Written by Strabo circa 7 BC
Assyria is contiguous to Persia and Susiana. This name is given to Babylonia, and to a large tract of country around; this tract contains Aturia, in which is Nineveh1, the Apolloniatis, the Elymæi, the Parætacæ, and the Chalonitis about Mount Zagrum—the plains about Nineveh, namely, Dolomene, Calachene, Chazene, and Adiabene—the nations of Mesopotamia, bordering upon the Gordyæi; the Mygdones about Nisibis, extending to the Zeugma of the Euphrates, and to the great range of country on the other side that river, occupied by Arabians, and by those people who are properly called Syrians in the present age. This last people extend as far as the Cilicians, Phœnicians, and Jews, to the sea opposite the Sea of Egypt, and to the Bay of Issus2.
The name of Syrians seems to extend from Babylonia as far as the Bay of Issus, and, anciently, from this bay to the Euxine3.
Both tribes of the Cappadocians, those near the Taurus and those near the Pontus, are called to this time Leuco-Syrians (or White Syrians), as though there existed a nation of Black Syrians. These are the people situated beyond the Taurus, and I extend the name of Taurus as far as the Amanus.
When the historians of the Syrian empire say that the Medes were overthrown by the Persians, and the Syrians by the Medes, they mean no other Syrians than those who built the royal palaces at Babylon and Nineveh; and Ninus, who built Nineveh in Aturia, was one of these Syrians. His wife, who succeeded her husband, and founded Babylon, was Semiramis. These sovereigns were masters of Asia. Many other works of Semiramis, besides those at Babylon, are extant in almost every part of this continent, as, for example, artificial mounds, which are called mounds of Semiramis, and walls and fortresses, with subterraneous passages; cisterns for water; roads to facilitate the ascent of mountains; canals communicating with rivers and lakes; roads and bridges. The empire they left continued with their successors to the time of [the contest between] Sardanapalus and Arbaces. It was afterwards transferred to the Medes.
The city Nineveh was destroyed immediately upon the overthrow of the Syrians. It was much larger than Babylon, and situated in the plain of Aturia. Aturia borders upon the places about Arbela4; between these is the river Lycus. Arbela and the parts about it belong to Babylonia. In the country on the other side of the Lycus are the plains of Aturia, which surround Nineveh.
In Aturia is situated Gaugamela, a village where Darius was defeated and lost his kingdom. This place is remarkable for its name, which, when interpreted, signifies the Camel’s House. Darius, the son of Hystaspes, gave it this name, and assigned (the revenues of) the place for the maintenance of a camel, which had undergone the greatest possible labor and fatigue in the journey through the deserts of Scythia, when carrying baggage and provision for the king. The Macedonians, observing that this was a mean village, but Arbela a considerable settlement (founded, as it is said, by Arbelus, son of Athmoneus), reported that the battle was fought and the victory obtained near Arbela, which account was transmitted to historians.
After Arbela and the mountain Nicatorium (a name which Alexander, after the victory at Arbela, superadded), is the river Caprus, situated at the same distance from Arbela as the Lycus. The country is called Artacene. Near Arbela is the city Demetrias; next is the spring of naphtha, the fires, the temple of the goddess Anæa, Sadracæ, the palace of Darius, son of Hystaspes, the Cyparisson, or plantation of Cypresses, and the passage across the Caprus, which is close to Seleucia and Babylon.
Babylon5 itself also is situated in a plain. The wall is 385 stadia in circumference, and 32 feet in thickness. The height of the space between the towers is 50, and of the towers 60 cubits. The roadway upon the walls will allow chariots with four horses when they meet to pass each other with ease. Whence, among the seven wonders of the world, are reckoned this wall and the hanging garden: the shape of the garden is a square, and each side of it measures four plethra. It consists of vaulted terraces, raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and the terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.
