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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

51. Customs of the Assyrians and Babylonians

From Readings In The Classical Historians
by Michael Grant

The Customs of the Assyrians and Babylonians (Herodotus 480BC-425BC)

Among their established customs there is one that in my opinion is the very wisest....... In every village, once a year, the people did the following: as the girls in the village became ripe for marriage, they gathered and brought together all such to one place. There was a great throng of men surrounding it, and the auctioneer put the girls up, one by one, for sale. He would begin with the best looking, and, after she had been sold and brought a great price, he would auction off her whose looks were next best. They were all sold to live with their men. All the rich men of Babylon who were disposed to marriage outbid one another in buying the beauties. But those of the lower classes who wanted to marry were not set on fairness of form but took the uglier girls, with money to boot. For when the auctioneer had gone through all the best looking girls, he would put up the ugliest and would sell her off: "Who will take least money to live with this one?" The money came from the sale of the good looking girls so those who were handsome portioned off the ill-favored.

Here is another custom that is second in wisdom. They bring their sick into the marketplace, for they do not use doctors at all. In the marketplace the passers-by approach the sick and give them advice about their sickness, whenever someone has suffered the same sickness as the the patient or has seen another with it. They approach and advise and comfort, telling by what means they themselves have recovered from the sickness or have seen another do so. One may not pass be a sick person in silence without asking him what ails him.

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