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By REY\ J. L. PORTER, A.M., F.R.S.L. 


®lit^ ^aps anit Illustrations. 




77i« right, of Translation is reserved. 





The following work is not a book of travels, penned 
during a " summer's ramble " or a " winter's residence." 
It is the result of researches extending over a period of 
more than five years. Though I have wandered thi'ough 
most of Palestine, I have here confined my attention to 
a few provinces hitherto but little known ; my object 
being not so much to amuse as to instruct. My pro- 
fessional duties not only obliged me to study the language 
and customs of the people of the land, but to traverse 
their country, and visit their towns and villages. I have 
thus had opportunities of mmutely examining the topo- 
graphy and antiquities, and of acquiring information 
regarding ancient sites, such as are enjoyed by few- 
travellers. My tastes also led me to improve every 
opportunity I possessed, and to study the ancient geo- 
graphy and history of Palestine combined with the best 
works of modern travel. 

The district to which my researches have here been con- 
fined is among the most interesting in Syria. Damascus 
has been a city from the time when Abraliam left his home 
" between the rivers," to journey westward to the " Land 

a 2 


of Promise." It is thus a connecting link between the 
patriarchal age and modern days; and its beauty and 
richness have been proverbial for full four thousand years. 
A romantic interest will be attached to Palmyra, the 
desert home of Zenobia, while history exists ; and 
Lebanon and Hermon will not cease to be remembered 
with liveliest feelings so long as the Word of God con- 
tinues to bless the world. Bashan, too, has been im- 
mortalized by the song of the Psalmist ; and now it 
possesses additional interest, as containing the only exist- 
ing specimens of the ordinary dwellings of remote anti- 
qiuty, and of the architecture of a race of giants that has 
been extinct for three thousand years. 

Though a part of this district has already been traversed 
by others, yet a large portion of it is new ground ; and 
none of it has hitherto been examined with that minute- 
ness which its importance demands. Burckhardt possessed 
all the qualifications necessary for a successful explorer — 
a knowledge of the language, powers of accurate observa- 
tion, and an enthusiastic love for discovery ; but unfor- 
tunately he did not live to publish his own notes. Many 
parts of his work are thus meagre and obscure ; and in 
not a few places there are inaccuracies which he would 
doubtless have corrected on subsequent revision. Eitter, 
in the last edition of his ' Palastina und Syrien,' has, with 
his accustomed research, collected all the information given 
liy travellers and other writers ; but a perusal of that 
learned v/ork will best show to the reader how much new 


light I have been enabled to throw on the historical 
geography of tliis portion of Syria. 

The plan I have followed has been, accurately to 
describe the features of the country through which I 
travelled, and the state of the towns and villages I visited, 
and then to add such historical notices as ancient autho- 
rities furnish. The latter I have, with a very few excep- 
tions, taken from the originals. I have attempted to 
define, and, I believe, with a near approach to accuracy, 
the boundaries of the ancient kingdom of Bashan, and the 
position and extent of the provinces into which it was 
subsequently divided. I have described the scenery and 
character of the "Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus," 
from their sources amid the heights of Antilebanon and 
Hermon to where they empty their waters into hitherto 
unknown lakes on the borders of the Great Desert. 

While Avandering through Bible lands my chief object 
has been to illustrate Bible truths ; and the result of ex- 
tensive travel, and no little research, has been to impress 
upon my mind the fact that the more we extend our 
labours in Palestine, whether as antiquarians, geographers, 
or politicians, the more strongly are we con-vinced of the 
literal fulfilment of prophecy, and of the minute accuracy 
of the topographical and statistical sketches contained in 
the Word of God. 

The map attached to this work has been constructed 
by myself, almost wholly from my own observations and 
surveys. My sextant and compass were my constant 

a 3 


companions on evciy excursion, and were used wherever 
opportunity offered and circumstances required. The 
,£freat changes effected by my labours on this part of the 
map of Syria will be obvious to every student of geo- 
graphy ; and their accuracy can be tested by future tra- 
vellers. The Jordan and its lakes were laid down from 
the map of Lieiit. Lynch ; and the western slopes of 
Lebanon were constructed from the best authorities. All 
the rest is my own. Its merits — if any it has — are mine ; 
and for its defects I alone am responsible. 

The plans and woodcuts are all original, and have, with 
two exceptions, been engraved from my own drawings. 

I cannot conclude without recording my obligations to 
my kind friend and companion during many a day's travel, 
the Rev. Smylie Eobson, who not only gave me important 
assistance in my labours, but carefully perused the manu- 
script when ready for the press. To the Eev. James 
Barnett I am also much indebted for the use of his notes, 
and of the numerous inscriptions he copied during our 
journey in the Hauran. To another esteemed friend and 
fellow-traveller, James Graham, Esq., I owe thanks for 
the photographs of the Great Mosk and East Gate of 
Damascus, and for many acts of personal kindness. 

St. Helier, Jersey, 

September 21st, 1855. 




First sight of Syria — Bay of Beyrout — Scenery — Hotel de Belle Vue — 
Start for Damascus — Mode of travel — Slountain road — Scenery and 
geology of Lebanon — Syrian horses — Bhamdun — Route to summit of 
mountain — Watershed — Rock sculpture — Castle and ancient tombs — 
The Litany — The Buka'a — Ruined temple — Site and history of Chalcis 
— Xight quarters — Wady Harii- — Watershed of Antilibanus — Wady 
el-Kurn — Banditti — Ridges of Antilibanus — Plain of Sahra — Approach 
to Damascus Page 1-23 



Mode of treating these topics — Scarcity of information — Ibn Asaker's history 

— Antiquity of Damascus — Its situation — Its plain — The Abana and 
Pharpar — System of inrigation — Splendid view — The streets — 
Costumes — Slosks — Khans — Private houses — The Haiim — The house 
of 'Aly Aga and his tragic fate p. 24-38 

Anciest Walls : Misrepresentations of travellers — The East Gate — Bas- 
reliefs — Spot where Paul was let down in a basket — St. George the 
Porter — Scene of Paul's conversion — Tomb of Mohammed's Muezzin — 
Muslem tombs — Roman gate — Mosk of Senan Pasha — The West Gate 

— The " Street called Straight " — Cemeteries — Greek bazaar — The 
castle — Gigantic plane-tree — Gates — Khaled's head-quarters — House 
of Naaman . . ' 38-55 

Walk through the City : Churches and. convents — House of Ananias — 
Greek church — Russian schools — Bazaars and trades — Great Khan — 
Xili' ed-Din — Slave-market ."),')-(! I Mosk : Triumphal arch — Head of John the Baptist — Ancient gate 
and inscription — Age of the building — Its history and splendour — 
Tombs of Saladin and Melek ed-Dliaher — Jlosk of Sultan Selim 61-77 




Ist Period : First notice in Bible — When founded, and by whom — Tradition 
of Abraham — David takes city — Ben-Hadad and his royal line — Eezon 

— Samaria besieged — Kingdom of Damascus — Elijah — Naaman — 
Elisha — Hazael — City taken by Jeroboam — By Tiglath-pileser. 2nd 
Period: Fulfilment of prophecy — Fall of Assyrian Empire — The city 
captured by Pharaoh-Necho, and by Nebuchadnezzar — Alexander the 
Great. 3rd Period : Damascus under the Ptolemies — Growing influence 
of Rome — Fall of Egyptian rule in Syria — Division of empire of the 
Seleucidffi — Damascus again a royal city — Aretas — Fall of the Seleu- 
cidaj — The city taken by the Romans — Pompey. ith Period ■• Damas- 
cus under the Romans — Cleopatra — Antioch — Strabo's account of the 
city — Nicolaus the historian — Aretas and Herod — Spread of Christianity 

— Paul's conversion — Apollodorus the architect — The city taken by Sapor 

— Odenathus and Zenobia — Damascus a Metropolitan city — Captured 
by Persians — Besieged and taken by Jlohammedans. 5th Period : Under 
the Arabs — Muslem dynasties — The Crusaders — Saladin — The 3Iam- 
lukes — Origin and history of the Turks — Conquests of Timur — Awful 
massacre — Sultan Sellm conquers Syria — Turkish policy — Ibrahim 
Pasha — Richard Wood, Esq Page 78-148 



Bedawy Shcihh — Dromedaries and their saddles — Gardens — The mirage 

— Mountain pass — Kuteifeh — Evening entertainment — Frank sorcery 

— Early rising — Jerud — Sheikh FSres and Arab cavaliers — Border 
warfare — Salt marsh — The desert — The Bedawy in the desert — En- 
campment of Bedawin — Patriarchal customs — A feast — Evening party 
in a tent — Night adventure — Excitement of desert travel — A chace — 
Bedawy Harims — Enemies — Preparations for battle — Singular moun- 
tain — Encounter with robbers — Arab hospitality — Cold march — 
Robbers — The spoils of a caravan — Illustrations of Scripture — Bedawy 
women — Apprehended dangers — Geological features — Fii-st view of 
Tadmor — A " charge " — Attack and capture of our party — Our prison 

— Alarming conversation — A comic scene — Ride to Palmyra — Descrip- 
tion of the ruins — Historical sketch — Return — Route of Jacob — Ku- 
ryetein identified with Hazar-enan ........ p. 149-254 




The Baiada • — The Salahiyeh hills — Dummar — Fine valley — Ancient 
aqueduct — Great fountain of Fijeh — Wady Barada — Suk, the ancient 
Abila — Roman Road and aqueducts — Inscriptions — Discoveries of 
M. de Saulcy — History of Abila — Sublime pass — Roman bridges — 

— Plain of Zebdany — Fountain of the Barada — Physical geography of 
district — The " Rivers of Damascus " identified . . Page 255-278 



Bludan — Ancient " High Place " — Mountains of Antilibanus — Inaccuracy 
of maps — Banditti — Fearful tale — Rasheiya and its prince — Ascent 
of Hermon — Interesting ruins on summit — The sources of the Fharpar 

— Descent to Hasbeiya — Source of the Nahr Hasbany — Tell el-KSdy, 
Dan, and the fountains of the Jordan — Banias, Casarea Philippi — 
(Jreat castle of Banias — The Lake Phiala, and Roman Road — Extent of 
Jebel esh-Sheikh and Jebel el-Heish — Arab I'obbers — Beit Jenn and the 
second source of the Phai~par — M, de Saulcy's discoveries (?) — Descrip- 
tion of the J'harpnr — Approach to Damascus from the west . p. 279-322 



Tradition of Abraham — Grand defile of M'araba — Menin and its excavated 
temples — The vale and vineyards of Hclhon — Sublime pass of ' Ain es- 
Saheb • — The site of Ilelbon identified — Greek inscriptions — Ride over 
Anti-Lebanon p. 323-336 




Roman road — Beautiful view of the Ghutah — Convent of Saidnaya — 
Miraculous image of the Virgin — Ancient tombs and ruins — Saidnaya 
the ancient Danaha — Ravine and sepulchral caves of Jubb 'Adin — 
M'aliila — Wild pass and excavated tombs — Topography of the eastern 
slopes of Antilibanus — The Syriac language spoken — Yabrud, the 
ancient Jabruda, and its ruins — Night march to Kuteifeh — Dangers 
of travel — Fine temple at Maksura — Ruined town discovered — Pro- 
bably the ancient Telsece Page 337-372 



Druze war — Fine scenery of the plain — " Harran of the Columns" — 
Jlouth of the Abana — The character and extent of the South and East 
lakes — A battle-field — Singular ruins — Adventure in the marshes — 
Tell es-Salahiyeh, an Assyrian mound — The lake Hij3,neh and mouth 
of the P/jar_par — The Safa p. 373-395 

VOL. I. 

Mosk of the Omeiyades Frontispiece 

Northern Side Arch, East Gate, Damascus page 24 

View of Damascus from the North-east io/acep. 26 

Front Elevation of East Gate, Damascus 38 

Plan of Great Mosk, Damascus to face p. 61 

Remains of Triumphal Arch 62 

Hollow-headed Arrow 126 

Plan of Palmyra to face j). 220 

Aqueduct 223 

Interior of Tomb 232 

Plan of Site of the ancient Abila to face p. 263 

'Ain Saheb — the Entrance to Helbon to face j>. 323 

Kurdish Shepherd 337 

Tell es-Salahlyeh to face -p. 373 

Singular Bas-relief 384 

Plan of Damascus at the end. 





First sight of Syria — Bay of Beyrout — Scenery — Hotel de Belle Vue 

— Start for Damascus — Mode of travel — Mountain road — Sceneiy 
and geology of Lebanon — Syrian horses — Bhamdfin — Route to 
summit of mountain — Watershed — Rock sculpture — Castle and 
ancient tombs — The Litany — The Buka'a — Ruined temple — Site 
and histoi-y of Chalcis — Night quarters — Wady Harir — Watershed 
of Antilibanus — Wady el-Kurn — Banditti — Ridges of Antilibanus 

— Plain of Sahra — Approach to Damascus, 

In this age of locomotion the romance of travel is gone, 
and a library of Eesearches, Narratives, and Memorials 
makes the wanderer familiar with every object of interest, 
and with all its associations, classic or sacred, ere his eye 
rests upon it. Still the first sight of the Syrian shores, 
and of the mountains of Israel, is not soon forgotten. 
There is a magic power in the living reality which neither 
poet's pen nor painter's pencil can ever appropriate. The 
descriptions of others, however graphic, and even the 
sketch of the artist, however faithful, only place before 
the mind's eye an ideal scene, which we can contemplate, 
it is true, with unminglcd pleasure, and even with satis- 
faction ; but when the eye wanders over plain and moun- 
tain, or the foot touches " holy ground," the superiority 

VOL. I. 1! 

2 INTRODUCTION. Cn.vp. 1. 

of tlic real over the ideal is at once felt and acknowledged. 
Such, at least, has been my experience. Often had I 
pictured the beauty of Syria's landscapes and the grandeur 
of its ruins, and often had I thouglit of the holy associa- 
tions that would crowd upon the mind as the eye rested 
on spots celebrated in history or sanctified by Holy 
Writ ; but a single glance at the magnificent panorama of 
Lebanon gave rise to emotions I never before liad expe- 
rienced, and occasioned more real pleasure than the 
perusal of a host of volumes. 

I was still asleep, when, on the morning of December 
12th, 1849, our little steamer cast anchor in the bay of 
Beyrout. The stopping of the engines and the hoarse 
sound of the running cable speedily roused me. I hast- 
ened on deck to gaze on that " goodly mountain," and 
leisurely to enjoy the first view of these hallowed shores ; 
but the bustling scene in the midst of which I emerged, 
and the babel of tongues that fell upon my ear, completely 
took me by surprise, and engaged my attention for the 
time. Numbers of little boats, with fantastically dressed 
occupants, already danced upon the swelling waves round 
our vessel ; and scores of eager porters shouted their deep 
gutturals in the ears of impatient traA'ellers, as if an excess 
of sound would render their unknown tongue intelligible. 
Hotel proprietors and servants, in bad French and worse 
English, set forth the superiority of their respective esta- 
blishments. Experience had taught me how to get rid of 
the annoyance of a multitude, by committing myself into 
the custody of one. I therefore expressed my determina- 
tion to take up my abode at the *' Hotel de Belle Vue" 
of Antonio Tremetsi. Ko sooner had I pronounced the 


name than a little man, not unlike a retired sailor, bustled 
through the crowd, and, taking off his broad straw, said, 
with a profound bow, " Your humble ser^-ant, sir." It 
was Antonio himself, all smiles and politeness. We were 
soon transferred to his boat, and I hud now time to con- 
template at leisure the magnificent scenery before me. 

On the south was the fine headland of Ras Beyrout, 
whose gardens and mulberry groves touched the black 
rocks acjainst which the long waves broke into showers of 
diamond spray. Before us lay the town itself, washed 
by the waters and embowered in richest verdure. The 
wooded heights behind were thickly studded with pictur- 
esque villas, beside which, over a mass of underwood, rose 
here and there a solitary palm or stately cypress. Farther 
to the left the bay of St. George sweeps round for several 
miles in a graceful curve, until the white sand of its 
smooth beach is abruptly shut in by the lofty projecting 
cliff that forms the southern bank of the Dog river. 
Korthward the eye followed the shore-line, with its spa- 
cious bays and bold promontories, until lost in the distance. 
Behind all, from north to south, far as the eye coidd see, 
stretched the noble ridge of Lebanon, its sides deeply 
furrowed by many a wild ravine, and its whole summit 
now white with snow. Scores of villages could be seen 
clinging to the terraced slopes, or perched on the rugged 
ridges ; while convents, still more nmncrous, crowned 
every peak and precipice. Often since that time have 1 
gazed on the same scene, and always with increased admir- 
ation. The "glory of Lebanon," though faded, is still 
worthy of its ancient fame. 

We were soon established in the humble chambers of 

B 2 


the " Hotel de Belle Vue," where we remained for three 
weeks. The house was then poor, and badly constructed 
for a winter residence ; but if an occasional shower found 
its way to us through porous walls and leaky roof, or a 
sudden squall burst open the frail shutters of our unglazed 
windows, some amends were made by the balmy air we 
breathed and the splendid prospect we enjoyed during the 
long hours of sunshine ; and the uniform kindness and 
profuse excuses of our good-natured little host made com- 
plaint impossible. During our stay we had ample oppor- 
tunity of examining the few remains still existing of the 
ancient Beritus. An excursion to the wild ravine and 
interesting monuments of Nahr el-Kelb,^ and some long 
rides in the gardens and pine-forest, afforded a pleasing 
variety. We had landed on the Syrian shores total 
strangers, alike unknowing and unknown ; but we speedily 
found friends whose cheerful society and kind hospitality 
almost made us forget that home and country were far 
away. And after two months' wandering amid the bust- 
ling and exciting scenes of the great cities of Europe, we 
were prepared to enjoy to the full the charms of the quiet 
family circle. 

As Bey rout did not form the field of my intended 
labour, I was anxious to complete my journey, and pass 
the mountains to Damascus. I engaged as dragoman and 
instrvictor in the Arabic language Nikola Ameuny, who 
was highly recommended to me by my friend Mr. Smith. 
The opportune arrival of Dr. Paulding, of the Damascus 
Mission, made us resolve to accompany him on his return 

' The Xa/u- cl-Kelh (Dog Eiver) is the Lycus flumen of the ancients. 
It ^vill be fully described in the sequel. 


to that city, that we might enjoy the pleasure of his 
society and the benefit of his experience on the road. 
All arrangements having been completed, we agreed to 
start on Thursday, the 3rd of January, 1850, and at noon 
we were all in the saddle. It was a new and interesting 
sight to us to observe our little caravan winding through 
the narrow cactus-lined lanes, and then emerging into the 
broad sandy avenues of the pine-forest. The strange 
garb of our native attendants and muleteers, the gay 
trappings of our baggage animals, adorned with innumer- 
able little shells and bits of red, white, and green cloth, 
and the odd-looking tasseled bridles of our own steeds, 
formed a fantastic picture. From the pine-forest we 
descended to a lower part of the plain or promontory, 
Avhere, amid dense groves of mulberries, rise up a number 
of tall and graceful palms. Farther to the south is 
an extensive tract covered with fine olive-trees. The 
heat here is intense during the summer months, as the 
sandy downs to the westward strongly reflect the sun's 
rays, while they almost completely check the fresh sea- 

In an hour we reached the foot of the mountains, and 
at once commenced the ascent of a bleak and rugged 
slope. The soft limestone rock projected on every 
side in rounded masses, and large boulders with smaller 
fragments almost covered the scanty soil. The scenery 
gi'adually becomes more picturesque and grand as a higher 
elevation is gained. The caravan-road, which, however, 
is little better than a goat-path, runs up along the summit 
of a great ridge, having on the south the deep Wady 
Shahrur, beautifully terraced, and clothed with the mul- 


berry and the vine; and on tlie north Wady Hummana, 
through which descends the river of Beyrout, in a swift 
and turbid course, to the plain. Some parts of the latter 
are wild in the extreme, dark frowning cliffs enclosing 
the torrent in a ravine so narrow that it seems like a great 
fissure in the mountain side. In an hour and a quarter 
from the plain we reached a large khan or caravanserai, 
with a well-built reservoir in front. Here commences the 
bed of red sandstone that extends from the Metn in a 
broad belt away southward along the slope of the moun- 
tains. This sandstone is soft and friable, and the disin- 
tegrated particles in many places cover the compact stone 
to a depth of several inches. It is strongly impregnated 
with iron, alum, and lime. It is evidently a formation of 
a much later period than the cretacious accumulations 
along the base of Lebanon ; and these again are later than 
the limestone which constitutes the great mass of the 
ridge. This change in the geological features gives 
variety to the scenery, and greatly enliances its beauty. 
The regidar and graceful hills, wliich are characteristic of 
the sandstone strata, are widely diffused over the district 
of the Metn, and, in almost every spot where the husband- 
man cannot pursue his labours, are covered with forests of 
pine. These contrast well with the bold cliffs of the 
white limestone, here and there clothed in the bright 
green of the ilex. Noble prospects now open up before 
the eye as every new peak is surmounted. The junction 
of the wild glens of Hummana and Salima beneath the 
ruin-crowned heights of Deir-el-Kulah, on the north, 
forms a glorious picture ; while on every side villages 
appear clinging to the precipitous banks of wooded ravines, 


or scattered among the gardens of some peak or piece of 
table- land. - 

A short distance above the khan the road ascends an 
almost perpendicidar cliff by an erratic zigzag route. On 
first examination one almost despairs of his horse being 
able to scale the steep, or to find footing along the shelv- 
ing rocks ; but the Syrian horses are accustomed to such 
paths, so that it seems but play for them to spring up the 
rugged and irregular stairs, or clamber along the narrow 
and slippery path, which the winter torrent has well-nigh 
carried away. It is somewhat startling to the inexpe- 
rienced traveller, too, when he cHngs to the saddle as his 
steed assumes a vertical attitude, or passes along the pre- 
cipice brink, where a single false step would hurl him 
hundreds of feet below. But experience teaches him to 
place confidence in his careful and wiry Arab, and to ride, 
without thought of fear, along paths where an Enghsh 
foxhunter would deem it madness to risk his neck. 

Another hour and a half we clambered up a stony ridge, 
covered here and there with vineyards and fig-orchards, 
and then reached Khan Hussein ; and twenty minutes 
after we arrived at the brow of a deep ravine, high up on 
the opposite bank of which stood the village of Bhamdun. 
Here we had arranged to spend the niglit in the summer- 
house of Mr. Smith. The direct road leads from this 
point across the glen, but it is fearfully steep, and for a 
lady even dangerous. We consequently followed the 

* The best account yet given of the geology of Lebanon is that by 
Dr. Anderson in Lynch's ' Official Report of the United States Expe- 
dition.' It is much to be regi-etted that his time did not allow him to 
notice the whole mountain range. His remarks on the southern section 
are veiy valuable. 


Damascus road, on its northern side, half an hour farther, 
when we turned to tlie right, and, sweeping round the 
head of the ravine and along its southern bank, we reached 
Bhamdun in half an hour. It was now quite dark, and 
we had considerable difficulty in finding our habitation. 
The house, when found, was cheerless enough, until a fire 
was kindled, our travelling beds prepared, and dinner 
served. The villagers soon pressed in to see and welcome 
us. Many of them have been for years under the instruc- 
tions of Mr. Smith and his associates, and are now 
consistent members of the Protestant Church that has 
been here formed in connexion with the American Board 
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Schools have also 
been established, and these, with the other departments of 
the Mission work, have greatly increased in extent and 
efficiency since the period of my visit.^ 

January ^th. — We were up long before the dawn, and 
I had time to glance at the surrounding country ere the 
servants were ready for departure. Bhamdun is situated 
on the southern brow of a wild ravine, which commencing, 
as has been stated, half an hour higher up, runs down in a 
direction south-west for about three miles, when it sweeps 
roimd to the southward, increasing in depth and grandeur 
till it joins the Wady el-Kady, near the spot where it is 
crossed by the Deir el-Kamr and Beyrout road. The 
view from the village is very extensive; but the bare 
white ridges on the west and north almost cover the noble 

^ It is scarcely necessary to inform the readei- that the Rev. (now Dr.) 
Eli Sniith was the associate of Dr. Robinson during his researches in 
Palestine. He is also author of ' Kesearches in Armenia;' and is well 
known as a profound Arabic scholar. 


scenery of the Metn, and render the mountain prospect 
bleak and uninteresting. Beyrout and its promontory arc 
visible, and beyond lies the vast expanse of the Mediter- 
ranean. So clear is the atmosphere and so commanding 
the position, that I have distinctly seen the island of 
Cyprus with the naked eye, and have observed more than 
once the noble summit of Olympus towering high above 
the neighbouring hills. Around Bhamdun are extensive 
beds of fossil shells, composed chiefly of the Ostrasa, 
Chenopus, and Nerinea. The latter are found strewn in 
innumerable quantities over the surface of flat slabs; and, 
the shells being very small, they present a singular and 
beautiful appearance. The elevation of the village, as 
shown by the aneroid, is 3338 feet. 

We mounted our horses at seven o'clock, and in half an 
hour reached the Damascus road near the Khan Euweisat. 
The northern part of Wady Hummana now opened up to 
our view. It resembles a vast basin ; the bottom is finely 
cultivated in terraces, and the sides steep, and, in some 
places, precipices of naked rock. On the east, high above 
the neighbouring mountains, rises the snow-capped sum- 
mit of Jebel Kuneiyiseh. The road now leads over 
swelling ground, bare and destitute of features ; and after 
passing a rocky ridge, descends to Khan Modeirej, situated 
m a rugged dell. This we reached at 8*45. Above the 
khan the road is among the worst in Lebanon. A steep 
slope is thickly covered with huge fragments of sharp 
limestone rocks, amid wliich the poor animals can scarcely 
find a level spot to plant their feet, and often sink down 
helpless beneath their burdens. Wlren this is surmounted, 
a narrow shelving path is before them, leading ali>ng the 

B 3 


side of a fearful precipice overhanging the great Aalley. 
In forty minutes we gained the highest point, having an 
elevation of 5600 feet. The view toward the west is now 
very grand, the eye following the windings of the wild glen 
of Humraana till it rests on the bright waters of the great 
sea far below. Half an hour more over bleak and unin- 
teresting ground brought us to the water-shed where two 
wadys commence on opposite sides of a narrow ridge. 
One flows westward, cutting through the mountains con- 
siderably to the south of the road ; while the other runs 
south-east direct to the Bukaa. The ordinary road leads 
down the left bank of the latter, by Khan Murad and 
Mekseh, to the plain ; but Ave took a path on the right 
bank, in order to Aasit a j)iece of sculpture described as 
lying on this route. 

The eastern slopes of Libanus, from the Damascus road 
southwards, are altogether different in character and 
aspect from the western. The descent is imiform and 
abrupt from the summits to the plain. Few spots are 
capable of cultivation, and the scenery is destitute of that 
boldness and grandeur everywhere seen amid the ravines 
and peaks on the west. About half-way down the moun- 
tain side we found the object we were in search of — the 
figure of a lion rudely sculptured on a rock. After a 
rapid descent we reached the village of Kubb Elias, on 
the border of the plain, at ll'o, one hour and a half below 
the water-shed. Adjoining the village, on the summit of 
a little conical hill, stand the ruins of an old castle, said to 
have been erected by one of the Druze princes of Libanus ; 
and in the side of a lofty cliff, a little to the south, are a 
few excavated tombs, showing that this is the site of some 


ancient town or village. A fine stream flows through it, 
watering gardens and fields below. We rested and spread 
our lunch on its green banks, beside a little grove of 

At one o'clock we again resumed our journey. The 
position of Mejdel, where we intended to spend the night, 
being now distinctly seen behind a little range of hills on 
the opposite side of the plain, we resolved, if possible, to 
take a straight course toward it. The caravan-road passes 
the village of Mekseh half an hour to the north, and runs 
thence toward 'Anjar ; shoiJd we succeed, therefore, in 
our attempt to cross the plain directly, we would consider- 
ably shorten oiu" day's march. We were soon stopped, 
however, in ovir course by canals and marshes ; and it was 
only after a kind of steeple-chace over drains and ditches 
that we regained the great road, beside the bridge that 
crosses the first branch of the Litany, where we arrived 
at 2'30. Here is a fine stream, from thirty to forty feet 
wide, and so deep that it cannot easily be forded, flowing 
lazily through the centre of a plain of surpassing richness 
and beauty. The highest sources of this branch are in 
the neighbourhood of Ba'albek ; and its principal tributary 
is the Kahr Yahfufeh, which descends from Autilibanus. 
On the left bank is a large khan, and a few minutes from 
it is the village of Merj. The elevation of the Buka'a at 
this spot I found to be 2573 feet. After an easy ride of 
tliirty-five minutes more, through fields of great fertility, 
which only require proper cultivation to make them yield 
abundant crops, we reached the bridge over the second 
gi'cat branch of the Litany. The sources of this large 
stream are the fountains of 'Anjar and Shemsin, at the 


base of Antilibanus, about fifty minutes distant. The 
waters unite near a little tell, a quarter of an hour above 
the bridge, and meander across the plain till they join the 
western branch a short distance below Merj. To gain this 
bridge we had kept considerably to the northward, but on 
crossing it we turned to the right, and in twenty-five 
minutes reached the end of the line of little hills behind 
which Mejdel lies. The Damascus road follows a straight 
course to the entrance of Wady Harir, distant forty-five 
minutes. We skirted the end of the hills and turned to 
the right along their eastern base. Leaving the rest of 
the caravan in charge of Nikola, Dr. Paulding and I now 
set off at a gallop that we might have time to visit an 
interesting ruin on the summit of a hill above the village. 
In attempting to scale the steep slope my girths gave way, 
and it was only by embracing my old charger I was saved 
from a summerset over his tail. Notwithstanding the acci- 
dent, we soon reached the summit, and were agreeably 
surprised to find ourselves beneath the crumbling walls of 
a venerable temple. For the chaste simplicity and massive 
grandeur of its architecture, combined with the exquisite 
beauty of its situation, this ruin is not surpassed in Syria. 
The temple, whose ruins now cover the summit of the 
hill and are strewn over the vineyards that clothe its sides, 
is evidently of an early period — considerably older than 
those of Ba'albek and Palmyra, and indeed than most 
others now fomid in this country. Its extreme length 
may have been about eighty feet, and the breadth in pro- 
portion ; but this is only an estimate. The foundations of 
the cell are composed of huge blocks of limestone ; one I 
measured being twenty-four feet long and six higlL These 


project considerably beyond the face of" the walls, but are 
contracted at the top by means of a bevelled moulding. 
The same peculiarity is found in all very ancient struc- 
tures of a similar kind. The interior was ornamented 
with fluted semi-columns of the Ionic order, supporting a 
fine cornice. Between the columns were niches for 
statues. A portico of massive columns stood in front, 
with antce behind. These colmnns are now completely 
prostrate ; but the huge fragments are scattered around, 
half covered with luxuriant vines. One portion of a shaft 
I measured was twenty-four feet long and four feet six 
inches in diameter. The door leading from the portico to 
the cell was lofty and spacious ; the jambs were massive 
monoliths, richly moulded. The view from the ruins is 
magnificent, embracing the whole plain of the Buka'a with 
the noble mountain-chains on each side — northward far as 
the eye can see, and southward till the hills close and form 
the sublime gorge of the Litany. The plain resembles a 
vast lake, so smooth and flat is its surface ; and the strange 
little artificial mounds which here and there appear might 
pass for islands. Often have I sat beneath the shade of 
this old temple, alone and in the company of friends, ad- 
miring the glorious panorama, and gazing alternately on 
verdant plain and rugged mountain-side — now viewing 
the snow-capped summit of Hermon proudly raising its 
head high above the Antilibanus range, and now turning 
to look at its rivals Sunnin and Akkar.'* 

But how came here this splendid monument of the 
genius and taste of a bygone age ? Was it built to stand 

* This is the general name of the loftj' mountain range north of thu 


in solitude, or was it intended to adorn the environs of 
some proud city, and to serve as a monument of the 
wealth and piety of its inhabitants ? Neither on the hill 
itself nor along its base are there any traces of ancient 
structures; but if we turn our eyes to the north-east, 
toward the spot where, some three miles distant, the great 
fountain of 'Anjar bursts from beneath the mountain-side 
and diffuses freshness and verdure all around, we can 
observe numbers of blackened heaps and shapeless masses 
of stone strewn over the smooth plain. An examination 
of this place may tend to solve the mystery. 

On the 19th of May 1854 I visited the foimtain of 
'Anjar and the ruins near it with two friends." I had 
previously known that these ruins marked the site of the 
ancient city of Chalcis, and had read the able article of 
Dr. Robinson in the ' Bibliotlieca Sacra,' on the identifica- 
tion of its position. This Chalcis is to be distinguished 
from other cities of the same name. Josephus mentions 
it as situated under Mount Libanus f and Strabo leaves it 
without a doubt that it was near the Antilibanus, and 
south of Heliopolis.'' That the city stood here will not 
be doubted by any one who will examine authorities and 
visit the spot. We observed at the fountain the remains 
of a larse reservoir intended to raise the water above its 
natural level ; and also traces of an aqueduct running 
along the high groimd toward the ruins. The city itself 
is completely prostrate : the foundations of the walls alone 

* Robert Ross, of Bladensburg, Esq., and Edwin Freshfield, Esq. 
^ Ant. xiv. 7, 4, and Bel. Jud. i. 9, 2. PUny says the territorj' of 
Chalcis is the most fertile in Syria (v. 23). 
'' Lib. xvi. 


can be traced, enclosing a rectangular space about a mile 
in circumference. In the interior are a few mounds 
covered with soil, from which some hewn stones and 
pieces of broken columns may be seen here and there 
projecting. These are the only remnants of palaces and 
temples. The site was well chosen, and admirably fitted 
for the capital of a province. In front is a plain of vast 
extent and great fertility, while close at hand is an abun- 
dant supply of purest water. 

Of the origin of the city nothing is now known, and 
there are no ruins remaining that would tend to mark the 
age of its erection. There are no evidences of very re- 
mote antiquity. Ptolemy, the son of Mennseus, is men- 
tioned by Strabo as ruler of an extensive district of which 
Chalcis was the capital. It appears to have included 
Heliopolis and Ituraa, with the mountain region lying 
between ; but the proper territory of Chalcis was the rich 
plain of Marsyas. embracing the southern part of the 
Buka'a, and probably Wady et-Teim and the Merj 'Ayun.® 
After Syria was conquered by the Romans Ptolemy con- 
tinued to hold his possessions. He was succeeded by his 
son Lysanias, who transferred the seat of government to 
Abila, now Siik-Wady-Barada f and upon his murder by 
order of Mark Antony the provinces passed for a time 
into the hand of Zenodorus the celebrated robber.^ The 
territory of Chalcis was now separated from the other dis- 
tricts with which it had been united under the sway of 
Ptolemy, but it does not distinctly appear who were its 
governors between the death of Zenodorus, B.C. 20, and 

* Strab. xvi. ^ Joseph. Ant. xiv. 13, 3. 

' Id. XV. 4, 1, and lo, 1. Strab. xvi. 


the time when it was given by the Emperor Claudius to 
Herod, son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the 
Great, A.D. 41.^ It may probably have formed part of 
the tetrarchy of Lysanias, who is mentioned in Luke iii. 1. 
On the death of Herod Chalcis was bestowed upon Herod 
Agrippa II., who held it for four years until he was ad- 
vanced to a more important province, when it reverted to 
Aristobulus, Herod's son.^ This is the last notice we find 
of it as a separate principality. It was afterwards consti- 
tuted a part of the Roman province, and received the 
name of Flavia. It would appear that ere many years it 
fell into ruin, or at least dwindled away into an insignifi- 
cant village, as there is no mention made of it in any of 
the Ecclesiastical Notices. Mohammedan writers never 
speak of it ; and the only reference made to the site is by 
Abulfeda, who says that near the village of Mejdel 'Anjar 
are great ruins. He probably alludes to the temple.'* 

This temple doubtless owes its origin to some of the 
princes of the ancient city of Chalcis. It was a common 
practice with the members of the Herodian family to erect 
temples or found cities in honour of those emperors who 
conferred important favours upon them. Perhaps Herod 
Agrippa II., whose taste for architecture is well known, 
constructed this temple as a monument of his gratitude to 
Claudius for bestowing on him the little principality in 
which it was situated. Notwithstanding the most care- 
ful examination I was unable to find a single inscription 
near the ruins, and I have never seen any historical notice 
that would tend to throw light upon the origin of this 

2 Joseph. Bel. Jud. ii. 12, 1. » Id. vii. 7, 1. 

* Tabula Syriaca, ed. Reisk, p. 20. 


temple. The little hill on the summit of which it stands 
forms part of a low broken ridge that runs along the base 
of Antilibanus, but is nowhere joined with it. Farther 
southward it forms the western boundary of Wady et- 
Tehn, and extending in breadth toward Lebanon shuts in 
the Buka'a on the south. The elevation of tliis ridge no- 
where exceeds 400 feet above the plain. 

We will now resume our narrative. 

On descending to the village we found that our party 
had taken possession of a house consisting of a single 
apartment with a stable opening into it. Both were now 
pretty well filled. Horses, donkeys, and baggage-mules 
were crowded into the latter in such numbers that they 
kept up a constant squabbling, and more than once during 
the night did the weaker animals seek shelter in our terri- 
tory : we had no accommodation for them, however, for 
twenty-orm human beings, with thousands of still less 
welcome animals, were here huddled together. Some of 
us were no little surprised, and even shocked, when we 
first observed, from the nature of the ' arrangements made, 
that the whole family, men, women, and children, were 
to be our companions for the night. And feelings of in- 
dignation began to arise when our servants and muleteers 
wrapped themselves in their capotes, and one after another 
dropped asleep at our side. Other incidents occurred 
which did not tend much to reconcile us to these things, 
but they will not bear recital. For a lady, it must be 
confessed, this was rather a rough introduction to Syrian 
life; we said nothing, however, and, only pushing our 
travelling beds as far as possible out of reach of strange 
feet, composed ourselves to rest. 


January hth. — To get up this morning did not require 
any great effort. We were glad when the first dawn 
appeared, for it was the signal for departure ; and we at 
once rode off amid the howling of" a multitude of savage 
dogs, that seemed prepared to resist our farther progress. 
It was not till Nikola had discharged a pistol into the 
midst of them that we were relieved from their fierce 
attacks. In twenty minutes we had crossed the little 
plain and joined the Damascus road at the entrance of 
Wady Harir. Dark threatening clouds now covered the 
mountain-tops, and the thmider rolled ominously in the 
distance, so that we had gloomy forebodings about the 
weather. The dread of rain, for which we were badly 
prepared, made us urge on our horses, and the muleteers 
were soon left far behind. The valley we had entered 
has a general direction of about south-east, winding grace- 
fully between lofty hills. The scenery, though not bold 
or grand, is picturesque: the sides, rising with a uniform 
slope, are clothed to the summit with the dwarf oak and 
hawthorn, and the little side glens up which we got an 
occasional peep are also verdant with evergreen foliage. 
These thickets form an admirable cover for lurking bandits 
and robbers, and are generally well occupied when the 
country is in a disturbed state. For us there was at that 
time nothing to fear, but ere many months had passed 
none could venture through the a'len without a strong 
guard. Since that period it has been the scene of many 
murders, and on one occasion in the avitumn of 1852 a 
large body of regular troops were driven back from it l^y 
the fire of a few rebel Druzes. 

In an hour we reached the water-shed of Antilibanus, 


which is here far to the west of the central chain, and has 
an elevation of not more than 1000 feet above theBuka'a, 
or about 3600 feet above the sea. The whole of this 
western range is covered with forests of the dwarf oak, 
and affords excellent pasturage during the winter and 
spring months : in summer it is burned up by the sun's rays. 
It has no springs of any value, and consequently there are 
no villages and but few cultivated fields. Its greatest 
elevation may be about 4000 feet. 

We now descended for ten minutes by an easy slope 
through a pleasant little vale to the plain called Sahl Ju- 
deideh, which extends a considerable distance to the right 
and left, being altogether about an hour in length. It is 
half an hour in breadth, and has on its eastern side a high 
range of rugged mountains separating it from the plain of 
Zebdany. The loftiest summits of this range are nearly 
6000 feet high. They, as well as the mountains to the 
west, are wholly composed of compact limestone, nearly 
similar in character to that of Lebanon. In the northern 
part of the plain of Judeideh are a few fields of grain, but 
the rest is entirely neglected, though the soil is good and 
water not wanting. Turning due south, we rode across 
the plain diagonally to the entrance of the wild ravine 
called Wadi/ el-Kurn — " The Valley of the Horn." This 
sublime pass is an hour in length, and completely bisects 
the lofty mountain-range above alluded to. Throughout 
its whole length are cliffs of naked rocks, in some places 
several hundred feet high and almost perpendicular. Its 
sides are broken into innumerable chasms and fissures, 
while the jagged rocks assume strange fantastic forms far 
overhead. Tangled brushwood and dwarf oak, here and 


there clinging to the precipices and filling the crevices, 
give greater wildness and grandeur to the picture. The 
frequent windings also present a continued variety of new 
views. In the bottom of the ravine is the bed of a winter 
torrent, whose course, as well as the narrow path beside 
it, is often obstructed by the huge masses of rock that 
have fallen from the cra^s above. 

This pass is the favourite haunt of numerous bands of 
robbers, who take advantage of temporary commotions and 
the withdrawal of troops in time of war, to plunder pas- 
sengers and caravans. The system is carried on with such 
a degree of openness and daring that the bandits are gene- 
rally well known, but the authorities are either too weak 
or too indolent to punish them. They often compromise 
matters by appointing some local hereditary chief guardian 
of the road, to whom they give an allowance for the main- 
tenance of a sufficient number of guards. When payments 
are made irregularly, and arrears allowed to accumulate, 
as often happens, the mode of obtaining redress is some- 
what singular, and quite characteristic of the country. By 
the secret instructions of the chief, a postman is shot or a 
rich caravan plundered, and this is well known to be a 
notification that arrears must be paid up.* 

A quarter of an hour after leaving Wady el-Kurn we 
reached the foot of a low hill, along the base of which the 
winter stream flows to the left, having been joined by 
another descending from a wide cultivated valley on the 
right. The united streams run north-east between swell- 

^ The Druzes have for a loug period been almost the only robbers 
who infest the wild passes of Anti-Lebanon ; and these roads can only 
be considered safe when one of their sheikhs is the recofmised guardian. 


ing liills for about an hour, and then fall into the Barada 
at a ruined Roman bridge, in the foot of the plain of Zel> 
dany. These streams drain the whole region around Salil 
Judeidch and the neighbouring mountains, and yet they 
only flow during a few months in the year, while the rains 
are falling or the snow is melting. Our road now led over 
a bleak hill, covered in some places with corn-fields, and, 
descending diagonally into a narrow vale, brought us in 
half an hour to ' Ain Meithelun, a fine spring beside tlie 
ruins of a large khan. We were now at the base of the 
central chain of Antilibanus, which rose up barren and 
rocky before us ; or perhaps it may be considered that the 
central chain divides into two branches about six miles 
south-west of this place, which then, running parallel some 
twenty miles toward the north-east, enclose between them 
a long irregular valley, in the centre of which is the 
beautiful plain of Zebdany. Both these ranges are inter- 
sected by wild ravines, through which flow winter torrents 
eastward to the Barada. The eastern range is considerably 
loftier than the western, especially north of the Wady 

At the fountain we entered a pass that leads through 
the heart of the mountain, and makes a way for the little 
stream to flow eastward. In three-quarters of an hour the 
pass opened into a fine vale, with corn-fields and vineyards 
along its sides. Turning more southward, we skirted the 
mountain-side along its right bank, and in fifteen minutes 
were opposite the little village of Demas, which is situated 
on a bleak hill to the left. After sweeping through nar- 
row valleys between barren conical hills for three quarters 
of an hour, we emerged on the great plain called es-Sahra. 


Nothing could be imagined more dreary or sterile than the 
view that now presented itself before us. Not a village, 
not a tree, not a particle of verdure appeared to relieve 
the monotonous desolation. In front stretched the vast 
plain itself, of a greyish ashen hue, strewn with fragments 
of flint and limestone. Beyond it rose a line of white 
hills, destitute of features as of vegetation. The only 
object that attracted attention by its grandeur or beauty 
in this immense panorama was Hermon, which towered to 
the sky, far away on the south-west, a magnificent cone, 
covered to its base with spotless snow. Some of us were 
weary with the long ride, and impatient at its monotony ; 
and the sight of this dreary waste did not tend to soothe 
our feelings. The leaden sky, too, shrouded the landscape 
in gloom, while the threatening clouds and the heavy rain- 
drops that already began to fall compelled us to spur on 
our jaded horses. The plain was crossed in an hour and 
a quarter, and we entered among a broad range of chalk 
hills, which rose on each side in conical peaks, sometimes 
of naked rock, but generally covered with loose white 
gravel. Another hour and a quarter was taken up in wind- 
ing through the narrow defiles of these hills, and we then 
reached the summit of a ridge where Damascus, with its 
magnificent plain and forest gardens, burst at once upon 
our view. The scene in itself was almost inconceivably 
lovely, but now it was no little enhanced by contrast with 
the wilderness we had left behind. From other points 
the city and its environs may be seen to greater advan- 
tage ; but though I have visited them all, at every season, 
yet the first impression remains upon my mind still. I 
would not recommend any traveller to approach the city 


by this route ; there is another equally short, and far 
more agreeable. It leads for an hour along tlie verdant 
banks of the Barada, then crosses the river by the bridge 
at Dumraar, and surmounts the last ridge on the left bank. 
A ruined wely stands near the road, on the brow of a lofty 
precipice overhanging the river's bed ; from beneath this 
ruin the finest view is obtained. Damascus, with its swell- 
ing domes and glittering minarets, is at your feet ; the 
Barada, bursting from the wild gorge, meanders gracefully 
tlirough gardens and meadows till lost in the great city ; 
while canals branch out on every side, and carry vegeta- 
tion and beauty far and wide over the plain. 

The rain was now falling heavily, and, stopping but a 
few minutes to gaze upon the magnificent scenery, we 
spurred our horses down the steep slope. The village of 
Mezzeh, situated at the base of the hills, was soon passed, 
and we entered the shady lanes that wind among the 
orchards. In fifty minutes we were within the walls of 
the old city of Damascus. 



Chap. II. 

4v '■■^^' 

Northern Side Arch, East Gate, Damascus. 



Mode of treating these topics — Scarcity of information — Ibn Asaker's 
history — Antiquity of Damascus — Its situation — Its plain — The 
Abana and Pharpar — System of irrigation — Splendid view — The 
streets — Costumes — Mosks — Khans — Private houses — The Harim 

— The house of 'Aly Aga and his tragic fate. 

Anciext Walls : Misrepresentations of travellers — The East Gate ■ — 
Bas-reliefs — Spot where Paul was let down in a basket — St. George 
the Porter — Scene of Paul's conversion — Tomb of Mohammed's 
Muezzin — Muslem tombs — Roman gate — Mosk of Sen^n Pasha 

— The West Gate — The " Street called Straight " — Cemeteries — 
Greek bazaar — The castle — Gigantic plane-tree — Gates — Khaled's 
head-quarters — House of Naaman. 

