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From this place they marched one stage, six parasangs, to a great stronghold, deserted and lying in ruins. The name of this city was Mespila,1 and it was once inhabited by the Medes. The foundation of its wall was made of polished stone full of shells, and was fifty feet in breadth and fifty in height.

1 The ruins which Xenophon saw here were those of Nineveh, the famous capital of the Assyrian Empire. It is curious to find him dismissing this great Assyrian city (as well as Calah above) with the casual and misleading statement that “it was once inhabited by the Medes.” In fact, the capture of Nineveh by the Medes (c. 600 B.C.) was the precise event which closed the important period of its history, and it remained under the control of the Medes only during the succeeding half-century, i.e. until the Median Empire was in its turn overthrown by the Persians (549 B.C.). Xenophon, then, goes but one unimportant step backward in his historical note—perhaps because he did not care to go farther, perhaps because he was unable to do so.

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