NEXT to Carmania is Persis. A great part of it extends
along the coast of the Gulf, which has its name from the
country, but a much larger portion stretches into the interior,
and particularly in its length, reckoned from the south, and
Carmania to the north, and to the nations of Media.
It is of a threefold character, as we regard its natural condition and the quality of the air. First, the coast, extending
for about 4400 or 4300 stadia, is burnt up with heat; it is
sandy, producing little except palm trees, and terminates at
the greatest river in those parts, the name of which is Oroatis.1
Secondly, the country above the coast produces everything,
and is a plain; it is excellently adapted for the rearing of cattle,
and abounds with rivers and lakes.
The third portion lies towards the north, and is bleak and
mountainous. On its borders live the camel-breeders.
Its length, according to Eratosthenes, towards the north and
is about 8000, or, including some projecting promontories, 9000 stadia; the remainder (from Media) to the Caspian Gates is not more than 3000 stadia. The breadth in the
interior of the country from Susa to Persepolis is 4200 stadia,
and thence to the borders of Carmania 1600 stadia more.
The tribes inhabiting this country are those called the Pateischoreis, the Achæmenidæ, and Magi; these last affect a sedate mode of life; the Curtii and Mardi are robbers, the rest
Susis also is almost a part of Persis. It lies between Persis and Babylonia, and has a very considerable city, Susa.
For the Persians and Cyrus, after the conquest of the Medes,
perceiving that their own country was situated towards the
extremities, but Susis more towards the interior, nearer also
to Babylon and the other nations, there placed the royal seat of
the empire. They were pleased with its situation on the confines of Persis, and with the importance of the city; besides the
consideration that it had never of itself undertaken any great
enterprise, had always been in subjection to other people, and
constituted a part of a greater body, except, perhaps, anciently
in the heroic times.
It is said to have been founded by Tithonus, the father of
Memnon. Its compass was 120 stadia. Its shape was oblong. The Acropolis was called Memnonium. The Susians
have the name also of Cissii. Æschylus3
calls the mother of
Memnon, Cissia. Memnon is said to be buried near Paltus in
Syria, by the river Badas, as Simonides says in his Memnon,
a dithyrambic poem among the Deliaca. The wall of the city,
the temples and palaces, were constructed in the same manner
as those of the Babylonians, of baked brick and asphaltus, as
some writers relate. Polycletus however says, that its circumference was 200 stadia, and that it was without walls.
They embellished the palace at Susa more than the rest,
but they did not hold in less veneration and honour the
palaces at Persepolis and Pasargadæ.4
For in these stronger
and hereditary places were the treasure-house, the riches, and
tombs of the Persians. There was another palace at Gabæ,
in the upper parts of Persia, and another on the sea-coast,
near a place called Taoce.5
This was the state of things during the empire of the Persians. But afterwards different princes occupied different
palaces; some, as was natural, less sumptuous, after the power
of Persis had been reduced first by the Macedonians, and
secondly still more by the Parthians. For although the
Persians have still a kingly government, and a king of their
own, yet their power is very much diminished, and they are
subject to the king of Parthia.
Susa is situated in the interior, upon the river Choaspes,
beyond the bridge; but the territory extends to the sea: and
the sea-coast of this territory, from the borders of the Persian
coast nearly as far as the mouths of the Tigris, is a distance
of about 3000 stadia.
The Choaspes flows through Susis, terminating on the same
coast, and has its source in the territory of the Uxii.6
a rugged and precipitous range of mountains lies between the
Susians and Persis, with narrow defiles, difficult to pass; they
were inhabited by robbers, who constantly exacted payment
even from the kings themselves, at their entrance into Persis
Polycletus says, that the Choaspes, and the Eulæus,7
Tigris also enter a lake, and thence discharge themselves into
the sea; that on the side of the lake is a mart, as the rivers
do not receive the merchandise from the sea, nor convey it
down to the sea, on account of dams in the river, purposely
constructed, and that the goods are transported by land a distance of
to Susa; according to others, the rivers
which flow through Susis discharge themselves by the intermediate
canals of the Euphrates into the single stream of the
Tigris, which on this account has at its mouth the name of
According to Nearchus, the sea-coast of Susis is swampy,
and terminates at the river Euphrates; at its mouth is a village,
which receives the merchandise from Arabia; for the coast
of Arabia approaches close to the mouths of the Euphrates
and the Pasitigris; the whole intermediate space is occupied
by a lake which receives the Tigris; on sailing up the Pasitigris 150 stadia is the bridge of rafts leading to Susa from Persis, and is distant from Susa 60 (600?) stadia; the Pasitigris
is distant from the Oroatis about 2000 stadia; the ascent
through the lake to the mouth of the Tigris is 600 (6000?)
