The Library of History

Page 61

Page 61 When she had perform'd these things, she marcht into Ethiopia, and having subdu'd many Places in it, she had an Opportunity to see what was there very remarkable and wonderful. For they say there's a four-square Lake, a hundred and sixty Foot in Circuit, the Water of which is in Colour like unto Vermilion, and of an extraordinary sweet Flavour, much like unto old Wine; yet of such wonderful Operation, that whosoever drinks of it goes presently mad, and confesses all the Faults that ever he had been before guilty of; but some will scarce believe this Relation.

The Ethiopians have a peculiar way of burying their Dead; for after they have imbalm'd the Body they pour round about it melted Glass, and then place it upon a Pillar, so that the Corps may be plainly seen through the Glass, as Herodotus has reported the thing. But Ctesias of Cnidus assirms that he tells a Winter-tale, and says that its true indeed that the Body is imbalm'd, but that Glass is not pour'd upon the naked Body, for the Bodies thereby would be so scorch'd and defac'd that they could not possibly retain any likeness to the dead: And that therefore they make an hollow Statue of Gold, and put the Body within it, and then pour the melted Glass round upon this Statue, which they set upon some high Place, and so the Statue which resembles the dead is seen through the Glass, and thus he says they use to bury those of the richer Sort; But those of meaner Fortunes they put into Statues of Silver; and for the poor they make Statues of Potters Clay, every one having Glass enough, for there's Abundance to be got in Ethiopia, and ready at hand for all the Inhabitants. But we shall speak more fully of the Customs and Laws of the Ethiopians and the Product of the Land and other things worthy of Remark presently when we come to relate their Antiquities and old Fables and Stories.

Semiramis having settl'd her Affairs in Egypt and Ethiopia, return'd with her Army into Asia to Bactria: And now having a great Army, and enjoying a long Peace, she had a longing Desire to perform some notable Exploit by her Arms. Hearing therefore that the Indians were the greatest Nation in the whole World, and had the largest and richest Tract of Land of all others, she resolv'd to make War upon them. Stabrobates was at that time King, who had innumerable Forces, and many Elephants bravely accoutred and fitted to strike Terror into the Hearts of his Enemies. For India for the Pleasantness of the Country excell'd all others, being water'd in every Place with many Rivers, so that the Land yielded every year a double Crop; and by that Means was so rich and so abounded with Plenty of all things necessary for the Sustenance of Man's Life, that it supply'd the Inhabitants continually with such things as made them excessively rich, insomuch as it was never known that there was ever any Famine amongst them, the Climate being so happy and favourable; and upon that account likewise there's an incredible Number of Elephants, which for Courage and Strength of Body far excel those in Africa. Moreover this Country abounds in Gold, Silver, Brass, Iron and pretious Stones of all sorts, both for Profit and Pleasure. All which being nois'd abroad, so stirr'd up the Spirit of Semiramis, that (tho' she had no Provocation given her) yet she was resolv'd upon the War against the Indians. But knowing that she had need of great Forces, she sent Dispatches to all the Provinces, with Command to the Governors to list the choicest young Men they could find, ordering the Proportion of Souldiers every Province and Country should send forth according to the Largeness of it; and commanded that all should furnish themselves with new Arms and Armour, and all appear in three years time at a general Randezvouz in Bactria bravely arm'd and accountred in all Points. And having sent for Shipwrights out of Phoenicia, Syria, Cyprus, and other Places bordering upon the Sea-coasts, she prepar'd Timber for them fit for the Purpose, and order'd them to build Vessels that might be taken asunder and convey'd from place to place wherever she pleas'd. For the River Indus bordering upon that Kingdom being the greatest in those Parts, she stood in need of many River-boats to pass it in Order to repress the Indians. But being there was no Timber near that River she was necessitated to convey the Boats thither by Land from Bactria. She further consider'd that she was much inferior to the Indians for Elephants (which were absolutely necessary for her to make use of) she therefore contriv'd to have Beasts that should resemble them, hoping by this Means to strike a Terror into the Indians, who believ'd there were no Elephants in any place but in India.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books