Walk through the City : Churches and convents — House of Ananias 


— Greek church — Russian schools — Bazaars and trades — Great 
khan — N<ir ed-Din — Slave-market. 
Great Mosk : Triumphal arch — Head of John the Baptist — Ancient 
gate and inscription — Age of the building — Its history and splen- 
dour — Tombs of Saladin and Melek ed-Dhaher — Mosk of Sultan 

It is not my intention to present to the reader a journal 
of any walks or excursions about the ancient city of Da- 
mascus, but to record, in a condensed form, the results of 
observations and researches extending over a period of 
nearly five years. In tliis way repetition will be avoided, 
and a more systematic account given of the topography 
and antiquities, the history and the statistics of the city 
and its immediate environs. No full or satisfactory view 
of these topics has hitherto appeared in our language, nor, 
so far as I know, in any of the languages of Europe. The 
descriptions given by travellers have generally been 
meagre, and always vague, while not a few of them have 
been the creations of poetic imaginations. The remarks 
of the Chevalier d'Arvieux, contained in the second 
volume of his ' Memoires,' are the most accurate I have 
met with, and, having been written nearly two centuries 
ago (a.d. 1660), they are valuable as containing a descrip- 
tion of the city at that period, and of some buildings now 
destroyed. From travellers therefore I have received but 
little assistance. Arabic writers have given fuller details, 
and from some of their works in manuscript I have ob- 
tained much important and interesting information. In 
the first volume of Ibn 'Asaker's great History is a minute 
description of the city at the time it was taken by the 

VOL. I. C 

26 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

No Scripture site is more surely identified than that of 
the ancient Damascus ; and few possess a greater interest 
for the theologian, the historian, or the antiquary. It is 
unquestionably one of the oldest cities in the world, and is 
in many respects one of the most remarkable. It has out- 
lived generations of cities, and has been a witness of the 
stirring events of full four thousand years. It has in suc- 
cession formed an important part of the most powerful 
empires of the world. The monarchs of Nineveh, Babylon, 
Persia, Greece, and Rome, have conquered it ; and it has 
prospered under every dynasty, and outlived them all. It 
was for a time the capital of the vast dominions of the 
Khalifs ; and now the Osmanlis, its present rulers, are fast 
declining, and ere long it may be forced to acknowledge 
other masters. Damascus thus remains a connecting link 
between the most remote antiquity and modern times. 

No city in Syria, none perhaps in Western Asia, pos- 
sesses such advantages in respect to situation as Damascus. 
At the eastern base of Antilibanus lies a plain havmg an 
'elevation of about 2200 feet above the sea. The lowest 
ridge of the moimtain-chain, a barren line of chalky hiUs, 
runs from the foot of Hermon in a direction north-east by 
east, forming the north-western boimdary of the plain. 
On its south side are two low ridges of hills called Jebel 
el-Aswad and Jebel Mania, and in a narrow vale between 
them flows the river 'Awaj, the ancient Pharpar. Far 
away to the east may be seen a little group of conical liills, 
called the Tellul. If a line be drawn through these, north 
and south, till it meet the other sides, forming with them 
a triangle, the plain of Damascus will be circumscribed. 


That portion of it, however, which alone is inliabited and 
in part cultivated, is bounded on the east by the three 
lakes into which the "rivers of Damascus" empty them- 
selves. In form it is a rectangular triangle, its base on 
the south side being about twenty-eight miles long; its 
perpendicular on the east seventeen ; and its hypotenuse, 
along the foot of Antilibanus, thirty-three. Its area is 
thus about two hundred and tliirty-nix square geographical 
miles. The fine stream of the Barada, the ancient Ahana^"" 
descending from the heights of Antilibanus, breaks through 
the lowest chain of these mountains by a wild ravine, and, 
entering the plain, flows due east across it, at the distance 
of eight miles north of its southern boundary. On the 
banks of the river, one mile from the mouth of the ravine, 
commence the buildings of Damascus. The great body of 
the city is on the southern bank, but there is also a large 
suburb on the northern. Without the Barada the city 
could not exist, and the plain would be a parched desert ; 
but now aqueducts intersect every quarter, and fountains 
sparkle in almost every dwelling, while innumerable canals 
extend their ramifications over the vast plain, clothing it 
with verdure and beauty. Five of these canals are led off 
from the river, at different elevations, before it enters the 
plain. They are carried along the precipitous banks of 
the ravine, being in some places tunnelled in the solid 
rock. The two on the northern side water Salahiyeh, a 
large village lying along the foot of the hills, about a mile 

• In the ' Journal of Sacred Literatiu'e ' for the months of July and 
October, 18o;3, I have endeavoui'ed to prove the identity of the " Abana 
and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus," mth the Barada and 'Awaj. A full 
topographical and statistical account of them will thei-e be found. 

c 2 

28 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

from the city, and then irrigate the higher portions of" the 
plain to the distance of nearly twenty miles. Of the three 
on the southern side, one is led to the populous village of 
Daraya, five miles distant ; and the other two are em- 
ployed in supplying the city, its suburbs, and gardens. 
The laws for the proper regulation of the water are most 
minute ; and the system of canals, ducts, and pipes, intri- 
cate almost beyond the power of comprehension. It is 
greatly to be regretted that many of the aqueducts in the 
more remote parts of the plain are now ruinous, and the 
fields around consequently a parched desert. Wlaen we 
consider the great extent of land formerly under cultiva- 
tion, the labour it must have taken to excavate the canals 
and construct the extensive terraces, and the amount of 
engineering skill requisite for the arrangement of the 
whole system, we cannot but estimate very highly the 
industry, enterprise, and talent of the ancient Damascenes. 
The view that presents itself to the eye of the traveller 
as he surmounts the last ridge of Antilibanus, after passing 
the bleak and barren slopes beyond, is rich and grand 
almost surpassing conception. From the side of the little 
wcly^ above referred to the best prospect is obtained. 
The elevation is about 500 feet above the city, which is a 
mile and a half distant. The peculiar forms of Eastern 
architecture produce a pleasing efiect at this distance. 
Graceful minarets and swelling domes, surmounted by 
gilded crescents, rise up m every direction from the con- 

* Well/ is the name given to those buildings so often met with in this 
country, erected over some Muslem saint's tomb, or some spot hallowed 
by tradition. That here spoken of is called Wely es-Seiyar. On the 
summit of the hill, on its north side, the loftiest peak of this range, is 
another, called Wely Nasar. The latter is 1500 feet above the city. 


fused mass of terraced roofs, while in some places their 
glittering tops just appear above the deep green foliage, 
like diamonds in the midst of emeralds. In the centre of 
all stands the noble pile of the great mosk, and near it 
may be seen the massive towers and battlemented walls of 
the old castle. Away on the south the eye follows the 
long narrow suburb of the Meddn, at the extremity of 
which is the " Gate of God," where the great pilgrim 
caravan, on each returning year, takes leave of the city. 
The buildings of Damascus are almost all of snowy white- 
ness, and this contrasts well with the surrounding foliage. 
The gardens and orchards, which have been so long and 
so justly celebrated, encompass the city, and extend on 
both sides of the Barada some miles eastward. They 
cover an area at least twenty-five miles in circuit, and 
make the environs an earthly paradise. The varied tints 
of the foliage, and of the blossoms and fruit in their season, 
greatly enhance the beauty of the picture. The sombre 
hue of the olive and the deep green of the walnut are 
finely relieved by the lighter shade of the apricot, the 
silvery sheen of the poplar, and the purple tint of the 
pomegranate; while lofty cone-like cypresses appear at 
intervals, and a few palm-trees here and there raise up 
their graceful heads. The variously coloured foliage thus 
surrounding the bright city, and the smooth plain beyond, 
now bounded by naked hills, and now mingling with the 
sky on the far-distant horizon, and the wavy atmosphere 
tliat makes forest, plain, and mountain tremble, give a 
softness and an aerial beauty to the whole scene that 
captivates the mind of the beholder. 

The moment the traveller leaves the environs and 

30 DAMASCUS. CiiAi-. II. 

enters the gate of Damascus tlie illusion is gone. To 
those accustomed to the capitals of Europe, with their 
broad streets, spacious squares, and splendid buildings, 
this city must appear filthy, irregular, and even half 
ruinous. The streets are narrow and tortuous ; the houses 
on each side like piles of mud, stone, and timber, heaped 
together without order. A plain portal, or a gaudy foun- 
tain, or a mosk rich in the minute details of Saracenic 
architecture, is the only thing that gives any variety. On 
approaching the centre of the city, however, the stranger's 
eye is soon attracted by the gay bazaars, and by the pic- 
turesque groups that, in their gorgeous costumes, crowd 
them, or lounge in the open cafes. Every Eastern nation 
and tribe has there its representative ; and the whole re- 
sembles a bal costume more than a scene of every-day life. 
There is the Damascus merchant, with flowing robe and 
capacious embroidered turban, sitting with cahn dignity in 
the midst of his goods. Beside him is a Turkish Effendi 
decked in a caricature of Frank costume, badly made and 
worse put on. Here is a mountain prince sweeping along 
in crimson jacket covered with gold embroidery ; the open 
sleeves hang gracefully behind, hussar fashion, while under- 
neath is seen the delicate hues of the rich silk vest. A 
long train of secretaries, pipe-bearers, servants, and guards 
follow him. Yonder is a Bedawy, spare in form and of 
dark visage ; his piercing eye glances stealthily on all who 
meet him, and his step and bearing are constrained ; he is 
dressed in a simple woollen abeih,^ with broad stripes of 

^ The Ahcih, or Mashhk as it is sometimes called, is a square-shaped 
cloali, generally made of goats' hair or fine wool; but sometimes of the 
richest silk, interwoven with gold and silver, and embroidered on the 


white and brown; and a. rope of camel's-hair binds on his 
head the gaj hefiijeh.^ Away beyond Jiim stands a Druze 
sheikh, arrayed in a srorgeous silk robe interwoven with 
threads of gold, and a carefully -folded turban of spotless 
white ; his left hand grasps 'the silver hilt of his heavy 
scimitar, while fierce determination and undaunted courage 
are reflected from his proud features. Here too is a 
Kurdish shepherd, with shaggy sheepskin cap and stiff' 
felt capote ; and behind him marches a stately Persian, 
whose lofty conical head-dress, long tight robe, and flowing 
beard, almost make you believe that one of the monuments 
of Nineveh has started into life again. By the door of 
that cafS is a group of villanous-looking Albanians, with 
their voluminous kilts and faggots of weapons stuck in 
their belts. The strange figures that are seen mingling 
with the throng, enveloped from head to foot in white 
sheets, are women. 

And the bazaars themselves are scarcely less attractive 
than the people that fill them. A long row of open stalls, 
only a few feet deep, extends along each side, and here, 
ranged on rude shelves, are temptingly displayed the 
merchant's stores. Silks, and embroidered scarfs, and 
golden wrought tissues of the city itself; carpets and 
curiously inlaid ornaments and caskets from Persia ; 
shawls from Hind and Cashmere ; weapons of every form 
and character, richly ornamented with gold and gems — 

slioulders. It is universally worn by the Bedawin, and very generally 
by the inhabitants of villages bordering on the desert. Many of the 
desert tribes have a peculiar pattern. 

* The Keftijeh is a handkerchief of silk and cotton interwoven, and 
of the most brilliant colours. It is doubled and thrown over the head, 
so that the long points fall down on each side of the face. 

32 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

such is the varied picture on which the eye rests as one 
wanders amid the gay labyrinth of bazaars. To the Frank 
stranger everything seems new and odd ; and yet he him- 
self is the only object of wonder to the hundreds that 
surround him. The principal bazaars are always clean ; 
and the sloping wooden roofs, though not very picturesque, 
serve to keep them cool in summer and dry in winter. 
The streets are cleaner and better kept than those of most 
Turkish cities. 

Many of the mosks are fine specimens of Saracenic 
architecture, but they are all dirty, and almost all out of 
repair; and they thus appear badly to the eye of the 
stranger, especially so as he can, under the most favourable 
circumstances, only get a peep into their courts through a 
window or half-open door. But a diiFerent impression is 
left upon the mind when the attention is directed to the 
details of these buildings. One cannot but admire the 
chaste patterns of the marble mosaics on the walls, the 
curious interlacing of the stones over doors and windows, 
and the fine proportions and delicate fretwork of the 
tapering minarets. But it is in the magnificence of its 
gateways that the Saracenic architecture excels all other 
styles. The beautiful symmetry of the arch, the deep 
mouldings of the sides, and the rich sculpture of the top, 
far surpass in effect the noblest specimens of the Gothic 
in our English cathedrals. The interior courts, too, are 
fitted up with great elegance, and even splendour. They 
are covered with tesselated pavement : the large fountains 
are of marble, often inlaid with mother-of-pearl and 
porphyry ; and the lower part of the walls are either cased 
with marble wrought in chaste patterns, or with tiles 


finely glazed and ornamented with figures in brilliant 
colours. Where there are porticoes, the columns are 
mostly ancient, of granite, porphyry, marble, or limestone ; 
and in some cases their capitals are bronze. 

Many of the khans, or caravanserais, are spacious and 
substantial buildings ; but, with the exception of the gate- 
ways, they are scarcely worthy of notice in an archi- 
tectural point of view. The domed roofs are supported 
by massive square columns of masonry, and in the centre 
is always a large fountain with an abundant supply of 
water. Along the sides below, and behind a gallery above, 
are numerous little gloomy chambers, where the chief 
merchants of the city deposit their goods. These men 
may be daily seen squatting on wooden platforms beside 
the doors of their magazines, smoking their nargilies,'^ or 
going through the lengthened process of sale to some 
grave-looking customers. A cafegee, or coffee-maker, is 
continually on the move, with his dirty copper pot and 
tiny cups, to supply the people with their favourite 
beverage. The pipe-bearers are ever washing and baking 
the tobacco, to replenish the bowls of nargilies ; and, to 
vary the scene a little, the sherbet-seller occasionally 
makes his appearance with a huge bottle strung round his 
neck, and brass cups jingling in his hand. 

But the chief glory of Damascus is in the splendour of 

5 The Narcjllij is so constructed that the smoke before it is inhaled 
passes through water. The bowl is of brass or silver, attached to a 
handsome glass bottle, having a long elastic tube. These are some- 
times of great beauty, and cost as much as 2000 piasters. There is 
another kind composed of a cocoa-nut shell, with two tubes fastened 
into it in the form of a V. On the top of one is the bowl, and of the 
other the mouthpiece. 

c 3 

34 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

Its private liouses. No contrast could be greater than 
that between the exterior and the interior. The iiTegular 
mud walls, and rickety -looking projecting upper chambers, 
give but poor promise of splendour within. The entrance 
is by a mean doorway into a narrow and winding passage, 
or sometimes a plain stable-yard. Passing this, the outer 
court is gained. Here is a variegated pavement of black 
and white stones, intermixed with pieces of marble, taste- 
fully designed. A fountain sparkles in the midst, shaded 
by evergreens and flowering shrubs ; and at one side is an 
open alcove, called a letvan, with a light and beautifully 
ornamented arch supporting the exterior wall. The floor 
is of marble of different colours, and a raised dais, covered 
with soft cushions of silk, surrounds the three sides. The 
chambers and halls in this court are all occupied by the 
master and his men-servants : here he receives his visitors, 
and to this alone are strangers ever admitted. Another 
winding passage opens from this to the inner or chief 
court, called the harim, whose door is kept by eunuchs. 
It is when this court is gained that the splendour of the 
mansion first bursts upon the view. 

That the reader may have some real object before him, 
I will endeavour to introduce him to a harim which I 
have myself often visited, and have been enabled to examine 
in detail. The house is that referred to by Mr. Addison 
in his account of this city.® It was built by 'Aly Aga, who 
held the high office of Secretary to the Treasury under 
the government of Ibrahim Pasha. He was, as J\Ir, 
Addison has stated, a man of enlightened views and great 

* Addison's ' Palmyra and Damascus,' vol. ii. 


liberality for a Mi;slem. A melanclioly interest is now 
attached to his house and history on account of his tragic 
end. He had long enjoyed the friendship and confidence 
of Ibrahim ; but when the European powers had resolved 
to restore Syria to the Sultan, he was suspected of holding 
a treasonable correspondence with the Turkish Govern- 
ment. His haughty master could ill brook the treachery 
of friends when he was chafed by defeat in the field. 
Little time was taken to examine into the truth of the 
accusation, but, almost immediately on the discovery of 
some papers that seemed to imply his guilt, orders were 
given that Aly should be beheaded ; and among the last 
acts of the Egyptian viceroy in this city was to carry the 
sentence into execution. 

The house is now the property of his daughter, who has 
inherited enough of her father's spirit to set light value on 
the absurd laws that make Muslem ladies little better than 
prisoners. To her kindness, and that of her husband 
Othman Effendi, I am indebted for many opportunities of 
examining one of the finest mansions in Damascus, while 
enjoying their hospitality. I will now proceed to introduce 
my reader. 

The interior court, or liarim, is a quadrangle from fifty 
to sixty yards square, with a tesselated pavement of 
marble ; a large marble fountain stands in the centre, and 
several smaller ones of great beauty sparkle around, and 
give a delicious coolness to the air, even amid the heat of 
summer. Orange, lemon, and citron trees, diffuse their 
fragrant odours ; while gigantic flowering shrubs and rare 
exotics are disposed in tasteful groups, and climbing 
plants are trained on trellis-work overhead, affording 

36 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

grateful sliade and pleasing variety. All the great re- 
ception-rooms and chambers open on this court ; the 
former are upon the first floor, and the latter above, 
having in front a narrow corridor closed in with glass. 
On the southern side is the Icwan^ or open alcove, similar 
in design to those found in the exterior courts, but loftier, 
and far more gorgeously decorated. The grand salon is a 
noble room. It is divided into two compartments by a 
beautiful arch richly ornamented with gilt fretwork. The 
floor of the first compartment is of the rarest marbles of 
every hue, arranged with admirable precision and pleasing 
variety in mathematical designs. In the centre is a fountain 
inlaid with mother-of-pearl and rare stones. The walls to 
the height of twenty feet are covered with mosaic in 
panels, in the centre of each of which is a slab of polished 
granite, porphyry, or finely-veined marble, with the ex- 
ception of those in the upper tier, which are inscribed 
with sentences from the Koran, written in letters of gold. 
Several niches relieve the plainness of the walls ; in their 
angles are slender columns of white marble with gilt 
capitals, and the arches above are richly sculptured in the 
Saracenic style. The upper part of the walls is painted in 
the Italian style. The ceiling is about thirty feet high, 
and delicately painted. The central ornaments and cornices 
are elaborately carved and gilt, and inlaid with innumerable 
little mirrors. The other and principal part of the room 
is raised about two feet. The walls and ceiling are 
similar m design to those described, except that the former 
are in part covered with a wainscoting, carved, gilt, and 
ornamented with mirrors. Around the three sides run 
the divans, covered with the richest purple satin, em- 


broidercd with gold, in chaste designs of flowers and 
scrolls, and having a deep gold fringe descending to the 
floor. Though none of the workmanship might bear 
minute examination, and some of those accustomed to the 
chaste and subdued style of decoration in Western Europe 
might pronounce this gaudy and even vulgar, yet all will 
admit that the general effect is exceedingly striking. It 
resembles, in fact, some scene in fairyland ; and one feels, 
on beholding it, that the glowing descriptions in the 
' Arabian Nights' were not mere pictures of the fancy. 
But it is only when the " bright- eyed houris" of this sunny 
clime assemble in such a salon, decked out in their gay 
and picturesque costumes, and blazing with gold and 
diamonds, and when numerous lamps of every form and 
colour pour a rich and variegated flood of light all round, 
to be reflected from polished mirrors, and countless gems, 
and flashing eyes, that we can fully comprehend the 
splendour of oriental life, and the perfect adaptation of the 
gorgeous decorations of the mansions to the brilliant 
costumes of those that inhabit them. 

There are many other apartments in the court, less 
spacious it is true than the grand salon, but no less 
beautifully finished. The style of decoration in this 
mansion may be called the modern Damascene, the paint- 
ing of the walls and ceiling being a recent innovation. In 
the more ancient houses the ceilmgs and wainscoted walls 
are covered with the richest arabesques, encompassing 
little panels of deep blue and delicate azure, on which are 
inscribed, in elegantly interlaced Arabic characters, whole 
verses and chapters of their law. Vast sums of money 
are thus expended, the ornamenting of one chamber often 



Chap. II. 

costing upwards of 2000?. sterling. A few of the more 
wealthy Jewish families have also large and splendid 
residences, but they cannot be compared with those of the 
Muslems. The Hebrew writing, too, which they uni- 
versally put upon the walls, is stiff and formal looking, 
and is infinitely inferior, in an ornamental point of view, 
to the graceful curves and easy flow of the Arabic.''' 


Front Elevation of East Gate, Damascus. 


I will now conduct my reader round the ancient city 
walls, noticing, as we pass along, the several objects of 

' The origin of this rather remarkable mode of decoration is evidently 
to be found in God's command to the Israelites concerning the Law : 
" And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy 
gates " (Deut. vi. 9). The letter of this command is now universally 
obeyed by Christians, Jews, and Muslems in this land. I have some 
doubts, however, that they all rest satisfied with such obedience, and 
overlook the spirit. 


interest in their immediate neighbourhood. It is worthy 
of remark in this place that travellers have generally re- 
presented Damascus as almost wholly destitute of ancient 
remains. Of the accuracy of their statements we shall soon 
be able to form a correct opinion ; and it will then be seen 
that there are in reality very few ancient sites in Syria 
where so many vestiges of ancient splendour still exist. 
Travellers have but a few days, often but a few hours, at 
their disposal for the examination of a large city : they 
have no guide-book, or accomplished valet-de-place, to 
direct them ; and, content to derive their information from 
their predecessors, they take a rrm through the bazaars, 
glance at the spacious khans, and on their way back have 
their wonder excited, or their ardent piety deepened, by 
a view of the house of Ananias, of the spot where Paul 
was let down from the wall in a basket, and of the scene 
of his miraculous conversion ! It is not strange, therefore, 
that real antiquities should be overlooked when no pains 
are taken to search for them. The ruins do not stand 
out here in bold relief from a desert plain as they do in 
Palmyra ; nor do they lift their proud heads in solitary 
grandeur far above the crumbling ruins aroimd them, as 
in Ba albek, Busrah, or Jerash ; they are here encom- 
passed by modern mansions, and almost lost in the laby- 
rinth of bustling bazaars. The richly-^vrought capital is 
often overshadowed by the Saracenic cupola, while its 
shaft is concealed behind piles of costly silks in the stalls 
below. The polished granite is covered with whitewash 
in the streets, and colmnns of marble, porphyry, and verd- 
antique, are shut up from inj&del gaze in the shrines of the 

40 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

We ■will begin our walk at the East Gate {Bah Shurlcy). 
Here are the remains of a splendid Eoman portal, con- 
sistinor of a central and two side arches — the former beinf^ 
20 feet 6 inches wide by 38 feet high, and the latter half 
these dimensions, with 17 feet of solid wall intervening. 
The accompanying elevation and sketches will convey a 
better idea of its original form and present state than any 
detailed description. The central archway is broken at 
the top ; it and the southern side arch were walled up 
before the time of Ibn 'Asaker, and still remain in the 
same state in which he saw them 700 years ago. The 
side arches are both perfect, and are beautiful specimens of 
Roman architecture. For the annexed view of the northern 
side arch, opening into the " street called Straight," I am 
indebted to my friend James Graham, Esq., who at my 
request kindly took the photograph.^ Immediately without 
this side gate a large tower was erected in the early ages 
of Mohammedan rule, to defend the entrance, and flank 
the line of wall on each side. The doorway of this tower 
is on the south side, and thus at right angles to the gate. 
The appearance of the whole structure is now exceedingly 
picturesque, though somewhat dilapidated. The crumbling 
Saracenic battlements, surmounted by the tapering minaret, 
contrast well with the simplicity and massive grandeur of 
the Roman architecture. 

Without the gate is a huge mound of rubbish, wliich 
for centuries has formed the deposit for the refuse of new 
buildings, and the debris of old ruins, within this quarter 
of the city. Recent excavations have shown that at one 

* See sketch at head of chapter. 


time this was the site of furnaces for the manufacture of 
those finely glazed and richly coloured tiles and figvired 
vessels for which Damascus was once celebrated. An 
extensive view of the city and surrounding plain is 
obtained from the summit of the mound. 

About eighty paces from the gate, at the south-eastern 
angle of the wall, are the remains of a very ancient tower, 
with bevelled stones, evidently of Eoman origin. Until 
the time of Ibrahim Pasha's dominion in Syria it was 
almost perfect, but was then destroyed, and the materials 
used in the erection of barracks. It was remarkable as 
having the royal ensigns of France and England — the 
fieur-de-lis and two lions — sculptured in relief over the 
entrance doorway. One of the lions may be seen on a 
slab in the modern wall close by. I have not found 
any statement in history that would tend to throw light 
on this rather singular piece of sculpture. The crusaders 
never had possession of the city ; and the Muslem inha- 
bitants would not sanction, much less erect, such figures. 
The tower was still perfect when the Chevalier d' Ai-vieux 
visited Damascvis ; and he notices these ornaments, adding 
that a large slab of marble, with an inscription in Arabic, 
was placed between the figures. Unfortunately he did 
not copy the inscription.* 

9 'Memoires du Cheval. d'Arvieux,' torn. ii. p. 445. In the old work 
entitled ' Les Observations de plusieurs Singularitez et Choses memor- 
ables trouvees en Grece, Asie, etc., pai" Pierre Belon du Mans,' Paris, 
1553, p. 150, is the following sentence, which renders the history of 
this tower still more interesting and remarkable : — " Du coste de levant 
il y a une tour quarrce, au haut de laquelle ly a une inscription en ca- 
racteres Arahiques, qu'on diet y avoir este mise depnis qn'elle fnt rcp/-inse 
des mains des Chrestiens : cai- un peu plus bas I'on voit deux liz entaillez 
sur marbre, qui sont les aimes de France ou Florence. Au coste' des- 

42 DAMASCUS. Cjiap. II. 

The wall here turns to the south-west, and runs in 
nearly a straight line for about 380 yards to a gateway 
now walled up, and said to be the spot where the Apostle 
Paul descended in a basket when escaping from the fury 
of the Jews. The identical window from which he was 
let down was shown until a few years ago ! A single 
glance at the masonry of the gate and tower adjoining is 
sufficient to show that they are wholly of Saracenic origin, 
and that not even the foundations here date back to the 
Eoman period, as they manifestly do at most other places. 
Ibn 'Asaker' informs us that this gate was called Bah 
Kisdn, from a celebrated ruler, who erected it in the time 
of the Khalif Moawyeh, in the first century of the Hijrah. 
The Muslem chief, however, must have built it on an 
ancient site, for the same authority states that this was 
one of the original gateways, and was dedicated to Saturn, 
a statue of which god once surmounted it. It was walled 
up before the time of the historian, and so it has ever 
since remained. 

About forty yards in front of the gate is a small cupola 
of wood, covering a tomb, said to be that of St. George 
the Porter, who aided the apostle in his flight, and became 
a martyr to his benevolence ! His memory and his sepul- 
chre are still venerated ; and the body of every Christian 

quelles est un lion, qui a faict penser k plusieurs que ce fussent les 
armoires de France et Florence." Can it be that at the time the 
crusaders besieged the city they captured this strong tower, and re- 
tained it for a time in their hands ? This seems to me the only way in 
which this singular piece of sculpture, with the Arabic inscription, can 
be accounted for. Belon travelled about the middle of the 16th 

' Histoi'y of Damascus, MS., vol. i. 


who dies in the city, before it is consigned to its final 
resting-place, is brought to this spot, and prayers offered 
lip for the soul of the departed. 

Half a mile to the eastward are the Christian cemeteries, 
beside which the Damascus priesthood have, for their 
own convenience and advantage, within the last century, 
located the scene of Paul's conversion. In the days of 
tlie Crusaders, as we learn from De Vitry,^ the spot where 
the miracle was enacted was believed to be near the vil- 
lage of Kaukaba, between two little hills, about six miles 
west of the city, on the great road to Jerusalem ; and the 
tradition remained vmdisturbed for more than five centu- 
ries, for this is the place that was shown to D'Arvieux.^ 
This spot being too far distant for pilgrims to walk, or 
holy fathers to conduct them, and, besides, the whole 
western part of the city being inhabited by bigoted Mus- 
lems, it has been deemed advisable of late to transfer the 
scene to the eastward. Sceptics may smile at the absurdity 
of placing it on the east side of the city, while the great 
road to Jerusalem runs westward ; but the faithful can 
reply, as some have done with regard to the Church of 
the Holy Sepulchre, that the very unlikelihood of its 
situation forms a convincing argument in favour of its 
genuineness ! 

Continuing along the wall 250 yards farther, we observe, 
a short distance on the left, a white-domed tomb, and near 
it a lofty minaret, standing all solitary in the corner of a 
field. This is the tomb of Bilal el-Habashy^ Mohammed's 

^ Jac. de Vitr. Hist. Jerua., in 'Gesta Dei per Francos,' p. 1073. 
^ Me'moires, torn. ii. p. 457. 

44 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

muezzin ; and tliis minaret had attached to it a mosk, 
which was erected in honour of him. 

For nearly 400 yards farther we skirt the old wall, 
turning gradually westward, and then west by north, till 
we reach a great suburb. Here, on the right of the road, 
is a heap of rubbish, which almost hides the walls from 
view, but on surmounting it we can see their battlemented 
towers stretching away to the north-west, closely lined 
with modern houses. From the east gate to this place 
the walls present one uniform appearance. Two or three 
layers of large hewn stones form the foundations, and 
upon these are reared up masses of masonry of every age, 
from the earliest Saracenic down to the most modern 
Turkish. Towers, some round and others square, occur 
at intervals of about forty yards, but they are now almost 
all ruinous, with the exception of a few between Bab 
Shurky and Bab Kisan. A portion of a tower of superior 
workmanship stands nearly opposite the tomb and minaret 
above referred to, and from an inscription on one of its 
stones it appears that it was built by order of the Sultan 
Nur ed-Din A.h. 564. This is good monumental evidence 
of the truth of Arab historians, who state that N^ur ed-Din 
rebuilt the walls of Damascus. This prince succeeded his 
father in the government of Aleppo and its dependencies 
A.H. 544 (a.d. 1149), and captured Damascus five years 

The suburb we now enter is of great extent, stretching 
westward more than a mile, and southward over two. It 

* A sketch of the history of Nur ed-Din is given by D'Herbelot in 
his ' Bibliotheque Orientale,' s. v. ' Noureddin.' 


is divided, like the city, into quarters or sections, the 
largest of which is called the Meddn/' A wide and com- 
paratively straight street runs down the centre of this 
suburb, and at its extremity is the Bawdbet TJllcih, or 
" Gate of God," by which the great pilgrim caravan leaves 
and enters the city in state every year. 

Passing through a dilapidated gateway, we enter a broad 
street lined with ragged-looking houses, and generally well 
stocked with camels and wild Bedawin. A few hundred 
paces brings us to the great burying-ground called Mak- 
herat Bab es-Saghir, " the Cemetery of the Little Gate," 
occupying a large open space on the left. Here lie the 
remains of some of the greatest warriors and statesmen 
whose names are recorded in Mohammedan history, and 
their tombs are held in veneration to the present day. 
Here sleeps in peace the warlike Moawyeh, the successful 
opponent of 'Aly, the prophet's son-in-law, and the distin- 
guished founder of the dynasty of the Omeiyades. Here 
too are the tombs of three of Mohammed's wives, and 
of Fatimeh, his granddaughter, the unfortunate child of 
'Aly. And here lies Ibn 'Asaker, the great historian, to 
whose writings we are so largely indebted for our kuow- 
lege of the ancient topography and history of the city.* 

Opposite to this cemetery, in the midst of a narrow and 
dark lane, is the ancient gate called Bab es-Saghir, a fine 
Roman archway, opening in a wall of great strength and 
solidity. Within the gate, about ten paces, is another, 

* Medan means " race-conrse." 

® ' History of the Celebrated Tombs and Mausoleums in and around 
Damascus' — an Arabic MS., wiitten about 100 yeai's ago, in my pos- 

46 DAMASCUS. Ciiap. II. 

in the second or interior wall; but, tliougli it seems an- 
cient, it is difficult to determine at what time it was con- 
structed. The city was at one time wholly encompassed 
by a double wall, and, in those places where the suburbs 
are joined to it, remains of both walls are well preserved. 
On the whole eastern side, however, the exterior one has 
been removed, and the moat that encompassed it drained 
and partially filled up. 

Bab es-Saghir is now generally called Bab eshShaghur, 
from the name of the quarter into which it leads. The 
city is here densely populated, and the streets narrow and 
tortuous in the extreme. The people are notorious for 
their turbulence and fierce fanaticism ; and even yet it is 
scarcely safe for a Frank to pass through it unattended. 

Eeturning from the gate to the main street, we force 
our way through crowds of pale citizens, and swarthy 
peasants with huge turbans and gaily embroidered coats. 
The houses on either side are wretched, and seem in the 
last stage of decay; while over those on the right are 
occasionally seen the crumbling battlements of the old 
wall. Presently, however, we emerge on a more inviting 
thoroughfare. Here is a spacious bazaar covered with a 
finely arched roof, and beyond it rise the swelling dome 
and tapering minaret of one of the most beautiful mosks 
in the city. It is the Jdmia es-SunaniyeJi, so called from 
its founder, Senan Pasha, who was civil governor of 
Damascus a.h. 990, and left behind him this splen- 
did monument, with the bazaars around, as evidences 
of his taste and liberality.'' The minaret is conspicuous 

^ A sketch of the life of Penan Pasha is given in the biographical 
work of Mohibby — a fine Arabic ilS. in my possession. From this work 


throughout the city, not only for the gracefulness of its 
proportions, but for the brilliancy of its colour, being 
completely covered with highly glazed green tiles. The 
interior of the raosk and court are tastefully ornamented 
with marble columns, inlaid fountains, and tesselated 

Immediately adjoining this mosk is the ancient west 
gate of the city, called Bah el-JahyaJi, from a village of 
that name which once stood without it. We learn from 
Ibn 'Asaker that this gate originally resembled Bab 
Shurky, but that the central and northern portals had 
been walled up before his time, and only the southern left 
open.^ From the close proximity of the houses I have 
been unable to ascertain how much of the primitive struc- 
ture still exists ; but, according to the testimony of some 
intelligent natives, no change has been made upon it since 
the time of the historian. The upper part of the present 
gateway is modern, and an inscription on the large stone 
laid across it shows that it was repaired by Nur ed-Din. 
A few yards within it is another gateway, also in part 
modern, leading through the inner wall. 

In the Eoman age, and up to the period of the con- 
quest, a noble street extended in a straight line from Bab 
el-Jabyah to Bab Shurky, thus completely intersecting 
the city. It was divided by Corinthian colonnades into 
three avenues, of which the central was for foot-passen- 
gers, and of the others one was used for chariots and 
horsemen proceeding eastward, and the second for those 

it appears that be also ei-ected the great caravanserais at Kutcifeh on 
the Aleppo road, S'as'a, and the Khan et-Tujjar near Mount Tabor. 
^ Histoi-y of Dauiiiscus, vol. i. 

48 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

going in the opposite direction.^ I have been enabled to 
trace the remains of the colonnades at various places over 
nearly one- third of the length of this street. Wherever 
excavations are made in the line, fragments of columns 
are found in situ, at the depth, in some places, of ten feet 
and more below the present surface, so great has been the 
accumulation of rubbish during the course of ages. This 
street was thus a counterpart to those still seen in Pal- 
myra and Jerash ; but unfortunately the devastations of 
war and conquest, and the vandalism of Arab and Turkish 
rulers, have left only a few remnants of its former gran- 
deur. There can scarcely be a doubt that this is the 
" street called Straight " referred to in the history of 
the Apostle Paul.^ Its extreme length is about an 
English mile, and its breadth must have exceeded 
100 feet. 

From Bab el-Jabyah the wall runs north-by-west for 
400 yards to Bab el-Hadid. It is closely lined with 
modern houses, but from the upper rooms of one of them, 
to which I obtained access, I could see that it is here in 
nearly the same state as on the eastern side of the city. 
Parallel to it on the outside is a good street, containing 
some fine mosks and celebrated tombs. Here stands the 
Mausoleum of Abu Obeidah, the celebrated general who 
commanded the Muslems at the taking of Damascus, and 
Avho was the means of saving the city and its inhabitants 
from destruction.^ Near this place also is the cemeteiy of 

® History of Damascus, vol. i. 

• Acts ix. 11. 

* Ockley's ' History of the Saracens,' pp. l.'^7-S, Bohn's edition. 
<■ History of Celebrated Tombs,' &c., MS. 

CuAP. 11. AlfCIENT WALLS. 49 

the Sufiyites,^ among whom are numbered some of the 
most celebrated names in Mohammedan literature. 

Opposite Bab el-Hadid ("The Iron Gate") is the 
Seraiya or palace, now a barrack, but still containing the 
official residence of the Seraskier, or commander-in-chief 
in Syria. It is a spacious quadrangle surrounded with 
plain buildings. In a line with it, extending westward, 
are three other large barracks, erected by Ibrahim Pasha. 

At Bab el-Hadid the wall is double, and there are, 
consequently, two gates. The foundations and sides of 
both seem ancient, and in the outer one may be seen 
some finely bevelled stones ; but Ibn 'Asaker states that 
this gate was first opened under the rule of the Turks.^ 
It is therefore probable that it was erected by Niir ed- 

Through this gate we enter a long straight bazaar called 
Suh el-Arwa'm, " The Market of the Greeks." It is one 
of the most interesting bazaars in the city, and well worthy 
of a visit from every traveller, for, in addition to the 

'■^ History of Celebrated Tombs of Damascus, MS. This name is said 
by some to be derived from the word suf, " wool," because the members 
of this sect first used woollen garments exclusively. Others with more 
probability conjecture that it is from the Greek Sojihos. The Siifiyites 
are a kind of Derwishes, who devote themselves to contemplation and 
the study of the abstract mysteries of religion. They are the chief 
devotional writers among the Muslems. — See D'Herbelot, ' Bibliotheque 
Orieutale,' s. v. ' Sofi.' 

* The Turks must not be confounded with the Osmcmlis, who are 
generally called by that name in the present day ; by the Turks, 
Ibn 'Asaker and Arab historians generally mean those wild and war- 
like tribes which issued from the plains of Tartaiy and shores of the 
Caspian Sea, and overran SjTia, Persia, and India. The four dynasties 
of the Atabeks wei'e all Turks. Nur ed-Din was the second prince of 
theAtabekian dynasty of Irak. — D'Herbelot, s. v. 'Atrak;' and ' Tiu-ikh 
el-Jenaby,' MS. in my possession. 

VOL. I. D 

50 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

variety of picturesque costumes continually displayed in 
it, the stalls will be found filled with antique armour, 
Damascus swords and daggers, old porcelain of quaint 
form and brilliant colours, weapons of every species, richly 
inlaid with silver, gold, and precious stones, gorgeous 
robes embroidered with gold, Persian carpets and shawls 
of Cashmere and Hind. Venerable merchants sit with all 
the calm dignity of hereditary princes in the midst of their 
wares, and are prepared to cheat and lie with saint-like 
meekness, especially when a Frank is observed approach- 
ing. Five times the value of each article is often de- 
manded, and, if the traveller succeed in obtaining it for 
one-half of the first demand, the owner will give it up with 
a reluctant and resigned air, swearing that he is a loser by 
the bargain. 

Beside this bazaar may be seen the lofty walls of the 
castle, rising high above the modern houses. This is a 
large and massive quadrangular building, situated at the 
north-western angle of the city. It is about 280 yards 
long by 200 broad, and has on each side three heavy 
square towers, and at each end two, besides the four at the 
angles. The whole is encompassed by a deep moat, which 
can be filled from the river. The exterior walls are in 
good repair, and present a rather formidable aspect, from 
their great height and massive flanking towers. It is 
not easy to determine their date, nor to say whether the 
Romans, the Byzantines, or the Saracens contributed most 
to them. The foundations are certainly not later than the 
Roman age, and it is probable that most of the stones of 
which the superstructure is now composed were hewn 
previous to the Mohammedan conquest. The masonry is 


in general what is called rustic; at the north-ea.stcrn 
angle, however, it is different, being composed of stones 
of various sizes intermixed with fragments of columns. 
Here formerly stood the principal tower or keep, and 
against it were directed the whole forces of Timur after 
he had captured the city. It was long and ably defended 
by its heroic governor, but, being at last undermined, 
it fell to the ground, and the garrison was forced to 

Though the exterior seems so formidable, the interior 
presents nothing to the eye but heaps of rubbish, covering 
the quadrangle, within ragged-looking walls. The castle 
is in fact a mere shell. A few large vaults beneath the 
exterior ramparts are still kept in repair, and here is now 
the city magazine : here also are some remnants of the 
ancient armoury, containing arrows and a few other wea- 
pons. So late as the time of the Chevalier d'Arvieux 
the interior was occupied with buildings of great beauty, 
encompassing a spacious court. At the farther end of 
this court was the great council-chamber, whose walls 
and ceiling were covered with the richest arabesque, and 
inscribed with sentences from the Koran written in letters 
of gold,^ These buildings have been all destroyed since 
his time, and the Janissaries who inhabited them were 
murdered or banished, because, from the strength of their 
position, they were sometimes led to defy the Turkish 

In following the line of the city walls, we had reached 
the south-western angle of the castle ; we must now pass 

' Memoires, torn. ii. pp. 449-50. 

D 2 

52 DAMASCrS. Chap. II. 

round to the north-eastern angle, where the wall again 
commences. Two roads lead to this point, either of which 
the traveller may follow. The one is within the city, 
along the Suk el-Arwam, and past the eastern and prin- 
cipal gate of the castle, where the best view is obtained of 
that building. The other is without the walls, leading by 
the gate of the palace, and the western portal of the castle, 
to the saddlers' bazaar. On leaving this bazaar a gigantic 
plane-tree, nearly 40 feet in circumference, may be seen 
on the side of the pathway. We now follow an open 
street, in a direction nearly east, for some 300 yards, and 
then turn suddenly to the right into the shoe-bazaar. 
Here is a large eafS deserving of a visit, as it has plat- 
forms and terraces overhancrinsf the river, which command 
a good view of the northern wall of the castle and the 
north-eastern angle where the city wall joins it. 

A few yards from the door of the cafe, and about fifty 
from the castle, is the gate called Bab el-Far aj, said to 
have been first opened by Nur ed-Din. A triple wall de- 
fended the city on this side, and the three gates, one 
within the other, are still perfect; but houses and bazaars 
are so closely huddled together, that it is impossible to 
ascertain whether all the walls now exist : the outer one, 
which follows the right bank of the river, is still in tole- 
rable preservation. 

Proceeding eastward from hence along a narrow street, 
lined with good houses, we reach Bab el-Far adis, " the 
Garden Gate." This is a fine Eoman archway, leading 
through a wall of great thickness, and built of massive 
blocks of hewn stone. It is one of the ancient gates of 
the city, and was dedicated to the moon. About twenty 


yards in front of it is another gate, called Bah el-Amdra, 
in the outer wall : this is of Saracenic workmanship, and 
has a fragment of a heavy column across the top, instead 
of the more usual arch. About ten yards within Bab el- 
Faradis is a plain but beautiful gateway, different in form 
from all the others, being rectangular, and having a deep 
moulding round the top and sides. This is probably the 
gate referred to by Ibn 'Asaker, as also called Bab el- 
Far adis.^ 

The street Bein esSurein'' extends from this place to 
Bab es-Salam. In passing along it we have the outer 
wall a sliort distance on our left, close to the side of the 
Barada. The private houses are built so near it that it 
cannot be seen except by entering them. The inner walls 
are on the right, but are, I believe, almost completely de- 
stroyed. The river washes the foundations of the outer 
wall from the castle to Bab es-Salam, and beyond it, on 
its left bank, is an extensive suburb, extending up a gentle 
slope for nearly half a mile. At this gate, however, the 
houses abruptly terminate, and the ancient walls still form 
the boundaries of the city on the whole eastern side. 

Bab es-Saldm, " the gate of peace," is a Saracenic struc- 
ture, erected probably in the days of Nur ed-Din. It 
received its modern name from the fact that, when the 
city was invested by the Saracens, no attack was made at 
this place in consequence of the strength of the walls and 
the depth of the river. From hence to Bab Tuma the 
canal el-Akrabany runs close to the walls, and the river 
meanders through delightful gardens and fragrant orchards 

^ History of Damascus, vol. i. 

' That is, " Between the two walls." 

54 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

a short distance beyond. During the spring and autumn 
months these gardens form the most delicious retreats 
around the city. In the evenings groups of the citizens 
here squat along the banks of the gently flowing river, 
and, as they lazily inhale the smoke of their perfumed 
nargilies, and silently gaze on the transparent waters, 
realise the acme of Eastern felicity. Music and dancing- 
gu'ls sometimes enliven the scene ; but the thorough 
Oriental is too listless and apathetic to derive much plea- 
sure from these. 

Bab Tuma, " Thomas' Gate," is a fine specimen of 
Saracenic architecture, and is in excellent preservation. 
Over it is an inscription with the name of the Sultan 
Kilawun, and the date A.H. 634. According to Ibn 
'Asaker, it received its name from a celebrated Christian 
leader called Thomas, who fought bravely in the defence 
of the city against the Saracens. A short distance from 
it, on the outside, once stood a large and splendid church 
dedicated to Saint Thomas, which was afterwards seized by 
the Muslems and became a mosk : there are no vestiges 
of it now remaining. The road leading from this gate 
crosses the Barada by a good bridge at the distance of 
about thirty yards, and then runs in a north-eastern direc- 
tion across the plain, forming the great caravan route to 
Aleppo and Palmyra. 

From Bab Tuma the wall continues eastward in a zig- 
zag course for. some 300 yards, and then turns south- 
ward. At the angle is a well-built tower, on which is a 
beautiful Arabic inscription to the following effect : — 
" In the name of the most merciful and gi'acious God. 
Erected in the days of our lord the Sultan el-]\Ielek es- 


Saleh N(?jm ed-Dunya w'ed-Din, in the year 646."^ In 
front of this tower is a large Muslem cemetery, and be- 
side it a collection of tombs clustered together in a white- 
domed building. Here lie the remains of the Sheikh 
Arslan, a celebrated writer and poet of the time of jS^ur 
ed-Din ; ^ while close by is a fragment of a building Avith 
a Cufic inscription, which marks the spot where Khaled, 
called " the Sword of God," established his head-quarters 
when the Saracens invested the city.^ Some distance to 
the south as we approach the east gate, a large, irregular, 
and deserted-looking structure may be seen on the left. 
It is now, and has for a long period been, used as a leper- 
hospital, and is said to stand on the site of the house of 
Naaman the Syrian. Whether the tradition be well 
founded I will not undertake to say, but there can be no 
doubt that there are in several parts of the building evi- 
dences of high antiquity. 


We have now encompassed the ancient walls, and are 
therefore ready for a ramble in the interior. To save time 
we will enter by Bab Shurky. Wliat a contrast do the 
beautiful proportions and line masonry of the old Roman 
portal present to the raggedness and disorder of the street 

* Melek es-Saleh was the grandson of Melek el-'Adel, brother of the 
renowned Saladin. He succeeded his father, Melek el-Kamel, as ruler 
of Egypt and its dependencies, a.h. 635, and died twelve years 
afterward. With him terminated the dynasty of the Eyubites, or 
family of Saladin, in Egypt. — See D'Herbelot, * Bibliotheque Orientale,' 
s. V. ' Saladin.' 

9 History of the Celebrated Tombs of Damascus, &c., JIS. 

' Khaled encamped on the east of the city, and Abu Olseidah on the 
west. — Ockley's Hist, of Saracens. 