near the mouth stands the Susian village (Aginis),
distant from Susa 500 stadia; the journey by water from the
mouth of the Euphrates, up to Babylon, through a well-inhabited tract
of country, is a distance of more than 3000 stadia.
Onesicritus says that all the rivers discharge themselves
into the lake, both the Euphrates and the Tigris; and that
the Euphrates, again issuing from the lake, discharges itself
into the sea by a separate mouth.
There are many other narrow defiles in passing out
through the territory of the Uxii, and entering Persis. These
Alexander forced in his march through the country at the
Persian Gates, and at other places, when he was hastening to
see the principal parts of Persis, and the treasure-holds, in
which wealth had been accumulated during the long period
that Asia was tributary to Persis.
He crossed many rivers, which flow through the country
and discharge themselves into the Persian Gulf.
Next to the Choaspes are the Copratas10
and the Pasitigris,
which has its source in the country of the Uxii. There is
also the river Cyrus, which flows through Cœle Persis,11
it is called, near Pasargadæ. The king changed his name,
which was formerly Agradatus, to that of this river. Alexander
crossed the Araxes12
close to Persepolis. Persepolis
was distinguished for the magnificence of the treasures which
it contained. The Araxes flows out of the Parætacene,13
receives the Medus,14
which has its source in Media. These
rivers run through a very fruitful valley, which, like Perse-
polis, lies close to Carmania and to the eastern parts of the
country. Alexander burnt the palace at Persepolis, to
avenge the Greeks, whose temples and cities the Persians had
destroyed by fire and sword.
He next came to Pasargadæ,15
which also was an ancient
royal residence. Here he saw in a park the tomb of Cyrus.
It was a small tower, concealed within a thick plantation of
trees, solid below, but above consisting of one story and a
shrine which had a very narrow opening; Aristobulus says, he
entered through this opening, by order of Alexander, and
decorated the tomb. He saw there a golden couch, a table
with cups, a golden coffin, and a large quantity of garments
and dresses ornamented with precious stones. These objects
he saw at his first visit, but on a subsequent visit the place
had been robbed, and everything had been removed except
the couch and the coffin which were only broken. The dead
body had been removed from its place; whence it was evident
that it was the act not of the Satrap,16
but of robbers, who
had left behind what they could not easily carry off. And
this occurred although there was a guard of Magi stationed
about the place, who received for their daily subsistence a
sheep, and every month a horse.17
The remote distance to
which the army of Alexander had advanced, to Bactra and
India, gave occasion to the introduction of many disorderly
acts, and to this among others.
Such is the account of Aristobulus, who records the following
inscription on the tomb. "O MAN, I AM CYRUS,18
I ESTABLISHED THE
PERSIAN EMPIRE AND WAS KING OF ASIA. GRUDGE ME NOT THEREFORE THIS MONUMENT.
Onesicritus however says that the tower had ten stories,
that Cyrus lay in the uppermost, and that there was an inscription in Greek, cut in Persian letters, ‘I CYRUS, KING OF
KINGS, LIE HERE.’ And another inscription to the same effect
in the Persian language.
Onesicritus mentions also this inscription on the tomb of
Darius: "I WAS A FRIEND TO MY FRIENDS, I WAS THE FIRST
OF HORSEMEN AND ARCHERS, I EXCELLED AS HUNTER, I COULD
Aristus of Salamis, a writer of a much later age than these,
says, that the tower consisted of two stories, and was large;
that it was built at the time the Persians succeeded to the
kingdom (of the Medes); that the tomb was preserved;
that the above-mentioned inscription was in the Greek, and
that there was another to the same purport in the Persian
Cyrus held in honour Pasargadæ, because he there conquered, in his last battle, Astyages the Mede, and transferred
to himself the empire of Asia; he raised it to the rank of a city,
and built a palace in memory of his victory.