The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden. For the river, which is a stadium in breadth, flows through the middle of the city, and the garden is on the side of the river. The tomb also of Belus is there. At present it is in ruins, having been demolished, as it is said, by Xerxes. It was a quadrangular pyramid of baked brick, a stadium in height, and each of the sides a stadium in length. Alexander intended to repair it. It was a great undertaking, and required a long time for its completion (for ten thousand men were occupied two months in clearing away the mound of earth), so that he was not able to execute what he had attempted, before disease hurried him rapidly to his end. None of the persons who succeeded him attended to this undertaking; other works also were neglected, and the city was dilapidated, partly by the Persians, partly by time, and, through the indifference of the Macedonians to things of this kind, particularly after Seleucus Nicator had fortified Seleucia on the Tigris near Babylon, at the distance of about 300 stadia.
Both this prince and all his successors directed their care to that city, and transferred to it the seat of empire. At present it is larger than Babylon; the other is in great part deserted, so that no one would hesitate to apply to it what one of the comic writers said of Megalopolitæ in Arcadia, “the great city is a great desert.”
On account of the scarcity of timber, the beams and pillars of the houses were made of palm wood. They wind ropes of twisted reed round the pillars, paint them over with colors, and draw designs upon them; they cover the doors with a coat of asphaltus. These are lofty, and all the houses are vaulted on account of the want of timber. For the country is bare, a great part of it is covered with shrubs, and produces nothing but the palm. This tree grows in the greatest abundance in Babylonia. It is found in Susiana also in great quantity, on the Persian coast, and in Carmania. They do not use tiles for their houses, because there are no great rains. The case is the same in Susiana and in Sitacene.
In Babylon a residence was set apart for the native philosophers called Chaldæans, who are chiefly devoted to the study of astronomy. Some, who are not approved of by the rest, profess to understand genethlialogy, or the casting of nativities. There is also a tribe of Chaldæans, who inhabit a district of Babylonia, in the neighborhood of the Arabians, and of the sea called the Persian Sea. There are several classes of the Chaldæan astronomers. Some have the name of Orcheni, some Borsippeni, and many others, as if divided into sects, who disseminate different tenets on the same subjects. The mathematicians make mention of some individuals among them, as Cidenas, Naburianus, and Sudinus. Seleucus also of Seleuceia is a Chaldæan, and many other remarkable men.
Borsippa is a city sacred to Diana and Apollo. Here is a large linen manufactory. Bats of much larger size than those in other parts abound in it. They are caught and salted for food.
The country of the Babylonians is surrounded on the east by the Susans, Elymæi, and Parætaceni; on the south by the Persian Gulf, and the Chaldæans as far as the Arabian Meseni; on the west by the Arabian Scenitæ as far as Adiabene and Gordyæa; on the north by the Armenians and Medes as far as the Zagrus, and the nations about that river.
The country is intersected by many rivers, the largest of which are the Euphrates and the Tigris: next to the Indian rivers, the rivers in the southern parts of Asia are said to hold the second place. The Tigris is navigable upwards from its mouth to Opis6, and to the present Seleuceia. Opis is a village and a mart for the surrounding places. The Euphrates also is navigable up to Babylon, a distance of more than 3000 stadia. The Persians, through fear of incursions from without, and for the purpose of preventing vessels from ascending these rivers, constructed artificial cataracts. Alexander, on arriving there, destroyed as many of them as he could, those particularly [on the Tigris from the sea] to Opis. But he bestowed great care upon the canals; for the Euphrates, at the commencement of summer, overflows. It begins fill in the spring, when the snow in Armenia melts: the ploughed land, therefore, would be covered with water and be submerged, unless the overflow of the superabundant water were diverted by trenches and canals, as in Egypt the water of the Nile is diverted. Hence the origin of canals. Great labor is requisite for their maintenance, for the soil is deep, soft, and yielding, so that it would easily be swept away by the stream; the fields would be laid bare, the canals filled, and the accumulation of mud would soon obstruct their mouths. Then, again, the excess of water discharging itself into the plains near the sea forms lakes, and marshes, and reed-grounds, supplying the reeds with which all kinds of platted vessels are woven; some of these vessels are capable of holding water, when covered over with asphaltus; others are used with the material in its natural state. Sails are also made of reeds; these resemble mats or hurdles.
