“May Isis grant us peace, and may prosperity and happiness increase in our land!”
The Greek colonists in Naukratis had prepared a feast to celebrate the departure of their protector’s daughter.
Numerous animals had been slaughtered in sacrifice on the altars of the Greek divinities, and the Nile-boats were greeted with a loud cry of “Ailinos” on their arrival in the harbor.
A bridal wreath, composed of a hoop of gold wound round with scented violets, was presented to Nitetis by a troop of young girls in holiday dresses, the act of presentation being performed by Sappho, as the most beautiful among the maidens of Naukratis.
On accepting the gift Nitetis kissed her forehead in token of gratitude. The triremes were already waiting; she went on board, the rowers took their oars and began the Keleusma.
[The measure of the Keleusma was generally given by a flute-player, the Trieraules. AEschylus, Persians 403. Laert. Diog. IV. 22. In the Frogs of Aristophanes the inhabitants of the marshes are made to sing the Keleusma, v. 205. The melody, to the measure of which the Greek boatmen usually timed their strokes.]
Ailinos rang across the water from a thousand voices. Bartja stood on the deck, and waved a last loving farewell to his betrothed; while Sappho prayed in silence to Aphrodite Euploia, the protectress of those who go down to the sea in ships. A tear rolled down her cheek, but around her lips played a smile of love and hope, though her old slave Melitta, who accompanied her to carry her parasol, was weeping as if her heart would break. On seeing, however, a few leaves fall from her darling’s wreath, she forgot her tears for a moment and whispered softly: “Yes, dear heart, it is easy to see that you are in love; when the leaves fall from a maiden’s wreath, ’tis a sure sign that her heart has been touched by Eros.
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 have
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.