56 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

within ! The houses are mean, low, and half-ruinous, 
and the narrow pathway almost blocked up by the groups 
of old packhorses picketed round the open doors. Dogs, 
too, those pests of eastern cities, are everywhere prowling 
about, snarling over a bone, or devouring some abomina- 
tion recently thrown from one of the houses. After pro- 
ceeding a few paces from the gate, a neat doorway may be 
seen on the left opening into a fine court. This is the 
Armenian convent. Farther along on the same side, but 
at some distance from the street, and shut out from view 
by the intervening shops, are the Syrian church and con- 
vent, and the Greek Catholic church, with the residence 
of the patriarch adjoming. These are large and expen- 
sive buildings, sufficiently decked with marble pavements 
and gaudy paintings and silver lamps, but they display 
neither architectural skill in their design nor good taste 
in their decorations. 

About 200 yards to the right of this street, up a nar- 
row lane, is the so-called house of Ananias. It is a cave, 
like ahnost all the traditional shrines in this land, and 
has of late years been fitted up as a chapel by the Terra 
Santa monks. Here are shown the little window through 
which the angel entered, and the precise spot where 
Ananias stood whilst receiving the heavenly message ! 
Beside the cave are the ruins of the ancient " Church of 
the Cross," mentioned by Ibn 'Asaker. Like many others 
in the city, it was seized by the Muslems and long used 
as a mosk before it fell into ruin. 

Continuing along the Straight street for some 500 yards 
more, we have on our right the Greek church of St. 
Mary, a modern building erected on an ancient site. It 


was here the two great Muslera leaders, Khaled and Abu 
'Obeidah, met, when they had obtained access to the city, 
the former by treachery and the latter by treaty ; and 
here, after a stormy scene, during which the lives of the 
citizens trembled in the balance, pacific counsels prevailed, 
and the captured city was equally divided between Muslem 
and Christian. The residence of the Greek patriarch of 
Antioch adjoins the church, attached to which also are 
schools supported by funds contributed by the Eussian 

The street along which we have hitherto walked is, 
like a few of the other principal thoroughfares, called 
es-Sultdny, a word that has the same meaning as " Queen's 
liighway" in England. Travellers generally call it the 
" Straight street," and, as it runs very nearly in the line 
of the ancient via recta, I am not inclined to quarrel with 
the name, though it is unknown to the natives. It ex- 
tends from the east to the west gate. About the centre 
of this street is a fine Eoman arch, whose sides have been 
long since buried beneath masses of rubbish, the debris of 
fallen grandeur. From hence westward the street is 
covered by a sloping roof of timber, and its sides lined 
with little stalls. We now stand on the border of the 
business part of the city, in which are long lines of 
bazaars teeming with the riches of the East, and spacious 
khans filled with the substantial fabrics of Western Eu- 
rope. The whole north-western section of the city, from 
this point to Bab el-Jabyah on the west, and to Bab el- 
Faradis on the north, is thus occupied, only intermixed 
here and there witli noljle mosks and princely mansions 
of the Damascus nobility. Almost every branch of in- 

D 3 

58 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

dustry has its own circumscribed place in the bazaars or 
khans, and we have thus the spice-bazaar, the tobacco- 
bazaar, the shoe-bazaar, the silversmiths' bazaar, and a 
host of others. It is interesting to wander through the 
different markets, and observe the various departments of 
trade and manufacture in full operation. Here are long 
rows of bearded merchants sitting in the midst of piles of 
silks and cotton goods, stately and motionless as the statues 
of the ancient deities in their temple shrines, A few 
steps farther and the scene is changed : hundreds of busy 
hands are engaged in stitching and ornamenting the neat, 
soft yellow slipper, or the curious gondola-shaped red 
overshoes. Let us now pass through this diminutive old 
gateway, and we enter a vast covered area, whose shat- 
tered roof, dimly seen through clouds of smoke, is sup- 
ported here by massive pier and there by stately column. 
The din of hammer and anvil is almost deafening, and 
swarthy figures are seen through the gloom sitting on 
dirty hobs and round miniature furnaces. Heaps of the 
precious metals, and ornaments of various forms and chaste 
designs, are by their side, while diamonds, emeralds, and 
rubies glitter in their hands. Passing through this busy 
scene, we enter another bazaar, no less noisy. Here are 
scores of carpenters engaged in the manufacture of the 
ornamental clogs worn universally by the Damascus ladies. 
Observe how they work, all squatting. One is planing a 
board, holding it with his toe ! Others are carving pieces 
of wood, or inlaying them with silver and mother-of- 
pearl ; and Avhile the hands ply the mallet and chisel, the 
toes do duty as a "vice ! 

Eeturning to the Roman arch in the Sultan 7/, we will 


continue our walk. Following the street for forty or fifty 
paces, through files of tinsmiths and fruit-box manufac- 
turers, we turn to the right and enter a fine bazaar called 
the Bizunyeh, or " Seed-market." Spices, preserved 
fruits, and tempting confections are tastefully arranged in 
the open stalls on each side, reminding one that the glow- 
ing descriptions of the ' Arabian Nights ' are not all 
imaginary. On reaching the middle of the bazaar we 
suddenly find ourselves in front of a noble gateway, which, 
as a specimen of pure Moorish architecture, is scarcely 
surpassed in the world. Its deeply-recessed sides are 
closely set v/ith slender columns of chaste design and 
elaborate workmanship, while the arch over Jiead is orna- 
mented with those finely-carved stalactites and pendants 
that give such richness and aerial beauty to Saracenic 
gateways. Eound the whole is a broad border of fretwork, 
with stones of different colours curiously interlaced : this 
is the entrance to the great khan Assad Pasha. The in- 
terior, though spacious and massive, falls far short of the 
expectations excited by the glowing description of Lamar- 
tine. The splendid dome, which recalled to the poet's 
mind that of St. Peter, resolves itself, when viewed by the 
ordinary observer, into nine rather diminutive cupolas; 
and the granite columns which his fancy pictured as sup- 
porting it are but square blocks of masonry, composed of 
alternate layers of white limestone and black basalt.^ And 
tliis, we may remark, is a fair specimen of the accuracy of 
Lamartine's ' Pensees en Syrie.' 

On reaching the end of this bazaar we have on our right 

* ffiuvres Completes cle M. .\. de Lamai'tine, Paris, 1850, toui. vi. 
p. 67. 


one of the largest and most magnificent houses in Da- 
mascus, belonging to the family of the man who built the 
khan just mentioned. It has seven courts, and salons 
almost without number, gorgeously ornamented with 
marble fountains, and tesselated pavement, and walls and 
ceilings covered with mosaic and arabesque. Turning to 
the left up a narrow street, we soon reach the great 
school established by Nur ed-Din, a prince as highly cele- 
brated for his justice as his warlike achievements. This 
building is among the finest in the city, but is unfortu- 
nately so closely surrounded by mud-walls and modern 
houses as to be nearly invisible from without. The tomb 
of its illustrious founder is on the west side of it, in the 
cloth-bazaar. A short distance from the school, to the 
west, is a fragment of an ancient building, in which, on an 
inverted stone, is a Greek inscription, but a portion of it 
is now covered by a modern wall.^ 

We here enter the mercers' bazaar, and pm'sue our 
course northward, as fast as we can press through the 
crowds of men and strings of laden mules and camels that 
continually throng it. Leaving the custom-house behind 
on the left, and the slave-market on the right, we reach 
at last, after many a crush and jostle, a wide bazaar 
branching to the right and left. Here we terminate our 
walk, and pause for a time to examine the most interesting 

^ The following is the portion of the inscription now visible. As it 
is inverted, it can with clifficvilty be deciphered : — 

enlTwNncpiANTwNIANON ----- 




A I O 

I V B n II o 1 o .-) 








'^ . 


















remains of antiquity in the city, and one of the finest 
buildings in Syria. 


A glance at the accompanying plan '* will enable the 
reader to perceive the point to which I have conducted 
him ; and by occasionally consulting it he will be able to 
follow me while I attempt to describe this splendid 

At the top of the steps which lead down to the book 
bazaar are four massive columns in a line, at each end of 
whicli is a square pier of masonry with a semi-column on 
the inner side. The shafts alone are visible from the 
street, as the capitals rise above the domed roof; but on 
ascending to the top of a neighbouring house, permission 
to do which can be easily obtained by the payment of a 
small fee, the capitals and superstructure can be closely 
examined. These columns supported a triumphal arch of 
uncommon richness and beauty : a portion of it, with the 
frieze and cornice, still remains. The accompanying 
sketch will convey some idea of its present state and 
former grandeur. The length of the structure is over 
80 feet, and the extreme height could not have been less 
than 70. From this splendid arch a double colonnade 

•* For the greater part of the measurements from which this plan has 
been constructed I am indebted to M. Anton Bulad. He obtained 
them from a Christian who was employed by the authorities a few years 
ago to repair the interior of the mosk. This man was not satisfied with 
the genei-al dimensions, but he measured every pillar and every cham- 
ber in the whole fabric. 



Chap. IT. 

Remains of Triumphal Arch. 

leads to the western gate of" the great building — a distance 
of sixty yards. Most of these columns still remain, but 
many are covered by the modern walls. 

The great building itself is a quadrangle 163 yards 
long by 108 wide, surrounded by a lofty wall of fine 
masonry. On the northern side of the quadrangle is an 
open com't, with cloisters round the three sides, supported 
in front by arches resting on pillars of limestone, marble, 
and granite. Many of these columns have, witliin the 
last century, been enclosed in piers of masonry. On the 
south side of the court is the mosk or lidrem^ whose 
interior dimensions are 431 feet by 125. Its whole side- 
wall toward the court is supported on columns, most of 
them being now enclosed in piers. Two rows of columns, 
22 feet high, extend the whole length of the building, and 


support tlie triple roof. These divide the interior into 
nave and aisles of equal dimensions. Across the middle 
is a transept supported on eight massive piers of solid 
masonry, each 12 feet square; and a splendid dome, 
nearly 50 feet in diameter and above 120 in height, 
stands in the centre. The court is well paved with lime- 
stone, interspersed with squares of marble of various 
colours. Nearly the whole of the interior of the mosk has 
a tesselated pavement of marble, now covered with Persian 
and Turkey carpets. The wall of the transept, and the 
piers that support it, are coated with the finest marble in 
beautiful patterns ; while on portions of the wall above, 
and on the interior of the dome, may be seen fragments 
of fine mosaic representing palm-trees and palaces. The 
Minhar or " pulpit " stands between the two southern 
piers that support the dome, and is covered with a canopy 
of green velvet richly embroidered. Between the third 
and fourth columns to the east of these piers is a building 
of great beauty. Its walls are of wood, elaborately carved, 
inlaid, and gilt, with pilasters at intervals ; on the top is 
a cupola of exquisite symmetry, covered with a substance 
resembling tin-foil of a delicate green colour, and sur- 
mounted by a golden crescent. Underneath it is a cave 
in which is placed the head of John the Baptist 1 Ibn 
'Asaker relates of Khaled, the great general, that after 
the capture of the city he visited this cathedral, and 
insisted on obtaining admission to the sacred cave. Hav- 
ing descended, he found a very small chamber with an 
altar on which was laid a golden casket, with an inscrip- 
tion in Greek to the following cfiect : " This casket 
contains the head of John the Baptist, son of Zachariah." 

64 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

He restored the relic to its place, and gave orders for the 
cave to be carefully shut up again,' 

Opposite this shrine, on the other side of the nave, is a 
neat pulpit, elevated on four slender columns, and covered 
with a canopy. From tliis spot the Muezzin on each 
Friday calls the faithful to prayer. Along the south side 
of the mosk are the Mihrdbs, or prayer-niches ; each sect 
of the orthodox Muslems having one for their own use. 

Leaving the mosk by the southern door, called Bab ez- 
Ziddeh,^ we observe two colonnades running southward 
parallel to each other. Following the line of these 
through the silk-thread bazaar, we enter the silversmiths' 
bazaar, to the roof of which we ascend by a rather difficult 
staircase, and from it obtain one of the finest views of the 
southern side of the mosk. Here we see a long range of 
round-arched windows, which, together with the character 
of the masonry, seem to indicate that the whole of this 
wall was erected before the Mohammedan era. At the 
south-western angle is a section of masonry with pilasters, 
of a still earlier date; and on proceeding to the great 
windows in the end of the transept we can trace with 
ease and accuracy the limits of another ancient fragment. 
This latter is of high antiquity, and formed part of a once 
splendid edifice. It was left in its present position in 
order to preserve a spacious doorway whose sides and top 
are richly ornamented with sculptured scroll-work and 
leaves, somewhat similar m design and execution to those 

* History of Damascus, vol. i., MS. 

* This name was given to it because it was not one of the original 
doors of the building, but was added after the Muslems obtained com- 
plete possession. The word signifies " the added gate." 


in the great temple at Baalbek. On each side of this 
door is a smaller one of similar workmanship. The cu- 
cular top of that on the east can just be seen above the 
roof of the bazaar ; but by looking down a little opening 
to a chamber on the west, its fellow may be perceived 
entire. This magnificent portal is not in the centre of 
the building, and could not have been intended for a 
structure similar in design or extent with that now exist- 
ing. Over the door is a cross, with the following inscrip- 
tion in good characters ; but both were evidently added 
at a period subsequent to the date of its erection, and 
inscribed on a place never intended to receive them : — 




This is the Septuagint rendering of Psalm cxlv. 13 ; 
with the addition of the X€ to make it the more plainly 
applicable to Clu'ist. It therefore reads thus : " Thy 
kingdom, Christ, is an everlasting kmgdom, and Thy 
dominion endureth throughout all generations." What 
an inscription to be found in such a place ! Strange that 
the glory of Christ, and the perpetuity of His kingdom, 
should thus have remained inscribed on a building over 
which the Crescent has towered for full twelve hundred 
years, and within whose hallowed precincts the feet of 
Christ's people dare not tread ! Is it intended to humble 
the Christian now ; or is it intended to inspire him with 
new hope? Happy, indeed, would it be for this city, 
happy for this unfortunate land, did the people all acknow- 
ledge this glorious truth ! While descending on one 
occasion, during the present year (1855), from this place. 

66 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

a Muslem Effendy asked me whether I had seen the 
inscription, and if I could interpret it to him. I replied 
in the affirmative, and gave him a literal translation, at 
which he seemed greatly astonished. 

Before the eastern gate, called Bah Jeirun, is a rather 
curious portico. It is shut in by a solid wall at the sides 
and angles ; but in front has six columns supporting semi- 
circular arches ; the central arch being nearly double the 
span of the others. The columns, like those of the 
interior, are Corinthian ; but while the latter are in 
general well-proportioned and finely executed, those are 
of a debased style. The mosk has three minarets. The 
Mddinet el- Arm, "Minaret of the bride," stands near the 
centre of the northern side of the court. It is the most 
ancient of all, having been erected by the Khalif Walid." 
The Mddinet Isa, " Minaret of Jesus," stands at the 
south-eastern angle, and has an elevation of near 250 feet. 
There is a tradition given by Ibn 'Asaker that Christ, 
when He comes to judge the world, will first descend on 
this minaret ; and then, entering the mosk, will gather 
before him Muslems, Christians, and Jews. All being 
assembled, the names of believers will be read from the 
great book of God, when both Christians and Jews will 
learn to their dismay that Muslems alone have their names 
inscribed in the " Book of Life." The Mddinet el-G-Jiur- 
hiyeh, " Western minaret," is built in the Saracenic style, 
and is of exquisite beauty. A more ancient one that 

'' This is perhaps one of the most ancient minarets in the world; for 
according to Arab historians the Khalif Walld was the first who erected 
such structures, and we know that he commenced the repair of this 
mosk very soon after his accession to power. 


occupied its site was burned A.H. 803, and the accident 
was attributed to tbe malice of the Christians, who were 
in consequence obliged to contribute the necessary funds 
for the erection of the present one. 

Such is the present state of the Mosk of the Omeiyades, 
and of the ancient buildings around it. The accompany- 
ing engraving, from a photograph by James Graham, Esq., 
conveys a good idea of the building as it now appears 
overtopping the neighboiu'ing houses. (^See frontispiece.^ 

The style and workmanship of three distinct eras are 
distinguishable in several parts of this mosk and the 
adjoining ruins. We have first the massive columns and 
noble superstructure of the triumphal arch, the portion of 
the wall at the south-western angle, and the splendid 
doorway on the southern side, as types of Grecian or 
Roman architecture. And we have next the exterior 
walls with their semicircular-arched windows, and the 
Greek inscription, as evidences of Christian art. And 
then we have lastly the dome, the minarets, the tesselated 
pavement, the marble fountains, and the gilded crescent 
towerincf hisfh over all, as emblems of Muslem taste and 
rule. And both history and tradition concur in their 
testimony to the correctness of tliis conclusion. The 
Christian and Mohammedan inhabitants wdl imiversally 
tell you that this structure was once a heathen temple, 
and that it became in process of time a Christian church, 
and lastly a mosk. Arab writers of eminence, and of 
almost every age from the conquest to the present cen- 
tury, have furnished ample details concerning its history, 
antiquities, and transmutations ; and they seem to take 
especial delight in giving glowing descriptions of its 

68 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

splendour alike under heathen, Christian, and Muslem 

Of all those wlio have written on this subject, or on the 
city generally, none have ever equalled in minuteness or 
accuracy the celebrated Ibn 'Asaker. The first volume 
of his great work contains a full description of the city 
and its various public buildings ; and from his ample 
details I have been enabled to trace many an interesting 
reUc of former grandeur, and to discover the ruins of some 
noble fabrics hitherto hidden and unknown. The accom- 
panying plan will give the reader an idea of tlie design, 
extent, and magnitude of both the ancient temple and 
modern mosk. Ibn 'Asaker's description corresponds 
exactly with it ; and indeed it was from a perusal of his 
work I was led to explore the exterior colonnades and 
triumphal arches. All the columns and walls shaded 
black in the plan are ancient, and I have myself seen 
them ; many of the other columns still exist, but, being in 
houses, or enclosed in modern walls, I have not been able 
to obtain access to them. 

This historian informs us that on the eastern and 
western sides of the temple were two magnificent arches, 
supported on massive columns, and still existing in his 
day. These were connected by double colonnades with 
the great doors or gates of the temple area, Bab Jeirun 
and Bab el-Bend. The arch on the west, in front of the 
latter gate, I have already described ; and that upon the 
east is represented as having been much more splendid. 
These terminated the avenues leading to the principal 
entrances of the great temple of Damascus. In the 
MS. called ' Fudayel esh-Sham,' written by 'Aly Ibn 


Mohammed el-Mdlehj about a.h. 435, it is stated that 
this mosk was formerly a heathen temple erected by the 
Greeks, who worshipped the seven stars, and prayed 
toward the north. On its western side stands a great 
building supported on massive columns; and on the 
eastern side is a similar one connected with the palace of 
the princes of Damascus. Another celebrated "v^Titer, of a 
later age, says, " On the east side of the great temple 
stood a palace called Jeirun, erected upon columns, as 
some affirm, by one of the genii under the command of 
Solomon ; but according to others by Ad the son of Uz, 
the son of Aram, the son of Shem. Ad had two sons, 
Jeirun and Berid, and for these he erected the two castles 
which still bear their names. He also was the first who 
enlarged Damascus and set up its seven gates." ^ In the 
history of Ibn KetMr ^ we read that " The great Roman 
pediment that stood in front of Bab Jeirun was removed 
by order of Shekar, the vizier of Melek el-'Aadel, 
A.H. 601, and the stones employed in paving the (court 
of the) great mosk." 

At the distance of 120 yards from Bab Jeirun, on the 
side of the street, may be seen a massive column upwards 

8 Gen. X. 21. D'Herbelot, 'Bib. Orient.' s. v. 'Ad.' We here see 
how the Arab historians agree with the account given in the Holy Scrip- 
tures. And it is remarkable also to observe the coincidence between 
their views, as here given, and the statement of Josephus, who says that 
Uz the son of Aram founded Damascus (Ant. i. 6, 4). Can it be that 
the Arab historians were acquainted with his writings ? or had they both 
access to some common authority ? The Arab author above referred to 
is Fakher ed-Din, and the title of his work is ' 'AyHn et-Touwarikh.' 
The author died a.h. 864. 

9 The title of this work is ' El Badayat w'en-Nahayat,' and the full 
name of the author 'Amad ed-Din Ab' el-Feda Ismail ibn 'Amer. He 
was a native of Damascus, where he died a.h. 774. 

70 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

of five feet in diameter. This fragment I had observed 
shortly after my arrival in the city ; but it was not till 
after reading Ibn 'Asaker that the idea occurred to me 
that this might be one of the pillars of the great Roman 
arch. On inquiry 1 learned that another of similar dimen- 
sions stood in the house on the opposite side of the street ; 
and some time afterwards I saw another standing perfect, 
a few yards farther east. Their position answers in every 
respect to the position assigned to the triumphal arch. 
This splendid monument appears to have consisted of 
twelve noble columns in two rows supporting the arched 

A colonnade of large pillars can still be traced for more 
tlian 100 yards to the northward of this eastern arcK It 
then turns westward at a right angle, and continues in a 
straight line until opposite the western arch, where it 
again turns southward. From thirty to forty of these still 
remain in situ, though some of them are mere fragments. 
Whether this vast quadrangle included some royal palace 
or public building, or whether the columns were intended 
to mark the boundaries of the great temple area, it is now 
impossible to determine. It is highly probable, however, 
that there stood here a noble fabric similar in design to 
the Temple of the Sun at Palmyra, with its spacious 
court and magnificent colonnades ; and Avere the modern 
houses cleared away, the eye would perhaps rest on ruins 
as vast and as imposing as those which excite the admira- 
tion of the traveller in the city of the desert. 

Ibn 'Asaker states that the principal entrance to the 
temple itself was on the south side, by a triple gateway, 
and that in front of it was a large area surrounded by a 


double row of pillars. The author of the ' Fudayel esh- 
Sham ' thus writes : — " The worshippers entered tliis 
temple bj a door on the south side, constructed of large 
sculptured stones, and having a smaller door on each side 
of it." This splendid portal, as we have already seen, still 
exists almost perfect, and portions of the colonnades exist 
also. Nearly twenty of the coknnns may be seen in the 
shoe-bazaar opposite Bab ez-Ziadeh, and the whole are 
given in outline on the plan, as it appears they once stood. 

None of these remains of former grandeur are probably 
of an earlier date than the time of the Roman dominion in 
this city, and certainly none are antecedent to the era of 
the Seleucidoe ; but still it is highly probable that the site 
is one which, from the earliest ages, has been occupied by 
the great shrine of the Damascenes. The Greeks and 
Romans always reverenced the sacred buildings of con- 
quered nations; and with an easy liberality they either 
adopted their gods or decided that they were merely 
foreign names for their own deities. Baal thus became 
Helios or Jupiter, and Ashtoreth was resolved into Juno 
or Venus, as fancy or favour dictated ; and so from the 
same analogy may we infer, with some degree of plausi- 
bility, that Rimmon, the Syrians' god, would be appro- 
priated by Greek and RoDian, and the site of his temple, 
in which Naaman was forced to worship witl\ his royal 
master, be had in reverence. 

But however this may be, there can be no doubt that 
on this spot once stood a heathen temple of great extent 
and beauty, which Avas afterwards appropriated by the 
Christians, and converted into a church. Some forty 
years ago, when the raosk was undergoing repairs, Chris- 

72 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

tian workmen were employed in it, and one of them found 
a Greek inscription on a large stone at Bab Jeirun. He 
immediately copied it, and had it translated, but after- 
wards lost the original, and the stone itself was defaced. 
M. Anton Bulad, having heard of this circumstance at a 
subsequent period, applied for a copy of the Arabic trans- 
lation, which is to the following effect: — " This Church 
of the Blessed John the Baptist was restored by Arcadius, 
the son of King Theodosius." ^ Arcadius reigned from 
A.D. 395 to 408, thus commencing his reign about seventy 
years after Christianity was established by Constantino. 
He therefore may have been the first who constructed the 
building for Christian worship, or perhaps he only refitted 
it in a style of greater splendour. It continued to be the 
cathedral church of the diocese of Damascus for about three 
hundred years. 

It remained in the hands of the Christians until the 
conquest of the city by the Saracens, when, in terms of 
the treaty drawn up by Abu Obeidah, and sanctioned by 
Khaled, it was equally divided between the Christians and 
Muslems — the former worshipping in the western, the 
latter in the eastern end. Von Kremer, in his recent 

' The reign of the Emperor Theodosius is one of the most important 
periods of the Later Empire. He adopted the most I'igorous measures 
for the total extirpation of the heathen worship in every part of his 
dominions. In a.d. 381 he prohibited saciifices, and forbade the inqui- 
sition into futuiity. Most of the heathen temples were in his days 
either destroyed or changed into churches; and there can be no doubt 
that in that pei'iod perished some of the noblest structures of antiquity. 
It is very probable that the great temple in Damascus was then pillaged 
and partly ruined, and that his son Arcadius restored it to something 
like its former grandeur, and dedicated it to the service of the true God. 
For the history of Theodosius, see Gibbon's ' Decline and Fall of the 
Roman Empire,' and Tillemont's ' Histoire des Empereurs,' vol. v. 


work on the Topography of Damascus,^ states that it was 
in this church that Khaled and Abu Obeidah met on the 
capture of the city ; and that it was divided because the 
former had entered from the eastern side by the sword, 
and the latter from the western by treaty. This, how- 
ever, is contrary to the statement of Ibn 'Asaker, and of 
Arab historians in general. Almost immediately on the 
accession of Walid, the sixth Khalif of the Omeiyades, 
A.H. 86, he demanded of the Christians that they should 
sell their half of the building. They refused, and 
showed him that, by the words of the original treaty, their 
rights were guaranteed to them. After consultations with 
his ministers, he again summoned the Christian chiefs, 
and ordered them to produce their contract. They did so, 
and he showed them that they held many churches to 
which they had no title, and among others the great 
Church of St. Thomas, outside Bab Tuma ; the Church of 
the Virgin, in which the treaty had been signed; the 
Church of the Cross, near the eastern gate ; and all those 
in the plain without the city. " Yield up your portion 
of the Cathedral of St. John," demanded the Khalif, " or 
I will drive you from every one of these churches, and 
burn them to the ground." Reluctantly they were forced 
to comply, and the Khalif entering the church with his 
troops, commanded them to remove or destroy every 
vestige of Christian worship. Standing on the great altar, 

* ' Topographie von Damascus, Im auftrage der Kaiserlichen Aka- 
deinie der Wissenschaftea, herausgegeben von A. von Kremer. Wien, 
1854.' Only the first part of this work is as yet published (Jan. 1855). 
It contains some interesting information on this city. M. von Kremer 
sjjent some moutlis here. 

VOL. I. E 

74 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

Walid himself directed the work of despoliation. Seeing 
his position, one of his followers, more superstitious or 
more timid than the rest, thus addressed him : — ' ' Prince 
of the faithful, I tremble for your safety, lest the power 
of that famous image beside which you stand be exerted 
against you." " Fear not for me," replied the proud 
Muslem monarch, " for the first spot on which I shall 
plant my battle-axe will be the head of this image." 
Thus saying, he lifted his weapon and dashed the idol to 
the groimd. The Christians raised a cry of horror at the 
sacrilege, but their voices were drowned in the shout of 
the Muslems, " Ullah Hu Akbar." ^ 

Having thus obtained possession of the whole building, 
Walid spared neither expense nor labour in its decoration, 
and is said to have expended upon it a sum of upwards of 
five milKons of dinars ! Twelve hundred choice artisans 
were brought from Constantinople, marble and porphyry 
were imported from Alexandria, and columns valuable for 
their rarity or beauty were conveyed at great expense 
from other cities of Syria. In this warlike monarch's days 
Damascus was the great reservoir for the plunder of 
nations, and much of it was devoted to the ornamenting 
of this mosk, as if the consecration of the booty would 
atone for the sin of robbery. Columns of granite, por- 
phyry, and verd-antique were set up in the court and 
sanctuary. The floor was of" tesselated pavement of rarest 
marbles, and the lower part of the walls similarly adorned. 

^ Ibn'Asaker, vol. i. This historian universally quotes from contem- 
porary authors, or else derives his information from authenticated 


The upper walls and interior of the dome were covered 
with mosaic, in which were figured the sacred cities of 
Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, in the midst of groves of 
palm and orange trees. The numerous prayer-niches were 
set with diamonds and other precious stones of great size 
and price, while around their sculptured arches overhead 
were wreaths of vine-branches wrought in gold. The 
whole roof was of wood, carved and inlaid with gold ; and 
from it depended six hundred lamps of pure gold, sup- 
ported by chains of the same metal." 

Such was this splendid edifice, as described by histo- 
rians of eminence who were eye-witnesses of its magnifi- 
cence. Some little allowance must of course be made for 
the poetical imagination of the Arabs, but still there can 
be no doubt that their accounts are in the main correct. 
Indeed many remains of this splendour may still be seen 
by such as are so fortunate as to obtain admission to the 
mosk. The tesselated pavement is almost entire, the 
columns of granite and porphyry occupy their places, and 
fragments of the mosaic of the walls are visible in the 
transept, but the gold and precious stones have been long 
since removed. The lamps were taken down by the 
Khalif 'Amer ibn 'Abd el-' Aziz, and wisely deposited in 
the royal treasury, and lamps of brass substituted for 
them.^ On the capture of the city by Timur, that ruthless 
destroyer left here as elsewhere fearful marks of his power, 

* Ibn 'Asilker, nt sup. — Fudayel es-Sham, MS. 

' Fiidiiyel esh-Sham, MS. The description given by the author of this 
work may be ranked as next iu interest and luiuuteuess to that of Ibn 

E 2 

76 DAMASCUS. Chap. II. 

and the building has never since regained its former 

The only other buildings deserving of particular notice 
are as follows : — The tomb of the great Saladin, whose 
body was first buried within the castle walls, but was 
afterwards removed to the place, near the great mosk, 
wliich it now occupies. A fine mausoleum has been 
erected over his grave, but it is impossible to obtain access 
to it. A short distance from it, on opposite sides of the 
street, are the mausoleums of Melek ed-Dhaher Bibars 
and his son. These are fine specimens of Saracenic archi- 
tecture. The interior of the former may generally be seen 
through the windows that open to the street. The floor 
is of marble, the walls are covered with mosaic, and the 
ceiling adorned with fine arabesque. Numerous gaudy 
banners and curious weapons hang round the apartment, 
and give a strange wild look to the whole. The building 
was erected, as we learn from a beautiful inscription over 
the doorway, by Melek es-Said, the son of Melek ed- 
Dhaher, A.H. 676. The mosk, school, and mausoleum 
on the opposite side, were erected by the same rider in 
honour of himself! The mosk and hospital of Sultan 
Selim is a splendid structure, and beautifully situated 
on the banks of the river west of the city. In the 
interior are some fine colmnns of red and grey granite, 
and one or two of porphyry. From the rising ground 

* See the History of Timur by Ibn Arabsha, or ' Ahmed Arabsiad, 
Vit. Timuri,' ed. Manger, vol. ii. p. 1, seq. Also, ' Histoire de Timur- 
Bec, par Cherefidin,' trad, par M. de la Croix, torn. iii. pp. 320-47. 

Chap. II. SCENERY. 77 

beside this mosk may be obtained one of the most enchant- 
ing views around Damascus. Before you is a little vale 
covered with the richest verdure, through which the 
silvery stream of the ancient Abana meanders on its way 
to the old city. The graceful slopes on each side are 
densely covered with foliage of every tint, from the deep 
green of the walnut to the golden hue of the pomegranate. 
In the background rise the mountains, naked, white, and 
rugged, while in the centre of the range yawns the wild 
gorge through which the river rushes to the plain. 




1st Period : First notice in Bible — When founded, and by whom — 
Tradition of Abraham — David takes city — Ben-Hadad and his 
royal line — Rezon — Samaria besieged — Kingdom of Damascus — 
Elijah — Naaman — Elisha — Hazael — City taken by Jeroboam — 
By Tiglath-pileser. 2nd Period : Fulfiment of prophecy — Fall of 
Assyrian empire — The city captured by Pharaoh-Necho, and by 
Nebuchadnezzar — Alexander the Great. 3rd Period : Damascus 
under the Ptolemies — Gi'owing influence of Rome — Fall of Egyp- 
tian rule in Syria — Division of empire of the Seleucidse — Da- 
mascus again a royal city — Aretas — Fall of the Seleucidse — The 
city taken by the Romans — Pompey. 4th Period : Damascus imder 
the Romans — Cleopatra — Antioch — Strabo's account of the city — 
Nicolaus the historian — Aretas and Herod — Spread of Christianity 

— Paul's conversion — Apollodorus the architect — The city taken 
by Sapor — Odeuathus and Zenobia — Damascus a metropolitan city 

— Captured by Persians — Besieged and taken by Mohammedans. 
5th Period : Under the Arabs — Muslem dynasties — The Crusaders 

— Saladin — The Mamlukes — Origin and history of the Turks — 

— Conquests of Timur — Awful massacre — Sultan Selim conquers 
Syria — Turkish policy — Ibrahim Pasha — Richard Wood, Esq. 

The history of Damascus, if written with that fulness 
which its importance demands, would fill a volume. This 
is a task I do not attempt. A brief sketch of the leading 
events of which it was the theatre is all I aim at. Such 
as have wandered with me among the mteresting remains 
of former grandeur with which this city abounds may 
wish perhaps to know something more of the men who 
erected them. To these I dedicate the following pages. 
The first notice of tliis city in the Bible is in Gen. xiv. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 79 

15, where we read that Abraham, having overcome the 
kings who had pillaged Sodom and carried Lot away 
captive, " pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left 
hand of Damascus." This city must, even in that early 
age, have been a place of considerable importance, since it 
was thus selected to mark the position of another ; and we 
also infer from this circumstance that it continued to 
prosper until the time of Moses, as otherwise he would 
not have referred to it at all. Abraham's steward was 
Eliezer of Damascus,^ and some have hence concluded that 
he was its founder ; but just as well might we say that 
Hagar was the founder of the kingdom of Egypt, because 
she was called an Egyptian.^ 

The description given above of its situation will leave 
but little doubt upon the mind of any student of ancient 
history that this spot would be among the first selected 
for settled habitation in eastern Syria. In the tenth 
chapter of Genesis there is a brief history of the planting 
of the various nations of the world by the posterity of 
Noah, and we observe there that the descendants of 
Canaan peopled the country which was afterwards called 
by the name of their progenitor. It would appear, how- 
ever, that these colonies settled mostly toward the soutli 
and west, occupying the whole region between the Medi- 
terranean and the Jordan.^ North of this section, their 
appropriated territory was confined to a narrow strip be- 
tween Lebanon and the Great Sea ; and, with the single 
exception of Hamath, they do not appear to have had a 
settlement eastward of that mountain-range. 

The countries peopled by the descendants of Shcm are 

' Gen. XV. 2. ^ Gen. xvi. 3. ^ Gen. x. 15-19. 

80 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

not so clearly defined as those possessed by their brethren. 
We read, however, that Aram was a son of Sliem ;* and it 
is well known that the most connnon name of the province 
or kingdom of which Damascus was the capital was Aram. 
The region called by this name was of great extent ; but 
the several sections of it were known by distinguishing 
appellations, z&AramDamesk,^ AramNaliarayim,^ Padan 
Aram^' and many others.^ Gesenius suggests that tliis 
name Avas derived, not from Aram the son of Shem, but 
from Aram the son of Kemuel, and grandson of Nahor.^ 
This, however, is by no means probable ; for in Gen. xxv. 
20, Bethuel, the uncle of this Aram, is called Bethuel the 
Aramean oi Padan Aram ; and it is not very likely that 
the uncle would be described as dwelling in a country 
which took its name from his nephew. Indeed it is evi- 
dent that in Abraham's time the name was applied to a 
very large district, for not only is it frequently mentioned 
in the book of Genesis, but, in the very first place where 
it occurs as the name of a country, another descriptive 
word is added to make it more definite. When Abraliam 
commanded his servant to bring a wife for his son Isaac, 
we read that " The servant of Abraham arose and went to 
Mesopotamia ;" or, as it is in the Hebrew, to " Aram of 
the two rivers." The natural conclusion from this is, that 
Aram was of great extent, including not only Mesopo- 
tamia, but other countries westward ; and that it was 
therefore much too large a territory to have received its 
name from Aram, the grandson of Nahor. 

We have no reason to question, but every reason to be- 

* Gen. X. 22, * 2 Sam. viii. 5. « Gen. xxiv. 10. 

" Gen. xxv. 20. » 2 Sam. x. 6 and 8, &c. 

^ Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon, s. v. DIN. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 81 

lieve, the plain statement of Josephus, that Aram the son 
of Shem was progenitor of the Aramites, whom the Greeks 
call Syrians.^ Aram and Damascus are almost everywhere 
closely connected in the Word of God. "A^am of Da- 
mascus" was the distinguishing title of Northern Syria. 
Isaiah says, " The head of Syria, or Aram, is Damascus ;" 
and wherever this word is used alone in Scripture, it is 
generally intended to designate the territory of Damascus.^ 
These facts tend to verify the statement of Josephus, that 
Uz, the son of Aram, was the founder of this city,^ 

When Aram and his descendants took possession of 
north-eastern Syria, Damascus would unquestionably be 
one of the first positions chosen for permanent habita- 
tion. The wide- spreading plain, luxuriant vegetation, and 
abundant waters, would not fail to attract attention in the 
East. Wandering tribes in search of a country and a 
home were drawn together by the richness and the beauty 
of the spot, and in those early days founded a city which 
has survived the lapse of full four thousand years, and 
even yet retains all the freshness and vigour of youth. As 
it is one of the oldest, it is thus one of the most remarkable 
cities in the world. 

Josephus makes a statement regarding this city which 
he took from the work of the celebrated liistorian Nicolaus 
of Damascus, and which deserves to be recorded here 
because it appears to be corroborated by local traditions of 
our own times. It is as follows: — "Abram reigned at 
Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out 

' Ant. i. 6, 4. 

'■' See 1 Kings x. 29; xi. 25; xv. 18; Isa. vii.; Amos i. 5. In all of 
which passages "Syria" is "Ai'am" in the original. 
^ Ant. ut sup. 

E 3 

82 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans. 
But after a long time he got up and removed from that 
country also with his people, and went into the land then 
called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and 
this when his posterity were become a multitude ; as to 
which posterity of his we relate their history in another 
work. Now the name of Abraham is even still famous in 
the country of Damascus ; and there is shown a village 
named from him ' The Habitation of Abraham.'"^ It 
is remarkable that in the village of Burzeh, one hour 
north of the city, there is a sacred weli/ called by the 
name of the patriarch {Masjed Ibrahim), and held in 
high veneration by the Muslems. Pilgrimages are made 
to it at a certain season every year, and miracles are said 
to be there performed by the derwishes and religious 
sheikhs. The tradition attached to this place is of no 
recent date, for Ibn 'Asaker, who wrote previous to 
A.H. 571, gives a long account of it, and says it was 
here that Abraham worshipped God when he turned back 
from the pursuit of the kings who had plundered Sodom 
and had carried away Lot. The historian, according to his 
usual practice, traces back the tradition through a long 
line of celebrated names to the time of the Prophet.* 

The territory of Damascus was not included in the land 
divided by lot among the tribes of Israel.'' The province 

* Ant. i. 7, 2. The words here given are taken from Kicolaus' 
' General History.' Nicolaus was almost a contemporary of Josephus. 
He was a friend of King Herod the Great, and of the Roman Emperor 
Augustus. He died about the commencement of the Christian era. 

* Ibn 'Asaker's 'History of Damascus,' vol. i., MS. There is also a 
brief notice of this place in the ' History of the Celebrated Tombs of 
Damascus,' a small MS. work in my possession, to which reference has 
already been made. The author gives the names of several writers who 
mention the tradition. 

^ Josh. XX, J Joseph. Ant. v. 1, 22. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 83 

of" Naplitali bordered upon it, and so also did that of the 
half tribe of Manasseh beyond the Jordan ; but neither of 
these included it, in whole or in part. And even the 
couutry promised by God to the Israelities in the Book of 
Numbers, oh. xxxiv., does not embrace Damascus. This 
" Land of Promise " extends as far north as Hamath. 
Lebanon, the valley of Coelesyria, and the great plain of 
Hums, are taken in ; but Damascus, with its territory, is 
left out." 

The next mention of Damascus in the sacred volume is 
in the history of King David. This monarch marched to 
chastise the King of Zobah for some depredations made on 
his territories near the Euphrates, and, having subdued 
him, he found a new adversary in the Arameans of 
Damascus, who came to succour Hadadezer their ally, 
under their King Hadad* (B.C. 1040). These also were 
overthrown by the monarch of Israel, who, to prevent a 
recurrence of the same act, placed garrisons in their 
kingdom. Damascus must at that period have been a 
powerful monarchy, or its king would not have ventured 
to make war on the victorious David. Josephus, on the 
authority of Nicolaus of Damascus, represents Hadad as 
a man of great power, governing an extensive kingdom. 
His posterity, he adds, reigned in Damascus for ten gene- 
rations ; and each of his successors adopted his name.' The 
words of Scripture corroborate these statements, for in the 
reign of Asa, ninety years after David's time, one of the 

7 More full particulai-s will be given on the subject when I attempt 
to define the north-eastern boundaries of the " Promised Land." 

8 2 Sam. viii. 3-6; Joseph. Ant. vii. 5, 2. 

9 Ant. vii. 5, 2. Nicolaus says, "They succeeded one another in his 
kingdom, and in his name ... as did the Ptolemies in Egypt." 

84 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

most powerful monarclis of Damascus was called Ben- 
Hadacl, that is, the "sonof Hadad ;" and the words of the 
passage in 1 Kings xv. 18, do not in reality militate against 
this view. Benhadad might be the son of Tabrimon, the 
son of Hezion, and yet of the seed royal On his accession 
to the throne he would assume the distinctive royal title 
of Benhadad or Hadad, just as each successive ruler of 
Egypt took the name of Ptolemy. 

In the days of the first Hadad, Rezon, a refugee from 
the court of Hadadezer, settled in Damascus with a band of 
followers, and there attained to great power. It would 
appear as if Hadad had been dethroned by him for a time, 
as he is said to have reigned in Damascus ; but the mean- 
ing of the passage may perhaps simply be, that this man 
became a famous general, and that on account of his 
military skill he acquired great influence at court and in 
the direction of public affairs. Or, if we are to take the 
history as given by Josephus, Eezon was only a powerfiil 
chief of banditti, or sheikh of an Arab tribe, who was per- 
mitted by the King of Damascus to live in his dominions, 
and to plunder his enemies.^ 

' Joseph. Aut. viii. 7, 6, There is considerable obscurity about this 
passage, and about the connexion of this man with Hadad the Edomite. 
If we suppose that Rezon really became King of Damascus, as seems to 
be implied in 1 Kings xi. 25, this is directly opposed to the clear state- 
ment of Josephus that Hadad and his posterity were the rulers there. 
Dr. Kitto (Pictorial Bible, 1 Kings xi. 14) shifts this difficulty by saying 
that it is Hadad, and not Rezon, who is referred to as reigning in 
Damascus ; and his criticism is probably correct. Still this is equally 
opposed to the words of Josephus ; for this Hadad was an Edomite, and 
diiFerent from the King of Damascus of whom the historian affirms that 
;^fter his (Hadad's) death his posterity reigned in Damascus for ten 
generations. It also appears from Josephus that the portion of Syria 
over which Hadad the Edomite ruled was at Zobah (Ant. viii. 7, G). 
It appears to me that the solution of the whole matter is simjoly this : 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 85 

Scripture history is now silent as to the affairs of 
Damascus for a period of fifty years. During this time 
the royal line of Hadad occupied the throne, and esta- 
blished the kingdom in strength. According to the 
quotation of Josephus from the historian Nicolaus, above 
referred to, three kings of this family reigned during the 
interval between David and Asa, The latter monarch, 
being threatened by the King of Israel, sent presents to 
Benhadad — the fourth in descent from Hadad — and be- 
sought his assistance against his foe. The latter imme- 
diately marched against the King of Israel, and pillaged 
first the border cities of Dan, Jjon, and Abel, and then 
laid waste the whole provine of Naphtali.^ From this 
period Damascus assumed an important place among the 
kingdoms of Western Asia, and exercised great influence 
on the affairs of Israel and Judah. The jealousies and 
rivalries of these two monarchies generally prevented them 
from uniting against a common foe, and afforded besides 
a favourable opportunity for a powerful neighbour to 
tyrannize over both. The royal house of Hadad were not 
slow to take every advantage of these circumstances. 

About thirty years after the preceding event another 
Benhadad, either a son or descendant of the former, col- 
lected his forces, and, summoning his allies around his 
standard, marched into the land of Israel, and marshalled 

Rezon and Hadad the Edomite became chiefs of warlike tribes who lived 
within the dominions of the King of Damascus, and yielded to him a 
kind of allegiance. They were always willing to fight his battles, when 
they could at the same time revenge their own wrongs. The very same 
policy is pursued in this countiy in the present day. Powerful Arab 
tribes, who own a light allegiance to the Turkish government, are often 
employed to keep open enemies in check ; and this they are ready to do 
if they can thex'eby revenge their own wrongs or secure rich booty. 
^ 2 Kings XV. 19, 20; Joseph. Ant. viii. 12, 4. 

86 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

his vast army around the walls of Samaria. His haughty 
message to Aliab the king bears ample testimony to the 
power he was conscious of possessing ; while the himable 
answer of Ahab but too plainly acknowledged the 
superiority of his foe. But God fought for Israel, and by 
the instrumentality of a little band of warriors destroyed 
the proud armies of Aram. A second time did Benhadad 
try his fortune in the field, but with still worse results : 
his army was almost annihilated, and he himself taken 
prisoner. The King of Israel, however, having still a 
slavish fear of his fallen enemy, contrary to the command 
of the Lord, released him. This act proved fatal to Ahab, 
for three years afterwards he was slain in battle by the 
Syrians on the hills of Gilead. 

The kingdom of Damascus was now of considerable 
extent. Besides its own proper territory, which embraced 
the whole eastern slopes of Antilibanus from Hermon to 
the plain of Emesa,^ it included the greater part of Bashan, 
and even some of Gilead, with the great vaUey of Coele- 
syria. In addition to these, it appears that the Aramean 
kings of Maachah and Mesopotamia were either tributaries 
or close allies. Damascus, in fact, was at this time rapidly 
approaching its highest pitch of power, and the royal 
house of Benhadad its greatest renown. But at this very 
time Benhadad was doomed to death. He had taken ad- 
vantage of the intestine troubles of Israel to plunder and 
lay waste their territory ; and he had also despised their 
God. The prophet Elijah was commissioned to go from 
the desert of Sinai to the confines of Damascus and to 
anoint Hazael king instead of Benhadad. It does not 

* Compare Xum. xxxiv. 9, 11, with Ezek. xlvii. 16, 17, and xlviii. 1; 
and Joseph. Ant. v. 1, 22. 

Chap. III. HISTOEY. 87 

appear from the sacred record liow or where lie performed 
this act. 

Durmg the reign of Benliadad Naaraan was his greatest 
general, and had contrived by his valour and skill to 
advance the power of the kingdom.^ But Naaman was a 
leper. During the predatory incursions of his soldiers into 
the territory of Israel they had taken captive a little 
Jewish maid, who became an attendant or slave to Kaaman's 
wife. Seeing her master's sufferings, she on one occasion 
expressed a wish that he were with the prophet of Israel, 
who she said would speedily cure his fearful malady. 
These words having been reported to !Naaman, he obtained 
letters from his sovereign and proceeded to Samaria to 
Joram the king. Elisha, having heard the story, sent for 
him, and told him to wash seven thnes in Jordan, and his 
leprosy would depart. It was then Naaman uttered the 
well-known words, " Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers 
of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? May I 
not wash in them and be clean ?" At the earnest entreaties 
of his servants, however, he obeyed the prophet, and was 

The Damascenes do not appear to have long entertained 
feelings of gratitude toward the Israelites for the cure of 
their general, for only a few years after this event they 
invaded their country ; and when, through the instru- 
mentality of Elisha, their strategic attempts to destroy 
the armies of Israel were rendered abortive, they sought 
the prophet's life. But the hand of God was interposed on 
behalf of his servant, and the band sent to capture him 

•■ 2 Kings V. 1. 

