the north, exposed to the frost; towards the east are the Rabannæ, the Asmiræ, and the Essedones, the most powerful of all, who are joined on the west by the Athagoræ, and the Aspacaræ; and on the south by the Betæ, who live on the highest slopes of the mountains. Though they have not many cities they have some of great size and wealth; the most beautiful and renowned of which are Asmira, Essedon, Asparata, and Sera.

67The Seres themselves live quietly, always avoiding arms and battles; and as ease is pleasant to moderate and quiet men, they give trouble to none of their neighbours. Their climate is agreeable and healthy; the sky serene, the breezes gentle and delicious. They have numbers of shining groves, the trees of which through continued watering produce a crop like the fleece of a sheep, which the natives make into a delicate wool, and spin into a kind of fine cloth, formerly confined to the use of the nobles, but now procurable by the lowest of the people without distinction.

68The natives themselves are the most frugal of men, cultivating a peaceful life, and shunning the society of other men. And when strangers cross their river to buy their cloth, or any other of their merchandise, they interchange no conversation, but settle the price of the articles wanted by nods and signs; and they are so moderate that, while selling their own produce, they never buy any foreign wares.

69Beyond the Seres, towards the north, live the Ariani; their land is intersected by a navigable river called the Arias, which forms a huge lake known by the same name. This district of Asia is full of towns, the most illustrious of which are Bitaxa, Sarmatina, Sotera, Nisibis, and Alexandria, from which last down the river to the Caspian Sea is a distance of fifteen hundred furlongs.

70Close to their border, living on the slopes of the mountains, are the Paropanisatæ, looking on the east towards India, and on the west towards Mount Caucasus. Their principal river is Ortogordomaris, which rises in Bactria. They have some cities, the principal being Agazaca, Naulibus, and Ortopana, from which if you coast along the shore to the borders of Media which are nearest to the Caspian gates, the distance is two thousand two hundred furlongs.

71Next to them, among the hills, are the Drangiani, whose chief river is the Arabis, so called because it rises in Arabia; and their two principal towns are Prophthasia and Aniaspe, both wealthy and well known.

72Next to them is Arachosia, which on the right extends as far as India. It is abundantly watered by a river much smaller than the Indus, that greatest of rivers, which gives its name to the surrounding regions; in fact their river flows out of the Indus, and passes on till it forms the marsh known as Arachotoscrene. Its leading cities are Alexandria, Arbaca, and Choaspa.

73In the most inland districts of Persia is Gedrosia; which on its right touches the frontier of India, and is fertilized by several rivers, of which the greatest is the Artabius. There the Barbitani mountains end, and from their lowest parts rise several rivers which fall into the Indus, losing their own names in the greatness of that superior stream. They have several islands, and their principal cities are Sedratyra and Gynæcon.

74We need not detail minutely every portion of the sea-coast on the extremity of Persia, as it would lead us into too long a digression. It will suffice to say that the sea which stretches from the Caspian mountains along the northern side to the straits above mentioned, is nine thousand furlongs in extent; the southern frontier, from the mouth of the Nile to the beginning of Carmania, is fourteen thousand furlongs.

75In these varied districts of different languages, the races of men are as different as the places. But to describe their persons and customs in general terms, they are nearly all slight in figure, swarthy or rather of a pale livid complexion; fierce-looking, with goat-like eyes, and eyebrows arched in a semicircle and joined, with handsome beards, and long hair. They at all times, even at banquets and festivals, wear swords; a custom which that excellent author Thucydides tells us the Athenians were the first of the Greeks to lay aside.

76They are generally amazingly addicted to amatory pleasures; each man scarcely contenting himself with a multitude of concubines: from unnatural vices they are free. Each man marries many or few wives, as he can afford them, so that natural affection is lost among them because of the numerous objects of their licence. They are frugal in their banquets, avoiding immoderate indulgence and especially hard drinking, as they would the plague.

77Nor, except at the king’s table, have they any settled time for dining, but each man’s stomach serves as his sun-dial; nor does any one eat after he is satisfied.

78They are marvellously temperate and cautious, so that when sometimes marching among the gardens and vineyards of enemies, they neither desire nor touch anything, from fear of poison or witchcraft.

79They perform all the secret functions of nature with the most scrupulous secrecy and modesty.

80But they are so loose in their gait, and move with such correct ease and freedom, that you would think them effeminate, though they are most vigorous warriors; still they are rather crafty than bold, and are most formidable at a distance. They abound in empty words, and speak wildly and fiercely; they talk big, are proud, unmanageable, and threatening alike in prosperity and adversity; they are cunning, arrogant, and cruel, exercising the power of life and death over their slaves, and all low-born plebeians. They flay men alive, both piecemeal, and by stripping off the whole skin. No servant while waiting on them, or standing at their table, may gape, speak, or spit, so that their mouths are completely shut.

81Their laws are remarkably severe: the most stringent are against ingratitude and against deserters; some too are abominable, inasmuch as for the crime of one man they condemn all his relations.

82But as those only are appointed judges who are men of proved experience and uprightness, and of such wisdom as to stand in no need of advice, they laugh at our custom of sometimes appointing men of eloquence and skill in public jurisprudence as guides to ignorant judges. The story that one judge was compelled to sit on the skin of another, who had been condemned for his injustice, is either an ancient fable, or else, if ever there was such a custom, it has become obsolete.

83In military system and discipline, by continual exercises in the business of the camp, and the adoption of the various manœuvres which they have learnt from us, they have become formidable even to the greatest armies; they trust chiefly to the valour of their cavalry, in which all their nobles and rich men serve. Their infantry are armed like mirmillos, and are as obedient as grooms; and they always follow the cavalry like a band condemned to everlasting slavery, never receiving either pay or gratuity. This nation, besides those whom it has permanently subdued, has also compelled many others to go under the yoke; so brave is it and so skilful in all warlike exercises, that it would be invincible were it not continually weakened by civil and by foreign wars.

84Most of them wear garments brilliant with various colours, so completely enveloping the body that even though they leave the bosoms and sides of their robes open so as to flutter in the wind, still from their shoes to their head no part of their person is exposed. After conquering Crœsus and subduing Lydia, they learnt also to wear golden armlets and necklaces, and jewels, especially pearls, of which they had great quantities.

85It only remains for me to say a few words about the origin of this stone. Among the Indians and Persians pearls are found in strong white sea-shells, being created at a regular time by the admixture of dew. For the shells, desiring as it were a kind of copulation, open so as to receive moisture from the nocturnal aspersion. Then becoming big they produce little pearls in triplets, or pairs, or unions, which are so called because the shells when scaled often produce only single pearls, which then are larger.

86And a proof that this produce arises from and is nourished by some aërial derivation rather than by any fattening power in the sea, is that the drops of morning dew when infused into them make the stones bright and round; while the evening dew makes them crooked and red, and sometimes spotted. They become either small or large in proportion to the quality of the moisture which they imbibe, and other circumstances. When they are shaken, as is often the case by thunder, the shells either become empty, or produce only weak pearls, or such as never come to maturity.

87Fishing for them is difficult and dangerous, and this circumstance increases their value; because, on account of the snares of the fishermen they are said to avoid the shores most frequented by them, and hide around rocks which are difficult of access and the hiding places of sharks.

88We are not ignorant that the same species of jewel is also produced and collected in the remote parts of the British sea; though of an inferior value.

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