Seven weeks after Nitetis had quitted her native country, a long train of equipages and horsemen was to be seen on the king’s highway from the west to Babylon, moving steadily towards that gigantic city, whose towers might already be descried in the far distance.
[The great road called
the “king’s road,” of which we shall
more to say, was made by Cyrus and carefully kept up by Darius.]
The principal object in this caravan was a richly-gilded, four-wheeled carriage, closed in at the sides by curtains, and above by a roof supported on wooden pillars. In this vehicle, called the Harmamaxa, resting on rich cushions of gold brocade, sat our Egyptian Princess.
[Harmamaxa—An Asiatic travelling carriage. The first mention of these is in Xenophon’s Anabasis, where we find a queen travelling in such a vehicle. They were later adopted by the Romans and used for the same object.]
On either side rode her escort, viz.: the Persian princes and nobles whom we have already learnt to know during their visit to Egypt, Croesus and his son.
Behind these, a long train, consisting of fifty vehicles of different kinds and six hundred beasts of burden, stretched away into the distance, and the royal carriage was preceded by a troop of splendidly-mounted Persian cavalry.
The high-road followed the course of the Euphrates, passing through luxuriant fields of wheat, barley and sesame yielding fruit two, and sometimes even three, hundred-fold. Slender date-palms covered with golden fruit were scattered in every direction over the fields, which were thoroughly irrigated by means of canals and ditches.
It was winter, but the sun shone warm and bright from a cloudless sky. The mighty river swarmed with craft of all sizes, either transporting the products of Upper Armenia to the plains of Mesopotamia, or the wares of Greece and Asia Minor from Thapsakus to Babylon.
important commercial town on the Euphrates, and the
point of observation from which Eratosthenes took his measurements
of the earth.]
Pumps and water-wheels poured refreshing streams over the thirsty land, and pretty villages ornamented the shores of the river. Indeed every object gave evidence that our caravan was approaching the metropolis of a carefully governed and civilized state.
Nitetis and her retinue now halted at a long brick house, roofed with asphalte, and surrounded by a grove of plane-trees.