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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

for the gods



440 bc



"the babylonians have one most shameful custom. every woman born in the country must once in her life go and sit down in the precinct of venus, and there consort with a stranger....[most] seat themselves within the holy enclosure with wreaths of string about their heads -- there is always a great crowd, some coming and others going; lines of cord mark out paths in all directions the women, and the strangers pass along them to make their choice. a woman who has once taken her seat is not allowed to return home till one of the strangers throws a silver coin into her lap, and takes her with him beyond the holy ground. when he throws the coin he says these words - " the goddess mylitta prosper thee." (venus is called mylitta by the assyrians.) the silver coin may be of any size; it cannot be refused, for that is forbidden by the law, since once thrown it is sacred. the woman goes with the first man who throws her money, and rejects no one. when she has gone with him, and so satisfied the goddess, she returns home, and from that time forth no gift however great will prevail with her. such of the women as are tall and beautiful are soon released, but others who are ugly have to stay a long time before they can fulfil the law. some have waited three or four years in the precinct." - herodotus, 440 b.c.