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Medea and the Palace at Ecbatana

In regard to extent of territory Media is the most considerable of the kingdoms in Asia, as also in respect of
Description of Media, and of the palace at Ecbatana.
the number and excellent qualities of its men, and not less so of its horses. For, in fact, it supplies nearly all Asia with these animals, the royal studs being entrusted to the Medes because of the rich pastures in their country.1 To protect it from the neighbouring barbarians a ring of Greek cities was built round it by the orders of Alexander. The chief exception to this is Ecbatana, which stands on the north of Media, in the district of Asia bordering on the Maeotis and Euxine. It was originally the royal city of the Medes, and vastly superior to the other cities in wealth and the splendour of its buildings. It is situated on the skirts of Mount Orontes, and is without walls, though containing an artificially formed citadel fortified to an astonishing strength. Beneath this stands the palace, which it is in some degree difficult to describe in detail, or to pass over in complete silence. To those authors whose aim is to produce astonishment, and who are accustomed to deal in exaggeration and picturesque writing, this city offers the best possible subject; but to those who, like myself, are cautious when approaching descriptions which go beyond ordinary notions, it presents much difficulty and embarrassment. However, as regards size, the palace covers ground the circuit of which is nearly seven stades; and by the costliness of the structure in its several parts it testifies to the wealth of its original builders: for all its woodwork being cedar or cypress not a single plank was left uncovered; beams and fretwork in the ceilings, and columns in the arcades and peristyle, were overlaid with plates of silver or gold, while all the tiles were of silver. Most of these had been stripped off during the invasion of Alexander and the Macedonians, and the rest in the reigns of Antigonus and Seleucus Nicanor. However, even at the time of Antiochus's arrival, the temple of Aena2 still had its columns covered with gold, and a considerable number of silver tiles had been piled up in it, and some few gold bricks and a good many silver ones were still remaining. It was from these that the coinage bearing the king's impress was collected and struck, amounting to little less than four thousand talents.

1 See 5, 44.

2 This goddess is variously called Anaitis (Plut. Artax. 27) and Nanea (2 Macc. 1, 13). And is identified by Plutarch with Artemis, and by others with Aphrodite.

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    • Old Testament, 2 Maccabees, 1.13
    • Plutarch, Artaxerxes, 27
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