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Sunday Salon: 1 2!

Having just welcomed the 123rd member to the Sunday Salon (A Comfy Chair and a Book), it seems only appropriate that I now take up the challenge issued by Kerrie over at MYSTERIES in PARADISE. That is, I was tagged for the 123 Meme. Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Easily done! As it happens, the book nearest to hand is David Grene's translation of Herodotus, page 123 of which is a section from the first book on the peculiarities of Babylonian life (1.196).

In the passage required by the meme Herodotus is describing the Babylonian practice of annually auctioning off marriageable girls. The auction would start with the best-looking girls, who would go for the highest prices. Once the pretty girls were disposed of, however, the rules of the auction changed. Now, they'd start with the least ugly girl, and auction her off to whoever would take the least money to have her. And it would go on from there, the girls getting uglier and uglier, so that the worst of the lot presumably brought the highest dowry. Thus the poorer men (or just cheap guys who weren't into appearances) were paid money to take the ugly girls, and the money funding this came from the auctioning off of the pretty girls:

"This money came from the sale of the good-looking girls, so those who were handsome portioned off the ill-favored girls and the cripples. But no man might give away his daughters to whom he pleased, nor might any man take any girls by buying her without a guarantor; he must produce his guarantor for a solemn promise to live with her in his home and only so be allowed to take her away. If the couple could not agree, the law was that the money must be returned."

It's worth telling you how the section ends. Herodotus, who much approves this system, laments that it has not continued into the present day: "Lately they have discovered something new. Since the conquest of Babylon and the general ruin, everyone of the common sort who is destitute of a livelihood prostitutes his female children."

And now, for the tagging. I'm going to keep it in the Salon and tag, hmmm, Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf, Doreen at Shep Nachas, Jacob at Jacob Russell's Barking Dog, JoeB at Fiction Views, and Susan at In Over My Head.



Your the second person this week who's quoted from Herodotus and made me think that he and I might just not have seen eye to eye about the role of women.


Oh, come on! It makes perfect sense. All those ugly women getting husbands who are happy to have them....


Exactly. Practicality before idealism. Not only do the ugly women get husbands, the husbands get money. That would be a hit reality show in America.

BTW, Debra, if you pay me $250,000, I may wait for Rebecca to turn 21.


Oooh, now you've got Rebecca mad! She's pursing her lips!


yes, the sunday salon is just incredible fun!! yay!


See, thats why I feel I need $250,000. She's pretty, but there's the whole mood swing deal.

And don't forget, I'm a good cook!


That's totally fascinating and quite frankly is one of the better ways of marriage I've read about for those times. Everyone gets a household and it sounds like she has some bit of protection by the law--maybe not, but she might be able to convince the guarantor to be on her side, who knows. Deb, you're the Greek scholar, fill me in.

But, those woman that didn't appeal to the appearance minded, could possible make a better marriage. They might have had the better end of the deal in some cases. Sounds a bit better than the Marriage Mart of 18th century British aristocracy.


I'm afraid that's all I know about it. (For now, at least!) I'll let you know if I discover anything new....


Well done Deb


Thanks! Thanks for the impetus.


Chalk one up for the Homelies! They at least ended up with men who had money. Excellent arrangement. I suspect that the practice continues to this day. The 'babes' are wined and dined by 'buyers' and we homelies are left with our choice among wiser, thriftier men.


Now now, Susan. You're being self-deprecating again!


Never self-deprecating, never delusional. Call me "Happy Old Sack"


I do like your term "old sack." There's something appealing about it.


Not sure what this is about... what does it mean if we've been tagged?

Terrible connections last few days... my wireless goes in and out...


I feel your pain re. the internet troubles!

No obligation on the meme: it just means you're invited to do the same thing, i.e., blog following the steps listed above.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

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