Alexander transferred everything that was precious in
Persis to Susa, which was itself full of treasures and costly
materials; he did not, however, consider this place, but Babylon, as
the royal residence, and intended to embellish it.
There too his treasure was deposited.
They say that, besides the treasures in Babylon and in the
camp of Alexander, which were not included in the sum, the
treasure found at Susa and in Persis was reckoned to amount
to 40,000, and according to some writers to 50,000, talents.
But others say, that the whole treasure, collected from all
quarters, and transported to Ecbatana, amounted to 180,000
talents, and that the 8,000 talents which Darius carried
away with him in his flight from Media became the booty of
those who put him to death.
Alexander preferred Babylon, because he saw that it
far surpassed the other cities in magnitude, and had other
advantages. Although Susis is fertile, it has a glowing and
scorching atmosphere, particularly near the city, as he
(Aristobulus?) says. Lizards and serpents at mid-day in the summer,
when the sun is at its greatest height, cannot cross the
streets of the city quick enough to prevent their being burnt
to death mid-way by the heat. This happens nowhere in
Persis, although it lies more towards the south.
Cold water for baths is suddenly heated by exposure to the
sun. Barley spread out in the sun is roasted19
like barley prepared
in ovens. For this reason earth is laid to the depth of
two cubits upon the roofs of the houses. They are obliged to
construct their houses narrow, on account of the weight placed
upon them, and from want of long beams, but, as large dwell-
ings are required to obviate the suffocating heat the houses
The beam made of the palm tree has a peculiar property,
for although it retains its solidity, it does not as it grows old
give way downwards, but curves upwards with the weight, and
is a better support to the roof.
The cause of the scorching heat is said to be high, overhanging
mountains on the north, which intercept the northern
winds. These, blowing from the tops of the mountains at a
great height, fly over without touching the plains, to the
more southern parts of Susis. There the air is still, particularly
when the Etesian winds cool the other parts of the
country which are burnt up by heat.
Susis is so fertile in grain, that barley and wheat produce,
generally, one hundred, and sometimes two hundred
fold. Hence the furrows are not ploughed close together, for
the roots when crowded impede the sprouting of the plant.
The vine did not grow there before the Macedonians planted it,
both there and at Babylon. They do not dig trenches,
but thrust down into the ground iron-headed stakes, which
when drawn out are immediately replaced by the plants.
Such is the character of the inland parts. The sea-coast is
marshy and without harbours; hence Nearchus says, that he
met with no native guides, when coasting with his fleet from
India to Babylonia, for nowhere could his vessels put in, nor
was he able to procure persons who could direct him by their
knowledge and experience.
The part of Babylonia formerly called Sitacene, and
is situated near Susis.
Above both, on the north and towards the east, are the Elymæi21
and the Parætaceni, predatory people relying for security
on their situation in a rugged and mountainous country. The
Parætaceni lie more immediately above the Apolloniatæ, and
therefore annoy them the more. The Elymæi are at war with
this people and with the Susians, and the Uxii with the Elymæi, but
not so constantly at present as might be expected,
on account of the power of the Parthians, to whom all the in-
habitants of those regions are under subjection. When therefore the
Parthians are quiet, all are tranquil, and their subject
nations. But when, as frequently happens, there is an insurrection,
which has occurred even in our own times, the event
is not the same to all, but different to different people. For
the disturbance has benefited some, but disappointed the expectation
Such is the nature of the countries of Persis and Susiana.
The manners and customs of the Persians are the same
as those of the Susians and the Medes, and many other people; and
they have been described by several writers, yet I
must mention what is suitable to my purpose.
The Persians do not erect statues nor altars, but, considering the heaven as Jupiter, sacrifice on a high place.22
worship the sun also, whom they call Mithras, the moon, Venus,
fire, earth, winds, and water. They sacrifice, having offered
up prayers, in a place free from impurities, and present the
After the Magus, who directs the sacrifice, has divided the
flesh, each goes away with his share, without setting apart
any portion to the gods; for the god, they say, requires the soul
of the victim, and nothing more. Nevertheless, according to
some writers, they lay a small piece of the caul upon the fire.
