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Babylon itself also is situated in a plain. The wall is 3851 stadia in circumference, and 32 feet in thickness. The height of the space between the towers is 50, and of the towers 60 cubits. The roadway upon the walls will allow chariots with four horses when they meet to pass each other with ease. Whence, among the seven wonders of the world, are reckoned this wall and the hanging garden: the shape of the garden is a square, and each side of it measures four plethra. It consists of vaulted terraces, raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and the terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.

The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden. For the river, which is a stadium in breadth, flows through the middle of the city, and the garden is on the side of the river. The tomb also of Belus is there. At present it is in ruins, having been demolished, as it is said, by Xerxes. It was a quadrangular pyramid of baked brick, a stadium in height, and each of the sides a stadium in length. Alexander intended to repair it. It was a great undertaking, and required a long time for its completion (for ten thousand men were occupied two months in clearing away the mound of earth), so that he was not able to execute what he had attempted, before disease hurried him rapidly to his end. None of the persons who succeeded him attended to this undertaking; other works also were neglected, and the city was dilapidated, partly by the Persians, partly by time, and, through the indifference of the Macedonians to things of this kind, particularly after Seleucus Nicator had fortified Seleucia on the Tigris near Babylon, at the distance of about 300 stadia.

Both this prince and all his successors directed their care to that city, and transferred to it the seat of empire. At present it is larger than Babylon; the other is in great part deserted, so that no one would hesitate to apply to it what one of the comic writers said of Megalopolitæ in Arcadia, “‘The great city is a great desert.’” On account of the scarcity of timber, the beams and pillars of the houses were made of palm wood. They wind ropes of twisted reed round the pillars, paint them over with colours, and draw designs upon them; they cover the doors with a coat of asphaltus. These are lofty, and all the houses are vaulted on account of the want of timber. For the country is bare, a great part of it is covered with shrubs, and produces nothing but the palm. This tree grows in the greatest abundance in Babylonia. It is found in Susiana also in great quantity, on the Persian coast, and in Carmania.

They do not use tiles for their houses, because there are no great rains. The case is the same in Susiana and in Sitacene.

1 All manuscripts agree in giving this number, but critics agree also in its being an error for 365. The number of stadia in the wall, according to ancient authors, corresponded with the number of days in the year.

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