* 2 Kings V. The tradition regarding the house of Naaman has been 
alluded to under the Antitiuities. 

88 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

was led into the heart of Samaria. " And the Kin^r of 
Israel said unto Elisha when he saw them. My father, 
shall I smite them ? shall I smite them ? And he 
answered, Thou shalt not smite them. Wouldst thou 
smite those whom thou hast taken with thy sword and 
with thy bow ? Set bread before them, that they may eat 
and drink, and go to their master."^ This signal display, 
at once of miraculous power and unusual favour, awed 
and propitiated for a season the powerful monarch of 
Damascus. But the kindness was not long remembered ; 
and the hosts of Benhadad soon again overran Israel and 
besieged Samaria. God once more delivered his people by 
a miracle ; for some strange sounds in the silence of the 
night created a sudden panic in the Syrian camp, and the 
whole army fled precipitately, leaving behind them vast 
stores of provisions and great wealtL'' 

A few years after this event Damascus was honoured 
by a visit from Elisha. Benhadad was then sick, and his 
sufferings not only made him overlook his old enmity to 
the prophet of God, but urged him to consult him as to 
his prospects of recovery. The man who was despatched 
on this errand, was that Hazael whom God had commanded 
Elijah to anoint king over Damascus. He was at once 
recognised, and his guilty designs detected. The prophet 
foresaw and related to him the I'earful acts of cruelty he 
would perpetrate on the people of Israel, and the desola- 
tions he would occasion in their land. The reply of 
Hazael was characteristic of his deep cunning — " Is thy 
servant a dog that he should do this thing ?" Hazael re- 
turned at once to Damascus and that very night murdered 
his royal master.® Thus terminated the dynasty of Hadad, 
* 2 Kings vi. 22. 7 id. ch. vii. ^ Id. ch. viii. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 89 

after a rule of more than 160 years (from about B.C. 1050 
to 890). The princes of this line were warlike, energetic, 
and successful ; and by them Damascus was placed at the 
head of the kingdoms of Western Asia. 

Hazael proved a powerful monarch and an able general. 
The territories east of the Jordan that his predecessors 
had won by the sword he retained ; and all the attempts 
made to recover them, by the united strength of the 
kings of Israel and Judah, were ineffectual.^ His vic- 
torious armies carried desolation into the land of Israel, 
while it was rent and torn by intestine feuds. For thirty 
years did Hazael lay upon them an iron yoke, having 
almost annihilated their armies, and stripped them of every 
means of defence.' The armies of Damascus were vic- 
torious to the borders of Egypt. Gath was subdued, and 
Jerusalem was only saved by yielding up all its treasures 
to the conqueror.^ After a prosperous but bloody and 
cruel reign of more than forty years Hazael died, leaving 
the kingdom to his son Benhadad, who probably, on his 
accession to the throne, assumed the ancient royal name 
(B.C. 840). 

During the reign of this monarch Damascus did not 
retain its former ascendency. The cities that had been 
taken from the feeble hands of the Israelitish kings were 
recaptured by Jehoash, whose warlike son, Jeroboam, 
followed up his siiccesses, and in the end captured this city 
itself.^ After the death of Jeroboam, Damascus recovered 
its freedom, having taken advantage of the troubled state 
of" Israel during an interregnum of eleven years, and the 

9 2 Kings viii. 28 and 29. ' Id. xiii. 3-7. 

* Id. xii. 17. 3 Id. xiv. 28. 

90 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

subsequent brief reigns of weak monarchs. Instead of 
being a tributary and subject province, Damascus now be- 
came a powerful ally to Israel, and recaptured the pro- 
vinces that belonged to Judah on the east of the Jordan, 
with other portions of the ancient kingdoms of Gilead and 
Bashan. Eezin, the last King of Damascus, entered into 
an alliance with Pekah, King of Israel (about B.C. 750) ; and 
these two monarchs waged a long war against Jotham and 
his successor Ahaz, Kings of Judah.* The latter, being 
unable to withstand their armies in the field, was obliged 
to shut himself up within the walls of his capital ^ 
(B.C. 740). 

But before this period the princes of Assyria had begun 
to encroach upon Western Asia. Pul had already plundered 
a portion of Northern Palestine ; and Tiglath-Pileser had 
carried many of the people away captive. Tlie King of 
Judah in his difficulties sought aid from the latter monarch, 
who was not slow to give it. He marched at once across 
the broad plains of Eastern Syria, laid waste the country, 
and captured the ancient city of Damascus. Its monarch 
fell by the sword of the conqueror ; and its people were led 
captive to the banks of the Kir.* 

This was the first great revolution in the affairs of 
Damascus, and the termination of the first epoch of its 
history. The high position it had held as the capital of a 
powerful monarch, during a period of more than three 
hundred years, was now lost, and for long centuries was 
not regained. The striking prophecy of Isaiah was thus 
fulfilled : — " Damascus was taken away from being a city ;" 

* 2 Kings XV. 37. * Td. xvi. 5, 

* Id. ch. xvi. Joseph. Ant. ix. 12, 13. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 91 

or, as he explains the passage in another verse, " The 
kingdom was taken away from Damascus." '' Then, too, 
were fulfilled the words of Amos : " I will send a fire into 
the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of 
Benhadad. I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut 
off the inhabitants from the plain of Aven, and him that 
holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden; and the 
people of Syria sliall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the 

When the inhabitants of Damascus were taken captive, 
colonies from Assyria were planted in their room. The 
city now became a mere dependency of a more powerful 
empire, and for upwards of a thousand years cannot be 
said to have a separate history. It remained a province of 
Assyria until near the fall of that kingdom, which occurred 
in the year B.C. 606, when Nineveh was captured by the 
combined Median and Babylonian powers. During the 
struggles of the monarchs of the East, Pharaoh-Necho, 
King of Egypt, conquered Syria and Damascus.' A few 
years afterwards, however, Nebuchadnezzar invaded the 
country, recaptured the provinces, and penetrated to 
Egypt itself, stripping the Egyptian monarch of all the 
fruits of his great victories. Damascus, with the other 
parts of Western Asia, then fell under the Babylonian 
administration (about B.C. 604).' 

The Assyrian colonies in Western Asia and Damascus 

'' Isa. xvii. 1 and 3. 8 ..\mos i. 4 and 5. 

^ Joseph. Ant. x. 5. An interesting memorial of this monarch's inva- 
sion of Syria still exists in a sculptui'ed tablet at the mouth of the Xahr 
el-Kelb, near Beyrout. 

' Jer. xlvi. 1 and 2. 

92 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

seem to have been but little affected by the almost in- 
cessant wars that deluged the plains of Mesopotamia with 
blood. They were satisfied to be allowed to pass in peace 
under whatever government could assert its superiority. 
Damascus was thus Assyrian under the monarchs of 
Nineveh, and, after an interlude of Egyptian rxile, became 
Babylonian under the Babylonian administration ; and 
when the great Cyrus overran with his victorious armies 
the countries of Syria and Palestine (about B.C. 540), it 
submissively yielded obedience and tribute to Persia. 

During the next two centuries, amid the mighty con- 
flicts of some of the most powerful monarchs that ever 
appeared on the earth, it is not to be wondered at if 
the little principality of Damascus is scarcely noticed on 
the page of history. AVlren historians had such glorious 
themes as the profound wisdom and far-reaching policy of 
Cyrus, and the vast military operations of Darius, and the 
extensive conquests of Xerxes, it is not to be expected that 
they should have wasted their powers on minute and com- 
paratively insignificant details. During this period, how- 
ever, Damascus maintained its rank as one of the chief 
cities of Western Asia. It appears from Josephus that it 
was the seat of a Satrap under the Persian monarchs f and 
when Darius, the last King of Persia, made his great effort 
to repress the rising power, and bar the progress, of 
Alexander of Macedon, it was in this city he deposited 
his family and his treasures. The fate of Damascus, with 
that of the whole of Western Asia, was decided by the 
battle of Issus, in which the army of Darius was almost 

2 Ant. xi. 2, 2. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 93 

annihilated by the Macedonian king. Immediately after 
that battle Alexander despatched Parmenion with a division 
of his army to capture this city and secure the treasures of 
his conquered foe.^ Owing to the treachery of its governor, 
this was speedily accomplished ; and the aged Parmenion 
was richly rewarded by the great booty that fell to his 
own share, and to that of the Thessalians whom he com- 

This was the second great revolution in the affairs of 
Damascus, and may be regarded as the termination of the 
second era of its history. The Persian dominion was over- 
thrown by one stroke, and the city passed under the sway 
of another and a different race. The change of dynasty 
does not seem to have much affected the state of the city. 
It was a powerful provincial capital under the Persian, 
the Babylonian, and the Assyrian monarchs; and now 
under Grecian rule its position was not altered. Syria 
and Palestine were assigned by the victor to the general 
Laomedon, and Damascus became the seat of his sfovern- 
ment. This appointment was continued after Alexander's 
death, when his vast possessions were portioned out by 
Perdiccas.* A few years afterwards (b. c. 320), however, 
the ambition of Ptolemy not being satisfied with the 
ancient kingdom of Egypt, he seized Palestine and Syria, 
after defeating Laomedon in a pitched battle. But he too 
was compelled to yield to the superior force of Antlgonus, 
governor of Phrygia; and thus Damascus again passed 
into new hands (b. c. 314),^ 

* Plutarch, Life of Alexander. 

■* Id., Life of Alexander, and Life of Arrian. 

* Id., Life of Demetrius. 

94 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

A series of wars now followed wliich are almost without 
a parallel in tlie history of the world The brave warriors 
who had been trained up in the armies of the great Alex- 
ander were left without a head. All were accomplished 
generals, filled with the fiery ambition and fierce courage 
of their master, and each in consequence endeavoured to 
imitate his master's victorious career. There was none 
among them to claim by acknowledged superiority of 
genius, and to hold by commanding power, the supreme 
sway. Thus arose those rivalries and fearful struggles 
that for more than twenty years deluged Asia with blood. 
The decisive battle of Ipsus closed the career of Antigonus, 
and destroyed the power of his warlike son (b.c. 301);'' 
while it established the throne of Seleueus, who had as- 
sumed the title of king ten years previously. A new 
allotment of the empire was now made, and Damascus 
was assigned to Ptolemy, while Seleueus held the neigh- 
bouring provinces of northern Syria. ^ 

Damascus was, up to this period, the most important 
city of Syria; and it alone, by singular good fortune, 
almost entirely escaped the ravages of war. Now, how- 
ever, the new and final division of the empire of Alexan- 
der changed the face of Western Asia. Syria was divided 
between the dynasties of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidse, 
and the territory of Damascus with Palestine became 
border land between these rival houses, and was made the 
theatre of many a bloody battle. Selevicus, desirous of 
exercising his influence both in the east and west, resolved 
to establish the seat of his government in northern Syria, 

^ Plutarch, Life of Demetrius. 
'' Rollin's Ancient History, xvii. 1. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 05 

and for this object founded Antioch on the banks of the 
Orontes. The splendour and weahh of this city speedily- 
eclipsed the more ancient Damascus, and it was not till 
near a thousand years later that the latter regained its 
former superiority. 

Damascus and Coelesyria remained subject to the Egyp- 
tian kings for a period of fifty-two years ; after which a 
bloody war arose between Ptolemy Philadelphus and 
Antiochus Theos. Terms of peace were afterwards 
agreed upon, and the daughter of Ptolemy was given in 
marriage to Theos with the half of the revenues of 
Palestine and Damascus for a dowry (B.C. 249). This 
state of things lasted only two years, when the city, with 
nearly the whole of Syria, was seized by Ptolemy Euer- 
getes, son of Philadelphus, in revenge for the repudiation 
and subsequent murder of his sister; but the marriage 
contract formed the ground of a claim preferred by the 
Seleucidse to Damascus and southern Syria in after 

In the year B.C. 223 Antiochus tlie Great ascended 
the throne of the Seleucidae, and two years afterwards 
made war on Ptolemy Philopater, to acquire southern 
Syria. After a series of conflicts, in some of which he 
was successful, he was defeated in a pitched battle fought 
on the coast of Palestine near Gaza, and thereupon made 
peace with the king of Egypt ; renovmcing all claim to 
these provinces (B.C. 217). On the death of Ptolemy 
Philopater war was again commenced, and in the year 
B.C. 202 Antiochus succeeded in occupying Coelesyria 

' Prideaux's Connection, ii. pp. 74-76. 


and Damascus. The king of Egypt being a mere child, 
his advisers were unable to withstand the aggressions of 
Antiochus, and they consequently appealed to Rome, 
whose growing influence now began to be felt in the East. 
A Roman guardian was appointed to the prince, and 
attempts were made to regain the provinces of Syria, but 
in vain. Scopas, the leader of the Egyptian forces, was 
defeated near Paneas, and the remains of his shattered 
army were obliged to withdraw from Syria. Egypt 
never again recovered its former possessions in this 
country. Judaea, stung to rebellion by the cruelty and 
extortions of its foreign rulers, at last rose in arms, and 
under the command of the warlike Judas gained and held 
a kind of independence. Damascus and Coelesyria re- 
mamed subject to the house of the Seleucidse, at least 
nominally ; but petty rulers now began to exercise and to 
claim supreme authority witliin the bounds of their own 
little states. 

From tills time till the whole country fell under the 
dominion of Rome the history of Syria is one continued 
recital of family quarrels, bloody feuds, and devastating 
wars. Damascus retained its importance notwithstanding 
the number of new cities that rose up at the command of 
the first kings of the family of Seleucus ; and when the 
kingdom was rent by the intrigues of Ptolemy Physcon 
and the energy of the usurper Zebina, Damascus became 
one of the seats of government (B.C. 126). And again, 
in the year B.C. 112, when Antiochus Grypus agreed to 
divide the kingdom with his brother Cyzicenus, the latter 
selected this city as his residence. Henceforth Damascus 
and Antioch were the seats of rival factions and aspirants 


ai'ter complete sovereignty. The territory of tlie former 
city embraced the whole of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, with 
a large section of the coimtry east of the Jordan. 

After the deposition and death of Antiochus Cyzicenus 
(B.C. 95) the throne of Damascus was, in succession, 
occupied by Antiochus Eusebes, son of the latter (92-1), 
Demetrius Euchares (91-85),* and Antiochus Dionysius.' 
The last-mentioned, in the year B.C. 84, engaged in a 
war with Aretas king of Ai-abia, and fell on the field of 
battle in the hour of victory. The Damascenes, long 
troubled by the feuds and bloody quarrels of unnatural 
brethren, elected as their king him whom they had just 
conquered.^ Aretas, however, wisely kept the seat of his 
government in his own stronghold amid the rocks of 
Edom ; and it appears that he only kept a feeble garrison 
in his newly acquired territory, for Alexandra, the war- 
like queen of the Jews, sent an army to defend it against 
the attack of Ptolemy Mennseus prince of Chalcis.' 
Chalcis was one of those new states that had sprung up to 
independence in the midst of a troubled kingdom. Its 
site and liistory have already been noticed. 

About the same time that Aretas got the government 
of Damascus, Tigranus king of Armenia was called to fill 
the throne of the Seleucidae at Antioch by a people stung 
to madness by the dissensions and cruelty of their here- 
ditary prmces. This kingdom he held in peace until, 
through Mithridates his father-in-law, he became involved 
in a war with Kome, and was compelled to leave Syria 
that he might defend his native land (B.C. 69). This 

3 Joseph. Ant. xiii. 13, 4. ' Id. xiii. 15, 1. 

« Id. xiii. 15, 1 and 2. a j^j, ^[[i xg^ 3^ 

VOL. I. F 

98 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

opportunity was embraced by Antiochus Aslaticus, the 
son of Eusebes, for preferring his own claims and assuming 
the sovereignty of Syria. Through his influence with the 
Roman general LucuUus he retained his power until the 
arrival of Pompey in Syria (B.C. 65), when he was de- 
posed. With him terminated the dynasty of the Seleu- 
cidai, after a rule of 247 years. 

Lucullus, the patron of the last of the Seleucidse, having 
been recalled to Eome, and Pompey appointed in his 
place to prosecute the war against Mithridates, the latter, 
on his arrival at the seat 'of war, immediately despatched 
two of his lieutenants to take possession of Syria. ^ He 
afterwards detached the celebrated general Scaurus to 
seize Damascus, but on his arrival he found that the others 
who preceded liim had already taken it. After a tour of 
inspection through the neighbouring country he returned 
to the city, where he was soon joined by Pompey himself 
(B.C. 64). Pompey remained here for a time regulating 
the affairs of the newly-conquered kingdom and receiving 
the homage of the various petty princes.^ Syria was now 
constituted a Roman province and placed under the com- 
mand of Scaurus, and Damascus became the seat of so- 

This is the termination of the third great era in the 
history of Damascus. The supremacy of the Greeks was 
now at an end, after having existed for 268 years (b.c. 
333 to B.C. 65), and the warlike Romans assumed the 
sway. Fortune still favoured this ancient city, and the 

* Joseph. Ant. xiv. 2, 3. Appian, Mithrid. 

* Joseph, ut sup. 

^ Id. xiv. 4, 5; and Bel. Jud. i. 6, 3 and 4. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 99 

change of dynasty did not check the steady flow of its 

Scaurus continued at Damascus as governor of Syria 
till B.C. 59, when he was succeeded by L, Marcius 
Phllippus/ and he again was supplanted in two months 
by Lentulus Marcellinus. The latter during his brief 
term of office was principally occupied in subduing the 
neighbouring Arab hordes, and especially Aretas, who 
from his rocky fastnesses at Petra frequently invaded the 
Roman province.^ 

Damascus seems to have been generally the seat of the 
Roman governors of Syria from the conquest till the death 
of Julius Caesar (B.C. 44). For many years after the 
conquest Syria was the theatre of bloody and devas- 
tating wars. The feuds of petty princes, the rivalries of 
Roman procurators, and the hostilities of the Triumviri, 
kept this unhappy country in a state of constant commo- 
tion. The histories of the period are all filled with these 
sad tales ; but the condition and history of this city are 
seldom alluded to. A portion of its ancient territory 
appears to have been seized by Ptolemy Mennasus prince 
of Chalcis.^ He was succeeded by his son Lysanias, who 
held his patrimony until he was murdered by Mark 
Antony through the artifices of the notorious Cleopatra ; 
and the kingdom of Chalcis, with Coelesyria and Da- 
mascus, was then conferred upon the voluptuous queen 
(B.C. 36).^ She enjoyed the fruits of her cruelty but a 
brief period, for Antony soon afterwards, being conquered 
by Caasar, perished miserably by his own hand, and Cleo- 

7 Apijiun, Syr. 51. s i^i. s Strab. Geog. xvi. p. 518. 

' Joseph. Ant. xv. 4, 2, 

F 2 

100 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

patra, to avoid the disgrace of decking a conqueror's bar- 
barous triumph, followed his example. Thus terminated 
ingloriously the royal line of the Ptolemies, and the last 
remnant of the great empire conquered by Alexander was 
absorbed in the dominions of Eome (b.c. 30). 

After the conquest of Syria by Augustus, Mesalla Cor- 
vinus was appointed prefect, and henceforth the seat of 
government was fixed at Antioch, the splendid capital of 
the Seleucidse. Damascus was then the residence of a 
deputy, and the neighbouring districts of Chalcis and 
Abilene on the west, with Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, and 
Batansea on the south, after having been ilirmed for a 
time by Zenodorus, were given to Herod the Great by 
Augustus, and were bequeathed by Herod to his son 
Philip (a.d. 4).^ Damascus was thus ahnost entirely 
surrounded by petty states imder the sway of native 
princes. Of the importance and splendour of the city at 
this period we have a glowing account from the pen of a 
contemporary author, who seems to have visited it. The 
geographer Strabo thus describes it : — " And then follows 
the region of Damascus so greatly celebrated. And Da- 
mascus itself is a city well worthy of high admiration, 
being one of the most magnificent in these climes."^ At 
this time also lived Nicolaus of Damascus, the celebrated 
historian and philosopher. He was a scion of a family 
distinguished alike by wealth and high literary fame. 
His education was received in liis native city, which cir- 
cumstance of itself is svifficient to prove that Damascus 
was not behind as a seat of learning. He early gained the 

* Joseph. Ant. xv. 10, 3, and xvii. 8, 1; and Bel. Jud. i. 20. 
^ Strab. Geog. xvi. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 101 

friendship of Herod, and was introduced by him to Au- 
gustus at Eome. With the emperor he soon became a 
favourite, and on several occasions was the means of pro- 
pitiating him and securing his goodwill to Herod when 
grave accusations had been preferred against that prince.^ 
After Herod's death his services to Archelaus were almost 
as great as those he had rendered to his father.^ The 
writings of Nicolaus were very numerous ; poetry, philo- 
sophy, and history appear to have been treated with 
equal eloquence and research. Of his numerous works 
only a few fragments now remain. Josephus frequently 
quotes from his ' General History.^ 

Wliile Judsea was the theatre of almost incessant wars, 
arising from the jealousies of the Herodian family and the 
private quarrels of Jewish parties, Damascus, under the 
immediate government of Eome, enjoyed comparative 
tranqviillity. On the deatli of the tetrarch Pliilip his ter- 
ritory was annexed to the Roman province,^ which then 
bordered on the dominions of Herod east of the Jordan, 
and on the kingdom of Aretas toward the Arabian desert. 
Herod was Aretas' son-in-law, but through his guilty 
passion for his brother Philip's wife he had, in the days of 
John the Baptist, divorced the daughter of Aretas. This 
act was the occasion of a war in which Herod was worsted 
by the Arabian king. Tiberius the emperor, hearing of 
the defeat of his friend, sent orders to Vitellius, then 
governor of Syria, to march at once against Aretas and to 
send him to Eome either alive or dead. The Eoman pre- 
fect made preparations to obey the orders of his royal 

* Joseph. Ant. xvi. 10, 8 and 9. * Id. xvii. 9, 6, 

* Joseph. Ant. xviii. 4, 6. 

102 DAMASCUS. Crup. III. 

master, but, when about to set out, news reached him of 
the emperor's death. ^ Aretas was prepared to defend his 
kingdom and his life, and, finding that the Eoman general 
had suddenly left the southern part of his province with a 
portion of his troops, he became himself the aggressor. 
From Herod he had little to fear ; and marching across 
the plain of Gaulonitis and Ituraea, he reached and captured 
the city of Damascus. Tiberius died in the spring of 
A.D. 37, and soon after his death the hitherto unfor- 
tunate Agrippa was released from prison and presented 
by the new emperor Caligula with the provinces formerly 
held by Philip, with the addition of the Abila of Lysanias. 
It was two years subsequent to this, however, before he 
proceeded to take charge of his kingdom;- and in the 
mean time Aretas remained in possession of Damascus. 

It was durincr this time that the Christian reliijion 
began to be proclaimed in this city ; and that Paul, while 
on his way to persecute the Church, w^as miraculously 
converted to the faith in Jesus. The above sketch of the 
political history will tend to illustrate the statements made 
in the New Testament in reference to this very remark- 
able incident in the history of the apostle and the events 
that followed it. Paul, after the visit of Ananias and 
the recovery of his sight, commenced to preach the gospel 
in the Je\vish synagogues." But he soon left the city and 
w^ent into Arabia, most probably that he might enter at 
once on his great work of converting the heathen. There 
can be little doubt that the burning zeal and fearless 
preaching of the apostle would soon attract the attention 

7 Joseph. Ant. xviii. 5, t-3. s j^j, xviii. 6, 10-11. » Acts ix. 19, 20. 


and excite the enmity of tlie people of that land. After 
a considerable stay he left Arabia and returned to Damas- 
cus.' This city was now held by the army of the Arabian 
king, and consequently as soon as the apostle began openly 
to preach there the governor under Aretas attempted to 
apprehend hhn.^ The great anxiety thus manifested by 
tlie Arabian governor for Paul's capture cannot, I think, 
be suiBciently explained or accounted for by the hostility 
of the Jews merely. They may have supplied informa- 
tion and stimulated to greater vigilance, but I cannot 
believe that the friendship existing between the Arabian 
monarch and his officers and the Jewish people was either 
so cordial or so intimate as to cause the former to set 
watches on the city gate to apprehend a so-called apostate 
from the Jewish faith. May not the apostle's zeal in 
preaching the gospel in Arabia and in exposing the im- 
moralities and foolish superstitions of its inhabitants have 
drawn attention to him as a man of dangerous character ?' 

' Gal. i. 18, 17. That the above is a legitimate deduction from this 
passage no critic will deny. The Apostle's words are very clear : — 
" When it pleased God .... to reveal his Son unto me, that I might 
preach his name among the heathen ; immediately I conferred not with 
flesh and blood, neither went up to Jerusalem, hut I went into Ai-abia" . . . 
For what object ? Sui-ely the object is here indicated -with sufficient 
clearness. It was to preach Christ's name among the heathen. 

* 2 Cor. xi. 31, 

^ Neander seems to have been the first who cleared up the obscure 
historical point about Aretas holduig Damascus in the time of Paul. 
The reader may see some excellent remarks on this subject in Neander's 
' Planting and Training of the Christian Church,' iii. 2. Mr. Howson, 
in his excellent ' Life of .St. Paul,' says that there are "grave objections 
to this view of the occupation of Damascus by Aretas. Such a liberty, 
taken by a petty chieftain with the Roman power, would have been an 
act of great audacity; and it is difficult to believe that Vitellius would 
have closed the campaign if such a city was in the hands of an enemy." 
This seems very plausible; but if we view it in the light of history, we 

104 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

During the troublous times from the appointment of 
Herod Agrippa till the destructiou of Jerusalem the name 
of Damascus is scarcely found on the page of history. 
Situated beyond the confines of Palestine and on the bor- 
ders of the desert, it was neither in the theatre of war nor 
in the line of communication between Judaea and Syria. 
It thus escaped the calamities which laid in ruins many of 
the cities of Palestine, and on this account aiforded an 
asylum to Christian refugees from that land. From the 
earliest years of the apostolic labours there were some 
devoted Christians in this city, and a large and flourishing 
church was soon established. 

see that in reality there is little depth in it. There can be no question 
that Aretas made war upon and defeated Herod, and that Herod was the 
known friend of Tiberius. And there can be no question that, when the 
governor of Syria was ordered to march against the Arabian king, the 
latter did not submit to Kome, hat practical I y defied the emperor; and 
farther we know from Josephus that Vitellius, the governor, withdrew 
his troops, on the news of the emperor's death, before the object of the 
campaign was gained. If Aretas was strong enough to defeat the king 
of Judsea and friend of Tiberius, and bold enough to defy the emj)eror 
himself, need we wonder that he shovild embrace a favourable oppor- 
tunity of seizing a rich border city ? Or ought we to consider it as too 
daring an act, when he saw the empire suddenly deprived of its head 
and thrown into confusion; and when he saw the army of the deputy 
in Syria removed far from his own territory, and Damascus thus left 
unguarded ? Mr. Howson adds, " It is more likely that Cahgula, who 
in many ways contradicted the policy of his predecessor, who banished 
Herod Antipas and patronised Herod Agrippa, assigned the city of Da- 
mascus as a free gift to Aretas." But this reasoning has no weight 
whatever. Caligula patronised Herod Agrippa, not because he wished 
to conti'adict the policy of his predecessor, but simply because he had 
been one of his greatest friends. Had Caligula desu-ed to bestow Da- 
mascus upon any one, it is probable he would have added it to the 
kingdom of his friend Agrippa; and it is not likely that the emperor 
would have made such an ari-angement as would give to an independent 
prince, who had but lately defied the Roman power, a city wholly 
separated from his own territory by a large section of Agrippa's new 
kingdom. — See ' Life and Epistles of St. Paul,' vol. i. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 105 

While Agrippa ruled over Galilee and the provinces 
east of the Jordan, Damascus continued to enjoy security 
and peace, but on his death (a.d. 101) this city and the 
surrounding country were exposed to the incursions of 
the Arabians or Idumaeans. Some years afterwards Cor- 
nelius Palma, governor of Syria under the Emperor 
Trajan, chastised the Idumasans, conquered the whole of 
the ancient kingdom of Bashan, and constituted it a 
Roman province, with Bostra as capital. 

From this period the various cities and towns of Syria 
began to recruit under the security of Rome and in conse- 
quence of the blessings of peace. The Roman governors 
and procurators showed alike their wealth and their taste 
in the noble buildings they erected and the substantial 
roads they constructed in every part of the land. The 
spacious theatres and marble columns of Bostra, the beau- 
tiful palaces and sculptured hippodromes of Kenath, the 
noble colonnades of Gerasa and Palmyra, and the gorgeous 
temples of Ba'albek, bear ample testimony in the present 
day to the prosperity and splendour of this land under 
Roman rule. Nor was Damascus inferior to any of these 
in the richness of its architecture and in the extent and 
beauty of its public buildings. It may be that some of 
those remains of former grandeur, which, as we have seen, 
are now almost wholly buried by vast masses of modern 
buildings, owe their beauty to the genius and taste of 
Apollodorus the Damascene, the most celebrated architect 
of his age. It was this man who was selected by Trajan 
to construct the great bridge across the lower Danube, the 

* Diou Cassius. 

F 3 


ruins of which may still be seen, and it was he also who 
designed and reared up that splendid column which yet 
remains at Piome, — one of the most interesting and im- 
portant monuments of the classic ages.* The peaceful 
reign of Antoninus Pius (a.d. 138-61) was one of the 
most fruitful periods of temples, and monuments, and 
architectural decorations throughout the whole of Syria, 
and his name may still be seen on some shattered tablet 
amid the mouldering ruins of almost every city in the 

Damascus remained in undisputed possession of the 
Eomans till A.D. 260, when the Emperor Valerian 
was conquered in battle, and taken prisoner by Sapor 
king of Persia. Syria was soon after invaded by the 
conqueror, and Damascus, with other cities, fell into his 
hands. He did not long enjoy, however, his new posses- 
sions, for Odenathus, a citizen of Palmyra, and husband of 
the celebrated but unfortunate Zenobia, not only stayed 
his progress westward, but drove hun back with disgrace 
beyond the Euphrates. Odenathus now assumed, with the 
consent of the Senate, the government of the East (a.d. 
264). He was succeeded by Zenobia, who proclaimed 
herself, in the face of Roman authority, queen of the East. 
The accession of Aurelian changed the face of affairs. A 
short campaign was sufficient to overthrow the armies of 
Zenobia, capture her beautiful desert home, and restore 
the provinces of western Asia to the Roman sceptre. 

When Constantine ascended the throne of the Caesars 
two great changes were effected in the empire. The seat 

* Diou Cassius. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 107 

of government was removed to Constantinople, and Cluis- 
tianity was made the established religion. The numbers 
of the Christian communities in the various provinces of 
the empire were before this time very great, and Damascus 
contained a large church. It had been at an early period 
a resort and sanctuary for the sect of the Ebionites, and 
for refugees from other less favoured cities of this land.* 
When the first General Council assembled at Nice, A.D. 
325, Magnus, the Metropolitan of Damascus, was present 
with seven of his sufii-agans. The episcopal cities there 
represented were as follows: — Heliopolis (Ba'albek), Emesa 
(Hums), Jabruda (Yabrud), Danaba (Saidnaya), Alalis, 
Khomokara (Karah), and Seleucia (M'alula?);'' and it is 
probable that all the bishops were not present. In a 
somewhat later age there were fifteen dioceses reckoned 
under Damascus.^ The extent, wealth, and influence of 
the Christian Church in this city may in some measure be 
estimated by the splendour of their cathedral, which, as 
we have seen, was dedicated in the fourth century. 

But the Eoman empire was now growing old. The 

* Euseb. Hist. Ec. ix, 5. 

7 These uames are taken from an Arabic MS. of the 17th century 
in my possession. The work is entitled ' A History of the Seven General 
Holy Coimcils.' It was written in Greek by Macarius, Patriarch of 
Antiochj — a name well known to Arabic scholars. The work is valuable, 
as contauiing the modern as well as the ancient names of many sees, and 
thus enabling us to identify some important sites. 

8 S. Pauli, Geograp, Sac. pp. 294-5. The names given here are as 
follows : — 








Laodicea Scabiosa. 























108 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

freshness and vigour of youth were gone. The hardy 
veterans who carried their victorious arms into almost 
every province of Europe and Asia, and who spread the 
fame of their valour over the inhabited globe, were now 
degenerated, and they wasted what remnants of energy 
they retained in bloody feuds and party quarrels. The 
stern dignity of the Roman citizen, the noble simplicity 
of the proud senator, and even the manly activity of the 
first emperors, were now no longer seen. The people, 
giving themselves up to ease and pleasure, trusted their 
liberty and their lives to mercenary bands ; and the rulers, 
imitating the gorgeous display of Eastern monarchs, and 
revelling amid degrading vices, the necessary companions 
of indolence and luxury, lost the spirit that animated 
their ancestors, and the proud name their courage had 
won. That religion, too, which by its establishment as a 
great national institute ought to have infused the germ of 
new life into the declining empire, was itself growing 
feeble. The purity of Gospel doctrines was fast giving 
way to unintelligible dogmas, mixed up with silly fables; 
and the simplicity of Apostolic worship was superseded by 
a host of rites and ceremonies borrowed from the extrava- 
gances of the Heathen priesthood. 

The warlike line of the Sassanldae took advantage of 
this decline of power and of energy, and harassed the 
eastern frontiers of the empire. Mesopotamia and Persia 
were relinquished in the vain hope of securing a perma- 
nent peace. But Chosroes II., remembering the gloiy 
and power of his ancestors, crossed the Euphrates, and in 
a short campaign conquered Antioch ; and, after allowing 
his soldiers a season of repose amid the delicious bowers of 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 109 

Damascus, he continued his march throughout the land, 
and subdued the whole of Syria' (a.d. 611-614). 

A new power was at this time rising up in an obscvire 
corner of Arabia, destined, in the hand of an all-wise 
Providence, to overthrow a degenerate empire and chas- 
tise an erring Church. Before the world had time to 
inquire from whence they came, hosts of fierce and savage 
warriors swept like a whirlwind over the plains of Arabia, 
Syria, Egypt, and Persia. 

The armies of Islam appeared before the walls of Da- 
mascus only thirteen years after Mohammed's flight from 
his native city. In this short period the Prophet had 
promulgated a new faith, establislied a powerful sect, and 
infused into them a fiery zeal without a parallel in the 
annals of the world. In this short period the prowess of 
his arms had been acknowledged by the wild hordes that 
roam the desert, and fearfully experienced by the more 
enlightened inhabitants of bordering cities : Busrah, the 
key to the rich province of the Hauran, had fallen, and 
Palmyra too had been captured and plundered. The lux- 
urious inhabitants of Damascus offered but a feeble resist- 
ance to the impetuous Saracens, and most of them were, 
after a short time, eager to surrender. Never was this 
ancient city in greater danger of being utterly destroyed. 
Khalcd, the fierce chief of the Muslems, stung to madness 
by the loss of some of his dearest companions, swore that 
he would put every inhabitant to the sword and raze the 
city to the ground. A traitor priest came to him while 
meditating on revenge, and basely oficred to betray the 

* Eut. Aunales. 

110 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

city. The offer was eagerly embraced, and a little band 
of Arabs was led by a private way Avithin tlie walls. 
These, on entering, raised their wild cry, " Ullah Akbar" 
and threw open the east gate. Khaled with his followers 
rushed in, and the streets were soon deluged with the 
people's blood. All seemed lost ! and the inhabitants, 
knowing full well that fearful cry, resigned themselves to 
death. But the ancient fortune of Damascus did not 
desert it now. At the very moment when Khaled was 
eagerly listening to the words of a traitor, the more gentle 
Abu Obeidah was arranging a treaty of surrender with a 
deputation of the principal citizens. As Khaled entered 
the east gate, the west was thrown open to Abu Obeidah 
and his followers. The two parties met near the centre 
of the city, opposite the church of St. Mary. After a 
stormy scene between the leaders, Khaled yielded, and 
Damascus was saved. By that treaty it was agreed that 
such of the Christians as chose to depart should be per- 
mitted to take with them as much of their arms and valu- 
ables as each could carry. The others might live in peace 
on paying the capitation tax, — ■ which was in fact their 
redemption money. Seven churches were secured to 
them, and likewise the half of the cathedral of St. John 
the Baptist. 

The wealth of the city was then enormous, and the 
amount of booty eventually obtained by its captors was 
very great. It is stated in the history ascribed to el-Wa- 
kidy ^ that the Emperor Heraclius lived in this city, but 

1 It is now well kno-rni to Arabic scholars that the work ascribed to 
el-Wakidy, and which has been translated by Ockley, is not genuine. 
It must be regarded as an historical novel, rather than a true history. 


Cii-vr-. III. HISTORY. Ill 

this statement is not corroborated by Greek historians. 
The same work also contains a pleasing narrative of the 
siege, and of the operations subsequent to the capture. 
But by far the most minute account of these whole affairs 
is given by Ibn 'Asaker in his great work. According to 
him the city was then adorned with most sumptuous 
buildings, and the palaces of the nobles were as remark- 
able for their vast extent as for their splendid decorations. 
Churches of great beauty were scattered over the various 
parts of the city, while the cathedral of St. John the 
Baptist is represented as being one of the wonders of the 
Avorld ; ^ and modern research bears ample testimony, as 
we have seen, to the truth of these glowing descriptions. 

This was the fourth great epoch in the history of 
Damascus. After having been held by the Roman and 
Byzantine emperors for a period of 700 years it passed 
into the hands of a new dynasty and a new race, under 
whom it was destined to enjoy for a brief period even 
more than its ancient power. 

Twenty-seven years after the capture of the city by the 
Saracens, Moawyah, the first khalif of the dynasty of the 
Omeiyades, made it the seat of his government (a.H. 41 ; 
A.D. 661), and the capital of the Mohammedan empire. 
Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia were now subject 
to the sway of the successor of the " Apostle of God ;" 
and the bounds of his dominions were soon extended far 
beyond these countries. The armies of the khalifs of this 
warlike house soon spread along the northern shores of the 

It was written during the ago of the Crusades. Wukldy did write a 
history of the conquest of -Syria; but the book is not now known to 

^ The History of Damascus, by Ibu 'Asakei', MS. 

112 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

great African continent, and did not stop their impetuous 
progress till restrained by the waves of the Atlantic. The 
continent of Europe now lay invitingly before them. 
Their soldiers had been driven back from the walls of 
Constantinople, and forced to recross the Bosphorus ; but 
they were admitted into Spain by the traitor act of one of 
her own proud sons (a.h. 93).^ That kingdom was soon 
conquered, and even the great ridge of the Pyrenees pre- 
sented no barrier suflScient to check the swift and deso- 
lating progress of the Arabs. They scaled these snow-clad 
mountains, and saw at their feet the glorious picture of 
the rich plains of Languedoc. But there they were des- 
tined to receive a blow that for ever stopped their progress 
northward. In the East their conquests were no less 
brilliant : their armies crossed the Indus and entered Hin- 
dustan ; and they also spread themselves over the moun- 
tains and through the fine vales of Bokhara. Thus did 
our ancient city become the capital of an empire reaching 
from the shores of the Atlantic on the west, to the lofty 
Himalayas and the steppes of Tartary on the far east. It 
ruled over some of the fairest and most fertile regions of 
the old world. All Europe trembled at its power, and the 
effeminate descendants of the old Romans felt that the 
throne of the Caesars was totterinw to its fall. 

The Omeiyades adorned the city with many palaces and 
mosks of great extent and magnificence ; but the greatest 
of their works, and that on whose splendour Arab histo- 
rians most delight to dwell, was the J ami a el-Amivy, 
formerly the cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which was 

* Elmacin. Histor. Sar. ch. xiii. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 113 

refitted and decorated at vast expense by Walid, and still 
bears the name of his royal house/ Unfortunately, Avhile 
the khalifs reared up their own structures and adorned 
their palaces and temples, they took their materials from 
buildings of a purer taste. Eoman colonnades and stately 
porticoes were thus destroyed, and a few fragments only 
left to mark the spot where once they stood. 

But the genius of Islam was never fitted for vipholding 
national prosperity in ages of peace. The reckless profli- 
gacy and licentiousness which it sanctions and encourages 
must ever be productive of both moral and physical dege- 
neracy, when the human passions have no other channel 
through which to flow till they are exhausted. While the 
Arab soldiers and their leaders had to endure the hard- 
ships of exhausting campaigns, and when the fiery pas- 
sions peculiar to their race found ample outlet in the 
excitement of the battle-field and the horrors of the sack 
of fallen cities, the early martial spirit and energy were 
retained. But when wars raged only on the outskirts of 
the vast empire, those who dwelt peacefully in the metro- 
polis soon exhibited the degenerating influences of the 
luxuries, and delicacies, and vices of this city ; and tlie 
men who were still stimulated by active duties, and who 
still remembered the simplicity and valour of the early 
khalifs, learned to scorn the effeminate monarchs that 

* This mosk is still called J ami! a eUAmwy, ovJAm?a Beni Omeiyah, that 
is, " The mosk of the Omeiyades." Oue of the ancestors of this great 

family was called ^^^\, which word literally means a " little slave- 
girl." Tabary, the historian, says the name of Moiiwj'ah, the first of 

this dynasty, was ^J^ j 4_,»2s. i yst*^ ' ~ " ^'^^'"' '*" -^'"'^ '^" 

114 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

lounged listlessly in the seraglio halls of Damascus. In 
A.ii. 132 (a.d. 750) the sceptre was wrested from 
the feeble grasp of Minvan, the last of the Omeiyades, 
and the fresher zeal of the children of Abbas revived for a 
time the old spirit. 

Damascus was now abandoned by royalty, and Baghdad 
arose and became the seat of the khalifs for 500 years. 
Our city, however, did not lose much of its importance 
by its fall. The surpassing richness of the province of 
which it was the acknowledged capital, and its sacredness 
as the starting-place of the holiest pilgrim caravan, made 
it not only one of the wealthiest but one of the most 
venerated cities in the Muslem empire. 

The new dynasty of the Abassides ere long forgot the 
spirit of their faith, and, laying aside the scimitar and the 
lance, put on the royal robes, and gave themselves up to 
indolence and folly. They were soon unable to rule their 
disjointed empire, and an infusion of fresh blood became 
necessary to sustain the power of Islam. From the war- 
like pastoral hordes that roamed in former ages over the 
steppes of Tartary a tribe came forth and embraced the 
faith of Mohammed (a.d. 1050). The Seljukians,^ for so 

^ Arab historians agree that the Seljukian princes derived their origin 
from a roj'al family of the Turks who dwelt in the country beyond the 
Oxus. The name is derived from one of their ancestors called Selji'ik, 
who was son of Dekak, prime minister of the prince of a race of Tartara 
who inhabited the country along the shores of the Caspian. Seljiik 
incurred the displeasure of his sovereign, and was forced to fly. He 
carried with him a considerable amount of property, and some of his 
tribe attached themselves to his fortune. He settled in the territory 
of Samarkand, and attained great power. He had four sons, the eldest 
of whom died before his father, leaving two children, Toghrul Beg and 
Jafer Beg; and these became leadei's of the nation. Having conquered 
the Gazuavide monarch, they obtained possession of the province of 

Chap. III. HISTOEY. 115 

the tribe was called, hastened to the aid of the amiable but 
feeble Khalif Kaim. The poAver of their arms rescued 
him from his enemies, and constituted their cliief, the 
celebrated Toghrul Beg, guardian of the khalifs.® The 
successors of this prince, Alp-Arslan and Melek-Shah, 
wrested from the feeble grasp of the Byzantine monarchs 
the fairest portions of their Asiatic dominions. In A.D. 
969 the dynasty of the Fatimites had extended their 
conquests over Syria, and they retained possession of 
Damascus for about 100 years; but at this period Atsis, 
one of the generals of Melek-Shah, drove out the African 
khalifs, and occupied their possessions in this land. Da- 
mascus was only captured after a long siege, and when 
its chivalrous inhabitants were decimated by famine and 
pestilence (a.d. 1075). In the following year, however, 
Atsis was defeated by the Egyptians in an attempt to 
obtain possession of that country, and driven back to 
Damascus. Melek-Shah, incensed at the defeat, ordered 
his brother, Taj ed-Douleh, to march upon Syria and dis- 
place Atsis. He at once obeyed the command, marched 
upon this city, and put his predecessor to death (A.D. 
1079).' Some twenty years of warfare now ensued, 
during which the various branches of the Seljuks con- 

Khorassan, and founded that great emiiire which by degrees spread over 
most of Asia. — See D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, s. v. ' Selgiuki.' 
In the ' Tiirikh el-Jentiby ' (History of Jeuaby), MS., there is a valuable 
and interesting account of the various dynasties of the Seljiiks. This 
MS. in fact would be well worth the labour of translation. A copy of it 
is in my possession. 

« The name conferred on Toghrul Beg by the Khalif was U^^U.»^^ 
" Prince of Princes." 

"i Elmacin. Sar. Hist. iii. S. 

116 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

tended for the posssesslon of Syria. The local governors, 
who had first received their provinces as fiefs from the 
crown, were in these circumstances induced to assert their 
independence. The cruelty and extortion practised by 
these fierce barbarians on the numerous pilgrims that 
yearly visited the Holy Places, were the means of bring- 
ing other combatants into the theatre of Syrian warfare. 
The sad tales of hardships and oppression spread by the 
returning pilgrims over all the nations of Europe roused 
the spirit of chivalry and fanaticism, and tens of thousands 
embarked on a crusade to deliver the sepulchre of the 
Lord from the hands of the infidels. During the first 
crusade no attempt was made upon Damascus ; it remained 
quietly in the possession of its Turkish rulers ; but An- 
tioch, Tripoli, Beyrout, and Jerusalem fell in succession 
before the forces of the Christian warriors. The Muslems 
mourned their losses and the Khalif shed tears ; but they 
could only mourn and weep. The Seljuk princes too had 
followed the universal law of Mohammedan dynasties, and 
had gone the round of valour, greatness, discord, licen- 
tiousness, degeneracy, and decay. Again, however, fresh 
blood was infused into the falling empire : the Turkish 
slaves of the Seljuks and Khalifs undertook to defend the 
faith. Askansor, and Zenki his son, were the first leaders 
under the name of Atahehs,^ and the latter made himself 
master of northern Syria, and tried his arms successfully 
against the Franks. Zenki was succeeded by his son Nur 

* The word Atahek literally means "Father of a Prince." The title 
was no doubt given to these warlike slaves on account of the services 
they rendered their masters. 


ed-Din in the government of Aleppo and its dependen- 
cies ^ (a.h. 544; A.D. 1149). 

About the same period Louis VII., King of France, 
reached Antioch with fresh troops to complete the con- 
quest of the Holy Land. After marching into Palestine, 
it was resolved in a general council held at Acre that the 
united forces should attack Damascus. The southern and 
eastern side of the city were then defended by walls and 
battlements of great height and strength, but the defences 
on the northern side, along which the river ran, were 
more open to attack ; and amid the gardens and orchards 
that line the stream at this spot, extending up the gentle 
slope to the foot of the mountain-range, the army of the 
crusaders took their position.' The siege was at first 
prosecuted with great vigour ; and the Christian knights 
displayed miracles of valour, but little unity of action. 
Contentions sprang up, and, while they wasted their thue 
in petty quarrels, Nur ed-Din and his brother the Prince 
of Mosul had arrived to relieve the garrison, and the 
crusaders made a disgraceful retreat. 

