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 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 is it practised after sexual intercourse.1 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 latter2 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 ac- quaint 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.3
1 Herod. i. 198. Almost all the details concerning the Babylonian customs are taken from Herodotus, who sets them forth with greater clearness; there are, however, some differences, as, for example, the disposal of young women in marriage, and the different tribunals, which prove that Strabo had other sources of information.
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