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Works by Herodotus
Pages of Melpomene

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to the oath, wounding themselves slightly with a knife or an awl, drop
some of their blood into the wine; then they plunge into the mixture a
scymitar, some arrows, a battle-axe, and a javelin, all the while
repeating prayers; lastly the two contracting parties drink each a
draught from the bowl, as do also the chief men among their followers.
The tombs of their kings are in the land of the Gerrhi, who
dwell at the point where the Borysthenes is first navigable. Here,
when the king dies, they dig a grave, which is square in shape, and of
great size. When it is ready, they take the king's corpse, and, having
opened the belly, and cleaned out the inside, fill the cavity with a
preparation of chopped cypress, frankincense, parsley-seed, and
anise-seed, after which they sew up the opening, enclose the body in
wax, and, placing it on a waggon, carry it about through all the
different tribes. On this procession each tribe, when it receives
the corpse, imitates the example which is first set by the Royal
Scythians; every man chops off a piece of his ear, crops his hair
close, and makes a cut all round his arm, lacerates his forehead and
his nose, and thrusts an arrow through his left hand. Then they who
have the care of the corpse carry it with them to another of the
tribes which are under the Scythian rule, followed by those whom
they first visited. On completing the circuit of all the tribes
under their sway, they find themselves in the country of the Gerrhi,
who are the most remote of all, and so they come to the tombs of the
kings. There the body of the dead king is laid in the grave prepared
for it, stretched upon a mattress; spears are fixed in the ground on
either side of the corpse, and beams stretched across above it to form
a roof, which is covered with a thatching of osier twigs. In the
open space around the body of the king they bury one of his
concubines, first killing her by strangling, and also his
cup-bearer, his cook, his groom, his lacquey, his messenger, some of
his horses, firstlings of all his other possessions, and some golden
cups; for they use neither silver nor brass. After this they set to
work, and raise a vast mound above the grave, all of them vying with
each other and seeking to make it as tall as possible.
When a year is gone by, further ceremonies take place. Fifty of
the best of the late king's attendants are taken, all native
Scythians- for, as bought slaves are unknown in the country, the
Scythian kings choose any of their subjects that they like, to wait on
them- fifty of these are taken and strangled, with fifty of the most
beautiful horses. When they are dead, their bowels are taken out,
and the cavity cleaned, filled full of chaff, and straightway sewn
up again. This done, a number of posts are driven into the ground,
in sets of two pairs each, and on every pair half the felly of a wheel
is placed archwise; then strong stakes are run lengthways through
the bodies of the horses from tail to neck, and they are mounted up
upon the fellies, so that the felly in front supports the shoulders of
the horse, while that behind sustains the belly and quarters, the legs
dangling in mid-air; each horse is furnished with a bit and bridle,
which latter is stretched out in front of the horse, and fastened to a
peg. The fifty strangled youths are then mounted severally on the
fifty horses. To effect this, a second stake is passed through their
bodies along the course of the spine to the neck; the lower end of
which projects from the body, and is fixed into a socket, made in
the stake that runs lengthwise down the horse. The fifty riders are
thus ranged in a circle round the tomb, and so left.
Such, then, is the mode in which the kings are buried: as for
the people, when any one dies, his nearest of kin lay him upon a
waggon and take him round to all his friends in succession: each
receives them in turn and entertains them with a banquet, whereat
the dead man is served with a portion of all that is set before the
others; this is done for forty days, at the end of which time the
burial takes place. After the burial, those engaged in it have to
purify themselves, which they do in the following way. First they well
soap and wash their heads; then, in order to cleanse their bodies,

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