It is not, perhaps, possible to prevent inundations of this kind altogether, but it is the duty of good princes to afford all possible assistance. The assistance required is to prevent excessive overflow by the construction of dams, and to obviate the filling of rivers, produced by the accumulation of mud, by cleansing the canals, and removing stoppages at their mouths. The cleansing of the canals is easily performed, but the construction of dams requires the labor of numerous workmen. For the earth being soft and yielding, does not support the superincumbent mass, which sinks, and is itself carried away, and thus a difficulty arises in making dams at the mouth. Expedition is necessary in closing the canals to prevent all the water flowing out. When the canals dry up in the summer time, they cause the river to dry up also; and if the river is low (before the canals are closed), it cannot supply the canals in time with water, of which the country, burnt up and scorched, requires a very large quantity; for there is no difference, whether the crops are flooded by an excess or perish by drought and a failure of water. The navigation up the rivers (a source of many advantages) is continually obstructed by both the above-mentioned causes, and it is not possible to remedy this unless the mouths of the canals were quickly opened and quickly closed, and the canals were made to contain and preserve a mean between excess and deficiency of water.
Aristobulus relates that Alexander himself, when he was sailing up the river, and directing the course of the boat, inspected the canals, and ordered them to be cleared by his multitude of followers; he likewise stopped up some of the mouths, and opened others. He observed that one of these canals, which took a direction more immediately to the marshes, and to the lakes in front of Arabia, had a mouth very difficult to be dealt with, and which could not be easily closed on account of the soft and yielding nature of the soil; he (therefore) opened a new mouth at the distance of 30 stadia, selecting a place with a rocky bottom, and to this the current was diverted. But in doing this he was taking precautions that Arabia should not become entirely inaccessible in consequence of the lakes and marshes, as it was already almost an island from the quantity of water (which surrounded it). For he contemplated making himself master of this country; and he had already provided a fleet and places of rendezvous; and had built vessels in Phœnicia and at Cyprus, some of which were in separate pieces, others were in parts, fastened together by bolts. These, after being conveyed to Thapsacus in seven distances of a day’s march, were then to be transported down the river to Babylon. He constructed other boats in Babylonia, from cypress trees in the groves and parks, for there is a scarcity of timber in Babylonia. Among the Cossæi, and some other tribes, the supply of timber is not great. The pretext for the war, says Aristobulus, was that the Arabians were the only people who did not send their ambassadors to Alexander; but the true reason was his ambition to be lord of all.
When he was informed that they worshipped two deities only, Jupiter and Bacchus, who supply what is most requisite for the subsistence of mankind, he supposed that, after his conquests, they would worship him as a third, if he permitted them to enjoy their former national independence. Thus was Alexander employed in clearing the canals, and in examining minutely the sepulchers of the kings, most of which are situated among the lakes.
Eratosthenes, when he is speaking of the lakes near Arabia, says, that the water, when it cannot find an outlet, opens passages under-ground, and is conveyed through these as far as the Cœle-Syrians, it is also compressed and forced into the parts near Rhinocolura and Mount Casius, and there forms lakes and deep pits. But I know not whether this is probable. For the overflowing of the water of the Euphrates, which form the lakes and marshes near Arabia, are near the Persian Sea. But the isthmus which separates them is neither large nor rocky, so that it was more probable that the water forced its way in this direction into the sea, either under the ground, or across the surface, than that it traversed so dry and parched a soil for more than 6000 stadia; particularly, when we observe, situated midway in this course, Libanus, Antilibanus, and Mount Casius. Such, then, are the accounts of Eratosthenes and Aristobulus.
But Polycleitus says, that the Euphrates does not overflow its banks, because its course is through large plains; that of the mountains (from which it is supplied), some are distant 2000, and the Cossæan mountains scarcely 1000 stadia, that they are not very high, nor covered with snow to a great depth, and therefore do not occasion the snow to melt in great masses, for the most elevated mountains are in the northern parts above Ecbatana; towards the south they are divided, spread out, and are much lower; the Tigris also receives the greater part of the water [which comes down from them], and thus overflows its banks.
