Description of the city of Babylon (History 1:178-181)
178. Assyria possesses a vast number of great cities, whereof the most renowned and strongest
at this time was Babylon, whither, after the fall of Nineveh, the seat of government had been
removed. The following is a description of the place:- The city stands on a broad plain, and is an
exact square, a hundred and twenty furlongs in length each way, so that the entire circuit is four
hundred and eighty furlongs. While such is its size, in magnificence there is no city that approaches
to it. It is surrounded, in the first place, by a broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall fifty royal cubits in width, and two hundred in height. (The royal cubit is longer by three fingers' breadth than the common cubit).
180. The city is divided into two portions by the river which runs through the midst of it. This
river is the Euphrates, a broad, deep, swift stream, which rises in Armenia, and empties itself into
the Erythraean sea. The city wall is brought down on both sides to the edge of the stream: thence,
from the corners of the wall, there is carried along each bank of the river a fence of burnt bricks. The houses are mostly three and four stories high; the streets all run in straight lines, not only those parallel to the river, but also the cross streets which lead down to the water-side. At the river end of these cross streets are low gates in the fence that skirts the stream, which are, like the great gates in the outer wall, of brass, and open on the water.
181. The outer wall is the main defence of the city. There is, however, a second inner wall, of less
thickness than the first, but very little inferior to it in strength. The centre of each division of the town was occupied by a fortress ...
Account of the Fall of Babylon to Cyrus of Persia (History 1:190-191)
190. Having, however, thus wreaked his vengeance on the Gyndes, by dispersing it through three
hundred and sixty channels, Cyrus, with the first approach of the ensuing spring, marched forward
against Babylon. The Babylonians, encamped without their walls, awaited his coming. A battle was
fought at a short distance from the city, in which the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian king,
whereupon they withdrew within their defences. here they shut themselves up, and made light of his
siege, having laid in a store of provisions for many years in preparation against this attack; for then
they saw Cyrus conquering nation after nation, they were convinced that he would never stop, and
that their turn would come at last.
191. Cyrus was now reduced to great perplexity, as time went on and he made no progress against
the place. In this distress either some one made the suggestion to him, or he bethought himself of
a plan, which he proceeded to put in execution. He placed a portion of his army at the point where
the river enters the city, and another body at the back of the place where it issues forth, with orders
to march into the town by the bed of the stream, as soon as the water became shallow enough: he
then himself drew off with the unwarlike portion of his host, and made for the place where Nitocris
dug the basin for the river, where he did exacted what she had done formerly: he turned the
Euphrates by a canal into the basin, which was then a march, on which the river sank to such an
extent that the natural bed of the stream became fordable. Hereupon the Persians who had been left
for the purpose at Babylon by the river-side, entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach
about midway up a man's thigh, and thus got into the town. Had the Babylonians been apprised of
what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians
to enter the city, but would have destroyed them utterly; for they would have made fast all the street-
gates which gave upon the river, and mounting upon the walls along both sides of the stream, would
so have caught the enemy as it were in a trap. But, as it was, the Persians came upon them by
surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of the central parts (as the residents of Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew
nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and revelling
until they learnt of the capture but too certainly. Such, then, were the circumstances of the first
taking of Babylon.