A few years afterwards Kur ed-Din hhnself captured 
the city, and proved one of its greatest benefactors. He 
repaired the ancient walls and partly rebuilt the great 
citadel ; and he established a court of justice, which was 
celebrated throughout the Mohammedan empire for its strict 
and impartial integrity.* The valour and prowess of this 
prince soon extended his influence beyond the bounds of 

' See D'Herbelot, Bib. Orient, s. v. ' Atabek,' and ' Nllr ed-Din.' 
' Gul. Tyr. Hist, in 'Gesta Dei per Francos,' pp. 910-12. 
2 D'Herbelot, Bib. Orient, s. v. ' Nom-eddin.' Tirlkh el-Jenaby, 
MS., in my possession. 

118 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

Syria, and the Fatimite khalif of Egypt requested his aid 
against the crusaders who were then invading that land. 
He was not slow to afford relief, and sent a general with 
some choice troops. This general soon became one of the 
most celebrated characters of the age; and there is no 
eastern monarch whose ng,me is so familiar in our day 
throughout Europe as that of the illustrious Saladin.^ He 
was by birth a Kurd, but, prompted by poverty and am- 
bition, he left his native mountains in company of his 
uncle, and entered the service of the ruler of Damascus. 
On being sent to Egypt he soon relieved the khalif of all 
anxiety in regard to the crusaders ; but he himself became 
a far more formidable object of solicitude. He eventually 
dethroned the last of tlie Fatimite dynasty, and proclaimed 
in his stead the reigning monarch of the Abassides ; but 
he remained the virtual ruler of Egypt. 

On the death of Nur ed-Din (a.h. 569) Saladin, after a 
vain attempt to establish the late monarch's son, Melek es- 
Saleh, a boy of eleven years, on the vacant throne, assumed 
the reins of government, and became King of Syria. Da- 
mascus was now again the capital of a large and powerfid 
monarchy ; and its ruler proved the most formidable 
enemy ever encountered by the crusaders (A.H. 570, A.D. 
1174). In A.H. 583 Saladin fought a pitched battle with 

^ The real name of this prince was Yusef ibn-Aiytih (Joseph the Son 
of Job) ; and the dynasty he established was called the dynasty of the 

Aiyubites. The name jjj^ r^^i^ — Seldh ed-D'tn, "the safety of re- 
ligion," might almost be rendered by the title given to our own sove- 
reigns on the coins of the realm, " Fidei Defensor." The best history 
of this prince is that wi-itten by his secretaiy. It is entitled ' Vita et 
Res Gestjc Sultani Saladini auctore Boluulirw ;' Lug. Bat. 1732 : in Arabic 
and Latin. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 119 

tlie Franks near Tiberias, and gained a signal victory, 
taking prisoner the King of Jerusalem, with some of the 
noblest of his followers and allies. The captive monarch 
was treated with kindness and courtesy — strange virtues 
in those days of savage warfare.'* This victory was almost 
fatal to the power of the crusaders in Syria : Acre, Sidon, 
Beyrout, and Jerusalem itself, soon yielded to the arms of 
Saladin; and it was only when Richard Coeur-de-Lion 
arrived in Palestine that Saladin was checked in his 
career of victory. He was then forced to surrender Acre, 
Jaffa, Cassarea, and other places on the coast to the cru- 
saders, but he retained Jerusalem till the time of his 

Saladin died in Damascus in A.n. 589. He was at 
first buried in the castle, but some years afterwards 
his body was removed from that building to the tomb it 
now occupies near the north-western angle of the court of 
the Jami'a el-Amwy, The tidings of his death were re- 
ceived with unaffected sorrow throughout the whole of liis 
dominions. In Damascus, where his subjects had the 
fairest opportunities of witnessing his justice and clemency, 
the people mourned as for a father and benefactor ; and 
to this day his name is venerated by every Muslcm." 

Saladin left a family of seventeen sons and one daughter. 
His three eldest sons inherited his vast possessions. To 
the first of these, Mclek el-Afdal, he bequeathed Damascus 
and Coelcsyria ; El-Aziz Othman, the second, was made 

* Boliaeddiu, Vit. Sal., pp. 07-71. Wilken, Geschichte der Krcutz, 
iii. 2, pp. 276-89. 

* Wilken, nt snp. 290-312. 

6 Bobaeddiu, Vit. Sal. pp. 275-8. Tarikh Ibn Athir, MS. Abulfeda, 
Anual.Mus. iu Bohaeddiu. D'Hcrbelot, Biblioth. Orient, s. v. 'S;d.;uliu.' 

120 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

King of Egypt ; and the third, Melek edh-Dhaher, got 
Aleppo and Northern Syria as his portion. Melek el- 
'Adel Seif ed-Din, the brother of Saladin, was appointed 
governor of the stronghold of Kerek. This prince rebelled 
against Melek el-Afdal, and, by the aid of the Sultan of 
Egypt, stripped him of all his possessions, and forced him 
to take refuge in the castle of Sulkhad, on the eastern 
border of Hauran. The conqueror or usurper held the 
kingdom till the time of his death in a.h. 615, and 
bequeathed it to his son Melek el-Muaddam.' From 
this period till A.H. 658, Damascus remained in the 
hands of the house of Saladin, but the history of its 
rulers is devoid of interest, and cannot be particularly 
noticed in a brief sketch like the present. Melek el- 
Muaddam died A.H. 624, and was succeeded by his son 
Melek en-Kasar. About twenty-five years after this 
time Melek en-Nasar Selaheddin, grandson of Melek edh- 
Dhaher, and great-grandson of Saladin, took possession of 

But during this stormy period two other dynasties were 
rising to power. The white slaves brought from the 
mountains of Georgia and from the shores of the Caspian, 
by the luxurious and effeminate khalifs of Egypt, soon 
learned to despise and then to defy the sway of their 
degenerate lords. After having been for some time the 
real, though not the nominal rulers of Egypt, they raised 
Az ed-Din Ibek, a Turcoman, to the throne (a.h. 648). 
At the same time a powerful tribe from that land so 

' Excerpta Abulfeda, in Boliaeddin, Yita Saladin. D'Herbelot, Bib. 
Orient, s. v. ' Saladin.' 
* Biblioth. Orient, ut sup. 

Chap. III. HISTOEY. 121 

fruitful in warlike people, the steppes of Tartary, issued 
forth and swept like a torrent over Persia, Mesopotamia, 
and Syria. Baghdad was captured, el-Mustasem, the last 
of its khalifs, slain (a.h. 656 ; A.D. 1258), and more than a 
million of his subjects butchered, by the savage Holagou. 
Damascus and Aleppo were left in ashes ; but the career 
of the tyrant was checked by the Mamluhes ^ of Egypt, 
who, under their skilful and impetuous leader Bibars, 
drove him back again beyond the Euphrates.' Holagou 
returned the following year and recaptured this city. On 
his death, in A.H. 663, Iris great empire was divided 
among his numerous sons. Bibars, the ruler of Egypt, 
who was also called Melek edh-Dhaher, entered Syria in 
A.H. 659, and brought the whole country under the sway 
of the Egyptian sceptre. This prince had murdered his 
predecessor, and, after the custom of those times, had re- 
ceived the crown as a reward for his conduct. He ruled 
over Egypt and Syria till his death in A.H. 675 (A.D. 1276.)- 
The weakness caused by the divisions and dismember- 
ments of Holagou's kingdom afforded an opportunity for 
the rise of another dynasty out of the same prolific stock 
of shepherd warriors — a dynasty which has risen to fame 

8 This word signifies "a slave captured in war." These were distin- 
guished from those slaves of the Negi-o race who for ages have been 
used as servants. 

' History of Egypt, by Jelal ed-Din es-Siuty, MS. p. loo. Tarikh 
el-Jenaby, MS., in my possession. 

^ The monarchs of this dynasty were distinguished by the name of 
Baherites, by the fact tliat they were trained to tlie use of arms in the 
village of Raudah on the sea-sliore — Baherites signifying " prop/e of the 
sea." They were Turkish slaves or Mamlukes. They reigned over 
Egypt and Syria from a.h. 648 to 78-t, when they wei'e expelled by the 
Circassian Mamlukes. who remained masters of Syria till thej- were 
overthrown by Timfir. D'Herbelot, Bib. Or. s. v. ' Baharites.' 

VOL. I. G 

122 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

and power throughout the world ; which for a time upheld 
and advanced the declining faith of Islam ; and which even 
now in its wane is shaking the nations of Europe to their 
centre. To trace the origin and record the progress of a 
great people is not the design of this work ; but to illus- 
trate the history of an ancient city is the object I aim 
at. For more than three centuries Damascus has been 
under the rule of the Ottomans or Othmans ; it may not, 
therefore, be considered out of place here to give a brief 
sketch of the rise of this dynasty. 

The Ottomans and Turks are frequently confounded, 
but they require to be carefully distinguished in order to 
the proper understanding of history. The name Turh, 
according to the best Arab authors, was applied generally 
to all the tribes inhabiting the vast tract of country lying 
beyond the river Oxus, to the borders of China. The 
nation was divided into twenty -four great tribes, of which 
the Moguls, the Tartars, and the Turcomans were the 
chief. These warlike tribes became first known to the 
Arabs when Mutassem, the eighth khalif of the line of the 
Abassidse, bought a large number of their young men, 
trained them up in the exercise of arms, and finally con- 
stituted them his body-guard. Independent in spirit, 
skilful in arms, of undaunted courage, and adepts in in- 
trigue, they speedily attained to the highest offices in the 
state ; and, ere twenty years had passed, became the virtual 
rulers of the Klialifite. The Seljuks were a branch of the 
same race ; and the Tartars who, imder Holagou, the 
grandson of Jengis Khan, captured Baghdad, and abolished 
the Khalifite, were likewise a tribe of Turks. ^ The 

3 D'Herbelot, Bibliotli. Orieut. s. v. ^ Atrak.' Tarikli el-Jeuaby, MS. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 123 

ravages and cruelties committed by these warlike and 
savage tribes rendered them objects of horror and detesta- 
tion to the inhabitants of every land they entered. Even 
to the present day the Arab, if he can safely indulge in 
the expression of his feelings, will invoke curses on the 
nation that has ruined and enslaved his country. It is a 
common saying that, if a Turk or Tartar should ever 
become master of the whole circle of the sciences, his 
natural barbarity would still remain inalienably attached 
to him. And there is some truth in this statement. 
Craftiness, courage, and ferocity are the undoubted cha- 
racteristics of the race. 

During the rule of Jengis Khan, Suliman Shah, a 
noble Mogul, fled from his native land to escape the 
wrath of this great monarch, and wandered for a time 
with his flocks and herds and followers through Mesopo- 
tamia and Asia Minor. He had three sons, who, on his 
death, inherited his property. The two elder returned to 
Persia ; but the youngest, Ortoghrid, with some 400 de- 
pendents, went to Ala ed-Din, the ruler of Natolia, and 
demanded a place in which to reside. He received a 
tract of country among the Armenian mountains, and 
there remained until his death in A.h, 687. Othmax, his 
son, was, after his father's death, declared prince of the 
Turkish colony. Finding his territories too small for his 
rapidly-increasing tribe, he advanced westward, seized 
many provinces of Asia Minor, and assumed the name of 
Sultan in A.H, 699. He was the first Sultan of the 0th- 
mans or Ottomans, and the dynasty he established still 
exists in the person of 'Abd EL-Mejid, the present Sultan.'' 

•• A good history of the Ottomans is given in the Tarikh el-Jeuaby. 
The author brings it down to \Yithiu a few years of the close of the tenth 

G 2 

124 DAMASCUS. Ciup. III. 

The town of Brusa in Anatolia was tlie place first 
selected for the seat of the Ottoman Sultans ; and from 
thence thej led their armies, not only through the western 
provinces of Asia Minor, but into Macedonia, and even to 
the borders of Hungary. But the victorious arms of the 
Ottomans were checked for a season by one of their own 
nation. Tamerlane, or Timiir, was descended from the 
same royal line of the Moguls as the celebrated Jengis 
Khan. He was born in A.H. 736. He first seized 
the vast empire of the Moguls beyond the Oxus, and 
then, having conquered Persia, Mesopotamia, and the 
greater part of Asia Minor, he turned to Syria. Aleppo, 
Hamah, Hums, and Ba'albek fell in quick succession 
before him ; and his victorious soldiers then encamped in 
the beautiful plain of the Ghutah, before the walls of 
Damascus. His camp was first pitched on the western 
side of the city, extending from the banks of the Barada 
to the village of Katana. From the side of the Kubbet 
es-Seiyar, on the summit of the Jebel Kasyun, Timur 
examined the jDosition of the city and the features of the 
vast plain around it ; and there was not perhaps in his 
wide dominions a scene of such exquisite beauty as then 
lay before him. The Mamluke prince, distrusting the 
strength of his arms, resolved to destroy the tyrant con- 
queror by assassination. He despatched a trusty mes- 
senger in the garb of a derwhJi, with two assistants, to 
accomplish his base design with poisoned daggers. They 
obtained an audience, and were permitted to approach to 

ceutui-y of the Hijrah. The best history of these nations hitherto pub- 
lished is that of De Guignes, ' Histoire des Huns.' Gibbon has wi-itteu 
a grapliic sketch of the Ottomans in his ' Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire,' ch. Ixiv. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 12o 

the very side of the unconscious Timur ; but fear or a 
better principle restrained their hands. Once and again 
were they allowed to enter, until at last their mingled 
hesitation and importunity excited suspicions, and they 
were seized. The chief was slain with the dagorer in- 
tended for the king, and his body burned to ashes in the 
presence of his two associates, who were then fearfully 
mutilated and despatched to carry back the news of their 
success to their royal master. 

Tiraur proposed conditions to the Damascenes : that he 
should be acknowledged as sovereign, and the money 
coined in his name. The trembling citizens, who had 
heard the thrilling tales of Aleppo, Hums, and Ba'albck, 
tlirew themselves on his mercy. A few days afterwards, 
however, whilst he was in the act of removing his army 
to a better position on the east side of the city, Faraj, the 
Mamluke Sultan, adopted the fatal resolution to attack him 
with the whole of his forces, thinking to take him by sur- 
prise. But Timur was too experienced a general, and his 
veteran soldiers were too well accustomed to the chances 
of war, to be thus conquered. Making a hurried barrier 
of the camp furniture and equipage to check the first fury 
of the assailants, they formed their lines behind it, and 
then, sweeping round, charged the entangled foe on both 
flanks. They were unable to stand the shock, and fled in 
disorder back to the city, leaving thousands dead on the 
battle-field (a.h. 803). Faraj fled from the city in the 
night, with a portion of his army, and the inhabitants 
surrendered, merely begging for their lives. This was 
granted on condition that every man should pay the price 
set upon his head. Six of the city gates were shut up, 

126 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

and at the seventh, Bab el-Faradis, sat the conqueror to 
collect the redemption money from each individual as he 
passed by at the command of the soldiers. 

The citadel, a building of great strength and extent, 
was still in the hands of the resident governor, and he 
refused to surrender. It is described in glowing terms by 
Sherif ed-Din 'Aly, the Persian historian of Timur. He 
represents it as one of the most celebrated fortresses in the 
world. The walls were of large blocks of hewn stone, 
built with great regularity, and were of astonishing height 
and thickness. Around them ran a deep and wide moat, 
filled with water from the river. There was besides a 
large garrison, supplied with all the munitions of war. 
Huge stones and gigantic arrows were discharged on the 
assailants by engines placed upon the battlements. A 
species of arrow, having a hollow head of hard black pot- 
tery filled with the Greek fire, was likewise much used, 
and did great damage both to the persons and property of 
the besiegers.^ After almost incredible labour, and im- 
mense sacrifice of life, the besiegers succeeded in filling up 
a portion of the moat and undermining the walls of the 
keep — a massive and lofty square tower, on the north- 
eastern angle. It fell at last with a fearful crash, burying 
beneath its ruins hundreds of its brave defenders, and not 
a few of its persevering assailants. It was vain to attempt 
to hold out longer, and so the gallant governor threw open 

' I have seen some of these singular weapons. They are of the 
annexed form: the shaft was fixed in the mouth of the little ves- 
sel. Being brittle, they would break on 
falling, and thus scatter the fire around. 
They were the prototypes of the modern 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 127 

the gates and delivered the keys to the conqueror. Such 
a noble defence might well have excited the admiration of 
any soldier or patriot ; but Timiir was a remorseless tyrant, 
incapable alike of appreciating and acknowledging patriot- 
ism. The governor was murdered in cold blood, and his 
gallant band of veterans, with their wives, children, and 
aged parents, met a worse fate, being sold into slavery. 
Immense treasvires were found in the castle, and at once 
seized ; but with that strange inconsistency which is a 
peculiar characteristic of Mohammedanism, while private 
property was taken, some valuable stores laid aside for the 
use of the Haj pilgrimage and the people of Mecca were 
left untouched. Timur, whose hands were yet reeking 
with the blood of his murdered victims, and his ears ring- 
ing with the cry of orphan children and widowed mothers 
whom his soldiers were driving to slavery, reproached the 
Damascenes for their want of piety in neglecting to erect 
monuments over the graves of two of the Prophet's wives ! 
And now he expended a portion of the treasures he had 
accumulated by pillage and murder in rearing marble 
mausoleums in honour of these venerated matrons. 

But the fearful conclusion of the tragedy was yet to 
come. The wretched inhabitants wlio had escaped tlie 
first onset of the Tartars, and who had afterwards re- 
deemed their lives with gold, retired to their homes again, 
as they believed, in peace. Timur, filled with holy zeal, 
pondered what new evidence of his piety he could ex- 
hibit, and his mind, ever fertile in such expedients, soon 
devised a plan whereby his faith would be manifested and 
his revenge satiated. Summoning his generals round him, 
he addressed them in the followinof words : — " I am in- 

128 DAMASCUS. Chap. Ill, 

formed," lie said, " that, in the wars of the Khalifs of the 
house of Omeiyah with the descendants of Mohammed, 
and especially with 'Aly, the rightfiil son and heir of the 
Prophet, and in which they perpetrated every act of 
cruelty they could invent, — that in these wars the Syrians 
aided them in their sacrilegious and bloody deeds. This, 
to me, is strange beyond conception ; for how any nation 
could pretend to receive the doctrine of a prophet, and to 
have been raised by the light of his revelation from the 
abyss of error and infidelity, and yet become the enemy 
of his kindred and family to such a degree as to unite 
with his bitterest foes in exercising toward them every 
species of injustice, I cannot comprehend ! Yet I enter- 
tain no doubt this day that these traditions are true; 
for had they been false, and had the people of this land 
been innocent, a judgment so fearful as that now in- 
flicted upon them would never have emanated from the 
tribunal of Divine justice !" After these extraordinary 
words he was silent. He uttered no command, he ex- 
pressed no wish. But his chiefs could interpret the will 
of their lord, and the consequences of his speech are thus 
recorded by his biographer and admirer. " On the first 
of the month Shaban (a.h. 803) the excited soldiers 
rushed upon the devoted and helpless city, and com- 
menced a scene of wanton outrage and slaughter such as 
it is impossible to imagine. Houses were stripped of 
every valuable, and their inmates exposed to every out- 
rage which cruelty could devise or lust suggest, Neither 
age nor sex was spared, but those that escaped the sword, 
or survived the atrocious indignities of a ruffian soldiery, 
were dragged from their homes and sold into slavery. 

Chap. III. HISTOEY. 129 

Such vast masses of treasures and valuables were collected 
by tlie army that they could not, with all their available 
baggage-animals, carry them away. The carnage lasted 
for ten days, and then it was consummated by the burn- 
ing of the city. Timur," adds his historian, "whose 
piety was without a parallel (I), used every eifort to save 
the mosk of the Omeiyades, but in vain, for the roof 
caught the flames, and the eastern minaret feU to the 

Never had tliis ancient city, during the long ages 
through which it stood, and the many dynasties and 
nations to which it had been forced to submit, so fearfully 
experienced the horrors of conquest as now. Its vast 
wealth was dissipated in a day ; its stores of antique gems 
and gorgeous fabrics were seized by those who had neither 
the taste to appreciate nor the knowledge to discern their 
real value ; its spacious palaces, with their marble halls, 
and inlaid fountains, and walls and ceilings of arabesque, 
and divans of richest silk embroidered with gold and 
sparkling with jewels, were all pillaged and left in ashes ; 
its great libraries, filled with the literature patronised by 
the later khalifs, and cultivated by native savans — stored, 
too, with the carefully-preserved writings of the fathers of 
the Eastern Church — were almost wholly destroyed. Tra- 
dition records that of the large Christian population only 

6 This account of the siege and capture of Damascus is taken from 
the work of his Persian historian Sherif ed-Din 'Aly el-Yezdy, Histoire 
de Timur Bee par Cherefeddin Ali, trad, par M. De la Croix, vol. iii. 
pp. 320-47. There is a shorter account given in the 'Life of Timur,' 
by Ihn Arahshah — Ahmed Ai'absiad, Vit. Tiniuri, ed. Mauger, vol. ii. 
p. 1, seq. See also D'Herbelot, Biblioth, Orient, s. v. ' Timour,' where 
an excellent epitome will be foimd. 

G 3 

1.30 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

one family escaped the desolation of the Tartars. Their 
descendants still exist, and I have heard from their lips 
the fearful tales of the sufferings of their ancestors, which 
have been carefully transmitted from sire to son. From 
the spot where I pen these lines I can look out on the 
towerinw minarets and noble dome of the mosk of the 
Omeiyades, and the frowning battlements of the ancient 
castle beneath the walls of which so many Tartars fell ; 
and I can see away beyond them the naked slope along 
the mountain-side where Timur marshalled his hosts, that 
the trembling citizens might have a full view of their 
vast numbers and proud bearing. I can see the little 
wely, too, on the summit of yon liill from beneath which 
the monarch gained his first view of the city and plain ; 
and turning northward I can mark the locality of the old 
gate where his deputies sat to receive the redemption- 
money. There is something strangely thrilling in thus 
contemplating the scene of such a fearful tragedy, even 
after the lapse of more than four centuries ; and the feel- 
ing is deepened by hearing the sad story from the lips of 
one whose ancestors were among the victims. 

After devastating Syria with fire and sword, Timur 
returned to his native land. On his arrival, prompted by 
caprice, perhaps by some better principle, he gave orders 
for the release of all the captives, of every age and sex, 
that had been taken in Syria. His command was strictly 
obeyed, and the motley crowd that had belonged to this 
city were brought back in safety to the plain of the Ghutah. 
It must have been a heart-rending sight to behold these 
destitute and houseless people assembling round the black- 
ened walls and smouldering ruins of tliis ancient city, 


and mourning in their misery and helplessness over the 
wreck of fortune, the desolation of country, and the 
murder of kindred and friends.'' 

The city of Damascus, like the fabled phoenix, soon 
rose again from its ashes, and not long after the death of 
Timur fell once more into the hands of the Mamluke 
sovereigns of Egypt. Faraj, who had deserted it in the 
hour of danger, returned when the storm had passed over ; 
but in A.H, 815 he was murdered within its walls and his 
body thrown on a dunghill.^ The Mamlukes of the 
Borgite^ dynasty ruled over Syria for more than a century 
after this period, during which Damascus enjoyed com- 
parative peace. 

The Ottoman empire had in the mean time not only 
recovered from the desolating wars of Timiir, but had 
attained to great power in Asia Minor and eastern Eu- 
rope. Constantinople had fallen before the impetuous 
attack of Mohammed II., A.H. 857, a.d. 1453. The last 
of the Byzantine monarch s fell in the van of his soldiers, 
in front of the breach made by Turkish cannon, and the 
]\Iuslems, ere they entered his capital, had to pass over 
his lifeless body. The spirit of the ancient Caesars appears 
to have been infused into the last of their line. The 
throne of the descendants of Othman was now established 
on the ruins of the Eoman Empire. Sixty-five years 
afterwards Sultan Selim invaded Syria, and, having con- 
quered Cansou, the last of the Mamlvike sovereigns in a 
pitched battle near Aleppo, he seized his kingdom, and 

7 Chei'ifedin, vt sup. 

^ Bibliotheqiie Orientale, s. v. ' Faraje.' 

9 The Borgites were Mamlukes of Circassian origin. Tliey reigned 
from A. H. 648 till 923. 

182 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

Syria thenceforth became a Turkish province. Sultan 
Selim at this time remained upwards of three months in 
Damascus. From hence he went to Egypt, and after 
regulatinef the affairs of that kingdom he continued his 
route to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. On his 
return to Damascus he conferred the government on the 
head of one of the principal families in the city, the Emir 
Jan Berdy, a.h. 923, a.d. 1519.^ 

The line of policy adopted by the house of Othman for 
the government of Syria, from the period it fell under 
their sway, has been in every way worthy of their cha- 
racter as crafty and unscrupulous tyrants. Native chiefs 
were appointed to act as local governors, or provincial 
Pashas, and to them was given unlimited power. So long 
as the revenues were punctually paid into the imperial 
treasury, no attention was ever given to the state of the 
people or the mode of government. When a pashalik 
became vacant, the tails were transferred to the highest 
bidder. The imperial firman once issued, the central 
government took no pains to enforce its observance, and 
the candidate was left to fight his own way to possession. 
If rivals opposed him, as was almost universally the case 
in the more distant provinces, his final success depended 
on the strength of his arms ; and if conquered in battle 
and driven from his territory, a liberal bribe forwarded 
to Stamboul was always productive of a fresh firman in 
favour of the conqueror. The Turkish authorities were 
delighted to see these bloody contentions, for the country 
was thus weakened, and consequently less able to resist 

' Tarikh el-Jenaby, MS. lu this work there is an excellent sketch 
of the conquests of Sultan Selim. 

Chap. III. HISTORY. 133 

their tyranny. Syria was ruled, and is still ruled, not by 
power but by intrigue. When a party or faction became 
dangerous from its numbers and its strength, the enmity 
of others was excited by the imperial emissaries, and re- 
bellion was effectually checked by party rivalries and 

The Turks were at first too much engrossed by their 
efforts to extend their conquests, and to plant the Crescent, 
the emblem of their faith, on the Christian temples of 
Europe, to devote time or attention to the internal 
economy of their conquered provinces. Perhaps it might 
also be said that the Turkish mind is incapable of com- 
prehending the great principles of political economy, and 
that the Turkish faith is, from its very nature, destruc- 
tive of that private and social virtue, and of those moral 
qualities, on which national prosperity must be grounded. 
The destructive policy that was at first adopted, from 
whatever source it sprung, became absolutely essential to 
the maintaining of Turkish rule in after days. The energy 
and influence of the nation began rapidly to decline the 
very moment it was forced to renounce offensive warfare, 
and the dominion of Syria was henceforth maintained by 
the crafty policy of pitting against each other the rival 
sects and clans. A carefully-compiled and well-written 
history of Turkish rule in Syria would tend greatly to 
enlighten the eyes of European statesmen and citizens ; 
and it would also unfold such a continued series of 
tyranny, extortion, and crime as is almost unparalleled in 
the annals of the world. 

The Pashas of Damascus ruled over the gi'eater part of 
Palestine, and the whole country east of the Jordan ; 

134- DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

they had also a nominal authority over the warlike tribes 
of Lebanon. A single instance is sufficient to illustrate 
the way in which they executed the trust confided to 
them by the Sultan. Mohammed Pasha had nominated 
a local chief to the government of the southern division of 
Lebanon ; a more powerful rival met him while on his 
way to take charge of his district, routed his guards, and 
cut off his head ! Having accomplished his purpose, he 
wrote to inform the Pasha of what had occurred. " It is 
of no consequence," was the reply ; " give me a hundred 
purses, and name what governor you please !" 

The only incident worthy of record in this sketch, sub- 
sequent to the occupation of this city by the Ottomans, is 
its capture by Ibrahim Pasha, the celebrated general and 
son of Mohammed 'Aly, and this conquest is chiefly re- 
markable for the effects it produced. Damascus, the Soly 
City, was, under Ibrahim's rule, opened for the first time 
to the representatives of foreign powers. The British 
consul entered it in full costume, protected by Egyptian 
soldiers and a band of Janissaries. The fanatical citizens 
indulged their wrath and muttered their curses in private, 
but made no open demonstration of their hatred. The 
presence of European consuls, and especially the great 
ability, tact, and energy of her Majesty's representative, 
Richard Wood, Esq., have since that period effected a 
complete revolution in the conduct and feelings of a large 
majority of the population. The better informed honour 
and respect the sterling integrity of the British consul ; 
while venal officials, as well as the turbulent mob, have 
been taught by experience to fear him. I feel confident 
that his removal would now be regarded by a large 


majority of the inhabitants, not only of the city but of 
the pashaHk, as one of the greatest calamities that could 
befall them. The influence he exerts personally, and the 
power so judiciously placed in his hands by his govern- 
ment, and sanctioned by the Porte, acts in many cases as 
an efiectual check to the oppression and extortions of 
Turkish governors. The peasants, too, throughout the 
pashalik, find in him a kind friend and a never-failing 
protector against the injustice and grinding cruelty of 
their hereditary chiefs. The present tranquillity of Syria 
is in a great measure owing to the exertions and influence 
of Mr. Wood. But for him the Druzes who defied the 
government troops, and worsted them in many skirmishes 
in 1852, would now raise the standard of rebellion; but 
for him the turbulent and bloodthirsty Metawely of Ba'al- 
bek would fill their district with rapine and murder. I 
have more than once had opportunity of witnessing Mr. 
Wood's praiseworthy exertions on behalf of the peace and 
security of this land. During last summer six hundred 
Christians of Zahleh armed and marched to revenge an 
outrage committed on one of their number by a Ba'albek 
emir. News of the transaction was immediately conveyed 
to Mr. Wood, then residing in Bhidan. He mounted 
his horse on the moment and galloped to the advancing 
band. After a long and noisy scene, in which he mingled 
threats with promises, he succeeded in constraining them 
to return to their homes, while he undertook to settle the 
dispute amicably. Had an encounter taken place at that 
time, the whole of Lebanon and Central Syria would have 
been involved in civil war. 

Such is a sketch of the history of Damascus. There is 


now no city in the world that can lay claim to such high 
antiquity, and there are few that can vie with it in the 
importance and interest of the events enacted within its 
walls. Twice has it been the capital of great empires, 
and at one time its dominion reached from the shores of 
the Atlantic to the banks of the Indus. It has been in 
succession conquered and possessed by the greatest mo- 
narchs that ever appeared on the theatre of the world, 
and it has formed part of the most powerful empires whose 
names are found on the page of history. Six different 
and distinct sections of the human family have already 
ruled over it, and its eventful history we have thus divided 
into six periods. During the first period of about 1450 
years Damascus was independent; after that time the 
Babylonian and Persian monarchs held it for a second 
period of 417 years. It was then subdued by Alexander, 
and remained under Grecian rule a third period of 268 
years. The Romans now seized it, and it was absorbed 
in their vast empire during a fourth term of 699 years. 
The Saracens possessed it 441 years, after which it fell 
into the hands of the Tartar or Turkish tribes, who still 
retain it ; but their power is rapidly declining. The 
throne established by Othman is even now tottering to its 
fall, and the sixth period of Damascus' history is fast 
drawing to a close. 

The most remarkable fact connected with the history of 
this city is, that it has not only existed but flourished 
under every change of dynasty and under every form of 
government : it may well be called the perennial city. 
Its station among the capitals of the world has been won- 
derfully uniform. The presence of royalty does not 


appear to have greatly advanced its internal welfare, nor 
does their removal seem to have induced decay or even 
decline. It has never rivalled, in the vastness of" its ex- 
tent nor in the gorgeousness of its structures, a Nineveh, 
a Babylon, or a Rome ; but neither has it resembled them 
in the greatness of its fall nor in the desolation of its ruins. 
It has existed and prospered alike under Persian despotism, 
Grecian anarchy, and Roman patronage ; and it exists and 
prospers still, despite Turkish oppression and misrule. It 
is like an oasis amid the desolation of ancient Syria, for 
it has survived many generations of cities that have in 
succession risen up around it ; and while they lie in ruins, 
it possesses all the freshness and vigour of youth. 


The extent of that portion of the city within the circuit 
of the ancient walls has already been alluded to. It is of 
an irregular oval form, and about three miles in circum- 
ference. It is densely populated throughout, with the 
exception of a few gardens on the south side. On the 
northern side of the city proper there is, as we have seen, 
an extensive suburb containing some fine houses, princi- 
pally inhabited by Turkish officials and foreigners in the 
service of Government ; but by far the largest suburb lies 
on the west and south of the city, stretching out into the 
plain for about two miles. The city, as a whole, is very 
irregular in form, having projections and indentations on 
all sides. Its length, from north to south, is about three 
miles, and its greatest breadth a mile and a half. At the 

138 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

distance of about half a mile, on the north-west, is the 
large village or suburb of Salahijeh, finely situated along 
the slope of the hill, and enjoying a commanding view 
over the vast plain. It is more than a mile in length, 
but is narrow, and not so closely packed with houses as 

The population of Damascus it is impossible to determine 
with accuracy. The Government takes a census, it is 
true, for the purpose of ascertaining the number of taxable 
males; but the venality and carelessness of the officers 
employed, together with the inviolability of the harim 
and the privacy of Eastern life, render it far from exact 
or full. There was a census taken a short time previous 
to the awful visitation of the cholera in 1848 ; and it was 
afterwards found, on comparing the returns of the census 
with those of that fearful scourge, that more people had 
died in many houses than were returned altogether on 
the census-lists. The following summary has been drawn 
up from the last Government census, and may be con- 
sidered as close an approximate to the truth as can now 
be obtained. The table, however, only enables us to esti- 
mate the true population ; for, from the causes above 
alluded to, and the knowledge that the taxes are levied 
in proportion to the numbers returned, as few names as 
possible are placed upon the lists. It has been considered 
by those most competent to form a correct estimate that 
only tivo-thirds of the Muslem population have been re- 
turned, and that consequently fifty per cent, must be 
added to them. The Jews are perhaps about twenty-five 
per cent, below the truth ; but the number of the Chris- 

Chap. III. 



tians given below is correct, as I have obtained it from 
other and trustworthy sources.^ The whole population of 
Damascus I consider to be about 150,000. 

Population op Damascus. 




Christians of Greek Church . . . . 

,, Greek Catholic 

„ Syrian . 

„ Syrian Catholic . . . . 

,, Maronite 

,, Armenian and Chaldean . 

,, Armenian CathoUc 

,, Latin 

„ Protestant 

Strangers, soldiers, slaves, and proteges , 

Total , 







The Muslems of Damascus may be described generally 
as feeble, licentious, and fanatical. The religion they pro- 
fess, if indeed Islam deserves that name, places no re- 
straint upon their passions ; and experience proves, at least 
so far as regards this city, that polygamy has not the effect 
of restraining from worse conduct. I have read with sur- 
prise an extract from Urquhart's ' Spirit of the East,' 
quoted by Lane^ with approbation, and introduced with 
the remark "that the writer has deeply studied Muslem 
institutions and their effects." It is as follows : — " On 
the subject of polygamy a European has all the advantage 

* For these numbers I am principally indebted to M. Buliid, who had 
access to the Government registers. 

" Lane's 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. pp. 233-4. 

140 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

in discussion with a Turkish woman, because her feelings 
are decidedly on the side of her antagonists ; but then she 
has a tremendous power of reply, in the comparison of the 
practical effects of the two systems, and in the widely- 
spread rumours of the heartlessness and the profligacy of 
Europe. AU the convictions of our habits and laws stand 
in hostile array against the country where the principle of 
polygamy is admitted into the laws of the state ; but yet, 
while we reproach Islamism with polygamy, Islamism may 
reproach us with practical polygamy, which, unsanctioned 
by law and reproved by custom, adds degradation of the 
mind to dissoluteness of morals." What ! and would Mr. 
Urquhart venture to affirm that the worst vices of the 
most degraded in Christian England would bear compari- 
son with the abominations that are almost universally 
practised in Muslem cities ? Virtue, as a moral principle, 
is unknown to either sex in this land ; and the discrustino; 
obscenities of the harim, as well as the unnatural vices of 
the other sex, could not have escaped the notice of Mr. 
Urquhart, had he indeed studied the habits of the people 
of this country, or the eflfects of Muslem institutions. The 
filthiness of the common conversation amonsf all classes, of 
all ages and of both sexes, is sufficient of itself to show the 
deep depravity in which this unhappy land is engulfed. 
For the profligacy of European cities I offer not one word 
of excuse or apology. It is a disgrace to Clxristianity ; 
but with all this, there is sufficient sense of shame still 
found, even in the most profligate, to make them blush at 
the thouglit of their guilt ; and there is enough of high- 
toned morality in the vast majority of the people to make 
them shun the society of the dissolute, and mourn over 


their full. Here vice has spread over the nation like a 
flood, corrupting every dwelling, making wanton every 
thought and look, and polluting the very language which 
is the medium of social intercourse. 

Muslems spend their time between indolence and in- 
dulgence, wandering with solemn step from the harim to 
the bath, and from the bath to the mosk. They are em- 
phatically a praying people, and so are they a wasliing 
people ; and there is just as much religion in their ablu- 
tions as there is in their devotions. Prayer with them is 
a simple performance. They pray as they eat, or as they 
sleep, or as they perform their toilet. These are all 
matters of course, parts of the daily routine, performed 
with the same care and with the same solemnity. The 
Muslem merchant will lie and cheat, and swear and pray, 
and lie and cheat, and swear again ; and these are all like 
different scenes in the same drama, quite in their places. 
The feelings are not in the least shocked by thus mixing 
up things sacred and profane ; and the simple reason is, 
there is no sacredness in their prayers. A Muslem emir 
or pasha will issue his orders for oppression and savage 
cruelty, and even murder ; and when the Muezzin call is 
heard, will calmly spread his carpet, stroke his beard, and 
engage in the exercise of prayer with a serenity, and we 
may add with a solemnity, of countenance that is alto- 
gether wonderful ; and when the performance is at an end 
he is ready to despatch the same routine of bvisiness over 

It is said that there are in the city over 300 mosks, and 
many of them are of great extent and beauty, and richly 
endowed besides. There is also a large number of schools, 

142 DAMASCUS. Chai'. III. 

or colleges, as some poetical travellers would designate 
them. These are in general large buildings which have 
been founded by the piety or pride of some great man, and 
allowed to fall to decay and ruin by liis successors. If 
occupied at all, it is at most by a few scores of urchins 
squatting on the dirty ground, and see-sawing over a few 
leaves of the Koran, while they shout its verses in unison, 
led by a grey-bearded sheikh who sits knitting in the 
corner. Small libraries of manviscripts are attached to the 
more important of these schools ; and here some rare and 
valuable works may often be found, though they are 
guarded -vvith such extreme care that it is difficult to 
obtain access to them. Few of the Muslems advance be- 
yond the first rudiments of education, yet there are some 
in the city who are pretty well acquainted with their own 
literature, and possess a considerable knowledge of the 
state of science in Europe. Among the latter, the first 
place must be given to Mahmud Effendi, and Sheikh 
Abd Ullah el Haleby. These gentlemen are both deeply 
versed in the mysteries of their own language ; and the 
former, in addition to his learning, is a man of refined 
manners and great liberality. Private libraries of any 
extent or value are extremely rare, but almost every old 
family has a number of manuscripts that are left as heir- 
looms to successive generations. A military school has 
lately been established in the city, but it is exclusively 
intended for those who purpose entering the Turkish 
army. The pupils receive instruction in drawing and 
engineering from European masters. 

The Christians of Damascus are enterprising and in- 
dustrious, and a considerable proportion of the trade of the 


city is in their hands. They are rapidly increasing in 
number, wealth, and influence, and have almost entirely 
thrown aside that cringing and fawning demeanour which 
was the result of long ages of oppression. They now feel 
secure both in amassing and displaying their wealth ; but 
the protection they enjoy and the security they feel are 
solely owing to the presence and influence of the European 
consuls. The English consul, Mr. Wood, has contributed 
more than all others to release both Christians and Jews 
from the indignities to which in former times they were 
subjected by their Muslem lords; and when, in conse- 
quence of the aggressions of Kussia, the old fanatical spirit 
was lately roused, and Christians were met in every part 
of the city with curses and abuse, it was mainly through 
Mr. Wood's energetic remonstrances and bold measures 
that the Muslems were forced to suppress their fiery 
hatred and bigotry. Knowing these facts, it was with 
much surprise I read the following sentence in M. 
de Saulcy's recent work on this country : — " Until a re- 
cent period, Christians were obliged to alight whilst cross- 
ing the gate of Damascus, but such was no longer the case 
in 1851 ; and my excellent friend, M. de Segur-Duperron, 
consul of France in this city, had proudly vindicated the 
honour of the French name : consequently nobody seemed 
to mind us, and we were allowed to enter the city with 
all our arms." ^ Does M. de Saulcy really mean to say 
that it was in consequence of M. de Segur-Duperron's 
proud vindication of the honour of the French name that 
Christians were no longer obliged to dismount when cross- 

* Journey round the Dead Sea and in Bible Lauds, in 18riO-5L By 
F. de Saulcy. London, 1854. Vol. ii. p. 520. 

144 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

ing the gate of Damascus ? Very probably he does ; and 
yet Addison, in 1835, rode through the city, just fifteen 
years before ever M. de Segur was even heard of in Da- 
mascus ! And scores of travellers, French and English, 
have since that time followed his example with impunity, 
and have told the world so. But M. de Saulcy appears to 
have come to this country in happy ignorance of every- 
thing that had been done or seen by his predecessors. He 
was determined to astonish the world by his discoveries, 
and by the originality of his remarks, and he has undoubt- 
edly succeeded. We shall see more of him in the sequel. 
It seems, however, that M. de Saulcy does not stand alone 
in his ignorance. A writer in a deservedly popular Maga- 
zine states plainly what the French savant had left ambi- 
guous : — " Until a very recent date," says this profound 
reviewer, " all Christians were obliged to alight and cross 
the gate of Damascus on foot, but this humiliating regula- 
tion no longer exists, having been abolished sinee 1850 by 
the energetic interference of M. de Segur-Duperron, the 
French consul ! " ^ 

The Christians, as may be seen from the table given 
above, are divided into nine different sects. The Catholics 
are those who have seceded from the ancient Oriental 
churches, and have acknowledged the supremacy of Eome. 
They still retain their own forms of prayer, their own fasts 
and feasts, and their married clergy — strange concessions 
to be granted by the Papacy ! Two patriarchs reside perma- 
nently in this city — the Greek, and the Greek Catholic. 
There are ten churches and nine convents. There are also 

* Dublin University Mag. for Sept. 1853, p. 332. 


several schools, attended by large numbers of boys, but 
they are all elementary : the best is that of the Greek 
patriarch, which is supported by Russian money. There 
is another large school conducted under the superintend- 
ence of the Lazaristes, but the French language seems to 
be almost the only thing taught in it. Their convent also 
contains a school for girls : I cannot tell however what are 
the instructions given in it, as strangers are not permitted 
to visit it. The French " Sisters of Charity " have within 
the last few months set up an establishment in this city, 
in which there is a dispensary and a large female school. 
In none of these schools, however, is any attempt made to 
give instruction in arithmetic, geography, -history, or in- 
deed in any of the branches of an ordinary education, 
beyond reading, writing, and the elements of grammar. 
The education of the people is consequently miserably de- 
fective, and it is unfortunate that there is little desire 
manifested for improvement. 

In the year 1853 the Protestant missionaries established 
a school of a higher class in this city, in which they pro- 
pose to have the pupils instructed by competent masters in 
the various branches of a liberal education ; and in order 
to encourage talented and deserving boys and young men 
to continue their studies and complete a curriculum, 
they have founded twenty bursaries to be awarded to such 
as excel in diligence and attention. They have also con- 
nected with this school an elementary school for boys, in 
which, in addition to reading, writing, and Arabic gram- 
mar, instructions are given in geography, arithmetic, and 
the English language. The first public examination of these 
schools was held on the 28th and 29th days of December 

VOL. I. H 

146 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

last, when upwards of fifty pupils were present ; and these, 
by their ready answers to the questions proposed, and 
general intelligence, gave universal satisfaction to the 
visitors and missionaries. 

The Protestant mission was established in Damascus in 
1843. In that year the Eev. John Wilson, D.D., of the 
Church of Scotland, and the Rev. William Graham, of the 
Presbyterian Church of Ireland, visited this city, and re- 
solved that it should be the seat of the united mission to 
the Jews, previously projected by their Churches -/ and a 
few months afterwards Mr. Graham and the Eev. Mr. 
Allen took up their residence here, and commenced their 
labours. In 1844 the Rev. Smylie Robson, of the Presby- 
terian Church of Ireland, joined the mission ; and in the 
same year the Church of Scotland withdi'cw its mission- 
aries, the Rev. James Bamett and Dr. J. G. Paulding, of 
the Associate Reformed Church of the United States, came 
to the city, and united with Messrs. Graham and Robson ; 
and since that tune the mission has been vigorously and 
successfully prosecuted, notwithstanding many difficulties 
and some severe trials. Though the mission was originally 
and properly to the Jews, yet no opportunity has ever 
been neglected of instructing the native Christians. Public 
worship is conducted in Arabic twice each Lord's-day, and 

in English once. In addition to the schools above referred 

to, a female school has been lately estabhshed, and there 

are at present about forty pupils in attendance, a large 

majority of whom are Jewesses. The mission staff is at 

present as follows : — Rev. Smylie Robson ; Dr. J. G. 

* Ample details of Dr. Wilson's and Mr. GraLam's visit to Damascus 
will be found in the ' Lands of the Bible,' vol. ii. pp. 325-69. 


Paulding, physician ; Eev. J. L. Porter ; Eev. J. A. Fra- 
zier ; Ptev. Gulien Lansing ; and Miss Dales, superintendent 
of the female school. 

The Jews of Damascus are not numerous, but they are 
very influential on account of the vast wealth of some oi' 
the great families. These have been for many years the 
bankers of the successive pashas and great merchants. 
Until the interference of European powers in the internal 
administration of affairs in Syria, the changes of fortune 
and circumstances through which some of these families 
passed were truly wonderful, and had more of the clia- 
racter of an Eastern romance than of stern and fearful 
reality. At one time the Jew would be the actual ruler 
of Syria, and then in a few weeks he would be stripped of 
fortune, and perhaps cruelly mutilated, or even murdered. 
The scene is now changed. Safe under the protection of 
European consuls, the Jew can buy and sell and make 
gain.''' The Jews and Christians inhabit distinct quarters 
in the city. 

Damascus is a purely mercantile city, carrying on an 
extensive trade with the wandering tribes of Bedawin 
who pasture their flocks on the vast plains of Arabia. It 
is also a great entrepot for the rich wares of Persia and 
India, which are brought here by caravans from Baghdad. 
The annual Haj pilgrimage is also a source of gi-eat profit 
to the city, for this is the place of rendezvous, and is 
thence called " The Gate of Mecca." The holy caravan 
reaches the city about the middle of the month Eamadan ; 

7 Some interesting details about the Jewish families of this city, and 
their religion, schools, &c., may be found in the work already referred 
to, ' The Lands of the liible,' vol. ii. 

H 2 

148 DAMASCUS. Chap. III. 

and from this time till its departure, on the 15th of the 
following month, the streets and bazaars are crowded by 
thousands, eager alike to buy and sell. Every pilgrim 
endeavours to make his journey profitable by trafSc, and 
this is not considered in any way to interfere with the 
sanctity of his character or the fervour of his devotions. 
It is a peculiar feature of Islam that traffic and religion, 
cheating and praying, lying and devotion, can be blended 
together without the least discord. The Persian hajy brings 
his gorgeous carpets, fine embroidery, rich shawls, inlaid 
caskets, and precious stones, to barter for Damascus silks 
and cotton fabrics. Damascus also exports a considerable 
quantity of silks and dried fruits to Egypt, Constantinople, 
and other parts of Turkey. 