The last assertion is evidently absurd, because the Tigris descends into the same plains (as the Euphrates); and the above-mentioned mountains are not of the same height, the northern being more elevated, the southern extending in breadth, but are of a lower altitude. The quantity of snow is not, however, to be estimated by altitude only, but by aspect. The same mountain has more snow on the northern than on the southern side, and the snow continues longer on the former than on the latter. As the Tigris therefore receives from the most southern parts of Armenia, which are near Babylon, the water of the melted snow, of which there is no great quantity, since it comes from the southern side, it should overflow in a less degree than the Euphrates, which receives the water from both parts (northern and southern); and not from a single mountain only, but from many, as I have mentioned in the description of Armenia. To this we must add the length of the river, the large tract of country which it traverses in the Greater and in the Lesser Armenia, the large space it takes in its course in passing out of the Lesser Armenia and Cappadocia, after issuing out of the Taurus in its way to Thapsacus (forming the boundary between Syria below and Mesopotamia), and the large remaining portion of country as far as Babylon and to its mouth, a course in all of 36,000 stadia. This, then, on the subject of the canals (of Babylonia).
Babylonia produces barley in larger quantity than any other country, for a produce of three hundred-fold is spoken of. The palm tree furnishes everything else, bread, wine, vinegar, and meal; all kinds of woven articles are also procured from it. Braziers use the stones of the fruit instead of charcoal. When softened by being soaked in water, they are food for fattening oxen and sheep. It is said that there is a Persian song in which are reckoned up 360 useful properties of the palm. They employ for the most part the oil of sesamum, a plant which is rare in other places.
Asphaltus is found in great abundance in Babylonia. Eratosthenes describes it as follows. The liquid asphaltus, which is called naphtha, is found in Susiana; the dry kind, which can be made solid, in Babylonia. There is a spring of it near the Euphrates. When this river overflows at the time of the melting of the snow, the spring also of asphaltus is filled, and overflows into the river, where large clods are consolidated, fit for buildings constructed of baked bricks. Others say that the liquid kind also is found in Babylonia. With respect to the solid kind, I have described its great utility in the construction of buildings. They say that boats (of reeds) are woven, which, when besmeared with asphaltus, are firmly compacted. The liquid kind, called naphtha, is of a singular nature. When it is brought near the fire, the fire catches it; and if a body smeared over with it is brought near the fire, it burns with a flame, which it is impossible to extinguish, except with a large quantity of water; with a small quantity it burns more violently, but it may be smothered and extinguished by mud, vinegar, alum, and glue. It is said that Alexander, as an experiment, ordered naphtha to be poured over a boy in a bath, and a lamp to be brought near his body. The boy became enveloped in flames, and would have perished if the bystanders had not mastered the fire by pouring upon him a great quantity of water, and thus saved his life. Poseidonius says that there are springs of naphtha in Babylonia, some of which produce white, others black, naphtha; the first of these, I mean the white naphtha, which attracts flame, is liquid sulphur; the second, or black naphtha, is liquid asphaltus, and is burnt in lamps instead of oil.
In former times the capital of Assyria was Babylon; it is now called Seleuceia upon the Tigris. Near it is a large village called Ctesiphon. This the Parthian kings usually made their winter residence, with a view to spare the Seleucians the burden of furnishing quarters for the Scythian soldiery. In consequence of the power of Parthia, Ctesiphon may be considered as a city rather than a village; from its size it is capable of lodging a great multitude of people; it has been adorned with public buildings by the Parthians, and has furnished merchandise, and given rise to arts profitable to its masters. The kings usually passed the winter there, on account of the salubrious air, and the summer at Ecbatana and in Hyrcania, induced by the ancient renown of these places.
As we call the country Babylonia, so we call the people Babylonians, not from the name of the city, but of the country; the case is not precisely the same, however, as regards even natives of Seleuceia, as, for instance, Diogenes, the stoic philosopher [who had the appellation of the Babylonian, and not the Seleucian].