But it is to fire and water especially that they offer
sacrifice. They throw upon the fire dry wood without the
bark, and place fat over it; they then pour oil upon it, and
light it below; they do not blow the flame with their breath,
but fan it; those who have blown the flame with their breath,
or thrown any dead thing or dirt upon the fire, are put to
They sacrifice to water by going to a lake, river, or fountain; having dug a pit, they slaughter the victim over it,
taking care that none of the pure water near be sprinkled
with blood, and thus be polluted. They then lay the flesh in
order upon myrtle or laurel branches; the Magi touch it with
and make incantations, pouring oil mixed with
milk and honey, not into the fire, nor into the water, but upon the earth. They continue their incantations for a long
time, holding in the hands a bundle of slender myrtle rods.
15 In Cappadocia (for in this country there is a great body
of Magi, called Pyræthi,25
and there are many temples dedicated to the Persian deities) the sacrifice is not performed with
a knife, but the victim is beaten to death with a log of wood,
as with a mallet.
The Persians have also certain large shrines, called
In the middle of these is an altar, on which is a
quantity of ashes, where the Magi maintain an unextinguished fire. They enter daily, and continue their incantation
for nearly an hour, holding before the fire a bundle of rods,
and wear round their heads high turbans of felt, reaching down
on each side so as to cover the lips and the sides of the cheeks.
The same customs are observed in the temples of Anaitis and
of Omanus. Belonging to these temples are shrines, and a
wooden statue of Omanus is carried in procession. These we
have seen ourselves.27
Other usages, and such as follow, are
related by historians.
The Persians never pollute a river with urine, nor wash
nor bathe in it; they never throw a dead body, nor anything
unclean, into it. To whatever god they intend to sacrifice,
they first address a prayer to fire.
They are governed by hereditary kings. Disobedience
is punished by the head and arms being cut off, and the body
cast forth. They marry many women, and maintain at the
same time a great number of concubines, with a view to a
The kings propose annual prizes for a numerous family of
children. Children are not brought into the presence of their
parents until they are four years old.
Marriages are celebrated at the beginning of the vernal
equinox. The bridegroom passes into the bride-chamber, having previously eaten some fruit, or camel's marrow, but nothing
else during the day.
From the age of five to twenty-four years they are
taught to use the bow, to throw the javelin, to ride, and to
speak the truth. They have the most virtuous preceptors,
who interweave useful fables in their discourses, and rehearse,
sometimes with sometimes without, music, the actions of the
gods and of illustrious men.
The youths are called to rise before day-break, at the sound
of brazen instruments, and assemble in one spot, as if for arming
themselves or for the chase. They are arranged in companies
of fifty, to each of which one of the king's or a satrap's son
is appointed as leader, who runs, followed at command by the
others, an appointed distance of thirty or forty stadia.
They require them to give an account of each lesson, when
they practise loud speaking, and exercise the breath and lungs.
They are taught to endure heat, cold, and rains; to cross torrents, and keep their armour and clothes dry; to pasture
animals, to watch all night in the open air, and to eat wild
fruits, as the terminthus,28
acorns, and wild pears.
[These persons are called Cardaces, who live upon plunder,
for ‘carda’ means a manly and warlike spirit.]29
The daily food after the exercise of the gymnasium is
bread, a cake, cardamum,30
a piece of salt, and dressed meat
either roasted or boiled, and their drink is water.
Their mode of hunting is by throwing spears from horseback, or
with the bow or the sling.
In the evening they are employed in planting trees, cutting
roots, fabricating armour, and making lines and nets. The
youth do not eat the game, but carry it home. The king gives
rewards for running, and to the victors in the other contests
of the pentathla (or five games). The youths are adorned with
gold, esteeming it for its fiery appearance. They do not ornament the
dead with gold, nor apply fire to them, on account
of its being an object of veneration.