Bedawy Sheikh — Dromedaries and their saddles — Gardens — The 
mirage — Mountain pass — Kuteifeh — Evening entertainment — 
Frank sorcery — Early rising — Jerud — Sheikh Fares and Arab 
cavaliers — Border warfare — Salt marsh — The desert — The Bedawy 
in the desert — Encampment of Bedawin — Patriarchal customs — 
A feast — Evening party in a tent — Night adventure — Excitement 
of desert travel — A chace — Bedawy Harhns — Enemies — Prepara- 
tions for battle — Singular moimtain — Encounter with robbers — 
Arab hospitality — Cold march — Robbers — The spoils of a cara- 
van — Illustrations of Sci'ipture — Bedawy women — Apprehended 
dangers — Geological features — -First view of Tadmor — A "charge" 
— Attack and captui'e of our party — Our piison — Alarming con- 
versation — A comic scene — Ride to Palmyra — Desci-iption of the 
ruins — Historical sketch — Return — Route of Jacob — Kuryetein 
identified with Hazar-enan. 

Haying concluded a bars-ain with a sliclkli of the ffreat 
Bedawy tribe of the 'Anezy to conduct us to the ruins of 
" Tadmor in the wilderness," we were prepared to start 
on the morning of March 31st, 1851.' As there are no 
hotels on this route, and the habitations of the Arabs are 
somewhat wide apart, and not always to be found when 
the hungry traveller might want them, we deemed it 
necessary to lay in a good stock of provisions. Knowing, 
too, by experience, that we would probably be exposed 
to sudden and great changes of temperature, we had piled 
up a goodly heap of coats, cloaks, and lehafs,^ destined for 

' My companion during this journey was the Rev. Smylie Robson* 
and to him I am indebted for an accurately kept itinerary of our route 
both going and returning. 

2 A /(,'/(«/ is literally a coverlet; but the name is usually given to a 
very thick species stuffed with cotton, not unlike the Gei-man feder-hett. 


all kinds of service, whether by night or day. A leathern 
water-bottle lay beside our stores, and several other 
articles were grouped around, the use of which a stranger 
might have had difficulty in ascertaining. Hour after 
hour passed as we wandered up and down the court, or 
sat upon the fountain's brink ; but our chief did not 
appear. Our patience was exhausted, and, casting aside 
our travelling costume, we thi'ew ourselves on a divan, 
despairing of starting till another day. The clear voice 
of the Muezzin from the minaret of the great mosk an- 
nounced the hour of noon ; and soon after 'Amer, our 
sheikh, entered the court. He was a man of middle 
stature, and seemingly of middle age. His frame was 
spare but wiry. There was no evidence of strength, but 
there was evidence of capability to endure great fatigue. 
His eye was quick, with more of shrewdness than fierce- 
ness in its glance. The whole expression of his coun- 
tenance was mild and soft, and in this respect different 
from that of the generality of Ms race. A deep scar 
furrowed his check, and a sabre-cut had divided his left 
hand to the centre, rendering useless two of the fingers. 
On his right arm above the wrist was the deep black scar 
of a bullet, and two of the fingers of the right hand were 
broken. His dress externally was similar to that worn by 
all Arabs, consisting of the striped aheih and gay Tcefiyeh, 
bound with its simple rope of camels' hair. Underneath, 
however, he wore a silk robe of the brightest colours. 

After hasty salutations we asked the cause of his delay, 
and whether his animals were now ready. He assumed 
at once an admirable look of surprise, and said, with all 
apparent sincerity. "Did you not tell me you would not 
go till to-morrow ?" There was no use in quarrelling with 


him, and we were the more resigned as the dark clouds, 
gathering on the summit of Hermon, and -the distant 
murmur of the thunder, gave warning of approaching 
rain. Having fixed the time of departure at sunrise the 
following morning, we separated for the day. 

April 1st. — Scarcely had the first rays of the morning 
sun tinged with gold the minaret tops and distant moun- 
tain summits, when the deep growl of our dromedaries 
was heard at the door, and 'Amcr with his attendant was 
ushered into the court. To strap on our stores, and 
arrange our saddles, was a work of some time. The 
dromedary's saddle is rather curious and primitive in con- 
struction. It consists of two horns, one in front and the 
other behind, from a foot to a foot and a half in length, 
attached to sticks fitted to sit astride the animal's hump, 
on a cushion of straw, and the whole apparatus is fastened 
on in the usual way by girths. This was no inviting 
seat as I first saw it ; but when coats and lehafs were 
arranged across it, it was both easy and comfortable. 

All being ready, we sent the animals to the East Gate, 
not wishing to endanger our limbs in riding along narrow 
streets, or our heads in passing imder low archways. I 
had often heard that the first mounting of a dromedary 
formed a kind of era in a man's life, and I confess that, 
when I saw mine with open mouth, growling savagely, 
and struggling to free itself from the grasp of the driver, 
I felt a little trepidation. No sooner had I leaped into 
the saddle than the brute, giving a sharp lurch backwards, 
and a heavy one forward, and then another backwards, 
gained its feet and ran a few yards at a smart trot ; it then 
wheeled about, and suddenly, by a similar but reversed 
series of lurches, was again upon the ground. A second 


time it went through this pantomime, and was preparing 
for a third, when its driver seized and pinioned it by 
placing his foot upon its knee. 'Amer and Mr. Robson 
were in motion, and at some distance, when he let it free, 
but I was not long in reaching them. Though I had no 
diiEculty in keeping my seat through this scene^, thanks 
to the horns of my saddle, yet it was with no little 
anxiety I looked forward to a ride of nearly two hundred 
miles on such an animal. The pace was dreadful when it 
trotted; and then the sittings-down and risings-up and 
sudden jerks had almost dislocated my spine. In walking, 
however, when I became a little accustomed to the rock- 
ing motion, I found the pace easy, and even pleasant, 
. Turning to the left from the East Gate, we skirted the 
ancient city-wall, passing the reputed house of Naaman 
the leper, and then crossed the Barada and one of its 
canals by a double bridge. In a few minutes more we 
entered the caravan-road that leads to Aleppo and the 
north. The day was calm and hot for the season, and we 
were consequently able to realise the sweets of deep shade. 
The forest-gardens that encompass the old city of Damas- 
cus are the finest I have ever roamed through ; and now, 
clothed in the delicious freshness of a spring morning, 
they were seen to the greatest advantage. It is not 
because the meandering paths are kept with taste and care, 
or laid down ^vith mathematical precision, that one admires 
these gardens ; and neither is it because the banks of the 
rivers are trimmed with all the precision of rug-work, or 
that rustic seats and rose-wreathed bowers are found in 
every spot where indolence or luxury would wish for 
them. There is more of nature and less of art here than 
in the wilderness pleasure-grounds of the Far West. 


There are miles of shade along the brink of the lazy- 
stream, whose course is where it has cut its own way- 
through a rich soil, or where a way has been hewn out or 
built up for it by the industrious of former ages. The 
noble trees around stretch out their giant arms, or shoot 
up their stately heads, unrestrained by human care ; while 
the luxuriant vine and purple-tinted pomegranate form a 
thick underwood. Hours may be spent galloping along 
those lanes that seem to have no end, and over which the 
fragrant walnut spreads its branches, affording a shade 
that bids defiance to even an eastern sun. On each side 
extend broad meadows whose verdure the thick groves of 
plum, apricot, and apple trees do not injure. Here the 
air is cool and fresh amid the hottest days of summer ; and 
were it not that in the coolest breezes is wafted the poison 
of the burning fever, tliis might well be regarded as an 
eartlily paradise. 

We passed, on the left of our route, the large and popu- 
lous villages of Harista and Duma, and at the end of three 
hours emerged from the gardens and orchards. We felt 
the loss of the agreeable shade and cool air, but we did 
not regret them, owing to the extent and beauty of the 
prospect that now opened up to us. On our left rose 
abruptly the steep and naked declivities of Anti-Lebanon, 
deeply furrowed by the beds of winter torrents, and here 
and there laid open by yawning ravines. In front was 
the lofty hill called Jebel Tiniyeh, cone-shaped, like 
Tabor, but completely destitute of verdure ; while far 
away to the east and south stretched the vast plain— east- 
ward reaching to the horizon, but on the south bounded 
by the blue mountains of Bashan. At four hours we had 

H 3 


the village of Adlir'a about half an hour distant to the 
north-east ; at this point we turned nearly due north, and 
began to ascend diagonally the lower slopes of the moun- 
tain range. The view over the plain now became almost 
inconceivably lovely. Its beauty was enhanced, and in a 
great measure created, by a cause, the magic operation of 
which can only be fully understood by the eastern 
traveller. Lakes of great extent, whose shores were 
fringed with gigantic reeds and graceful poplars, seemed 
almost to cover the plain. Numerous islands studded 
their surface, clothed with verdant groves whose foliage 
quivered in the gentle breeze that rippled the surface of 
the water. Villages, too, occupied peninsulas, or were 
perched upon islands, and encompassed by their luxviriant 
gardens and orchards. It was altogether a picture such 
as I had never before gazed upon ; but there was no 
reality in it — it was the mirage. 

After half-an-hour's ascent the road became steep and 
rugged. We had reached the proper base of the range, 
and a difficult pass lay before us. My dromedary now 
became refractory. It was inclined to go every way but 
the right one. It would suddenly scamper oflp across the 
face of the hill at right angles to the path, endangering 
my neck and its own among the huge blocks of loose rock; 
and when I attempted to check it, down it squatted on 
the spot. After a series of encounters with it, its owner 
came behind it with liis hooked stick, and then it dashed 
on at a terrible pace after its fellows. Already I felt so 
much fatigue that I began to entertain gloomy forebodings 
of the future ; and I vowed that, if once safe through tliis 
journey, it would be the last dromedary I would ever 


mount. By good management and the aid of the Ageily, 
who, besides the sheikli 'Amer, was our only companion, 
I persuaded the unruly animal to climb the hills, and 
sweep through the deep ravines, till we reached a ruined 
khan near the top of the pass. Here a few broken 
columns, lying within foundations of hewn stones, mark 
the site of some ancient building. It is now called Khan 

At this place a broad plain opened up before us, running 
alonof the base of the hills on which we stood toward the 
north-east far as the eye could see. Beyond it was a 
parallel ridge of bleak but picturesque mountains. De- 
scending the hill diagonally by an easy path, in a direction 
a little east of north, we reached the plain, and soon after 
rode into the large village of Kuteifeh, where we dis- 
mounted for our lunch. 

We were objects of no little curiosity to some groups of 
men and boys who collected round our camels. My com- 
panion had retained his Frank costume, which in the eyes 
of the Arabs did not seem very picturesque on a drome- 
dary's back ; and there were evidently some jokes passing 
through the crowd of loungers at his expense. My own 
habiliments suited very well so long as I remained in situ ; 
but when I dismounted, and the small dimensions of my 
nether garments became visible, laughter broke forth 
afresh. Notwithstanding my fatigue, which has always, 
it must be admitted, a considerable influence upon the 
temper, I felt more inclined to enjoy than resent such 
indignities ; and I entertained some doubts whether, had 
I appeared in like costume in any of the villages of Old 
England, a similar reception would not ha\-c awaited me. 

After half-an-hour's halt we remounted and rode off 


eastward along tlie well-cultivated plain. Hitherto we 
had followed the ordinary caravan-road to Aleppo and the 
north ; but at Kuteifeh we left it. It strikes across the 
plain north-by-west, passes the mountain range by a wild 
ravine, and entering another plain continues northward to 
Nebk and Hiims. In thirty-five minutes we reached the 
large village of Mu'addamiyeh. It was our original inten- 
tion to proceed to Jerud the first day, but our drome- 
daries had behaved so badly and travelled so slowly, that 
we found this impossible ; we consequently determined to 
spend the night here. We proceeded at once to the 
house of the sheikh, and were welcomed by his son, he 
himself beinsj absent. We were ushered with all our 
baggage into the reception-room, which was soon well 
filled with the chief men of the village, who had collected 
to see the strangers and drink coffee. A black slave was 
kept busy the whole evening roasting the coffee-beans, 
and pounding them in a quaintly- carved wooden mortar 
with a curiously-formed wooden pestle. The latter 
business he executed with such skill and grace that the 
village fathers evidently envied him, as he managed, by 
skilfully wielding the pestle, to beat time in a lively man- 
ner. His performance was listened to with manifest 
satisfaction and pleasure ; and the feelings were no doubt 
enhanced by the anticipated results. The Arabs are such 
connoisseurs in coffee, that they must have it fresh roasted 
and pounded for each time it is served. They would 
never think of preparing sufficient at one time for the 
evening's drinking. Again and again, therefore, were 
we treated to this musical festival, for each round of 
visitors partook of the sheikh's hospitality. 

It was a strange and picturesque assemblage that 


gathered round us in that old chamber; and a wilder- 
looking scene could not be well imagined than that which 
met our view when the crackling branches on the hearth 
threw out a flame suflScient to light vip their features and 
reveal the bright colours of their gay costumes. The 
white turbans, embroidered coats, dark faces, long beards, 
and flnshing eyes appeared to advantage in the dim and 
fitful light. But the lively and strange conversation had 
still more interest for me than countenance or costume. 
Almost the whole topic of discussion was the Frank 
visitors and their country. Some of those present, who 
assumed a kind of authority because they had seen half-a- 
dozen Iiigleze in their lives, astonished the others by 
wondrous stories of their prowess and knowledge. The 
expulsion of the great Ibrahim Pasha by their fleets was 
well remembered, and the taking of Sydon and bombard- 
ment of Acre were spoken of as manifesting a greater than 
human power. As a crowning proof of unparalleled 
wisdom, one man made the following remark : " As God 
is great," said he, " these English can go where they 
please by day or night, by land or sea ; for they have an 
instrument that shows them the way to any place." 

" Wallah I and is it so ? " said the son of the sheikh, 
turning to us with a look of intense curiosity. 

An appeal was at once made to us in verification of the 
statement. I produced a small pocket compass, and, 
placing it near the light, let them see how it always 
pointed the same way. It was turned, and turned again, 
but still it pointed to the Kibleh.^ After all had tried in 

^ The Kibkh is the temple at Mecca towards which the Muslems all 
turn when they pray. In consequence of its direction, it is also the 
usual term for the South in Syria. 


vain to direct it to any other point, I took my knife, and 
placed the point of the steel near the compass, when the 
needle at once turned towards my hand. I moved it 
round, but still the needle followed. " There is no God 
but God ! "* cried our young host. " The Franks have the 
power of Janns I " exclaimed an old man by his side. 

The night wore on, and we spread our beds to sleep. 
Others around us followed our example, and strangers 
gradually withdrew : it was long, however, ere sleep 
came. The closeness of the room, the denseness of the 
smoke from the brush on the hearth, which the negro ever 
and anon heaped on the embers, and the myriads of fleas 
that soon attacked us, drove sleep from our eyelids. I 
rose and walked out into the cool fresh air, and on my 
return found the negro asleep, the room deserted, save by 
seven or eight snorers, and the fire dead upon the hearth ; 
so, throwing myself on my bed, I slept till the hoarse 
voice of 'Araer called us. 

April 2nd. — The air was damp and cold this morning 
as we mounted our dromedaries at the gate of the village 
at 6"25. Early as it was, the people were all astir. The 
Arabs are an early-rising race ; and at first thought one 
would imagine that in this they have one good property 
at least ; but the truth is, there is little virtue in their 
early hours. Their beds are such that nothing but stem 
necessity would drive any man to them. They never 

* All sects and classes in this country are continually in the habit of 
using the name of God in their ordinary conversation. Swearing is 
iiniversal; almost every sentence is accompanied by an oath of some 
kind or other. In this respect there is a striking similarity in their 
ordinary salutations and conversation to what we find recorded in the 
Scriptures. See examples of this use of the name of God in ordinary 
conversation, Kuth i. 17, 1 Sam. iii. 17, 2 Sam. iii. 9, 1 Kings ii. 23. 


undress. To loosen the girdle a little, pull the volumi- 
nous turban or light camels'-hair rope more firmly down 
upon the brows, and wrap the rough goats'-hair cloak 
round the body, constitute their whole toilet arrange- 
ments before retiring to rest. Add to this the incessant 
attacks from myriads of fleas and sundry other animals, 
and it will be admitted that there is little self-denial in 
rising with the first dawn of morning. 

A thick wliite mist now lay upon the surface of the 
plain, and shut in our view to the compass of a few yards. 
A short time after leaving the village we observed, 
running parallel to our path, a line of little circular 
mounds with well-like openings in the centre; these 
marked the course of one of those subterranean aqueducts 
so frequently met with in the plain of Damascus. Their 
object is to collect water from the numerous little springs 
beneath the surface of the soil, and to convey it to some 
distant spot for the irrigation of fields or the supply of 
^•illages. The frequent openings are for the purpose of 
affording facility in cleaning them. The aqueduct we 
now observed supplies the village of Jer-^d with an 
abundance of pure water. There is another and much 
longer one, on the other side of the plain, near the base of 
the hills on the north-west ; it conveys a large stream to 
the vicinity of the small village of 'Atny, 

At 8*15 we entered the gates of Jerud, and, passing 
through its straight and clean streets, which present an 
agreeable contrast to those of most other villages in this 
land, we dismounted at the house of Sheikh Fares, the 
Aga or governor of the district. The court-yard was filled 
with a motley crowd of Arabs and villanous-looking irregu- 


lars, all armed to the tcctli; while finely-formed horses 
were picketed around, and sheafs of long tufted spears 
stood in the corners. The whole scene was picturesque, 
but wild ; and the piercing gaze and fierce countenances 
of the Arabs were somewhat calculated to call up feelings 
of doubt and dread in the minds of those about to trespass 
on their territories. But at the same time the proud step, 
graceful flowing robe, and gay colours of the kefiyehs 
could not fail to elicit admiration. It is only within the 
bounds of his own undisputed domain that the Bedawy 
can be seen to advantage. In a city he is like a caged 
bird. His countenance is uneasy and restless, his gait 
constrained, and his whole mien betrays anxiety. AVhen 
not engaged in business, he generally squats in some quiet 
corner of a khan or street, peering from beneath the 
ample folds of his kefiyeh at the busy crowd around him. 
But he is a different being when he breathes the desert 
air : his eye dilates, his spare wiry frame becomes erect 
and commanding, and his step is firm and free. 

Sheikh Fares of Jerud ^ is governor of a large district 
of country on the confines of the desert, from the borders 
of the Hauran to Hasya. His principal duty is to keep 
the Arabs in check, and prevent them from ravaging the 
villages and fields. He maintains a force of about a hun- 
dred and fifty horsemen always ready for immediate ser- 

* During the present summer (1S54-) this very active and enei-getic 
chief was slain in a skirmish with the Beda\vin. The latter, taking 
advantage of the removal of the regular troops to the seat of war, have 
been more dai'ing and successful than usual in their forays. Hums and 
Hamah were in a state of siege for some months, and almost all the 
border towns and villages have felt the power of these marauders. 
vSheikh Fares had exerted himself greatly to check then- incursions; and 
at last fell a victim to his praiseworthy zeal. 


vice ; wliilc upon emergencies lie can raise some four 
hundred well-equipped cavaliers. The Arab tribes that 
frequent this part of the desert are generally on friendly 
terms with him, but it is only because they find it is for 
their interest to be so. He can command most of their 
great summer watering-places, and, by running a day's 
journey into the desert, can sweep away thousands of their 
sheep and camels to repay the villagers or government for 
losses sustained, while they have little chance of sufiicient 
reprisals. These statements explain the bustling and 
varied scene in his court-yard. 

'Amer had expected to find some of his tribe in Jerud, 
but was disappointed. Having ascertained the position 
of their encampment, we resumed our march after an hour 
and three-quarters' delay. Passing out at a gate opposite 
that by which we had entered, we struck across the fields, 
and, coming to a little fountain, filled our water-skin. 
After resuming our course we soon got entangled in soft 
heavy ground, on the borders of an extensive salt marsh. 
Our dromedaries, finding themselves sinking deeper and 
deeper at every step, became quite unmanageable. With 
much difficulty we got them into a hard path, and a few 
minutes after were on the stony desert soil skirting the 
western side of a salt lake that stretched away on our 
right like a sheet of snow. This salt marsh is from three 
to four miles in circumference. A small portion of it is 
perfectly white, while the soil of the remainder is spongy 
and thickly coated with a whitish saline incrustation. 
The inhabitants of Jerud and some of the other villatres 
collect the salt, and carry it to Damascus ; but it is bitter, 
and not so good in quality as that brought from Palmyra. 


Tlie plain at tliis point is about six miles wide, and almost 
perfectly flat. It is entirely uncultivated eastward of the 
gardens and fields of Jerud, chiefly owing to the want of 
water. In the direction of 'Atny, one hour distant north 
by east, there are some patches of cultivation, water being 
conveyed to it by the subterranean aqueduct above re- 
ferred to. The mountain chain on the north-west is lofty, 
precipitous, and wholly destitute of verdure ; that on the 
south-east side is considerably lower, but, like the other, 
bleak and barren. A break occurs in the latter ridge 
nearly opposite Jerud, through which a small river called 
Nahr el-MuJcubrit flows to the village of Maksura, in the 
plain of Damascus. The perennial source of this stream 
is at the village of Euliaibeh, one hour east of Mu'ad- 

After an hour's ride we passed between a group of 
little mounds, covered with dwarf thorn-bushes, which 
some villagers were engaged in cutting and binding 
together in large bundles for firewood. A few minutes 
after passing them we observed away on tlie plain to the 
left a single dromedary coming toward us with great 
speed. He was ridden by a peasant from 'Atny, who had 
been away looking after some goats. This was the last 
villager we met or saw for some days. At the end of two 
hours we had on our left the commencement of a 
mountain chain, which, running north-east by east, di- 
\'ides the plain. It continues, with a slight inclination to 
the east, to near the village of Kuryetein, and from 
thence takes an eastern course in an unbroken line to the 
great plain at Palmyra. The regular route to that city is 
along the valley, on the northern side of these mountains. 


through Kuryeteln ; we, however, took the route on the 
southern side of the range in a narrower and less regular 
valley. The aspect of the country far as the eye could 
see was now dreary and desolate in the extreme : a few 
weeds and tufts of herbage occurred at intervals on the 
plain, but the whole intervening space was covered with 
fragments of flint and limestone. Not a tree, not a shrub, 
and not a living creature was within the range of vision. 
The barren soil beneath, white and glistening, the mo- 
notonous undulations of the plain and naked slopes of the 
mountains all around, and the deep, unclouded blue of 
the great vault overhead, from which the brilliant sun 
shone fiercely down, pouring a flood of light upon the 
whole — such was the unvaried panorama that presented 
itself to us as we marched along. 

With silent footfall, and sweeping step, and ship-like 
motion, our dromedaries sped onward. There was no 
path to follow, and no barrier reared by nature or human 
hand to retard or turn them aside. Their course was 
direct and regular as if guided by a compass. Often did 
I scan the country around in the vain endeavour to descry 
some solitary wanderer, or even some animal, on this 
dreary waste. None could be seen. About the hour of 
afternoon prayers 'Amer, who had for some time ridden in 
silence with Mohammed the Ageily behind him, pulled 
ofi* his heavy boots and Arab cloak, and thrust them into 
his capacious saddle-bags. Tlius disencumbered he leaped 
lightly from the dromedary, and ran at a quick pace to an 
eminence a little on the right. He now looked a new 
man; the transformation was truly wonderful. In the 
city he appeared like one over whose head near sixty 


summers had passed, leaving their impress on form and 
face. But now, in the desert, his form was erect, and his 
step elastic, and his eye bright, as a youth of twenty. 
His picturesque costume, too, added to the juvenile ap- 
pearance. His brilliant silk robe of alternate stripes of 
red and white descended in graceful folds to the middle of 
his leg : it was confined at the waist by a girdle of red 
morocco leather, round the whole front of which were 
little brass tubes for cartridges. The sleeves of the robe 
were wide and open to the elbow, and from beneath them 
hung down those of his shirt, long and pennon-like, so 
that as he walked the points swept the ground. His silk 
kefiyeh was of the most brilliant colours, and had a fringe 
of plaited cord more than a foot in depth. His finely- 
formed feet and limbs were naked. Such was 'Amer as he 
now lightly and joyfully trod the desert soil ; and such is 
the ordinary undress of the Bedawy sheikhs : those, how- 
ever, who are of the ruling family in a tribe wear over 
this a short cloak of scarlet cloth, faced and trimmed with 

When 'Amer reached the rising ground he looked care- 
fully all over the plain and along the bordering hills, but, 
apparently unsatisfied, he proceeded to another eminence. 
My curiosity being roused by these movements, I began 
to exercise my vision too, and soon detected far away on 
the left, scattered on the mountain-sides, what appeared 
to be vast flocks, while farther away still I thought I could, 
dimly discern the black tents of their masters. I at once 
pointed them out to the Ageily, who was now mounted 
on the sheikh's camel, but he made no reply, and seemed 
to think I was mistaken. 'Amer soon after came up, 


and remarked to his attendant that he could not see them. 
I at once conjectured he was in search of some Arab en- 
campment, and probably that of his own tribe. After 
satisfying myself on this point I directed his attention to 
the flocks in the distance; he could not see them, but 
Mohammed admitted I was correct ; so, with a well-turned 
compHment on the sharpness of my vision, he mounted 
and rode straight to the encampment. 

At four o'clock we were in the midst of great herds of 
camels, scattered over plain and mountain for many miles 
on every side, and soon after, overtopping an eminence, 
we saw before us black tents almost innumerable. We 
met an Arab wandering among the flocks ; but he passed 
close to us without a salutation, and almost without a 
look at us. Some time after another passed near us, to 
whom 'Amer addressed a single question, receiving a brief 
answer. I gave him the usual salutation of strangers in 
the desert {el-awdfy'') ; he started as if surprised, gave 
me a quick, fierce look, but deigned no reply. This 
seemed no very pleasant introduction to Arab life. It 
took me quite by surprise ; it was so far different from 
the polite salutations of the peasantry, and from my an- 
ticipations of the boasted hospitality of the Bedawin. I 
began to have some gloomy forebodings that all might not 
be right. I did not then know what I afterwards learned, 
that this is Arab etiquette — in fact, the very essence of 
politeness. When strange Arabs approach an encampment 

* JlyJl is the plural of A-ilc' ^^^ ^^^ article prefixed. It signifies 

" safety or peace from God." There are many other forms of salutation, 
of which the most common is " Salamu aleikum " (Peace be with you); 
but no Christian can use this form of salutation in speaking to a 


in the desert, they wrap their cloaks carefully around 
them, and almost completely conceal their faces in the 
ample folds of their kefiyehs. No word of salutation is 
addressed to them, and no question asked on either side. 
They guide their animals in silence to any tent they 
choose to select, being careful, however, not to pass close 
to any other, as it would be considered an insult not to 
clami the hospitality of the first ; they dismount without 
a word at the tent door, and from that moment become 
the guests and protegh of its owner. The reasons and 
wisdom of this rather singular custom become at once 
apparent from a consideration of the peculiarities of Arab 
life. Blood feuds are of frequent occurrence among desert 
tribes, and there are few families but are somewhere in- 
volved in them. When a stranger approaches an encamp- 
ment, therefore, he knows not but that he may meet an 
enemy, and he consequently conceals his features till he 
reaches a place of safety. The duties of hospitality, too, 
are held so sacred, that no tribe or individual will salute 
or question an unknown stranger who claims it, lest they 
should discover in him one with whom they may have a 
blood feud. Once the stranger is within the precincts of 
a tent, his host is not only bound to supply his wants, but 
to defend him with his life.''' 

We dismounted at the door of a spacious tent in the 
centre of the encampment. No sooner had our sheikh 
touched the ground than he was affectionately embraced 

7 The best account of the peculiar manners and customs of the 
Bedawin are to be found in the writings of Burckhardt; especially hia 
' Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys,' and in his 'Travels in Arabia.' 
There is also much interesting information on this subject in the 
* M6noires du Chevalier d'Arvieux,' 6 vols., Paris, 1735. 


by his son, a fine boy of about fifteen. This scene at once 
brought to my mind some incidents recorded in Scripture, 
and seemed, in fact, to realize the interesting narratives of 
patriarchal times. The youth placed his hands on his 
father's neck, and kissed each cheek, and then they leaned 
their heads for a few seconds, while embracing, on each 
other's shoulders. Precisely similar was the scene at the 
meeting of Jacob and Esau nearly four thousand years 
ago. " And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, 
and fell on his neck, and kissed him." We were soon 
surrounded by a little group of wild-looking Arabs, who 
manifested intense curiosity at our every movement. Our 
luggage was placed within the tent, and comfortable seats 
prepared by the hands of 'Amer himself, who now cor- 
dially welcomed us to his desert home. The whole scene 
and circiunstances were to us intensely interesting. The 
numerous tents grouped together on the parched desert 
soil, the wide-spreading flocks and herds browsing peace- 
fully on every side, and the picturesque and primitive 
costumes of those who tended or wandered forth among 
them, pictured vividly before our minds the days when 
Abraham dwelt in tents, and when Jacob led his family 
and flocks across this same desert to the land of promise. 
The tents are unquestionably the same as those used in 
the most remote ages, for nothing could be imagined more 
simple than their construction. An oblong piece of black 
goats'-hair cloth is fastened to the ground by ropes and 
stakes, at each end and along one side ; several poles, 
some seven or eight feet long, placed upon their ends, 
keep it at the proper elevation, and leave one side entirely 
open — such is the whole fabric. The Bedawin never 


call It a tent ; its invariable name witli them is house of 

'Amer having borrowed my knife went to a neighbour- 
ing tent, occupied by his harim and younger children, to 
make ready, as we afterwards found, the feast for his 
guests. A lamb was speedily brought by a young man 
from the flock, and slain at the tent-door, and the still 
quivering limbs were handed over to his wife to be got 
ready.^ Meanwhile a semicircle of fierce-looking Arabs 
squatted in front of us as we sat in the tent-door : their 
whole mien and appearance were far from pleasing ; their 
dark complexions, hollow cheeks, flashing eyes, tattered 
habiliments, and greasy black hair hanging in long plaits 
down upon breast and shoulders, made up a tout ensemble 
more picturesque than agreeable. No word was addressed 
to us, as they thought we did not understand their lan- 
ffuaore, and for a time we did not undeceive them that we 
might enjoy their remarks. There was no lack of signs 
and gestures, and by these they endeavoured to frighten 
us for their own sport — one, pointing to a spear that stood 
beside the tent, made a quick thrust expressive of running 
through one of us : another raised a huge club with an 
iron-spiked head, while he examined and felt its knobs all 
over with his hand, all the time throwing very significant 
glances at us ; several others, stretching out their necks, 
drew their fingers across them with looks that could not 
be mistaken. We laughed at their acting, and showed 

^ Most of the manners and customs of the modern Bedawin ai^e ana- 
logous to those of patriarchal times; and there is none who vdW travel 
among these children of the desert but must see and feel with what 
faithfulness the sacred penmen represented the minutiae of oriental life. 
See Gen. xviii. G-8. 


them that we enjoyed the pantomime excessively. We 
got so familiar by signs that our entertainers began to try 
words, shouting at the pitch of their voices to make it 
more intelligible. One youth, the most ferocious-looking 
among the group, demanded if we were Christians ; we 
replied. Yes, of course : he then said that his religion 
would count it commendable to kill us. Mr. Eobson at 
once told him that, according to the words of the Prophet, 
he was wrong, for in the Koran Muslems were enjoined 
merely to take the head-money from Christians, and spare 
their lives. They seemed astonished that infidels should 
know anything of their law or sacred book, but were more 
astonished still that we could understand and speak their 

The sun went down behind the western hills, and the 
deep shadows of evening threw a stern grandeur over the 
landscape. Long lines of sheep and camels streaked the 
plain and mountain slopes, converging to the encamp- 
ment. The wind blew cold and biting as the daylight 
waned, and we could observe that the flocks crowded 
close together round the tents of their masters, as if 
to engender and communicate necessary warmth. A 
strange Bedawy, with an idiotic cast of features, now 
came from the neighbouring tent, carrying in his hand an 
instrument like a broken pickaxe. Passftig through the 
circle of spectators, he advanced towards where we sat, 
and, when within a yard of us, raised his weapon and 
sunk it deep into the soil at our very knees. The whole 
thing was done with such deliberation and quickness, 
that we both started back as if the blow had been aimed 
at our head. The Arabs around laughed heartily at our 

VOL. I. I 


fright, but the operator took not the slightest notice, and 
laboured away as if frantic, till he had excavated a con- 
siderable hole. Another Arab now came up, and threw 
in a few of the dry prickly shrubs that grow so plentifully 
in the desert ; and then, applying match and tinder, soon 
had them in a blaze. A third threw in a doakful of 
dry camels' dung over the burning mass. The skirt of 
his under garment supplied the place of bellows, and 
fanned the heap into a brisk leaping flame. Thus they 
kindled the desert fire, and the half-naked Arabs gathered 
round it, spreading out their thin bony hands to catch the 
genial warmth, and then rubbing them with evident satis- 
faction. Ever and anon one of the circle would add fresh 
fuel, while others stirred up the smouldering embers with 
their hooked sticks or massive clubs. The night wind 
too, sweeping round the tent, made the flame leap and 
play like a thing of life, and sometimes sent showers of 
sparks and hot ashes into the beards of the little circle, 
occasioning a momentary confusion, followed by a hearty 

At a signal from the other tent great bustle and ac- 
tivity was manifested by the group before us. AU rose 
up, and elderly men, approaching from various quarters, 
saluted us respectfully. 'Amer, his son, and Mohammed 
appeared among them, and were soon followed by three 
Arabs, bearing between them a monstrous dish, nearly 
four feet in diameter, on which was a huge pile of rice, 
with the members of a sheep scattered round the sides, 
and a large crater-like cavity in the simimit, filled with 
melted butter. This was placed as near us as the fire 
would permit, and resembled, when on the ground, a vol- 


cano in miniature. We were invited to approach and 
commence the banquet ; and several elders of the tribe, 
with Mohammed, after much pressing, were persuaded to 
sit down with us. Our host sat at a respectful distance ; 
his son and two or three smaller children close beside 
him. It is Arab etiquette for the host to be served last 
of all. 

The mode in which we ate (I say we, for we followed 
the Arabs in tliis respect) was as primitive as the banquet 
itself. Each simk his fingers into the pile of rice, made 
up a portion of it into a ball, dipped it in the butter, and 
then swallowed it. A venerable sheikh who sat beside 
me, seizing one of the choicest pieces of the sheep, tore off 
a handful of the flesh, and presented it to me with the 
usual word of invitation and compliment, "tefuddel."^ 
Fully sensible of the honour done me, I thanked him and 
ate the savoury morsel. Each one round now seemed 
desirous of emulating him in politeness, and we were 
deluged with these tit-bits till nature could hold out no 
longer, and we were reluctantly compelled to withdraw. 
Under other circumstances it might have been quite as 
agreeable to have used our own hands in the process of 
carving, especially as it was impossible to ascertain how 
many weeks had passed since those of our entertainers 
had enjoyed the luxury of a wash ; but those who are in 
the desert, if they would not be laughed at and despised, 
must follow desert customs. 

*• This word will be familiar to all who have ever visited the East. 
With the exception of " bakhshish," there is not perhaps another more 
universally known. It is of wide application, and is used to invite a 
visitor to enter a house or room, to take a seat, to pai'take of refresh- 
ments, &c. &c. It has no synonym in the English language. 

I 2 


WKen we had withdrawn with those who had joined 
us, another relay sat down ; and these were followed by 
another, until the mountain became a valley of dry bones. 
It was only when all had eaten and were satisfied that 
'Amer and his son approached and gathered up the frag- 
ments. Poor fellows ! their fare was but scanty. 

As the evening advanced the circle of our visitors 
enlarged. The fitful blaze but half revealed the wild 
figures that squatted round, and dimly showed the beau- 
tifully formed heads and soft eyes of two or three mares 
that gazed familiarly on the assembly, and the faint out- 
line of the huge camels picketed in the background. 
We were entertained with wild tales of Arab life and 
warfare, of bold forays and fierce reprisals, and of the 
wondrous speed and endurance of matchless and priceless 
mares, whose unbroken genealogies and untold perfections 
the whole tribe were proud of. We were eagerly ques- 
tioned too about our own far distant land — how many 
days' journey it was distant ? — if there were horses, and 
camels, and tents, and Bedawin there? Many a mut- 
tered wullali passed round the circle as we explained to 
them our mode of travel by both land and sea. At last 
our host and chief, with a kindness and consideration that 
we scarcely expected from the hardy desert child, advised 
us to spread oiir beds and sleep. Weary and shaken with 
a long ride and uncomfortable seats we were glad to 
follow his advice, and stretch our limbs on the hard 
ground. Wrapping round us our heavy cloaks, we were 
soon enjoying pleasant slumbers. 

I had slept long and soundly, when a rustling near my 
head, and a sharp suufiing at my face, roused me to con- 


sciousness and to my elbow. Stretcliing out my hand, it 
came in contact with some hairy animal quite close to me. 
In the firm belief that a jackal or other beast of prey had 
invaded our tent, I seized my stick, which I had taken 
the precaution to place beside me, and dealt the intruder 
several heavy blows. My adversary, however, kept his 
ground, and on a closer examination I found I had been 
thrashing a water-skin. The morning showed that some 
prowling animal had been endeavouring, fortunately in 
vain, to carry off the bag containing our supply of bread. 

April Srd. — A bed on the hard, stony, desert soil 
tends to promote early rising ; and for once at least I was 
thankful for it. The whole encampment, extending far 
away on every side, as viewed in the grey morning light, 
was one vast forest of camels, with a dense underwood of 
sheep and goats. Presently they began to waver, and the 
whole was soon in motion. The smaller animals assembled 
in groups, obedient to the call of their masters, and 
then followed them far away into the distance. Thus 
disappeared flock after flock, each knowing and following 
its own shepherd. Occasionally the vast masses mingled, 
and for a few moments imited ; but this caused no con- 
fusion, for "a stranger will they not follow : they know 
not the voice of a stranger." The Arab maids, in their 
graceful flowing robes, each a model for a statuary, now 
went forth from their tents to milk the sheep and camels, 
and returned again with the foam-crowned pails upon 
their heads. It was a purely pastoral and truly patri- 
archal scene, and well repaid us for an early start. 

An attempt at trade in camels between 'Amer and 
Mohammed detained us some time ; and had it not been 


for mingled threats and entreaties on our part, would 
probably have kept us all day. Our sheikh's dromedary 
had now to be coaxed from its associates, with wliich it 
had wandered over the plain, and it was 745 ere we were 
prepared to mount. Leaping into the saddle, I bade adieu 
to our friends, and followed our little party to the tent of 
the chief sheikh of the tribe, with whom 'Amer had some 
business to transact ere he left. A slave was sent to 
invite us to enter and drink coffee ; but as the sheikh 
did not come himself, we declined. I here observed an 
agent of Abbas Pasha, who had come to purchase horses 
for the Egyptian government. In a few minutes we 
were again in motion along the undulating plain, in 
the same direction we had followed in approaching the 
camp on the preceding day. Lofty barren mountain- 
chains still shut in the view on each side : those on the 
right rising apparently to a broad table -land. Some dis- 
tance in front the ranges converged, so as to leave only a 
narrow gorge between. Toward this we bent our course, 
in a direction nearly due east. 

In an hour and a half we descended into a plain resem- 
bling a vast amphitheatre. A narrow wady leads from it 
through the mountains on the right. Before us, on the 
left, rose two isolated conical hills, called 'Abd and 
'Abdeh — ' ' The male and female slave." Northward of 
these, at the distance of about two hours, lies the village 
of Kuryetein, but the intervening mountains hid it from 
our view. The whole landscape was now desolate and 
deserted : the flinty plain and cold grey mountain-slopes 
did not present to the eye a single interesting feature ; it 
was all light too, there was no shade to vary the scene or 


the colour, for the sun had mounted high in the heavens, 
and the hills sloped easily to their rounded summits. 
We felt indeed that we were fairly launched on an unin- 
habited and inliospitable desert ; and we felt too that our 
little party could offer but a feeble resistance to the fierce 
bands that frequently scour it in search of plunder. 
Often did our eyes sweep the panorama, and carefully did 
we examine every heap of stones or projecting rock, lest 
they might conceal the lurking bandits or swift troopers. 
The excitement thus kept up served to relieve the mono- 
tony of the prospect, and to counteract the sleep-inducing 
pace of our dromedaries. 

I had been examining for some moments the singular 
forms of the conical peaks 'Abd and 'Abdeh, when my 
attention was suddenly attracted by a black line just 
emerging from behind the northern base of the latter. I 
at once directed 'Amer's attention to it, but he could not 
see it. The dark body, however, gradually and swiftly 
increased in length, and seemed to expand. Our chief 
eagerly inquired whether the body was composed of foot 
or horsemen, but the distance was so great that I could 
only guess from the quick motion that they were mounted. 
Mohammed V7as now called, and, leaping lightly to 'Amer's 
side, he pronounced them to be a party of cavaliers. 
With a quick movement our little caravan was conducted 
behind a rising ground to escape observation ; but it was 
too late — the eagle eye of the Arab had already detected 
us. A horseman was seen to separate from the caravan. 
At first he appeared like a bird skimming over the sur- 
face of the gi'ound ; and the rapid pace at which he 
swept down the gentle slope would have led one to sup- 


pose that it must be some winged animal approaching. 
The outline of the steed soon became visible, and then the 
form of the rider crouched close to his back ; then the 
tufted spear projecting far in front : and ere we had sur- 
mounted the rising ground the tattered Arab reined up 
his noble steed within fifty yards of us. We had viewed 
this scene with lively interest. Never before had I seen 
the Arab horse on his native desert ; and however exciting 
were the present circumstances, and however calculated 
to awaken suspicions of coming danger, perhaps of plun- 
der, yet admiration was the only feeling we entertained 
for the moment. And when the stranger drew up, and 
his mare stood patient and gentle, without symptom of 
weariness or quickness of breatliing, but with expanded 
nostril and proud eye, I could see at once why the Arab 
loves his horse. The horse is everything to him. Money 
he cannot iise to advantage, and his simple wants are 
easily supplied. His few sheep or camels gather their 
food from a parched soil which no other lord claims. A 
genial clime makes rich clothing — such a costly toy to 
the denizens of the city and to civilized nations — of little 
use to him. A tattered garment will serve liim for 
years, and the simple furniture of his tent is generally 
hereditary. What, therefore, would be money to him ? 
But his noble horse will carry him swiftly over the 
parched desert, to the side of the devoted caravan or 
solitary wanderer ; and when danger threatens, he will as 
swiftly convey him beyond its reach. 

'Amer gave a brief reply to a question of the stranger, 
whereupon the saldm was mutually given ; and the Arab 
was in a few minutes more at the head of his movins; tribe. 


At 10 '50 we were sweeping along the plain at the 
southern base of 'Abd. Here we met a portion of the 
tribe, with the sheikh at their head. He was arrayed in 
his scarlet cloak, and splendidly mounted on a beautiful 
white mare. Friendly greetings were interchanged, and 
the tobacco-pouch of Mohammed considerably lightened ; 
we then went on our journey in peace. Large droves of 
sheep and camels, intermixed with a number of young 
colts, covered the whole plain around us ; while the women 
and children appeared here and there, perched on the top 
of huge camels, and surrounded with piles of cooking 
vessels. In a long march they often prepare the food on 
the camels' backs, and serve it out to their husbands, 
brothers, or sons. The harims of the principal sheikhs 
presented a singular and picturesque appearance. Two 
long poles, ornamented with tassels innumerable and varie- 
gated drapery, are laid across the back of some favourite 
dromedary, which is itself adorned with shells, tassels, and 
fringes. A small palanquin, with curtains of scarlet cloth 
gaily embroidered, is placed in the centre, and in this sit 
the wives and children. At a distance these machines 
look like gigantic birds with outstretched wings floating 
over the surface of the ground. The females did not by 
any means manifest the same coyness as the village belles, 
but looked eagerly at us with uncovered faces, and some 
of them even welcomed us to their native desert. 

We soon after entered a fine glen, whose sloping sides 
were carpeted with the wild anemone, the iris, and several 
other smaller flowers, while the summits were crowned, 
far overhead, with frowning clifls of naked rock. After a 
gentle ascent and quick descent, this glen led us, in about 

I 3 


half an liour, into a deep wady, running at nearly right 
angles to our route. We observed as we entered it a 
single dromedary coming down the opposite side, accom- 
panied by a man on foot. As soon as 'Amer learned that 
there was at least one man mounted, he prepared for 
action. A pair of old pistols, hitherto shut up in his 
saddle-bags, were hastily drawn out, fresh primed, and 
thrust into liis belt. A huge club, his only other weapon, 
was handed to Mohammed. Thus equipped we cautiously 
approached our suspected foes. As we drew near we per- 
ceived that there were tln:ee, all well armed for Bedawin. 
The man mounted in front had a long matchlock, the 
match of which he lit at some distance ; his companion 
carried a short spear, and the footman a formidable club. 
Our chief, seeing the odds thus against him, eagerly asked 
whether we carried pistols, and, on being answered in the 
affirmative, proceeded witli renewed confidence. I con- 
fess, however, that I felt rather doubtful about the pro- 
priety of risking an engagement. 'Amer's old pistols I 
knew could not be depended on, and, even should they 
chance to go off, would be just as likely to shoot liimself 
as his opponent, for they had been loaded lor more than 
three months. Mr. Eobson and I had only one pistol 
between us ; this, however, was double-barrelled, and I 
felt confident that it would not miss fire, which was more 
than the Bedawy could say of his gun. On we went now 
in full expectation of a fight. There was a short parley 
at a distance of some fifty yards, diuing which our foes 
examined us, calculating their chances of success in an 
attempt to plunder us. We took good care to exhibit our 
whole armament, and a sight of tliis apparently led them 


to conclude that it iniglit just be as safe to let us pass ; and 
thus we separated without uttering a word. 

Arabs in the desert are never afraid of large companies 
or moving tribes, except thej are foes with whom they 
have a blood-feud ; but they always fear stragglers. These 
generally leave their tribe for the sake of plunder, and as 
they conceal their faces it is impossible to identify them, 
and there is therefore no hope of restitution or retaliation. 
When a robber of this kind is killed in the act of robbing 
another, his own people disown him, and there is no blood- 
feud in consequence of his death. It is against such as 
these that travellers must be on their guard in the desert. 
A mere exliibition of fire-arms will generally serve to 
frighten them ; for they well know that they are outlaws, 
and may be shot with impunity. Against a large party, 
however, it is worse than useless to make any show of 
resistance ; these are the acknowledged guards of their 
tribe, and they consider it their just right to plunder all 
that enter their territory without permission. The best 
policy is to yield to them with a good grace, and under 
ordinary circumstances they will generally be satisfied 
with a liberal baJchshish. 