At the distance of 500 stadia from Seleuceia is Artemita, a considerable city, situated nearly directly to the east, which is the position also of Sitacene. This extensive and fertile tract of country lies between Babylon and Susiana, so that the whole road in travelling from Babylon to Susa passes through Sitacene. The road from Susa into the interior of Persis, through the territory of the Uxii, and from Persis into the middle of Carmania, leads also towards the east. Persis, which is a large country, encompasses Carmania on the [west] and north. Close to it adjoin Parætacene, and the Cossæan territory as far as the Caspian Gates, inhabited by mountainous and predatory tribes. Contiguous to Susiana is Elymaïs, a great part of which is rugged, and inhabited by robbers. To Elymaïs adjoin the country about the Zagrus and Media.
The Cossæi, like the neighbouring mountaineers, are for the most part archers, and are always out on foraging parties. For as they occupy a country of small extent, and barren, they are compelled by necessity to live at the expense of others. They are also necessarily powerful, for they are all fighting men. When the Elymæi were at war with the Babylonians and Susians, they supplied the Elymæi with thirteen thousand auxiliaries. The Parætaceni attend to the cultivation of the ground more than the Cossæi, but even these people do not abstain from robbery.
The Elymæi occupy a country larger in extent, and more varied, than that of the Parætaceni. The fertile part of it is inhabited by husbandmen. The mountainous tract is a nursery for soldiers, the greatest part of whom are archers. As it is of considerable extent, it can furnish a great military force; their king, who possesses great power, refuses to be subject, like others, to the king of Parthia. The country was similarly independent in the time of the Persians, and afterwards in the time of the Macedonians, who governed Syria. When Antiochus the Great attempted to plunder the temple of Belus, the neighbouring barbarians, unassisted, attacked and put him to death. In after-times the king of Parthia heard that the temples in their country contained great wealth, but knowing that the people would not submit, and admonished by the fate of Antiochus, he invaded their country with a large army; he took the temple of Minerva, and that of Diana, called Azara, and carried away treasure to the amount of 10,000 talents. Seleuceia also, a large city on the river Hedyphon, was taken. It was formerly called Soloce.
There are three convenient entrances into this country; one from Media and the places about the Zagrus, through Massabatice; a second from Susis, through the district Gabiane. Both Gabiane and Massabatice are provinces of Elymæa. A third passage is that from Persis. Corbiane also is a province of Elymaïs. Sagapeni and Silaceni, small principalities, border upon Elymaïs. Such, then, is the number and the character of the nations situated above Babylonia towards the east.
We have said that Media and Armenia lie to the north, and Adiabene and Mesopotamia to the west of Babylonia.
The greatest part of Adiabene consists of plains, and, although it is a portion of Babylon, has its own prince. In some places it is contiguous to Armenia. For the Medes, Armenians, and Babylonians, the three greatest nations in these parts, were from the first in the practice, on convenient opportunities, of waging continual war with each other, and then making peace, which state of things continued till the establishment of the Parthian empire.
The Parthians subdued the Medes and Babylonians, but never at any time conquered the Armenians. They made frequent inroads into their country, but the people were not subdued, and Tigranes, as I have mentioned in the description of Armenia, opposed them with great vigor and success. Such is the nature of Adiabene. The Adiabeni are also called Saccopodes. We shall describe Mesopotamia and the nations towards the south, after a short account of the customs of the Assyrians.
Their other customs are like those of the Persians, but this is peculiar to themselves: three discreet persons, chiefs of each tribe, are appointed, who present publicly young women who are marriageable, and give notice by the crier, beginning with those most in estimation, of a sale of them to men intending to become husbands. In this manner marriages are contracted.
