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.
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.
[Asphalte—Nearly all authorities, ancient as well as modern, report that bitumen, which is still plentifully found in the neighborhood of Babylon, was used by the Babylonians as mortar. See, besides the accounts of ancient writers, W. Vaux, ‘Nineveh and Persepolis’. Burnt bitumen was used by Assyrians for cement in building.]
Here Croesus was lifted from his horse, and approaching the carriage, exclaimed: “Here we are at length at the last station! That high tower which you see on the horizon is the celebrated temple of Bel, next to the Pyramids, one of the most gigantic works ever constructed by human hands. Before sunset we shall have reached the brazen gates of Babylon. And now I would ask you to alight, and let me send your maidens into the house; for here you must put on Persian apparel, to appear well-pleasing in the eyes of Cambyses. In a few hours you will stand before your future husband. But you are pale! Permit your maidens to adorn your cheeks with a color that shall look like the excitement of joy. A first impression is often a final one, and this is especially true with regard to Cambyses. If, which I doubt not, you are pleasing in his eyes at first, then you have won his love for ever; but if you should displease him to-day he will never look kindly on you again, for he is rough and harsh. But take courage, my daughter, and above all, do not forget the advice I have given you.” Nitetis dried her tears as she answered: “How can I ever thank you, O Croesus, my second father, my protector and adviser, for all your goodness? Oh, forsake me not in the days to come! and if the path of my life should lead through grief and care, be near to help and guide me as you did on the mountain-passes of this long and dangerous journey. A thousand times I thank thee, O my father!”