From the valley we ascended by a long uniform slope 
to a high table-land, wliich stretches away in gentle undu- 
lations to the south. Unlike the arid flinty plains, it was 
covered with long tliin grass and some few prickly slirubs ; 
while blue and red iris, convolvolus of various coloiirs, 
and a small yellow flower whose name I did not know, 
were thickly sprinkled over it. In front, a little to the 
left, rose a lofty conical peak that at once attracted our 
attention. The top seemed capped with a deep shadow 


and the sides were also speckled with sunilar shadows. 
Closer examination showed that this singular appearance 
was produced by differently coloured strata of rock. The 
whole surrounding country, both plains and mountains, 
was composed of white limestone, mixed with beds and 
nodules of flint ; but this peak was of sandstone, of lighter 
and darker hues, from a dull red, ahnost black, to a faint 
pink colour. This was probably caused by the presence 
of oxide of iron, in larger and smaller quantities, in the 
several strata. This mountain must form a conspicuous 
landmark from a great distance on the south, as it over- 
tops most of the others around it; and the beauty and 
brilliancy of its colours naturally attract attention. It is 
called by the Arabs Jehel el-Kehdleh. We passed it at 
three o'clock. 

Wlien parallel with tliis mountain we came suddenly to 
the brow of a long and steep slope, forming the head of a 
fine valley that stretched away eastward, far as the eye 
could see. Lofty mountain-ranges, with bold and rugged 
features, shut it in on each side ; and on the distant hori- 
zon these terminated in high conical peaks, between which 
the vale seemed to open upon the great desert plain. The 
dry bed of a winter-torrent meandered through it, and 
from our commanding position we could trace it as it 
wound along like a thread of silver until lost in the far 
distance. The rounded pebbles of wliite limestone that 
glistened along its path contrasted well with the verdure 
of its banks, now carpeted with grass and rank weeds 
after the winter's rain ; and one could almost fancy that 
his eye followed the tortuous course of some gently-flowing 

Chap. IV. JOUEXET TO P.a.MTRA. 181 

Wlien we readied the valley our patient animals seemed 
suddenly to feel the pangs of hunger, or perhaps they 
Avere lured by the tempting food around them ; for their 
course became erratic, and they stretched their long slen- 
der necks from side to side, cropping the jixicy weed or 
tuft of grass. The increasing roll of their walk, and the 
sharp jerk of their trot, were bad enough for our weary 
bones ; but when we began to be treated to these inter- 
ludes of plucking up in passing the luxuriant herbage, the 
motion became almost too much for endurance. I was 
indeed beginning to feel angry enough to beat my drome- 
dary into better behavioiir and more steady conduct when 
other matters came in for a share of my attention. In 
examining the country around, Mohammed's eagle eye 
detected the heads of two men peeping over a white 
mound in the distance, and at once pronounced them 
robbers — rather prematurely as I thought, for I could only 
perceive two dark spots, which might have been stones 
for all I could tell. The wily 'Amer determined at any 
rate not to run into a trap, but, if robbers they were, to 
ascertain their strength and draw them from their am- 
bush. Tapping his di'omedary on the neck, he turned it 
aside from the centre of the valley towards the mountains 
on the left, and proceeded at a quick pace. We had not 
gone far when the heads disappeared, and presently two 
men were seen on the other side of the mound, running 
across to intercept us. There was now no doubt as to 
their character and intentions ; there were but the two, 
however, and, unless armed with long guns, we cared 
little for them. They came up at a rapid pace as we 
resmned our former route — their cloaks were carefully 


folded round their bodies, and their kefiyehs so drawn 
over the face as to leave nothing exposed but their eyes. 
No weapon could be seen save the knobs of their clubs 
just appearing over their right shoulders. 'Amer dis- 
mounted, the heavy club in his hand, and told us to be 
on our guard. When within some fifty yards, the strangers 
asked who we were. 'Amer replied that we were Arabs 
on our way to Tadmor. They then attempted to approach 
close to him, but he drew out one of his old pistols to 
show them that he knew their intentions, and as an in- 
telligible liint that they must keep a safe distance. This 
had the desired effect, and as they retreated one of them 
loosed the folds of his cloak, thus revealing the hilt of a 
sword and the handle of a pistol. 

We now passed over undulating ground, intersected by 
deep ravines, and having little conical chalk hills at short 
intervals. Mohammed was sent out in front to act as 
advance guard, and give notice of any danger that might 
threaten ; and we were strictly enjoined not to sing, or 
even talk except in whispers. On we swept in utter 
silence — the cushioned feet of the dromedaries descending 
noiselessly on the light soil, and the grass tufts and weeds 
being cropped as usual. Our eyes scanned anxiously 
every nook and corner of the landscape, in the expectation 
of detecting some lurking bandit, and then turned again 
in half-disappointment to gaze on the lovely little flowers 
that carpeted our path, and that seemed in truth to be 
' ' born to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the 
desert air." The scenery around was grand, but it was 
the grandevu" of desolation ; and it was unvarying too, and 
therefore monotonous. A joyful shout from the Ageily, 


whom we could see standing on the summit of a mound 
a quarter of a mile in front, roused us from sober re- 
flection, and made us quicken our pace. We had soon 
swept round the base of the little tell, and then saw away 
in the distance a clump of Arab tents, occupying a verdant 
nook at the entrance of a wild ravine. The sun was 
already fast sinking to the western horizon, and the hills 
on our left, enveloped in deep shadow, assumed a wild 
and gloomy aspect. We had begun to anticipate the plea- 
sure of spending a night in the open air, without water, 
and without a shelter from the cold blast. It may be 
imagined then how the sight of these few tents cheered 
us, and with what pleasure we urged our weary animals 
toward them. 

As we approached the little encampment we wrapped 
our cloaks around us, and concealed our features in the 
ample folds of our kefiyehs. AVe advanced directly to 
the largest tent, which stood a short distance from the 
others, and dismounting in silence spread our carpets and 
cloaks in the tent-door and took our places. Not a word 
was addressed to us, and a little circle of four or five 
elders, who squatted a few yards off, scarcely looked at us 
with ordinary curiosity as we made our simple arrange- 
ments, and claimed, iminvited, their hospitality. 'Amer 
and Mohammed advanced to the circle of Arabs, who rose 
to receive them, and gave them the ordinary salutation. 
They all now approached to where we sat and bade us 
welcome. A circle was formed as usual, but there was 
little conversation. There were but a few tents, and their 
occupants seemed poor. Their flocks were not numerous, 
and I saw only one horse. They had probably separated 


from some larger tribe on account of family feuds. The 
other end of the tent, which was appropriated by the 
women, presented a very different aspect from the quiet 
and silence of our department. All was bustle and hurry 
there. Two women sat down to grind at the mill, while 
a third shook a skin of milk that was suspended to the 
top of the tent, to prepare butter for the evening's repast ; 
and several others arranged the fires and brought forth the 
largest cooking vessels. The result of their labours was 
soon apparent, for ere the brief twilight had passed a large 
dish of hurghul ^ was set before us, with a profusion of 
melted butter. The people were too poor to afford a lamb 
or even a kid, and they presented the best they had. 
Hungry as we were, we could scarcely taste this rude fare ; 
we tried however to swallow a few mouthfuls, and the 
increasing darkness favoured our attempts at politeness. 

April Ath. — We were up with the dawn, and in the 
saddle ten minutes after. We had no toilets to attend to, 
and the Arabs never eat breakfast. We found, however, 
that, early as we got up, some of the ladies were before us, 
as we could perceive several of them in the grey light of 
the morning setting out with their donkeys and water- 
skins to bring water from a neighbouring well. This 
well, we were informed, is called Baslreh, and is situated 
half an hour distant up the glen. There is another well 
of living water on the opposite side of the valley, an hour 
and a quarter distant, called 'Ada. 

The morning was bitterly cold as we rode up a gentle 

' Burghul is Tvheat coarsely ground or broken, with the bran in it. 
Boiled in water, and di-essed with butter or sour milk, it is the staple 
food of the Arabs. 


slope from the encampment, and, thougli we made use of 
all our heavy coats and covered up our feet with the 
lehafs, we could scarce keep out the cutting blasts that 
swept over the mountains. The cry of robbei's soon drew 
away our attention from the cold. Three men were 
observed attempting to intercept us as we crossed a large 
swell in the plain. To escape or avoid them was impos- 
sible, and so we prepared to meet and resist them. They 
came upon us as the others had done, but one of them 
carried a long matchlock. 'Amer gave the club to the 
Ageily, and told us to prepare for an attack. They were 
soon near us, but our valiant chief was on the ground to 
meet them. With a pistol in each hand he confronted 
the advancing marauders. Seeing they still approached 
him, I threw off my cloak and drew a pistol: Mohammed 
too flourished his club. When they saw us determined to 
resist, one of them dropped behind his companions and 
squatted on the ground, and the others only followed us a 
few paces farther. The whole scene was a pantomime — 
not a word was spoken on either side : each party care- 
fully scanned the opposite, and calculated the probabilities 
of an encounter. The others seemed to think the chances 
of success were in our favour, and we were heartily glad 
it was so, for I verily believe that, sooner than have sub- 
mitted to be stripped, with the almost certain prospect of 
perishing of cold afterwards, we would have disabled one 
or more of the bandits. It is an inconvenient habit these 
Arab robbers have of stripping their victims of every stitch 
of clothing, however rich may have been their baggage 
and however full their purse. During my short experi- 
ence in Syria I have known more than one instance in 


which even ladies have shared the fate of their lords in 
this respect. 

At nine o'clock we were in the midst of vast herds and 
a large encampment. Our chief met a friend who invited 
us to go to his tent and eat dates. The offer was too 
tempting to be refused, though it led us some distance 
out of our route. We were ere long comfortably seated 
in a capacious tent, with a monster dish before us filled 
with delicious dates, and having in the centre a large cake 
of snowy butter. Such a mixture I had never before seen 
or heard of, but it is a common one with the Bedawin, 
and we found it excellent. Before leaving Damascus we 
had heard that the Baghdad caravan had been plundered, 
and now here were we seated, partaking of the spoil, the 
invited guests of the robbers. The affair looked bad 
enough in theory^ but then we had ridden nearly four 
hours without breakfast, and our entertainers thought 
moreover that they had a perfect right to the contents of 
the caravan. It was scarcely a suitable time for us to 
enter on a discussion of abstruse questions in moral phi- 
losophy. Trespassers are often severely punished in Eng- 
land, and why may not the Bedawin borrow a leaf from 
the English code ? The laws of the desert, it is true, are 
somewhat severe, and their execution summary. All 
goods found within the borders of a tribe are confiscated. 
But these laws are of great antiquity and universally 
known ; all therefore who despise them must just bear the 
consequences when caught. There is another fact which 
tends to palliate this so-called crime. Every Arab tribe 
will, for a very small percentage, guarantee the safety of 
a caravan tlu-ough its own territory. It is only when one 


tribe gets the monopoly of conveyance, and refuses to 
others their just rights, that caravans are attacked and 

After a rest of forty minutes we again resumed our 
journey, and the black tents and wide-spreading flocks of 
our friends were in due time left far behind and shut out 
from view by the imdulations of the plain. Our course 
was still in the great valley, and the scenery around pre- 
sented the same general features. Towards noon a voice 
hailed us from the opposite side of a deep ravine, along 
which for a time we had travelled. I knew not what 
questions were asked, but never before had I seen so wild 
and savage-looking a specimen of humanity. His whole 
wardrobe was composed of the tattered remnant of a blue 
shirt, that covered about the fourth part of his body ; his 
head was bare, but nature had covered it with a thick 
crop of hair, that flowed in long straggling elf-locks over 
breast and shoulders ; his voice was shrill and piercing, 
even for an Arab ; and his questions were asked with the 
abruptness peculiar to his race, and in a tone that seemed 
accustomed to command. A short boar-spear was his only 
weapon, and on this he leaned as he shrieked his queries 
across the wild gorge that separated us. 

Mohammed, who was still acting as avant-guard, had 
been for some time out of sight, and 'Amer manifested 
considerable anxiety about him on being told that several 
men were in sight in the direction from which our late 
friend had come. "Ya Mohammed I Ya Mohammed!" 
he shouted, and his voice resounded across the plain ; but 
no Mohammed responded or appeared. 'V\'e rode on 


between low mounds of naked reddish earth, exercising 
both eyes and lungs. At last on surmounting an eminence 
we observed, in the far distance, black tents and moving 
flocks covering nearly the whole valley, while little groups 
of cavaliers dashed about among them in mimic warfare. 
And there at our feet was Mohammed calmly gazing on 
the exciting scene. 

We were now marching close to the base of the north- 
ern line of mountains, and had the greater part of the 
valley, here some four or five miles wide, on our right. 
We could see that about four hours more would usher us 
into the great plain that began to open up on the east. 
The character and features of the country hitherto were 
far different from my early impressions of the road to 
" Tadmor in the Wilderness." Fancy had pictured a 
boundless plain covered with the white shifting sands, 
without a blade of grass or even a green weed to break 
the eternal monotony. I had pictured too a solitary palm- 
tree shading a little fountain and standing all alone in the 
midst of the vast expanse. But here were noble mountain- 
ranges, and wild ravines, and long winding vales; and 
the whole covered, scantily it is true, with tufts of grass, 
and prickly shrubs, and little flowers of brightest hue to 
sweeten and enliven the scene. There was no sand, and 
there were no palm-trees to mark the places where li^^ng 
waters spring. In no way did it satisfy my ideas of a 
desert, save in this — that there were no settled inhabitants 
and no traces of them. 

At 1'45, as we were passing a large tent in the outskirts 
of an encampment, a friendly voice suddenly cried, " Ya 


'Amer ! Ya 'Amer ! Hauwel ! Hauwel!"- and in a mo- 
ment more our chief was in the arms of an aged Arab, 
who embraced and kissed him most lovingly. Another 
and another came up and went tlirough the same cere- 
mony. It was quite impossible to resist the importunities 
of these hospitable men. We must dismount — sheep 
must be slain — princely banquets must be prepared in 
honour of the arrival of 'Amer and the illustrious strancrers. 
Our dromedaries were seized and pulled to the ground, 
and we were all but dragged from their backs and trans- 
ported per force into the interior of the tent. Long and 
loud did we remonstrate. We had expected to reach 
Palmyra in the evening, and this besides was no pleasant 
place for us to spend the afternoon. It was in vain, how- 
ever, and so, when we could do nothing else, we quietly 
sat down on our carpets to await the will of our masters. 

We were scarcely seated when we observ^ed a young 
man bind on his sandals^ and set off at speed across the 
plain. In half an hour he returned bearing a lamb on his 
shoulders. The poor animal was soon stretched upon the 
ground, bleeding and in the agonies of death. Stripped 
of its skin with Arab despatch, the yet quivering body was 
handed over to the tenants of the harim. 

The whole of this scene, however inconvenient under 
present circumstances, was regarded by both Mr. Robson 

* " 'Amer! 'Amer! stop, stop!" We afterwards learned that 
this was a portion of 'Amer's own tribe that had lately separated from 
the main bodj', to pasture their flocks in this fine vale. 

3 The Bedawin never wear shoes. When their tents are pitched on 
gravelly soil, they wear a piece of uuth-cssed leather tlie size and shape 
of the sole, fa.stening it on by thongs bound over the foot and round 
the ankle. — See Acts xii. 8. The "shoe-latchet" of Gen. xiv. 23, was a 


and myself with deep interest. It seemed as if we had 
been carried back more than three thousand years in the 
world's history, and by some mysterious providence per- 
mitted to mingle with the people of patriarchal times. 
The salutations we heard around us, and those addressed 
to ourselves, were such as had been familiar to us from 
childhood in the simple stories of Abraham and the angels 
in the plains of Mamre,^ and of Jacob and Laban at 
Padan-Aram,^ Here was the aged sheikh sitting in his 
tent-door watching for chance wayfarers — here was the 
generous hospitality that would constrain us to remain 
until we had partaken of refreshments — here too were the 
wide-spreading flocks from which the lamb was brought, 
and the almost inconceivable expedition with which it 
was killed and dressed and served up with butter and 
milk.^ The solemn interview between Abraham and the 
angels in the plain of Mamre was now pictured on our 
minds in far more brilliant colours than it had ever been 
before. The whole of that graphic narrative was strik- 
ingly illustrated by what had just occurred to ourselves. 
" Abraham sat in the tent-door in the heat of the day ; 
and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men 
stood by him; and when he saw them he ran to meet 

* Gen. xviii. 2 and 3. ' Gen. xxix. 

8 The Arab butter is made in the usual way by churning the milk. 
The process of chiuming is somewhat singular. A skin of milk is tied 
up to a tent-pole, and shaken by a woman until the butter separates. 
When fresh, the butter is tolerable ; but when it has stood some time, 
the taste, and even the smell of the skin, come out pretty strong. 
Milk is of two kinds — fresh, called halih ; and cm-died, called lehen. The 
latter is a common kind of refreshment. It is evidently the Hi^Dn 
hemnh, which Abraham gave the angels, and which Jael gave to Sisera 
(Judg. V. 25). 

Chap. IV. J0I7KNEY TO PALM YEA. 191 

them from the tent-door, . . . and said, My lord, if now I 
have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray 
thee, from thy servant ; . . . And I will fetch a morsel of 
bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall 
pass on. . . . And Abraham ran into the herd, and fetched 
a calf tender and good, and gave it mi to a young man ; 
and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, 
and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before 

Wishing to wander among the tents and take a look at 
the private life and social habits of the Bedawin, I set out 
alone. I had not proceeded far however when I was 
attacked by a number of fierce dogs. Standing on the 
summit of a heap of stones I managed to keep them at a 
distance for a time ; but every moment increased the 
number of my assailants, and I know not what might 
have been the result had not two women come to my 
rescue. I thanked my fair allies in the best manner I 
could, and they in return invited me to their tents, which 
were close by. I did not quite understand Arab etiquette 
on this point, and consequently declined. I well knew 
that, if their lords at all resembled the Muslems of the 
cities, they would not wish to have then- harims visited in 
their absence. The invitations given me were very press- 
ing, and the promises held forth such as no Arab could 
withstand — dates, leben, butter, milk, and honey, were 
all mentioned among the dainties to which they would 
treat me. But I would not be persuaded, and simply 
requested one of my kind friends to escort me back to my 

' Gen. xvili. 1-8. 


I have often heard it said that the Arab women are 
generally plain in features. I cannot by any means agree 
with this statement. I have now seen many of them in 
different places, and belonging to different tribes, and in 
general I have found their features regular, and even 
handsome. Their bodies are finely proportioned, and their 
carriage and walk easy and gracefiil. All of them have 
that rich, black, lustrous eye that is only seen in perfec- 
tion in the East. The forehead is open and high, and the 
eyebrows beautifully arched. The mouth is well formed, 
with proudly curved lines ; but this feature is universally 
disfigured by the custom of staining the under lip dark 
blue. The braided hair is almost quite covered by a black 
veil that hangs gracefully over the shoulders, the corner 
of which is frequently brought forward to cover the lower 
part of the face. The whole dress consists of a long, loose, 
blue robe of coarse calico. It is drawn closely roimd the 
throat, has wide hanging sleeves, and sweeps the ground 
like a train when they walk. A profusion of bracelets of 
gold or silver adorn the arms, and large rings and drops 
hang from the ears; but only a few of them wear the 
nose-jewel. This simple costume is admirably adapted to 
display the symmetry of their form and gi-acefulness of 
their movements : it causes no restraint or stifihess, but, 
allowing full play to nature, leaves all the beautiful pro- 
portions of the body to be fully developed. The gay 
votaries of fashion in the more polished nations of the 
West might imitate, to some extent, and with great ad- 
vantage, the simple attire of these daughters of the desert. 
It is true beauty only lasts here while the bloom of 
youth is on the cheek and health gives elasticity and ful- 


ness to the frame. The noble and stately matron, to 
whose countenance the Imes of tiine give even more true 
beauty, and to whose form the staidness of advancing age 
adds fresh dignity, is not found in the desert. The aged 
Arab women are hideously ugly, and there is a malignity 
in the glance of their pierciag eyes, and in the general 
expression of their sharp features and withered faces, that 
remmds one of Macbeth's witches. Still tliis does not 
arise from the character of the costume ; there are other 
and far more lamentable causes to which it must be attri- 
buted. It is the light of the intellect beaming through 
the countenance that makes beauty perennial in civilized 
lands. It is the mind, enlarged by education, refined by 
social mtercourse, and sanctified by religion, that makes 
the matrons of England so truly graceful. When the 
roses fade i;pon the cheeks and the fresh fulness leaves 
the form, a beauty of a higher and nobler kind takes their 
place. Intelligence beams from the eyes, and animates 
each feature ; benignity and love are enshrined in every 
smile ; while the magic influence of conversation, which 
serves to display all the resources of a cultivated mind and 
all the deep feelings of a regenerated soul, gives the whole 
person a charm above that of earth. The light of religion 
does not shine upon the daughters of Ishmael. Christi- 
anity has not raised the powers of their minds to nobler 
or holier objects than the tending of their flocks and the 
care of their tents ; and neither has it touched the heart 
to unbind the deep and tender emotions seated there. 
The beauty of the Arab girl is but that of the spring 
flower, which withers under the summer's sun, and dies 
when the cold blast of autumn blows upon it. 
VOL. I. K 


We had tlae sumptuous evening repast, and the bright 
camp-fire, and the picturesque circle that gathered round 
it, and the spirited tales of " hair-breadth 'scapes, and 
moving incidents," and successful forays ; but all these 
could not withdraw our thoughts from Tadmor. We 
could not forget that that " wonder of the desert" was still 
before us, and only a few hours distant. We spoke of it 
in our own tongue, heedless of the inquiring faces around 
us, and wondered whether it would disappoint our bright 
anticipations. To prepare for an early start, we wrapped 
ourselves up in our abeilis, and tried to sleep. The wind 
blew loud, and currents, bitterly cold, came sweeping over 
our faces ; and the old tent swayed and flapped, and sleep, 
tliough courted, refused to come. I turned on my hard 
couch, as a last resource, but this made matters worse. A 
little group had gathered round the declining fire, crouch- 
ing close to the warm embers. 'Amer was there, and 
anxiety, as I imagined, pictured in his countenance. He 
talked earnestly, and in low tones, with those who sat near 
him — mostly old men. I could occasionally gather a few 
words, and these did not tend to induce that repose of mind 
conducive to sleep. To-morrow's journey was the subject 
of conversation : some difiiculty was in the way — some 
danger seemed to threaten. The mountains were named, 
and the plain too was spoken of; but in what connexion I 
could not comprehend. My attention was roused, and I 
tried, but in vain, to catch the varying tones, and to 
follow the hasty words. Imagination, also, came into play, 
and fancy pictured all kinds of dangers and adventures. 
A gloomy impression was left upon my mind, and I had 
not vigour enough, weary as I was, to overcome it. 


April 5th. — A gentle touch on the shoulder made me 
start from sleep. It was yet dark, and I was in that half- 
conscious state in which one often finds himself when 
suddenly roused from heavy slumber. I knew not where 
I was, or why disturbed, and no object was visible to 
rouse me to a sense of my whereabouts. The deep growl 
of a dromedary, and the voice of 'Amer calling us to 
mount, soon brought me from the land of dreams. A cold 
and cutting blast blew strongly in my face as I left the 
tent, and sent me back for my heavy coat ; over this, when 
seated on my impatient animal, I threw the ample folds of 
an abeih, and, thus protected against the intense cold, I 
joined my companions. The first gray streak was stretched 
along the eastern horizon as we bad adieu to our hospitable 

It was 5'20 when we left the tent, and our path lay 
near the base of the northern mountains, to which we 
gradually approached. Some of the ravines that furrow 
the sides of these hills are deep and wild, and we found 
difficulty in crossing them even in the plain. At 6*25 we 
suddenly turned to the left up a narrow, deep, and rocky 
defile, that appeared to divide the mountain-chain to its 
centre. The mysterious conversation of the previous night 
now recurred to me, and, glancing down the valley to the 
right, I saw several small encampments in the distance. I 
inquired if we were not going down the valley to the 
desert beyond, and if that were not tlie easiest and best 
route. 'Amer replied that this was shorter ; but the Ageily 
added that there were robbers on the other. I at once 
said that, if those were they in the distant tents, they had 
detected and were pursuing us, as some horsemen were 

K 2 


now coming up from them at a fast pace. 'Amer sliowed 
neither fear nor anxiety at this intelligence ; but whether 
his confidence arose from the nature of the defile we had 
now entered, or from the close proximity of his friends, or 
from a knowledge of the Arabs themselves, I cannot tell. 

In a few minutes more we were climbing up a steep and 
difficult zigzag path. Lofty broken cliffs with jagged 
summits towered far overhead on each side, and straggling 
prickly shrubs, shooting out from chinks and^cre vices, added 
wildness to the scene. The way was extremely difficult for 
camels, and more than once did I fear that the unwieldy 
animals would have toppled over when scaling a steep 
slope, or passing along a shelving ridge. I did not feel at 
ease when I considered the whole matter ; I knew sufficient 
of the general features of the country to feel assured that 
an easier, if not a shorter, way to Tadmor would have 
been found round the eastern end of the mountain-chain ; 
and if so, it was no small thing that would send our sober 
chief over such a pass as this. The strange consultations 
of the previous night, too, still kept my mind uneasy. 
The talk about the "mountains" and the "plain" now 
seemed half explained, and I looked forward with some 
anxiety to the conclusion of our journey. 

When we reached the top of the pass and the narrow 
summit of the ridge, a view of vast extent and consider- 
able beauty opened up before us. At our feet was a broad 
plain, perfectly flat, extending away to the west far as the 
eye could see. Beyond it, on the north, rose a bold and 
lofty chain of white mountains, whose rugged sides were 
furrowed by wild ravines, and partially covered with oak 
forests. On the east, at the distance of several hours, the 


two parallel chains, that on the north, and the one on 
whose ridge we now stood, turned at nearly right angles to 
their course, and converged so as to leave but a narrow pass 
into the desert beyond. 

" Where is Tadmor?" we eagerly inquired, as we gazed 
on this vast panorama. 

"Yonder," said our guide; and he pointed with his 
hooked stick to the vista in the eastern hills. 

We strained our eyes toward the spot, but it was in vain. 
The crumbling ruins of the city of Zenobia were still 
either obscured by the distance or covered by the inter- 
veninij hills. 

As we descended the mountains, 'Amer asked me, with 
apparent anxiety, if I saw any tents, or flocks, or Arabs in 
the plain. I examined it all, but could see none. On the 
far side, immediately below an oak forest, were a number 
of black spots resembling tents; but Mohammed pro- 
nounced them trees, and perhaps he was correct. 

" Yonder hills," said ^Amer, pointing to the opposite 
range, distant about twelve miles — " yonder hills are called 
Jehel el-Ahiad.^ Among them live a fierce and warlike 
race of people, whom we are not able to subdue. They 
have guns and horses; they live in stone houses and 
villages, and they never wander free like us." 

" Are they cultivators of the soil, or do they merely feed 
flocks like the Bedawin ?" 1 asked. 

^ Jehel el-AUdd signifies the " white mountains." This range runs 
unbroken from Kuryeteiu along the northern side of a great valley to 
Tadmor. It may be regarded aa a continuation of one of the side ridges 
of Anti-Lebanon, which, I above observed, forms the north-western 
boundary of the plain of Jerdd, The Jebel el.Abiad ai'e mentioned in 
Bm-ckhardt's Travels in Syr., App, No. VI. 


"They arc all shepherds, and never plant or sow," was 
his reply. 

This was new information to me, and I greatly doubted, 
and still doubt, its accuracy. There are undoubtedly a 
few straggling villages in the desert between northern 
Syria and the Euphrates ; and if we are to derive our in- 
formation from Berghaus' map, we might conclude that 
there are few districts in Western Asia more densely in- 
habited. I had never heard before in this coimtry that 
there was any district in that region so thickly peopled as 
'Amer represented. He could not have meant the Jacobites 
of Sudiid, and the two or three little villages near it, for 
these are far to the westward, and in the plain. I do not 
think, however, that 'Amer would tell a deliberate false- 
hood ; there was nothing to provoke it. It is highly pro- 
bable that this district, like the Safa, is naturally strong 
and difficult of access, and that some Arab tribe has, from 
time immemorial, held possession of it, and there pastured 
their flocks and herds, secure against the depredations of 
the wild desert hordes. There may be also half-ruined 
towns and villages similar to those in the Lejah,® among 
which the people find shelter for their families and flocks.^ 

At seven o'clock we reached the plain, and at once set 
out steadily toward the break in the mountains to the 
east. The ground was here barren and gravelly, and the 

9 Both the Lejah and the Safa will be described in the sequel. 

' During a recent visit to the country around the town of Httms, 
of which an account will be given in its propei' place, I was informed 
that the mountain region in the direction of Jebel el-Abiad is thickly 
studded with ruined to\vns and villages of considerable antiquity. The 
houses were described as built of stone, like those in the Hauran; and 
many of them are said still to remain entu'e. 


surface sliglitly undulating. In the ravines and vales 
among the hills on the right were considerable expanses of 
brushwood, intermixed with some few dwarf oaks ; and in 
many places there appeared to be excellent pasturage. I 
could perceive no vestiges of former cultivation on any part 
of the plain or moimtains ; no green spot that marked the 
presence of stream or fountain ; and no mouldering ruin or 
solitary cairn to show that man had ever dwelt here. All 
was dreary, desolate, and blasted, as if a curse hung over 
the land. The geological features of this whole region are 
wonderfully uniform, the moimtain ridges being wholly 
composed of calcareous limestone of a soft texture, and the 
plains covered with fragments of this rock, intermixed with 
pieces of flint. The sun's rays, when they beat directly 
on the gravelly soil, soon destroy all vegetation, and con- 
sequently during the summer and autumn it is bare and 
white almost as the naked rock. There is thus a want of 
colour in the landscape ; and as during the day there is no 
light and shade to bring out the bolder features of the 
mountains, and no clouds to vary the eternal blue of the 
bright firmament above, or to throw a temporary gloom 
over sections of the panorama below, the whole scene looks 
bare and monotonous. 

The day was now bright and sultry, and the heated air 
danced and quivered on the surface of the ground, like 
ripples on a lake. Every little shrub and rock appeared 
as if in motion. Away in the distance the mirage exerted 
its magic influence, and converted the parched soil into 
vast expanses of water, fringed with long grass and waving 
reeds.^ While contemplating this strange and interesting 

® The uaine of the mirage iu Arabic is semh ,_,^ , which corresponds 


phenomenon, I perceived sometliing moving as if through 
the water toward us ; I could see, or at least I thought 
so, the splash occasioned by every footstep. Nearer and 
nearer it came, till, on reaching the shore-line, its form 
became more defined, and I apprised 'Amer of the ap- 
proach of a swift dromedary. Great anxiety was again 
pictured in his features as he asked from whence it came, 
and whether it was alone. The old pistols were now once 
more in requisition, and the club was given over to 
Mohammed, while we were told to prepare for war. 

The dromedary drew near, and a cold salcirn was inter- 
changed between 'Amer and the rider. Our chief evidently 
knew the stranger, and I heard him inquire as he passed 
where his tribe was. He pointed with his short spear 
northward across the plain, and said they were yonder at 
the foot of the mountains. 'Amer now turned his drome- 
dary in that direction, and proceeded thus till the stranger 
was out of sight, when he again struck to the right in 
nearly an opposite course, taking advantage of a shallow 
wady to escape all possibility of observation. We could 
not of course fully understand these manoeuvres, and our 
leader was not communicative. We suspected, however, 
that there was danger to be anticipated from the northward. 

At ten o'clock we reached low white chalk hills, which 
extend from the base of the mountains some distance into 
the plain. The best and most direct route for us was 
manifestly to the left of these, but 'Amer struck in among 
them, and proceeded in a winding course through the 

to the Hebrew ^"W. This illustrates Isa. xxxv. 7, where we may read 
"the mirage shall become a lake." A more remarkable manifestation 
of the Divine blessing bestowed on a land could not be conceived than 
the changing of such a plain as this into a lake. 


valleys. This made it still more evident to us tliat lie 
dreaded the tribe of wlilcli he had heard as being en- 
camped to the northward ; and we now saw that his object 
was to get to Tadmor by skirting the base of the mountains 
to the right, and probably crossing them into the plain 
eastward. As we passed along the side of one of the little 
hills I saw, away in the opening to the east, what appeared 
to be a castle crowning one of the brows of the northern 
mountain-ridge, and below it I could distinguish several 
lofty buildings on elevated positions. 'Amer stretched out 
his hand toward these buildings, and, looking round at us, 
said, " There is Tadmor." Eagerly did we fix our eyes on 
the longed-for spot, and try to distinguish the form and 
character of the ruins. Doubts and fears were in a moment 
dispelled from our minds. The buildings could not be 
more than an hour distant, and already in pleasant antici- 
pation we were in the midst of those colonnades and 
porticoes, and proud memorials of the wealth and power of 
bygone ages. Columns, and friezes, and tottering walls, 
and sculptured stones, half buried in the desert sands, 
"were before the mind's eye. We rejoiced to picture the 
nature of the first impressions the ruins would make upon 
us, and we talked of the diligence with which every 
moment would be employed in the examination of minute 

In a few minutes more we were sweeping round the 
base of the last of the chalk hills, when a shrill cry from 
the rocky mountain far overhead caused us all to start. 

" What means that shout?" said 'Amer to Mohammed. 

" I know not," he replied, " but I suppose it is some 
shepherd calling to his fellows in the plain." 

K 3 


As wc passed the tell tlie tuft of a spear was observed, as 
if floating in the air, on the opposite side, and a moment 
after an Arab drew up his fiery steed some twenty yards 
from us. He addressed a hasty question to 'Amer, which 
I did not hear. We all at once stopped, in the full con- 
sciousness that something serious was impending. Another 
horseman now galloped up, and, after speaking a few words 
to the former, rode off at speed across the plain. His com- 
panion, without uttering a word, turned and walked away 
slowly after him, and we calmly and silently followed him. 

" What is this ?" said I to my companion ; " where are 
we going now ?" 

"I fear," he said, "that we are no longer our own 
masters, and that we are just going wherever that cavalier 
may lead us." 

We demanded of 'Amer the meaning of this scene, but 
he seemed either not to hear or not to heed the question, 
and he looked absent and dejected. Presently, however, 
the Ageily came close to Mr. Robson, and said, in a low 

" They are robbers, and will plunder you ; but give me 
your purse, and it will be safe." 

This was no agreeable information, but still we thought 
Will two rob us ? Can we not defy them, and hasten to 
Tadmor, which is now not far distant ? 'Amer, however, 
made no display of his old pistols, and conveyed to us no 
word of command or encoura£fement. He had evidently 
no thought of resistance, whatever was the character or 
number of our enemies. 

It was a time of intense anxiety to us all. The horse- 
man had disappeared in the distance, but his companion 


hovered near us. Ten minutes had scarcely passed when 
a cloud of dust was seen away across the plain, as if raised 
and borne along by the whirlwind's blast. Swiftly and 
steadily it approached, and our eyes were riveted upon 
it, while we held our breath in suspense. At last it 
seemed suddenly to break, when there appeared to our 
dismay some thirty horsemen, armed with spears and 
matchlocks, bearing down upon us with the swiftness of 
eagles. They were a wild and savage-looking group as ever 
it was my lot to behold. They had all thrown aside their 
abeihs, and retained no covering but the loose open shirt, 
which now streamed in tatters behind them, leaving their 
brawny legs and arms quite naked. Most of them, too, had 
cast off the kefiyeh, and their long plaited hair mingled 
behind with the streamers of their scanty garments. They 
looked more like demons than men as they clung to the 
bare backs of their fiery steeds, and brandished their rude 

'Amer had, in the mean time, fallen behind, and dis- 
mounted from his dromedary, and my imruly animal 
wandered to the front, and appeared intent to meet the 
foe. The honour of the van was thus, unintentionally, 
and certainly \msought, assigned to me — or, rather, assumed 
by my Quixotic dromedary. Mr. Eobson was close behind 
me, but there was no time for communication or consulta- 
tion. Mohammed, I observed, had caught the stirrup of 
the Arab who had remained with us. In the I'car of the 
advancing troop was a robust man, dressed in a silk robe 
and scarlet cloak. His bright-coloured kefiyeh was bound 
closely round his head, and his face, I soon saw, was dis- 
torted by passion or excitement. The other horsemen 


separated to the right and left as they came up, and he 
spurred on through the passage thus opened. He rode, 
as I imagined, directly towards me, brandishing a spear of 
formidable length, and I felt that if I remained quiet I 
had a fair chance of being run through. With a quick 
motion, therefore, I cast aside my abeih. I scarcely know 
whether it was my intention to defend my life or jump 
off my camel ; but, fortunately, neither of these acts was 
for the moment called for. The sight of my Frank cos- 
tume seemed to act as a kind of charm, for the sheikh 
turned aside on seeing them. I found, when the imme- 
diate danger was over, that my right hand grasped firmly 
the only serviceable weapon among us. 

Poor 'Amer now felt the full force of the charge, but 
he stood calmly in the midst of the excited group. The 
sheikh approached him at speed. The spear was raised, 
and shook from end to point with that peculiar quiver 
which those who have ever witnessed an Arab charge 
must know full well. I held my breath, and felt as if 
paralyzed. "They will murder him," I cried. "Let us 
try and save or help him, then," said my companion. But 
what could we do, without arms, and among so many ? It 
would have been folly to have brovTght their wrath upon 
us by any show of resistance. As the sheikh was about 
to strike, a loud la ! la ! (no ! no !) resounded from the 
whole party, and 'Amer, watching his opportunity, dex- 
terously turned the point aside, and the next instant 
dragged his adversary from his horse. Now commenced 
a terrible struggle. None of those around, for a time, 
took any part. The sheikh had far the advantage in 
strength and youthful vigour, but 'Amer was more than 


his equal in skill. They fortunately had no deadly wea- 
pons in their hands or on their persons, but they used 
their liffht hooked sticks with considerable effect. After 
a few minutes' fighting, the others interfered, and drew 
away the sheikh, still raging like a lion. 

The melee was now over, and we were marched off pri- 
soners. Several Arabs came up to us, and by signs and 
words showed us we had nothing to fear, that they were 
our slaves, and that they Avould guard us with their lives. 
We now thought indeed that, for the present at least, 
there was little danger of any attack being made upon our 
persons, whatever might become of the little property we 
had with us. We assumed an air of perfect indifference, 
and did not utter a word except when directly questioned. 

My poor animal, which exhibited such valour in the 
beginning of the battle, now seemed determined not to be 
led captive. Every attempt made to urge it onward only 
caused it to squat on the ground. It would go every- 
wliere except in the way our captors wished to take it. 
The sheikh himself, seeing the difficulty, came up and 
seized the halter, but it was of no use. 'Amer at last 
led his dromedary in front, and then, seeing its leader, it 
followed him without more trouble. This procedure, 
however, was the cause of another scene that might have 
ended fatally. Seeing 'Amer before him, the slieikh's 
wrath again rose, and, making a sudden bound, he seized 
a spear from the hand of one of his followers, and rushed 
iipon his foe. Quick as thought, liowever, an Arab dashed 
his horse between him and his intended victim, and, with 
great dexterity, wrested the spear from his grasp. He 
was thus baffled, but not stopped in his career, and poor 


'Amer soon felt the weight of the little stick wielded by 
a vigorous arm. Again and again were these attacks 
repeated, until at last 'Amer was led away under an 

After half-an-hour's slow march across the plain we 
found ourselves in the midst of vast flocks, laden camels, 
and gay liarims perched on the backs of swift dromedaries. 
The sheikh now struck his spear into the ground, and we 
all squatted round it : our carpets were soon brought, and 
our saddle-bags placed at our sides to serve as cushions. 
Ere long a number of camels, laden with the sheikh's vast 
tent, furniture, and harim, came up, and the women and 
domestics soon completed the construction and furnislaing 
of their desert home, The women's department was 
defined by a rude screen pendent over a huge heap of 
sacks, containing rice, wheat, dates, and other necessaries ; 
while around them lay the capacious caldrons and dishes 
for the preparation and serving-up of the desert banquets. 

A little fire was kindled beside us as we sat down, and 
already was the coffee prepared for presentation. From a 
neat case porcelain cups were carefully brought forth, and 
the sheikh himself presented to us the beverage, which we 
gladly received as an emblem and a pledge of peace. 
After this necessary preliminary, the council of war com- 
menced its deliberations, Mohammed the ageily was first 
taken aside and examined. On his return he told us 
that our host was the great and powerful Mohanuned, chief 
of the warlike tribe El-Mlsrab ; that all Tadmor and the 
desert aroimd was his property ; and, farther, that 'Amer 
was a dog for attempting to intrude on his domains, or to 
conduct Frank emirs to that city. Our reply was simple : 


we wished to trespass on no man's territoiy, and had only 
come because our sheikh had engaged to take us to Tadmor. 
If he could not do so we must return, and he would con- 
sequently lose his promised reward. 

We were then asked from whence we came ; and when 
we replied From Damascus, considerable doubt seemed to 
be entertained on the subject. Several questions were put 
to us in reference to the people and the localities in the 
city, apparently as mere matters of course, but in reality 
to test the accuracy of our statements. We were also 
asked abotit the terms of our agreement with 'Amer, and 
many other particulars. It was evident, from these ques- 
tions and the insinuations tlirown out, that the sheikh was 
labouring under some mistake, but what it was we did not 
yet know. 

After a lengthened examination and consultation the 
sheikh declared that 'Amer would not be permitted to 
take us to Tadmor, but that they themselves would con- 
duct us, and send us back to Kuryetein. We inquired on 
what terms ; whereupon a sum was named far exceeding 
what we would give, and we consequently refused to 
agree to them. " What, then, will you do ? " demanded 
one of those present. " Return to Damascus," was our 
calm reply. A grim smile passed over the countenances 
of the assembled elders ; and, though we sat with features 
as immoved as any Turk, we could not but feel that it 
was much easier saying so than doing it. The face of the 
sheikh relaxed for a moment into a smile, as he turned 
eastward, and, pointing to the ruins that crowned the 
mountains and clung to the sides of the valley, said, " But 
there is Tadmor, and, wullah, it is beautiful ! " 


There, in truth, were the lonely tombs of the City of 
the Desert, closely clustered on peak and mountain-side ; 
and there was the old castle, grim as a crusader baron, 
towering proudly over them all. We felt the full force of 
the chief's remark. The toil, discomfort, and danger, too, 
of the desert had been cheerfully encountered to gain a 
view of these classic ruins, and now, when almost at their 
side, to be forced to return without gratifying our curi- 
osity, was indeed hard to bear. But we had already 
formed our resolution, and were determined to abide 
by it. 

" Your words are true. Sheikh ! " was our reply ; " but 
here we have not a tenth of the sum you demand." 

" You can send to Damascus for money, and a few days 
will bring it." 

" Who will supply the messenger? " we inquired. 

" I will," he answered. 

We met this proposition, like the others, with a decided 
negative, and told the sheikh that it would not be well 
either for his credit or for the comfort of our friends to 
send word to Damascus that we were prisoners in the 
tents of the Misrab, and wanted our ransom ; and we 
added, " Your revenue from travellers would then cease 
for ever." 

" You are not prisoners," they all cried ; " Istnghfer 
TJllahl^ you are free to go where and when you like, 
only not to Tadmor." 

The tent was now ready, and our effects were laid in 
the place of honour, beside the pile of stores. We at once 

^ " Ask pai'don of God." 


accepted the invitation to enter, for the burning sun above 
and the heated soil below had already almost scorched us ; 
the hardy sons of the desert, however, remained in their 
places round the spear of their chief. We had been alone 
for about an hour, when the man who had escorted 'Amer 
away from the presence of the sheikh entered. We asked 
for our leader, but he only replied to our query by clasping 
both hands round each ankle in succession. Some minutes 
after another came in, who went through a little panto- 
mime, which was intended to convey to us the pleasing 
intelligence that he had just cut off 'Amer's head. He 
grasped his sword, drew the blade quickly across his 
throat, and then clapped his hands in a peculiar way, to 
show that the work was finished. The Arabs are fre- 
quently in the habit of communicating intelligence even 
to each other in this way : signs they consider more im- 
pressive than words. 

We knew not well what to make of this. If true, our 
own position was undoubtedly very critical ; if merely 
intended to frighten us into submission, it was a warning 
to be firm. The Ageily entered while we were discussing 
these unexpected and startling tidings. Never did I see 
a man so much changed in so short a time. His face was 
not only pale, but ghastly, and his lips were dry and 
parched, as if with thirst and suffering. He came to 
where we sat, and deliberately seated himself on our car- 
pets : this 'Amer, his master, had never presumed to do, 
though often invited ; and, simple though the act seemed, 
it showed us more than any other huw much our circum- 
stances were changed. 

The afternoon was considerably advanced when the 


sheikh and his party entered. We invited him to a scat 
beside us, but he politely refused, and took the lowest 
place. CoiFee was again prepared, and presented, as 
before, by Mohammed himself. While drinking it, his 
youngest brother came forward, mounted on a splendid 
chesnut mare. A beautiful white falcon perched upon his 
wrist, and a dead hare lay across the front of the saddle. 
Hunting with the falcon is a favourite amusement of the 
Bedawin, The birds are generally trained to act in con- 
cert with a dog in pursuit of the gazelle, and dart at the 
animal's head when in full flight, thus retarding its pro- 
gress till the hound comes up and seizes the game. Hares 
and partridges they pursue alone. 

After coffee negotiations were again opened. Mr. 
Eobson was asked how long it was till sunset ; and the 
sheikh politely requested to see my pistol. They thus 
showed us at once that they had received a full inventory 
of our effects. The first proposition made was substan- 
tially the same as the former ; but now only one -half the 
sum was demanded. We again and finally refused to send 
to Damascus, but offered to accept of his escort to Pal- 
myra, and back as far as Jerud, where we would make 
arrangement for paying a fair remuneration. This was, 
of course, refused, for they well knew 'Amer's tribe was 
encamped near that village. 

The deliberations now began to assume a new character. 
Each elder in succession seemed eager to try his own 
powers of persuasion, and would beckon one or other of 
us out of the tent, as if to give us friendly advice, but we 
uniformly listened with patience and refused with firm- 
ness. At last, after long silence, Mohammed's brother 


rose, and simed to us to follow hlra. When at some little 
distance he squatted, and we followed his example. He 
then spoke of his brother's great power, hinted at our 
defenceless state, and at the impossibility of returning, 
even if permitted, as they would give us no camels ; and, 
when he considered that the desired impression had been 
made upon our minds, he proposed that we should go to 
the sheikh, kiss his hand, present to him the pistol he had 
seen, and whatever amount of money we had with us, 
and he would undertake to persuade his brother to make 
arrangements for our return to Damascus, after -sdsiting 
the ruins of Palmyra ! 

This we regarded as a kind of ultimatum, and so we 
resolved in reply to give him ours. After telling our kind 
friend that we were fully aware of his brother's power in 
the desert, and oiir own weakness, we informed him that 
we were just as fully aware that he often obtained large 
sums from English travellers for conducting them to 
Tadmor ; and though he might now take our money and 
our lives too, yet this would be but a poor compensation 
for the total and final loss of his annual gains from the 
Franks ; and we then concluded to this effect : — " First," 
we said, "we will not kiss the sheikh's hand; second, we 
will not give him the pistol ; but, third, if he permit us to 
go on our way in peace, we will give him' all the money 
we have with us ; and if he do not, we will return to 
Damascus, or stay here, just as you please." 

The sun went down behind the far distant hills of 
Lebanon, and the last red tinge soon disappeared from the 
mountain-tops aroimd, and the shades of evening quickly 
deepened in the broad valley. Mohammed and two or 


three of the older men went out before the tent-door, and, 
spreading their cloaks upon the ground, they, with all due 
solemnity, went through the forms of ablution, the dry 
dust of the desert supplying the place of water; and, 
turning their faces in the direction of the sacred Kaba, 
they mumbled over some words of prayer. Such is the 
spirit of Islam ! It is never deemed necessary to the efS- 
cacy of prayer to have the mind composed or the thoughts 
turned heavenward. Prayer is not in the least out of 
place in the midst of a manifest attempt at fraud and 
open robbery ; nay, the Arab will imbrue his hands in a 
brother's blood, and, while the crunson stain is yet fresh, 
he will lift them up in adoration of the God of peace and 
love ! What a mockery is this ! And yet I have some- 
times heard the followers of the Prophet set forth in this 
respect as patterns to Christian men. They will pray at 
all times and in all places, and are never ashamed thus 
openly to profess their piety. True ! they are not ashamed 
of praying publicly, or, rather, ostentatiously ; and neither 
are Christians ashamed to eat or to wash their hands in 
public ; and there is just as much devotion in the one act 
as in the other. 