As often as the parties have sexual intercourse with one another, they rise, each apart from the other, to burn perfumes. In the morning they wash, before touching any household vessel. For as ablution is customary after touching a dead body, so it is practiced after sexual intercourse. There is a custom prescribed by an oracle for all the Babylonian women to have intercourse with strangers. The women repair to a temple of Venus, accompanied by numerous attendants and a crowd of people. Each woman has a cord round her head. The man approaches a woman, and places on her lap as much money as he thinks proper; he then leads her away to a distance from the sacred grove, and has intercourse with her. The money is considered as consecrated to Venus.
There are three tribunals, one consisting of persons who are past military service, another of nobles, and a third of old men, besides another appointed by the king. It is the business of the latter to dispose of the virgins in marriage, and to determine causes respecting adultery; of another to decide those relative to theft; and of the third, those of assault and violence. The sick are brought out of their houses into the highways, and inquiry is made of passengers whether any of them can give information of a remedy for the disease. There is no one so ill-disposed as not to accost the sick person, and acquaint him with anything that he considers may conduce to his recovery.
Their dress is a tunic reaching to the feet, an upper garment of wool, [and] a white cloak. The hair is long. They wear a shoe resembling a buskin. They wear also a seal, and carry a staff not plain, but with a figure upon the top of it, as an apple, a rose, a lily, or something of the kind. They anoint themselves with oil of sesamum. They bewail the dead, like the Egyptians and many other nations. They bury the body in honey, first besmearing it with wax. There are three communities which have no corn. They live in the marshes, and subsist on fish. Their mode of life is like that of the inhabitants of Gedrosia.
Mesopotamia has its name from an accidental circumstance. We have said that it is situated between the Euphrates and the Tigris, that the Tigris washes its eastern side only, and the Euphrates its western and southern sides. To the north is the Taurus, which separates Armenia from Mesopotamia. The greatest distance by which they are separated from each other is that towards the mountains. This distance may be the same which Eratosthenes mentions, and is reckoned from Thapsacus, where there was the (Zeugma) old bridge of the Euphrates, to the (Zeugma) passage over the Tigris, where Alexander crossed it, a distance, that is, of 2400 stadia. The least distance between them is somewhere about Seleuceia and Babylon, and is a little more than 200 stadia. The Tigris flows through the middle of the lake called Thopitis in the direction of its breadth, and after traversing it to the opposite bank, sinks under ground with a loud noise and rushing of air. Its course is for a long space invisible, but it rises again to the surface not far from Gordyæa. According to Eratosthenes, it traverses the lake with such rapidity, that although the lake is saline and without fish, yet in this part it is fresh, has a current, and abounds with fish.
The contracted shape of Mesopotamia extends far in length, and somewhat resembles a ship. The Euphrates forms the larger part of its boundary. The distance from Thapsacus to Babylon, according to Eratosthenes, is 4800 stadia, and from the (Zeugma) bridge in Commagene, where Mesopotamia begins, to Thapsacus, is not less than 2000 stadia.
The country lying at the foot of the mountains is very fertile. The people, called by the Macedonians Mygdones, occupy the parts towards the Euphrates, and both Zeugmata, that is, the Zeugma in Commagene, and the ancient Zeugma at Thapsacus. In their territory is Nisibis, which they called also Antioch in Mygdonia, situated below Mount Masius, and Tigranocerta, and the places about Carrhæ, Nicephorium, Chordiraza, and Sinnaca, where Crassus was taken prisoner by stratagem, and put to death by Surena, the Parthian general.
Near the Tigris are the places belonging to the Gordyæi, whom the ancients called Carduchi; their cities are Sareisa, Satalca, and Pinaca, a very strong fortress with three citadels, each enclosed by its own wall, so that it is as it were a triple city. It was, however, subject to the king of Armenia; the Romans also took it by storm, although the Gordyæi had the reputation of excelling in the art of building, and to be skilful in the construction of siege engines. It was for this reason Tigranes took them into his service. The rest of Mesopotamia was subject to the Romans. Pompey assigned to Tigranes the largest and best portion of the country; for it has fine pastures, is rich in plants, and produces evergreens and an aromatic, the amomum. It breeds lions also. It furnishes naphtha, and the stone called Gangitis, which drives away reptiles.
