The Fardle of Facions, by Johannes Boemus

The iii. Chapitre.

Of Assiria and Babilonia, and the maners of those peoples.

As saieth sainct Augustine, the countrie called Assiria, was so named of Assur, the sonne of Sem. And at this daie, to the ende that time might be founde an appairer, of al thinges, with the losse of a sillabe is becomen Siria: Hauyng for his bounde, on the East, the countrie called Inde, and part of Media. On the West the floude Tygris, on the Southe Susiana, and on the Northe the maigne mounteigne Caucasus. It is a deintie to haue in Assiria a showre of raine: and therefore are thei constreined for the due moistyng of their lande, to tolle in the riuers by pollicie of trenching and damming: wherwith thei so plentifie their grounde, that thei communely receiue two hundred busshelles for a busshell, and in some speciall veine, three hundred for one. Their blades of their Wheate and Barlie are fowre fingers brode. Their Sesamum, and Milium (Somer cornes) are in groweth like vnto trees. All the whiche thinges Herodotus the historien, thoughe he knoweth them (as he writeth) to be vndoubtedly true, yet would he that men toke aduisemente in the reportyng of theim: for that thei mighte sieme vnto suche as neuer sawe the like, incredible. Thei haue a tree called Palma, that beareth a kinde of small Dates. This fruicte thei fiede muche vppon, and out of the bodie of the tree, thei draw at one time of the yere a liquor or sappe, wherof thei make bothe wine and hony. In their fresh waters thei vse boates facioned round like a buckler, which the Armenians that dwelle aboue them, do make of salowe wikers wrought one within an other, and couered with rawe leather. The appareile of the Assyrians is a shirte downe to the foote, and ouer that a short garment of wollen, and last of al a faire white pleicted cassaque doun to the foote agayne. Their shoes are not fastened on with lachettes, but lyke a poumpe close about the foote. Which also the Thebans dydde vse, and but they twayne, no moe. They suffre theyr heares to growe and couer them with prety forked cappes somwhat mytrelyke. And when they goe abroade, they besprinkle them selues with fragraunt oyles, to be swete at the smelle. They haue euery man a rynge with a signet, and also a sceptre finely wrought: vppon whose toppe thei vse to sticke either an apple, or a rose, or a lillye, or some lyke thynge. For it is a dishonour to beare it bare.

Emongest all the lawes of that people I note this chiefly as worthie memorie. When their maidens came to be mariageable, thei ware from yere to yere, brought foorthe into the Marquette, for suche as would buye them to be their wiues. And because there ware some so hard fauoured, that menne would not onely be loth to giue money for them, but some menne also for a litle money to take theim: the fairest ware first solde, and with the prices of theim brought into the commune Treasourie, ware the fowler bestowed. Herodote writeth that he heard by reaporte, that the Heneti (a people on the bordre of Italie towarde Illiria) ware wonte to vse this maner. Whervpon Sabellicus takyng an occasion, writeth in this maner. Whether there ware suche a maner vsed emong that people (saieth he) or not, I haue litle more certaintie to laie for my self then Herodote had. But thus muche am I able to saie: that in Venice (a citie of famous worthines, and whose power is well knowen at this date, to be greate, bothe by Sea and by lande) suche maner as I shall saie, was sometyme vsed. There was in the Citie of Venice, a place dedicate, as ye would saie to our Ladie of Pietie. Before whose doores it happened a child or twaine, begotten by a skape (whiche either for shame or necessitie could finde no mother, or for the nombre of parteners, no one propre father) to bee laide. And when by the good Citezeins suche tendrenes had been shewed to two or thre, as the mothers loked for, and manhode (to saie the truthe) doth require: the dore of pitie became so fruictfull a mother, that she had not now one or twoo in a yere, but three or fower in a quarter. Whiche thyng when the gouernours of the citie perceiued, thei toke ordre by commune consente, that from thens foorthe suche women children onely, as should fortune so to bee offred to Pietie, should bee nourisshed at the commune charge of the citie, and none other. And for those accordyngly, thei ordained a place wher thei ware brought vp, hardly kepte in, and diuersely enstructed accordyng to their giftes of witte and capacitie, vntill thei ware mariage able. At the whiche tyme, she that had beautie and good qualities bothe, found those a sufficient dowrie to purchase her choyse of husbandes. And she that hadde but beautie alone, thoughe her qualities ware not so excellente, yet for her honestie that beside forth was singuler in theim all, founde that beautie and honestie could not be vnmaried. These therefore ware not permitted to euery mannes choise, but graunted to suche as ware thoughte menne worthie of suche women. If there ware any that lacked the grace of beautie, yet if she ware wittie, and endewed with qualities (together with her honestie) a small dowrie purchased her a husband in good time. But if there ware any in whom there happened neither commendacion of beautie nor wit, but onely bare honestie: for her bestowyng was there a meane found, by waie of deuocion, as we terme it when we signifie a respecte of holines in the diede.

Menne vnmarried beyng in daungier vpon Sea or on Lande, or beyng sore distressed with sickenes, makyng a vowe for the recouerie of healthe, where vnto thei holde them selues bounden in conscience (if it fortuned theim at that tyme to be deliuered) for satisfaction of their vowe in that case not vprightly perfourmed, vsed to take for their wiues, suche of the simplest as other had left. So that in processe they alwaie founde husbandes, and the commune wealthe a diminishyng of charge.