They serve as soldiers in subordinate stations, and in
those of command from twenty to fifty years of age, both on
foot and on horseback. They do not concern themselves with
the public markets, for they neither buy nor sell. They are
armed with a romb-shaped shield. Besides quivers, they have
battle-axes and short swords. On their heads they wear a
cap rising like a tower. The breastplate is composed of scales
The dress of the chiefs consists of triple drawers, a double
tunic with sleeves reaching to the knees; the under garment
is white, the upper of a variegated colour. The cloak for
summer is of a purple or violet colour, but for winter of a
variegated colour. The turbans are similar to those of the
Magi; and a deep double shoe. The generality of people
wear a double tunic reaching to the half of the leg. A piece
of fine linen is wrapped round the head. Each person has a
bow and a sling.
The entertainments of the Persians are expensive. They
set upon their table entire animals in great number, and of
various kinds. Their couches, drinking-cups, and other articles
are so brilliantly ornamented that they gleam with gold and
Their consultations on the most important affairs are
carried on while they are drinking, and they consider the resolutions made at that time more to be depended upon than
those made when sober.
On meeting persons of their acquaintance, and of equal
rank with themselves, on the road, they approach and kiss
them, but to persons of an inferior station they offer the
cheek, and in that manner receive the kiss. But to persons
of still lower condition they only bend the body.
Their mode of burial is to smear the bodies over with wax,
and then to inter them. The Magi are not buried, but the
birds are allowed to devour them. These persons, according
to the usage of the country, espouse even their mothers.
Such are the customs of the Persians.
The following, mentioned by Polycletus, are perhaps
At Susa each king builds in the citadel, as memorials of
the administration of his government, a dwelling for himself,
treasure-houses, and magazines for tribute collected (in kind).
From the sea-coast they obtain silver, from the interior the
produce of each province, as dyes, drugs, hair, wool, or anything else of this sort, and cattle. The apportionment of the
tribute was settled by Darius [Longimanus, who was a
very handsome person with the exception of the length of his
arms, which reached to his knees].31
The greater part both
of gold and silver is wrought up, and there is not much in
coined money. The former they consider as best adapted for
presents, and for depositing in store-houses. So much coined
money as suffices for their wants they think enough; but, on
the other hand, money is coined in proportion to what is required for expenditure.32
Their habits are in general temperate. But their
kings, from the great wealth which they possessed, degenerated into a luxurious way of life. They sent for wheat from
Assos in Æolia, for Chalybonian33
wine from Syria, and water
from the Eulæus, which is the lightest of all, for an Attic
cotylus measure of it weighs less by a drachm (than the same
quantity of any other water).
Of the barbarians the Persians were the best known
to the Greeks, for none of the other barbarians who governed
Asia governed Greece. The barbarians were not acquainted
with the Greeks, and the Greeks were but slightly acquainted,
and by distant report only, with the barbarians. As an instance,
Homer was not acquainted with the empire of the Syrians
nor of the Medes, for otherwise as he mentions the wealth of
Egyptian Thebes and of Phœnicia, he would not have passed
over in silence the wealth of Babylon, of Ninus, and of
The Persians were the first people that brought Greeks
under their dominion; the Lydians (before them) did the
same, they were not however masters of the whole, but of a
small portion only of Asia, that within the river Halys; their
empire lasted for a short time, during the reigns of Crœsus
and Alyattes; and they were deprived of what little glory
they had acquired, when conquered by the Persians.
The Persians, (on the contrary, increased in power and,)as
soon as they had destroyed the Median empire, subdued the
Lydians and brought the Greeks of Asia under their dominion.
At a later period they even passed over into Greece and were
worsted in many great battles, but still they continued to
keep possession of Asia, as far as the places on the sea-coast,
until they were completely subdued by the Macedonians.
The founder of their empire was Cyrus. He was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who was put to death by the Magi.
The seven Persians who killed the Magi delivered the kingdom into the hands of Darius, the son of Hystaspes. The
succession terminated with Arses, whom Bagous the eunuch
having killed set up Darius, who was not of the royal family.
Alexander overthrew Darius, and reigned himself twelve
The empire of Asia was partitioned out among his
successors, and transmitted to their descendants, but was
dissolved after it had lasted about two hundred and fifty
At present the Persians are a separate people, governed by
kings, who are subject to other kings; to the kings of Macedon in
former times, but now to those of Parthia.