Gordys, the son of Triptolemus, is related to have colonized Gordyene. The Eretrians afterwards, who were carried away by force by the Persians, settled here. We shall soon speak of Triptolemus in our description of Syria.
The parts of Mesopotamia inclining to the south, and at a distance from the mountains, are an arid and barren district, occupied by the Arabian Scenitæ, a tribe of robbers and shepherds, who readily move from place to place, whenever pasture or booty begin to be exhausted. The country lying at the foot of the mountains is harassed both by these people and by the Armenians. They are situated above, and keep them in subjection by force. It is at last subject for the most part to these people, or to the Parthians, who are situated at their side, and possess both Media and Babylonia.
Between the Tigris and the Euphrates flows a river called Basileios (or the Royal river), and about Anthemusia another called the Aborrhas. The road for merchants going from Syria to Seleuceia and Babylon lies through the country of the (Arabian) Scenitæ, [now called Malii,] and through the desert belonging to their territory. The Euphrates is crossed in the latitude of Anthemusia, a place in Mesopotamia. Above the river, at the distance of four schœni, is Bambyce, which is called by the names of Edessa and Hierapolis, where the Syrian goddess Atargatis is worshipped. After crossing the river, the road lies through a desert country on the borders of Babylonia to Scenæ, a considerable city, situated on the banks of a canal. From the passage across the river to Scenæ is a journey of five and twenty days. There are (on the road) owners of camels, who keep resting-places, which are well supplied with water from cisterns, or transported from a distance.
The Scenitæ exact a moderate tribute from merchants, but [otherwise] do not molest them: the merchants, therefore, avoid the country on the banks of the river, and risk a journey through the desert, leaving the river on the right hand at a distance of nearly three days’ march. For the chiefs of the tribes living on both banks of the river, who occupy not indeed a fertile territory, yet one less sterile than the rest (of the country), are settled in the midst of their own peculiar domains, and each exacts a tribute of no moderate amount for himself. And it is difficult among so large a body of people, and of such daring habits, to establish any common standard of tribute advantageous to the merchant. Scenæ is distant from Seleuceia 18 schœni.The Euphrates and its eastern banks are the boundaries of the Parthian empire. The Romans and the chiefs of the Arabian tribes occupy the parts on this side the Euphrates as far as Babylonia. Some of the chiefs attach themselves in preference to the Parthians, others to the Romans, to whom they adjoin. The Scenitæ nomades, who live near the river, are less friendly to the Romans than those tribes who are situated at a distance near Arabia Felix. The Parthians were once solicitous of conciliating the friendship of the Romans, but having repulsed Crassus, who began the war with them, they suffered reprisals, when they themselves commenced hostilities, and sent Pacorus into Asia. But Antony, following the advice of the Armenian, was betrayed, and was unsuccessful (against them). Phraates, his successor, was so anxious to obtain the friendship of Augustus Cæsar, that he even sent the trophies, which the Parthians had set up as memorials of the defeat of the Romans. He also invited Titius to a conference, who was at that time præfect of Syria, and delivered into his hands, as hostages, four of his legitimate sons, Seraspadanes, Rhodaspes, Phraates, and Bonones, with two of their wives and four of their sons; for he was apprehensive of conspiracy and attempts on his life. He knew that no one could prevail against him, unless he was opposed by one of the Arsacian family, to which race the Parthians were strongly attached. He therefore removed the sons out of his way, with a view of annihilating the hopes of the disaffected.
The surviving sons, who live at Rome, are entertained as princes at the public expense. The other kings (his successors) have continued to send ambassadors (to Rome), and to hold conferences (with the Roman prefects).
- Nineveh corresponds to the city of Mosul in modern Iraq.
- The Bay of Issus refers to the northeasterly most part (upper right corner) of the Mediterranean sea, depictured in the map.
- The Black Sea.
- Arbela corresponds to Erbil in modern Iraq.
- The ancient city of Babylon was located adjacent to the modern city of Hillah in Iraq.
- Opis and Seleucia were located near modern Baghdad in Iraq.