Another Lawe of the Babilonians there was, more worthie of memorie a greate deale, for that it imported more weight. And that was this. Thei had from their beginnyng no Phisicens emong theim, but it was enacted by the consente of the Realme, that who so was diseased of any malady, should comon with other that had bene healed of the like afore. And acordyng to their counsaile, practise vpon himself. But he that vsed or attempted any other waie, to be punished for it. Other write that the sicke ware brought out into the Marquet place, where suche as had bene deliuered of the like grief afore: ware bounde by the lawe, to go fro persone to persone, and shewe theim by what meanes thei had bene remedied.

Thei bewrie their dead in Honie, and obserue the same maner of mournyng that the Egiptians do. If any man haue medled with his wife in the nighte, neither of theim bothe toucheth any thyng the next mornyng, before thei be washed:

There was in Babilon a Temple dedicate to Venus, and it hath bene the maner in tyme paste, that when their came any straunger to visite this Temple, all the women of Babilon should come vnto him or them, with greate solempnitie and fresshely appareiled, euery one hauing a garlande on her heade, with some seueralle knowledge of distinction one from another, and offre their seruice to the straungier. And looke whom he liked, he must laie doune in her lappe, suche somme of money as pleased him. That done thei bothe withdrew themselues fro the temple a greate distaunce, and laie together. That money was consecrate to Venus.

There were certein kindredes emong theim, that liued with none other thyng but fisshe dried against the Sonne, and brused in a Mortare, and so laied vp till niede ware. And then did thei mingle it, and kneade it with water into a maner of paaste, and so baked it, and eate it. There ware thre sortes of menne that bare rule and office emong them. The king, the nobles with the Seniours, and those that had serued in the warres and ware now exempte. Thei had also menne skilfull in the secretes of nature, whiche thei calle Magi, and Chaldei, suche as ware the priestes of Egipte, institute to attende vpon the seruice of their Goddes. These men all their life daies, liued in the loue of wisedome, and were connyng in the cours of the Sterres. And sometyme by foretokenyng of birdes flight and somtyme by power of holy verses and nombres tourned awaie the euilles fro menne, and benefited them with thinges that ware good. Thei could expounde Dreames, and declare the significacions of vncouth wondres. So that men ware certein of suche successe, as thei had foreshewed. Thei wente not into straunge scholes to learne their knowledge, as the Grecians doe, but learned the science of these thynges at their fathers handes, as heirtage from one generation to another, euen from their childhode at home in their houses. Whereby it came to passe that beyng sokingly learned, it was bothe the more groundedly learned, and also without tediousnes. Thei had one vniforme and constaunt waie of teaching, and one constantnes of doctrine, not waueryng and almoste contrary to it self, as the doctrine of the Greekes: where eche Philosopher almoste had his waie, and iudgemente, of the principles and causes of thynges. But these menne agre al in one, that the worlde is eternall and euerlastyng, with out begynnyng and without ende. And that the ordre of the whole, was disposed by the prouidence of the highest. The bodies aboue to haue their course, not at all aduentures and without rule, but by an inuiolable lawe of God, acordyng to his ordenaunce and will moste certein. Thei haue learned by long markyng and notyng of thynges tyme out of mynde, one aftre another: how by the course of the Starres, to prognostique, that is to foreshewe vnto men, many thynges to come. Thei holde that of all other Sterres, the planetes are strongest of Influence, namely Saturnus. To the sonne thei attribute brightnes and vertue of life. Mars, Iupiter, Mercurie, and Venus, thei obserue moste,(for that thei haue a course propre by themselues) as interpretours of the mindes of the goddes to foresignifie thinges vnto men. Which opinion is so grounded in them, that they haue called all those foure planetes, by the one name of Mercurius, as ye woulde saye commune currours or messengers. Thei also do warne menne of many thinges, bothe hurtefull and availeable: by the marking, and knowledge of winde and weather, of raine and droughte, of blasing sterres, of the eclipses of the Sonne and Mone, of earthquakes, and manye suche like.

Furthermore thei ymagine in the firmament other sterres, subiecte in influence vnto these former, wherof some are in the haulfe heauen continually in our sighte, and some in the other haulfe continually oute of our sight And as the Egiptiens haue feigned them selues xii. goddes, so likewyse haue thei. To euerie of the whiche they referre one moneth, and one signe of the Zodiaque. Thei haue prophecied vnto kinges, many aduentures. As vnto Alexandre victory, when he made his exploicte towarde Darius. Likewise to Hirchanour and Seleucus, and other the successours of Alexandre, prophecied thei many thinges: As also to the Romaines, which had most sure successe. Thei make compte also of xxiiij. other starres: without, and beside the waie of the zodiaque, xii. towarde the Northe, and the residewe towarde the Southe. Of the whiche, so many as appiere in sight, they iudge to apperteigne to the quicke, and the other to the dead. These troublesome mases haue thei broughte into the worlde more then enoughe, beside the accompte that thei make of their obseruacions and deuinacions from their beginninge to Alexandras time: nombringe them thre thousande and fourty yeres (a shamefull lie) excepte thei will entreprete their yeres by the Mone, as the Egiptians doe, comptinge euery monethe for a yere.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:27