The evening feast was served to us first, and then to 
the others. An act of delicate attention was now shoAvn 
us by the sheikh, which, under the circumstances, we did 
not expect, and wliich is a good example of that genuine 
spirit of hospitality for which the Bedawin have always 
been celebrated. -Observing that we had eaten little of 
the rice and none of the butter, he left the tent for a few 
minutes, and ere long a large plate of excellent pillau was 
set before us, with a basin of fresh camel's milk. 


The evening passed away pleasantly, and our captivity 
was forgotten as we listened to the exciting tale, and 
heard for the first time the music of the Bedawin. The 
sheikh produced a kind of rude guitar with only one 
string, and played it with a bow, as an accompaniment to 
his song. The music of the Arabs seems very common- 
place and monotonous to those accustomed to the soul- 
stirring strains of Western Europe. It is a slow and 
gloomy chant, not unlike the wail of the Irish keen^ 
deprived of its sweetness. It was, however, a pleasing 
interlude, and the grim warriors who squatted in a circle 
round the blazing fire evidently enjoyed it. As I sat in 
silence while the music gave forth its mournful strains, I 
had time and opportunity to examine the countenance 
and expression of each one of the assembled elders and 
visitors in succession. There is a great sameness in the 
Bedawy face — the sharp prominent features, the com- 
pressed thin lips, the scowling brows, and fierce, restless 
eyes, are the uniform characteristics of the race. There 
were but two exceptions to this in our circle, and one of 
them was Mohammed himself, a portly figure, with a 
broad and somewhat florid face. His eye was steady, and 
he gazed with a fixed, resolute look, altogether unlike the 
quick glances of the others. His mouth was large and 
sensual, with full but well-formed lips. The tout ensemble 
denoted the man of fiery passions and undaunted courage. 

The other was a perfect counterpart to the chief, a 
yovmg man of not more than twenty summers. His fea- 
tures were regular and even beautiful, and had all that 
softness of expression which is in general only found in 
the female face. He directed toward me, as I gazed at 


him, a look of strange, dove-like sweetness, wliilc a corre- 
sponding smile played round his finely-formed mouth. 
He was a kind of dandy, too, in his way. A thin mous- 
tache of glossy black cvirved gracefully on liis lip, and the 
long tresses of his raven hair hung down in careful plaits 
on each side of his face. A robe of flame-coloured silk 
surmounted by a white aheih formed liis dress. I looked 
lon» at tliis strange fisrure, and wondered whether one 
whose whole expression manifested an unwonted gentle- 
ness of heart could find congenial employment amid the 
stormy scenes of Arab life. He observed my fixed glance, 
and perhaps read the thoughts passing through my mind. 
However this may be, he soon came, and, sitting down 
close by our carpet, said that if we required anything he 
would bring it to us. 

The night was far advanced when we spread our beds 
and wrapped our Arab cloaks around us, and lay down to 
sleep, and it was long ere slumber sealed my eyelids. The 
chiefs and older men soon withdrew, and only some half- 
dozen of the youngest and fiercest remained with the 
Ageily round the fire. The character of the conversation 
they kept up was not calculated to act as a soporific. Our 
attendant was undergoing a cross-examination respecting 
ourselves. All that was said I could not hear, and even, 
all that I heard I could not understand, for my knowledge 
of the language was as yet only partial, and the accent of 
the Bedawin is very difierent from that of the citizens. 
Still I could gather something of their meaning, and a 
brief extract from what I heard will enable the reader to 
imagine what were my feelings as I lay on the hard ground 
beneath that old tent. 


" Do the Kliouwajdt live in Damascus?" asked one of 
the most ferocious-looking in the little circle. 

" Yes," replied the Ageily, "and they have houses like 
sareiyas. I was in them, and saw their families and 

" Saw their harims ! Impossible !" 

" Wiillah el-Azmi, but it is true, for the Frank women 
walk about with their faces uncovered like men, and they 
like to be looked at too." 

" Do they know many great folk or consuls in the city, 
or did any one know they were coming to Tadmor ? " 

"Ay, the whole city followed them to the gate, and 
all the world knew they were coming here," said the 
politic Ageily. 

" Suppose they never returned, what would be the con- 
sequence?" and the fitful light, as it rose and fell, half 
revealed, as I imagined, glances of savage malignity ; but 
I could not catch Mohammed's half- whispered reply. 

" Where did you rest last night ?" one of the Arabs 
again demanded. 

" With the tribe beyond the hills." 

" If the Khoinvajdt should be plundered or killed, 
would not that tribe or 'Amer himself be considered re- 

"No," replied our wily attendant, " for a hundred saw 
us this morning as we left, and numbers met us on the 

I knew not why such questions were put, and I could 
not think even the fiercest among this tribe would venture 
to offer personal violence ; and yet why should such hints 
be thrown out ? They could not but perceive that the 


poor Agelly had little influence with us. He, however, 
evidently tried to make the best use he could of his power 
of speech, and showed about as much cunning and as little 
veracity as is usual with Arabs. On being afterwards 
asked how much money we had with us, he told the truth 
for once. The sum was not large (300 piastres), but it 
seemed a treasure to the poor Arab, who never sees money 
except when Providence sends a rich caravan in his way. 
He said emphatically we should never leave the camp 
with this sum on our persons, and I felt pretty confident 
that he spoke the truth. 

After this drama there was a comic scene enacted ere 
sleep came. When all had withdrawn except the few 
who lay in Indian style radiating with their feet to the 
fire, one of the number, doubtless annoyed by a species of 
close companions too common in this land, suddenly 
jumped to his feet, and raked the smouldering embers till 
they emitted a tall flame. The wind blew strongly, and 
the blaze danced and flickered in the blast. Choosing the 
windward side, he drew close to the fire, and commenced 
the process of shaking his tormentors into the burning 
mass before him. While thus engaged, a gust of wind 
swept round the other side of the tent, and in a second 
he was completely enveloped in the leaping flame. Utter- 
ing a cry of pain, he bounded backwards and disappeared 
in the darkness. 

April 6th. — As the morning daAvned, the bustle in the 
tent and the call of the shepherds toithout roused us from 
sleep. It was the Sabbath morn, but there is no Sabbath 
in the desert. I wandered away across the j)lain to some 
distance, and there remained for a time undisturbed. On 


returning, the Ageily drew us aside and earnestly advised 
us to yield to the demand of the sheikh ; but we felt 
little inclined to listen to his advice, as we knew well he 
wished to secure his own safety at our expense. We 
answered him somewhat sternly that we would abide by 
our resolution, and that we were prepared to bear all the 

" But," added he, "if you are even permitted to leave 
the camp, they will send a few horsemen and rob you 
when beyond their territory." 

" They may as well rob us on the road as in the tent," 
was our only reply. 

" Then you will not see Tadmor." 

" We care not," we replied, and entering the tent agam 
we saluted the chief and elders, who rose to receive us, 
and took our places, A cloud passed over the face of 
Mohammed as our attendant related to him the result of 
the last interview. CoiFee was prepared, however, and 
dates with butter were served for breakfast. We were 
then informed that we must return to Damascus, and that 
the sheikh would furnish an escort as far as Kuryetein, 
but from thence we would be obliged to find our own way. 
We received the intelligence with perfect composure, and 
expressed our acquiescence by a simple nod. 

As we were talking over the new aspect of affairs, and 
the probability of being stripped on the way to Kuryetein, 
or more probably after leaving that village, 'Amer walked 
into the tent and quietly took his seat in the circle, with- 
out saluting any one save the sheikh's brother, who rose 
and embraced him. Had a spirit from the " vasty deep " 
made its appearance we could scarcely have been more 


surprised : we were now confident that, go where "sve 
might, there was no danger of personal violence. An 
explanation ensued which amply accounted for the late 
attack and the rage of the sheikh. Some consul at Bey- 
rout, it appeared, had sent a messenger to inform the 
tribe that two travellers wished to visit Palmyra, and 
would require an escort from them at the village of Kur- 
yetein. Miguel, the chief's second brother, had already 
gone there with horses and guards ; and when we ap- 
peared, the imiversal opinion was that we were the two 
travellers referred to, and that 'Amer had thus attempted 
to deprive them of their expected gain. 

Still, notmthstanding this, Mohammed insisted we must 
return to Damascus if we did not agree to his terms : we 
of course refused, and our dromedaries were brought to 
the door of the tent. Our cloaks, coats, and saddle-bags 
were soon arranged, and we mounted. Just as I was 
moving off, the sheikh came to me and whispered, 
' ' Yonder is Tadmor ; give me that pistol and I will take 
you there myself." I refused, and followed 'Amer. We 
were soon sweeping away westward among the black tents, 
and spreading flocks, and little groups of beautiful Arab 
horses, our backs to the tempting ruins. I turned round 
to take a last look at them, and 'Amer, seeing regret and 
disappointment pictured in my face, came up and said, 
" Don't give them the pistol ; don't give them anything. 
I will myself bring you back some other time." This was 
but little comfort, for we felt that, if once safe within the 
city walls, we would not soon again commit ourselves to 
the tender mercies of the Bedawin. 

A shout was now heard behind us, and a messensfer 


came up at speed to say that the sheikh wanted to speak 
with us. We expected only a repetition of his demand, 
and made up our minds for a final refusal. We turned 
our dromedaries and awaited his approach. " Dismount," 
said he, as he came up, in the abrupt manner of an Arab 
chief ; "we must part friends, and you must tell Khou- 
wdjah Hanna* that every Englishman is as safe in the 
desert of Tadiuor as within the walls of Damascus. Put 
down the three hundred piastres." We were on the ground 
in a moment, and, squatting in a little circle, ]Mr. Eobson 
drew out his purse and emptied it into the sheikh's cloak. 
He counted the money, and, finding about forty piastres 
over, handed them back ; putting the rest in his pocket, 
he jumped to his feet and said, " Now for Tadmor." 

We were accompanied by about thirty of the tribe, 
headed by Mohammed himself on a splendid mare, and 
among the rest I observed my dandy friend of the pre- 
vious evening, the graceful MithaJi. He came up and 
said he was going to guide me all over the ruins. In two 
hours more we passed through the splendid but dilapi- 
dated gateway that opens into the court of the Temple of 
the Sun, and foiind ourselves among the modern hovels 
that half conceal the ruins of that once noble structure. 

During Monday the 7th, and the forenoon of Tuesday, 
we employed every moment in the examination of this 
interesting site. The whole space we divided into sec- 
tions, and one after another we entered upon and explored 
in detail. We thus lost no time, and got a satisfactory, 
if a hasty, view of the whole. I will now endeavour to 

■* Mr. Hanua Misk, the active dragoman of the British consul. 

L 2 


give such a sketch of the general features and distribution 
of the ruins, and such a description of the most beautiful 
and important among them, as will enable my readers to 
form some good idea of what still exists of the city of 
Zenobia. The accompanying plan is cliiefly taken from 
the great work of Wood and Dawkins, and in reference to 
it I may quote their words: " Ko thing less entire than 
at least a column standing ^vith its capital is marked. 
Almost the whole ground within the walls is covered with 
heaps of marble (limestone); but to have distinguished 
such imperfect rums would have introduced confusion to 
no purpose." * The plates in this splendid book convey 
the best idea of the former magmficence and architectural 
grandeur of this great city. They are faithful representa- 
tions of the originals ; and though the traveller who is 
acquainted with the work may at first feel somewhat 
disappointed on seeing the ruins, yet a more close exa- 
mination will convince him that there has been no 

Palmyra is situated at the foot of a range of lofty lime- 
stone hills, naked and white as if covered with eternal 
snow. The ridge runs from about S.W. to N.E., and is, 
as has been said above, a continuation of that which 
bounds the plain of Damascus. Opposite the city is a 
wide opening leading into the great valley which extends 
westward to Kuryetein, a distance of about 50 miles. 
Eastward and southward is a vast desert plain reaching to 
the horizon. The traveller from the west generally ap- 
proaches the ruins through the break in the mountains, 

^ The Ruins of Palmyra, p. 41. 



^ 0. ^\ 

()»■ the 

Ih-aAvii lir .T . L . Partei: 1855. 

Scale of Feet. 



J(^ C.Kalha: LUJ.. 


and the first object that attracts liis attention is the old 
Saracenic castle that crowns an isolated peak some dis- 
tance on the left. On each side of the road he observes 
numbers of strange tower-like tombs — some nearly per- 
fect and others confused heaps of ruins — built in the valley 
and along the slopes above. After passing most of these 
he surmounts an easy swell, and the whole panorama of 
the ruins opens up at once before him. They stretch 
from the base of the mountains across the valley on the 
left till they are terminated by the lofty walls of the mag- 
nificent Temple of the Sun directly in front. He is struck 
with astonishment at their vast extent, and no less so at 
their utter desolation. They are wliite as snow-wreaths, 
and not a tree, or shrub, or blade of grass, or solitary 
weed is seen among them ! Heaps of massive stones, 
noble porticos, and long and beautiful colonnades, are in- 
termixed with the shattered ruins of temples, and tri- 
umphal arches, and proud monuments erected in honour 
of the mighty dead. There is no sign of life — all is bare 
and desolate as a deserted cemetery. 

The most remarkable feature of the whole is the vast 
pile of the Temple of the Sun. The lofty wall that en- 
closed the court is still in many places nearly perfect, and 
forms a strong defence to the modem village wliich is 
wholly built within it. These wretched hovels are com- 
pletely hid from view, so that when seen from a little 
distance there is not a trace of human habitation. To the 
right of this, and quite beyond the ruins, are the few 
gardens now cultivated by the villagers, and in these a 
number of palm-trees still grow and flourish, as if to prove 
that, though fallen, this is Palmyra still. 


It was, no doubt, the existence of a large fountain of 
water — that first requisite in a thirsty land — which, at a 
very early period, attracted man to this dreary spot, and 
led to the founding of a city. At the foot of the moun- 
tains on the right, after you pass through the opening, is 
the principal source. From a cave-like aperture, which 
has probably been carried some distance under the hill, 
issues a stream of considerable size. It is strongly im- 
pregnated with sulphur, and slightly warm as it flows 
forth; but after running a few hundred yards the sul- 
phureous taste is scarcely perceptible. This foimtain is 
considerably below the level of the city, and the water 
could never have been conducted, except by artificial 
means, within the walls of Justinian ; neither is the sup- 
ply suflicient for the wants of a large population. Beside 
this fountain I copied, from a large altar-shaped stone, an 
inscription to the following effect : — 


THE Son of Zeno, etc., at his own cost erected (this altar ?) in 


This inscription is only of value as containing a date, 
equivalent to A.D. 162, and the nameofDios or Jupiter — 
thus showing that the people had adopted the god of the 
Greeks. In the work of Wood and Dawkins it is said of 
this fountain, '* We learned from an inscription close by 
it, upon an altar dedicated to Jupiter, that it was called 
Eplica, and that the care of it was committed to persons 
who held that office by election." ® 

There are two aqueducts which formerly brought an 

" Ruins of Palmyi-a, p. 40. 

Chap. IV. 



abundant supply of water to the city from distant sources. 
One of these is now ruinous, but can be traced through 
the opening in the mountain-chain into the great valley 
on the west, across which it comes, in a south-easterly 
direction, apparently from some source at or among the 
Jehel el-Abiad, where, I was credibly informed, there are 
some good springs. This aqueduct is a splendid work ; 
it is eight feet in height by four in breadth, and wholly 
constructed of finely-hewn stones, as shown in the cut. 
At certain regular intervals there are openings from above, 
^vith steps leading down into it, for the purpose of keeping 
it clean. There is a pretty general opinion among the 
Arabs that this aqueduct brings the water from the 
Barada ; but it is about equally well grounded with the 
tradition that represents the sourc-es of the fountains at 
Tyre as at Baghdad. There is strong evidence to show 
that it was constructed prior to the Eoman conquest of the 
city, and indeed probably 
at a very early period ; for =_^ - 

there are traces of Palmyrene 
inscriptions upon some of the 
stones, but none whatever of 
any other language, and we 
know that the Greek language 
began to be generally used on 
inscriptions about the com- 
mencement of our era.^ 

The source of the second aqueduct is not known, nor 
was I able t(> see any traces of its course beyond the circuit 

^ See Ruins of PalmjTa, p. 40, and plate xxvii. 


of the walls. It conveys a copious supply of water slightly 
impregnated with sulphur. The stream from it is first 
seen among the ruins at some distance on the north side 
of the great temple, and flows from thence into a few little 
gardens. Near the centre of the city I was conducted by 
our guide to a small reservoir about ten feet below the 
surface, in which I found excellent sweet water ; but I 
could not ascertain from whence it came. The guide 
informed us that it was brought from a great distance 
underground, and that a Jan ® had constructed the chan- 
nel in which it flows, at the command of the mighty 
Solomon ! 

Before we left Damascus 'Amer had told us that, a short 
time previous, a camel, in passing along the plain near 
the city, had suddenly sunk into the earth and disap- 
peared. Its owner, who was a little in advance, on turn- 
ing round could see nothing of his animal, and thought 
some evil spirit had wafted it away. He looked across the 
plain in every direction but in vain. At last, turning 
back, he found it standing on a heap of rubbish in a 

^ Muslem doctors and learned men have wiitten many volimies on 
the nature and origin of created intelligences. They generally admit 
that these are of three kinds: Angels, created of light; Jan, or Genii, 
created of fire ; and Men, created of earth. The Jan are of several 
species; they appear to men under several forms, as dogs, cats, ser- 
pents, &c.; and can vanish at pleasm-e. They are believed to have the 
power of caiTying away human beings and animals. I have seen some 
Muslems who profess to have held conversations with the Jan. Many 
connect a belief in the transmigration of souls with that of the Jan, 
and think the spirits of the faithful thus often revisit this world after 
death. Some of the Jan, too, are Miislems! and therefore it is not 
permitted to kill any of those animals whose form they are wont to 
assume, without first giving them due admonition to depart. For a 
full account of the Jan, see Lane's 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. 
Introduction, note 21. 


large and beautiful sepulchral cave. To this interesting 
spot we requested our kind friend Mitbah to conduct us ; 
and we were also accompanied by the licenced Palmyra 
guide, with a long train of followers and idle Bedawin. 
It is a short distance south of the fountain, and in the 
midst of an extensive necropolis. There are several tower- 
tombs around it, and large numbers of gentle elevations in 
the surface of the plain, each of which, no doubt, marks 
the position of a sepulchral cave below, similar to that 
into which the unfortunate camel had fallen. Near the 
spot we observed on the ground folding-doors of wliite 
limestone, and a fragment of a statue, much defaced, but 
well executed- The tomb itself was in the form of a 
Greek cross, he^vn in the soft rock, and arched overhead. 
There were three tiers of receptacles for bodies in each 
compartment, but I saw no inscription or mark on the 
walls or door that would tend to indicate the age of the 
structure. Several fine statues and other ornaments had, 
we were told, been taken out of it when it was first dis- 
covered ; but we could not learn what had been done with 
them. Those sepulchres that remain still unopened might 
afford a rich harvest to the antiquary, and possibly bring 
to light some interesting historic memorial. None of the 
Arabs seem to suspect their existence ; if they did tliey 
would soon be pillaged. 

In a large and very ancient mausoleum near this spot 
are two mutilated statues, with wide flowing robes, and 
close jackets curiously and elaborately laced and plaited 
over the chest. The general outlines of the figures and 
ample folds of the robes display much boldness and freedom, 

L 3 


while the ornaments and minute details of the bodices 
are executed with great taste and skill. In another tomb, 
of about the same era, are several short inscriptions in the 
Palmyrene character, beside the recesses for the bodies. 
They probably only record the names and titles of the 
persons there deposited, with perhaps a date. In the 
tombs in this cemetery I did not observe any Greek in- 
scriptions ; and from this, as well as from the character of 
the structures, I think it is more ancient than that in the 
valley, to which reference will be made hereafter. 

In going from hence to the ruins we bathed in the 
fountain, and found it exceedingly refreshing. We were 
informed by Mitbah that the Arabs prefer the waters of 
this fountain to all others, as it keeps longer good in their 
skins, and they can consequently carry it to a greater dis- 

We now crossed the valley, and, ascending the steep 
bank on the northern side, found ourselves suddenly in a 
wilderness of ruins. It was not without some difficulty 
we made our way over the confused heaps of massive 
stones and fallen columns. Of the multitude of sculptured 
stones that are crowded together in this section of the city, 
it is impossible to form a correct conception. It is not 
here as in other places of Syria, and in other lands, where 
the debris of ancient buildings has been employed in the 
erection of more modern edifices — where temples have 
been changed into churches, and churches again remodelled 
for the service of Islam; in this place each stone, and 
column, and fragment of richly- wrought cornice, lies 
where it fell from the building it adorned ; and the finger 


of time lias in general dealt so gently, that each noble 
structure might almost be reared up again of its old ma- 

We at last made our way to the north-western angle of 
the walls, which terminate some distance up the side of the 
hill, and here, on the gentle slope, commanding the whole 
panorama of the desert eastward, stood a peripteral temple. 
The door was surrounded by a broad border of vine- 
branches in festoons, intermingled with grapes, exquisitely 
sculptured in high relief. A Corinthian column, with a 
monolithic shaft, is the only one left standing in the front 
row of the portico. The plan of the building can still be 
traced ; and the delicately wrought acantlii of the capitals, 
and rich tracery and scroll-work of the frieze, bear testi- 
mony to its former grandeur.^ Below it is a smaller 
temple, with several fragments of fluted columns still 
standing in their positions ; and a little distance to the 
south-east is a magnificent mausoleum, the portico of 
which is nearly perfect. It consists of six columns, each 
a monolith, and finely proportioned. This building is 
nearly square, and the interior is arranged on tliree sides, 
with deep recesses for the reception of bodies. Between 
tlie recesses are semi- columns, supporting a rich cornice of 
garlands, scidptured in high relief. The ornamental work 

* In the work of Wood and Dawkins ample details will be found of 
this building. It was of great extent and singular form, having a por- 
tico in front of four columns, and at each side a portico consisting of 
twenty columns in five rows. A plan of the building may be seen in 
plate xliv., and the details of the architecture in the four following 
plates. Upon a broken architrave is a Latin inscription, copied by 
Wood and Dawkins. It contains the names of Diocletian, and the Cresars 
Constantius and Maximianus; it must consequently have been erected 
subsequently to a.d. 292. 


of the whole building is designed and executed with great 
skill and exquisite taste. Just in front of the portico the 
great colonnade terminated toward the north-west.^ A 
few yards beyond the latter is a small temple or mausoleum, 
with a portico, only two columns of which now stand in 
situ, and they are much defaced by the action of the sun. 
In the interior is a large sarcophagus, profusely and beau- 
tifully ornamented with bas-reliefs representing grotesque 
figures of satyrs, and garlands of flowers. 

Such is a specimen of the splendid buildings that 
adorned a corner of this proud city. Even now, prostrate 
as they are, and shattered by the hand of the ruthless 
destroyer, and defaced by the winter storms and summer 
suns of long centuries, they are beautiful. Modern 
architects may criticise details and talk of a debased style ; 
but let these temples and sepulchral monuments be re- 
stored to their pristine state, and compared with those 
Grecian churches and palaces and halls with which these 
critical geniuses have adorned the cities of England ; it 
will then be seen whether the modern or the Palmyrene 
style is the more debased. The ancients, it would appear, 
sought for effect and beauty more in the proportions and 
grouping of the whole than in a servile copying and 
measuring of minutise age after age. Like the great 
masters of painting, they did not intend their works to be 
examined by a microscope, but to produce their grandest 
effect from such points of view as spectators would be 
naturally led to take up. It is, I believe, a neglect of 
this principle that has spoiled the greatest and most costly 

' Plans aud drawings of this sepulchre are given in Wood and 
Dawkins, plates xxxvi.-xlii. 


building of modern times — the palace of Westminster. 
To see its beauty it requires the beholder to embark on 
the Thames in a fishing-boat, and paddle through the 
muddy waters in front with a powerful opera-glass in 
hand. View it from a distance and all the grandeur is 
gone. The " thousand and one " puppet knights, and 
microscopic heraldic emblems, and miniature niches, all 
vanish ; and so far as the general public is concerned, and 
so far too as the adorning of the great metropolis is con- 
cerned, there might as well be a plain wall. 

Around this section the city walls are still, in part, 
standing ; and the gates, too, are distinguishable, though 
now choked up with fallen stones and rubbish. The line 
of the wall, as may be seen from the plan, is first north 
for a short distance, then it turns eastward, and continues 
in a zigzag course for more than a mile, after which it 
sweeps round to the west again, and finally joins the 
south-eastern angle of the Temple of the Sun. 

Crossing the wall, we passed through another large 
cemetery, with a few tower-like tombs, now in ruins, 
standing here and there all solitary in the midst of the 
undulating plain. There are here scores of subterranean 
sepulchres, whose positions are marked by the swell of the 
vaulted roofs ; and most of them, perhaps, have never yet 
been opened. Rich is the harvest here treasured up for 
some future antiquary ! Leaving these behind, we ascended 
the steep hill- side to the old castle, so finely situated on 
the summit. It is surrounded by a deep moat, hewn in 
tlic solid rock. A narrow bridge once led across it to 
the gi'cat gateway, but it is now fallen, and we found 
some difficulty in scaling the scarped rock. At last, how- 


ever, we succeeded, and obtained admission to the interior 
through a breach in the wall. Here are long corridors, 
spacious vaulted halls, and deep resei-voirs, with almost 
innumerable small chambers and cells among them. The 
whole is in a good state of preservation, and might be 
defended by a few resolute men against a host of Arabs. 
The situation is so commanding, the access to it so difficult, 
and the moat so deep, that no Bedawin would attempt 
its capture if only a few field-pieces were well mounted 
and manned by the garrison. It might thus be made a 
station of vast importance for controlling the wandering 
Arab tribes. The building is evidently of comparatively 
recent date, but I have no data for determining the time 
of its erection. I could not observe any inscriptions ; and 
had it been a work of the early Saracens, they would 
doubtless have left upon it some record. There is a tradi- 
tion that some prince of the Druzes constructed it as a 
retreat in seasons of danger ; and this story was told to the 
Aleppo merchants who were the first Europeans that 
visited these ruins in modern times (a.d. 1691). Portions 
of the city walls, as Mr. Wood remarks,^ seem to be of 
the same date as the castle. It is probable that these 
defences were constructed by the Osmanlis, under their 
Sultan Selim, when they first conquered this country, 
A.D. 1519. 

The castle stands on the summit of one of the highest 
hills in the range, and commands a view wliich, for ex- 
tent, barrenness, and utter desolation, is almost impa- 
ralleled in the world. On the one side is the vast expanse 

^ Ruins of Palmyra, p. 39. 


of the desert stretching away to the horizon, level as the 
ocean, and without a tree or slirub to vary the monotony. 
On the other side are the bleak mountain-chains shutting 
in the long plain which opens up like a vista to the west- 
ward, revealing the pale blue summits of the far-distant 
Lebanon, with their crests of snow ; while at your feet lie 
tlie ruins of the great city, like the bleached bones of an 
army of giants that had fallen and wasted upon the parched 

From hence we descended into the valley to examine 
those strange-looking mausoleums which are among the 
most remarkable monuments of Palmyra. One especially 
attracted our attention, being both externally and inter- 
nally in a good state of preservation. A brief description 
of it may not be without interest, and will serve to convey 
to the reader an idea of the general plan and decorations 
of them all. A handsome doorway with a small pediment 
admits to a hall or chamber 27 feet long by 10 wide, and 
about 20 high. Along each side are four fluted Co- 
rinthian pilasters with tiers of recesses between them for 
the reception cf the dead. Opposite the door is a shallow 
apse with a semi-column on each side supporting a plain 
cornice. Within this are busts in mezzo-rilievo with 
Palmyrene inscriptions. Above the apse is another, 
similar in character, but smaller. It is in great part filled 
up with a projecting slab like the side of a sarcophagus, 
upon which are four busts with inscriptions. On the left 
of the entrance is a staircase leading to the upper stories, 
and over it are five busts, two in one row and three in 
another. On each side of the door is a pilaster, and over 




it a large bust. The ceiling is of slabs of stone beautifully- 
panelled and painted — the divisions being coloured brown 
and the panels blue with a white star-like flower in relievo 
in the centre. The middle part of the ceiling is broken 
away, but at the distance of two panels from the side and 
three from the end are large squares, each divided into 
four, and in each of these four is a bust in relievo on a 

Interior of Tomb. 

blue ground. The ornaments are well designed and taste- 
fully executed, and the effect of the whole is rich and 
even gorgeous. The colours are still clear as when the 
painter completed his work, and the delicate acanthi of 
the capitals and leaves of the flowers have been but little 
affected by the lapse of ages ; but the fierce fanaticism of 


a barbarous race has mutilated and almost destroyed the 

The building has five stories, all constructed on the 
same plan; but the others are neither so lofty nor so 
highly ornamented as that described. On a tablet over 
the door is an inscription in Pahnyrene and Greek, to 
which reference will be made hereafter. 

On our return to the village we passed the fragments of 
a noble column, which a few years ago was one of the 
chief ornaments of the city. A French antiquary, how- 
ever, of a pecuUarly inquiring disposition, wishing to have 
a glance at the interior, made a hole in its side, and, 
putting in a quantity of gunpowder, razed it to the founda- 
tion ! He afterwards marched oiF in trirmiph with the 
iron clamp that held the shaft in its place. 

Our next walk was to the fine monumental column on 
the north side of the great temple, marked 28 on the 

^ This splendid sepulchre attracted the attention of Wood and Daw- 
kins, and they have given a plan of it with di'awings. These, however, 
I have observed vnth surprise, differ from my description. For example, 
in plate Ivii. there are five busts in the upper apse or recess opposite the 
door, and over these is a recumbent figure in alto-rilicv.o ; and on the 
ceiling in plate Iv. they give only tm busts. On seeing this I at first 
thought that they must have represented some other tomb, for I could 
not have made such mistakes, as my description was written not from 
memory or from short notes, but fnlhj, v:hile I was sitting in the chamber 
itself, and my friend Mitbah sleeping across the door to keep out a 
crowd of Arabs. On comparing the details, however, and especially the 
inscriptions, some of which I also copied, I find that the same sepulchre 
is I'eferred to. One of these inscriptions I here insert as a specimen of 
the Palmyrene characters. I also annex a rough sketch of the interior : 



plan. Our object here was to verify an inscription, on the 
reading of which a delicate theory in biblical criticism has 
been grounded by some commentators. It was thought 
that, in this inscription, the hero to whom the monument 
was erected was represented as the son of tivo differeyit 
individuals — one of whom was his adopted and the other 
his real father. This was first observed and the reasoning 
naturally deducible from it applied by Harmer to reconcile 
the genealogies of our Lord given in Matthew and Luke ; 
and it may also be seen, as copied from liim, in the com- 
mentary of Dr. Adam Clarke, under Luke, ch. iii. The 
whole theory, however, is grounded on a mistake in copy- 
ing the inscription, which is correctly as follows : — 








" The senate and people to Alilamus, the son of Ura- 
nus, the son of Mokimus, the son of Mattha ; and ^Eranus 
his father, — noblemen and patriots, in every place equally 
gaining the esteem of their country and their country's 
gods — the tribute of esteem. In the year 450 (a.d. 138), 
and month Xandicos (April)." 

■• See Inscription No. III. in Wood and Dawkins' ' Ruins of Palmyra,' 
and Le Brim's 'Voyage an Levant, en Egypte, Syrie, &c.' pp. 347-8. 


In the copies of this inscription formerly given to the 
public the latter part of the first line is thus written — 


" Alilamus the son o^ Partus ;" and hence the supposed 
difficulty referred to above — Panus being called liis 
father, while in the third line his father's name is written 
Uranus. This beautiful monument is nearly sixty feet 
high, and was erected only eight years after Pahnyra had 
submitted to the power of Rome. 

We went from this place to view the splendid ruins of 
the great colonnade, and, winding among the confused 
heaps that now mark the sites of once sumptuous build- 
ings, we soon reached it. There were here originally 
four rows of columns — or at least such was the design, as 
may be seen from the plan of the arch at the eastern end — 
thus forming a central and two side avenues, which ex- 
tended through the city, a distance of about 4000 feet. 
Each pillar had, on its inner side, a bracket for a statue. 
One can well imagine what a noble vista would meet the 
eye of the Palmyrene as he walked along this splendid 
arcade — the brilliant rays of an eastern sun lighting up 
the temples and palaces on each side, and breaking throvigh 
between the lofty columns that lined the pathway, and 
the sculptured forms of the greatest and best of his coun- 
trymen standing above him, as if pointing the way to 
glory and to fame. 

When this colonnade was perfect it contained more 
than 07ie thousand Jive hundred columns, and of these 
above one hundred arid fifty still occupy their places. 
The height of the order, including base and capital, is 


fifty-seven feet. The proportions of the pillars are good, 
though the details are not executed with the same taste 
as those of the great temple. It is rather remarkable that 
in almost every city of any importance in Syria we find 
traces of these splendid colonnades ; in Antioch, Apamea, 
Damascus, and Gerasa, their remams may still be seen. 

But of all the ruins of Palmyra none can be compared 
with those of the great Temple of the Sun, whether we 
consider their vast extent or their exquisite beauty. The 
court in which this noble structure stands is a perfect 
square, 740 feet on each side. The external Avail consists 
of a projecting base, and over it a range of pilasters sup- 
porting a plain frieze and cornice — the extreme height 
being 70 feet. A considerable part of it still remains per- 
fect. On the western side was a portico of ten columns 
surmounted by an entablature, now completely destroyed. 
A flight of stairs extending the whole length of the por- 
tico (138 feet) led up to the grand entrance. The great 
door was 32 feet 6 inches high by 15 feet 9 inches wide, 
and richly ornamented with sculptured wreaths of leaves 
and flowers. Notwithstanding its gi'eat size, each of the 
side architraves is a monolith. The side-doors are half of 
the above dimensions similarly ornamented, and the re- 
maining intervals between the columns were filled up with 
tabernacles and niches for statues. 

Beautiful and commanding as must have been the 
appearance of the exterior, it was wholly echpsed by the 
scene that burst upon the beholder's eyes as he crossed 
the threshold. A double colomiade encircled the whole 
interior with the exception of the western side, where 
there was but one range ; and each pillar had its bracket 


and its statue. The back wall of the spacious cloisters 
thus formed had niches with shell and fan-shaped tops. 
Kear the centre of this court stands the temple itself on 
a raised platform, towering high above the surrounding 
buildings. In form it was unique. A single row of 
fluted Corinthian cohunns, G4 feet high, with bronze 
capitals, encompassed the shrine and supported an un- 
broken cornice fully ornamented in bold relief with fes- 
toons of fruit and flowers, held up at intervals by angels. 
A doorway is curiously placed between two columns on 
the west side, and fronting this is the door of the cell, 
33 feet high by 15 feet wide. The ornaments upon the 
latter resemble those on the door of the small temple at 
Ba'albek; and like that also the soffit has a sculptured 
eagle with extended wings upon a starred ground. The 
walls have pilasters opposite the columns, and windows 
between tliem, while at each end, in addition to the 
pilasters, are two Ionic semi-columns. The interior has 
been much defaced, and the entire roof is gone. At each 
end is a small apse or chamber with a ceiling of a single 
stone, panelled and richly ornamented with sculpture. 
That on the north side is remarkable as having the signs 
of the zodiac in mezzo-relievo round the circumference of 
a circle, within which appear to have been figures of the 
principal deities. The whole is now nearly obliterated by 
the persevering fanaticism of the Muslems : it is still 
possible, however, to trace the outlines of several of the 

Such was the plan and such were the dimensions of 

* Detailed drawings are given of these by Wood .and Dawkins, 
' Ruins of Palmyra,' plate xix. 


this magnificent building; and, as a whole, I scarcely 
think it is surpassed by any in the world. The temple of 
Minerva at Athens and a few of its fellows — the clief- 
d'ceuvres of ancient Greece — are, undoubtedly, more beau- 
tiful in their stern simplicity and in the brilliancy of their 
marble columns ; Ba'albek, not less chaste in its sculpture, 
is more gigantic in its proportions ; but the cloistered 
court at Palmyra, with its long lines of statues and the 
temple itself towering high over all, formed a picture 
unique and unequalled by any of these. 

Travellers have generally represented the buildings of 
Palmyra as constructed entirely of marble, but the fact is, 
there is not a single marble column or stone among the 
whole ruins. White limestone of a fine texture from the 
neighbouring mountains has been universally employed, 
and the only other species found is Sienite gi'anite, a few 
shafts of which may still be seen near the long colonnade. 
One of these, a single block, measures thirty feet in length 
and three in diameter. How it was conveyed to this spot 
is a mystery. To transport it from the Upper Nile to 
the coast of Syria was a work of no ordinary difficulty, 
but to convey it thence over mountains and across deserts 
for near two hundred miles shows an engineermg skill 
almost equalling that of our own day. 

After satisfying our curiosity with a careful though 
hasty survey of these wonderful ruins we followed our 
guide down among the gardens, where we found many 
traces of former structures. The gardens are surrounded 
with lofty mud walls, and have doors of stone taken from 
the crypts and tombs of other days. The poor villagers 
thus endeavour to keep their few dates and pomegranates 


from the all-devouring Arabs ; but they are not always 
successful. I endeavoured afterwards to trace and esti- 
mate the extent of the ancient city walls. Those now 
seen, and already referred to, are of the period of Justi- 
nian, who we know fortified Palmyra. They are only 
about three miles in circumference, but there is sufficient 
evidence to show that the ancient city extended far 
beyond them, and probably occupied a space nearly ten 
miles in circu^mference. The great temple area was in 
Saracenic times converted into a fortification, like so many 
other noble buildings in this land. The windows of tlie 
exterior wall were built up, the grand portico was razed 
to the ground, and a heavy tower erected in its place to 
defend the gate. A deep moat was also cut along the 
western wall. These defences, though ruinous, are still 
sufficient to check any sudden attack of the Bedawin, and 
the inhabitants, so long as they remain behind their walls, 
enjoy comparative security. 

The population may have amounted to some seventy or 
eighty families when we were there, but it is continually 
fluctuating, and since that time I have heard that nearly 
one half of its people deserted it on account of some pri- 
vate quarrel. The miserable mud huts were clustered 
round the bases of noble columns, and beautiful fragments 
of sculptured cornices and capitals lay in the little court- 
yards. The women and children crowded round us to get 
a good look at the Frangi, and some few brought coins 
and antique gems for sale ; the money we had brought 
with us, however, was now in the purse of sheikh Mo- 
hammed, and we were reluctantly forced to decline 
making purchases, except a few coins. These people live 


chiefly by trading between the Bedawin and the inhabit- 
ants of Damascus ; they also carry large quantities of salt 
to the latter city, which they collect on the desert plain 
south of the ruins. The principal sheikh Jarullah we 
saw only once, but his younger brother Fares was almost 
constantly with us during our stay. We were much 
pleased with his kindness and attention, and almost as 
much annoyed with his insatiable curiosity. Everytliing 
he saw with us he admired, and everything he admired 
he asked for. Our saddle-bags, our beds, our coats, and 
our very pockets, we had to turn out that they might be 
inspected, and their structure or contents wondered at. 
A fine English knife of mine with a spring-blade he asked 
and begged lor repeatedly, but we invariably refused to 
give liim any of our property. At last, thinking he had 
something that would tempt me to part with it, he ran 
out, and soon came back with an old mutilated head sculp- 
tured in marble carefully wrapped up in his cloak. It 
had neither nose, nor ears, nor almost any other feature ; 
and this he offered in exchange for the knife. It was of 
no avail however — even such a rare antique would not 
tempt me to part with an old friend that had served me 
in many a land.'' 

* Descriptions of the ruins of Palmyra may be found in the following 
works. Le Brun, 'Voyage au Levant,' 1 vol. fol., Paris, 1714, where 
there are some important notes on the inscriptions copied by the English 
merchants from Aleppo, who were the first to visit the place in modem 
times. TMs description is a ti-anslation of a letter sent by Mr. W. HaUfax, 
one of these merchants, to Mr. Bernard in England, and published in the 
Philosophical Transactions for Oct. 1695. To the original I have not 
had access in this city, but I presume the ti-anslation by Le Brun is 
correct. The ' Ruins of Palmyra, ' by Wood and Dawkins, London, 1753, 
1 vol. fol. This splendid work consists almost wholly of plans and 



It may not be considered out of place here, or uninte- 
resting to the general reader, to give a brief sketch of the 
history of this ancient city, among whose ruins we have 
just been wandering. My only object is to throw such 
light upon the origin and authors of the splendid buildings, 
the remains of which now excite our astonishment and 
admiration, as may enable the reader to peruse the fore- 
going description #ith more pleasure and profit. 

The earliest notice of this city on record is that in 
1 Kings ix. 18, where it is stated that Solomon built 
" Tadmor in the wilderness." There can be little doubt 
that the ruins which we have just described occupy the 
site, as they bear the name, of the city founded by the 
great King of Israel. Solomon was a commercial monarch. 
His ships navigated the seas, and his traders traversed 
the deserts, that the luxuries and wealth of foreign lands 
might be conveyed to his little kingdom. A secure 
route for the caravans that imported the treasures of India, 
Persia, and Mesopotamia was of the first importance. 
Tadmor is about half way between the banks of the 
Euphrates and the borders of Syria. Copious foimtains 

drawings of the ruins, which are executed with great care and fidelity. 
The letterpress is scarcely sufficient to explain the plates; and it seems 
strange that men who had the taste to appreciate the splendour of these 
noble ruins, and the learning to investigate their oi-igin and detail their 
history, should not have given to the world a full account of them. 
Addison, in his ' Palmyra and Damascus,' has given an account of the 
ruins, %vith a historical sketch; and a notice m.ay also be seen in the 
little volume of Irby and Mangles. 



there supply the first requisite for a desert station ; and. 
influenced no doubt by these weighty considerations, 
Solomon made choice of" this spot for the erection of a 
commercial depot and resting-place. 

Its importance would naturally vary with the fluctua- 
tions of commerce ; and we have no evidence that it 
attained to power or fame till a far later period. For 
nearly a thousand years history is silent about Tadmor ; 
and Pliny appears to be the first among historians who 
makes reference to it. It was then a city of considerable 
importance, and, from the peculiarity of its position, as 
this author remarks, "being situated in the midst of an 
almost impassable desert, and on the confines of two 
powerful and hostile kingdoms," it had hitherto retained 
its independence. That its citizens were not only opu- 
lent, but skilled in architecture as early as the commence- 
ment of the Christian era, is evidenced by those beautiful 
tombs to which we have already alluded. On one of them 
is a Greek inscription to the following eflfect : "This 
enduring monument was erected by Grichos, the son of 
Mokimos, the son of , the son of INIattha, for him- 
self, his children, and his descendants, in the year 314 
(a.D. 2), and month Xandikos (April)." This is the 
most ancient Greek inscription hitherto discovered at 
Palmyra, but there are others in the Palmyrene character 
miquestionably much earlier. 

The city retained its freedom until about A.D. 130, 
when it submitted to the Emperor Adrian, and came 
under the protection of Eome. His predecessor, Trajan, 
had subdued the Parthians, and captured Babylon and 
Ctesiphon, and the little republic was thus encompassed 


by the victorious legions of the " Eternal City." Adrian 
was a munificent patron of Palmyra, for not only did he 
give it his own name, but he raised it to the rank of a 
Eoman colony, and adorned it with many of those colon- 
nades and temples which are so grand even in their ruin. 
It appears, however, that the citizens themselves were not 
greatly behind the Romans in refinement and love for the 

arts. That macmificent mausoleum which we described 


above was erected previous to the time of Adrian, as may 
be seen from the inscription still existing over the entrance- 
door, from which we learn that " The monument was 
erected by Elabelus Manaeus Sochaeis Malchos, the son 
of Aballathos, the son of Mannseus, the son of Elabelus, for 
himself and his sons, in the year 414 (a.d. 102) and 
month Xandicos." 

The precise date of the great colonnade cannot be easily 
determined, but it is highly probable that it and the other 
buildings immediately adjoining were the results of a mag- 
nificent plan for the adorning of the city by the Emperor 
who gave it his own name. There is evidence from the 
inscriptions upon it that it was constructed before A.D. 
238, as this date is found underneath one of the brackets 
on which a statue had been erected to an illustrious 
citizen by the senate and people. Neither tlais date nor 
any of those fbimd under these pedestals can be regarded 
as fixing the age of the colonnade itself, any more than 
the dates on the monuments in St. Paul's or Westminster 
Abbey can be adduced as proofs of the precise period in 
which tliose buildings were erected. This colonnade in 
fact appears to have been the appointed receptacle for 
monuments raised by a grateful nation in honour of its 

M 2 


statesmen and warriors, or erected by private citizens as a 
tribute of respect to friends and relatives. The brackets 
of the colonnades around the court of the great temple 
seem also to have been devoted to a like object, and there 
is one inscription there, with the date 490, or A.d. 178, 
which proves that this noble structure could not have 
been erected long subsequent to the time of Adrian, who 
died in A.D. 138. 

From this period the influence and wealth of Palmyra 
rapidly increased. Though nominally subject to Rome, 
it had a government of its own, and was ruled by its own 
laws. The public affairs were directed by a senate 
chosen by the suffrages of the people ; and most of its public 
monuments were erected, as the inscriptions state, by the 
senate and people — H BoyXaj xai o ^n/xor. As a colony, 
too, it was highly favoured, having been elevated to the 
rank of capital, one of the inscriptions designating it as 
MnrgoKoXwvEiaj-. For nearly a century and a half did this 
prosperity continue ; and it was at last only checked by 
the pride that it had generated. The pride of its rulers, 
which for a brief period raised it to a pitch of power it 
had never before aspired to, became the cause of its speedy 
fall and subsequent ruin. 

The unfortunate Valerian, who a second time carried 
the Roman arms into the heart of Persia, to check the 
rising power of Sapor, was defeated and captured by his 
foe. His imworthy son suffered him to pine away in 
bondage, exposed to the most brutal treatment ; but 
Odenathus, one of the citizens of Pahnyra, revenged the 
wrongs of the fallen Emperor, and vindicated the majesty 
of the Pioman state. Sapor being triumphant, policy con- 


strained Odenatlius to propitiate his friendship by rich 
presents wlien suing for the life and liberty of the captive ; 
but when these were indignantly refused, and the bearers 
of them insulted, he himself marched against the haughty 
Persian, took the whole province of Mesopotamia, and 
even defied him beneath the walls of Ctesiphon(A.D, 260). 
The services thus rendered to Rome were so great that 
Odenathus was gifted with the purple, and associated in 
the sovereignty with Gallienus (a.d. 264). He enjoyed 
his high dignity but a brief period, being murdered by 
his nephew, at a banquet in the city of Emesa, only three 
years afterwards. His reign was short but brilliant. Not 
only was Sapor conquered, and Valerian revenged, but 
Syrian rebels, and the northern barbarous hordes that now 
began their incursions into the territories of Rome, felt 
alike the force of his arms. 

He bequeathed the kingdom of the East to a worthy 
successor — Zenobia, his widow ; and the names of Zeno- 
bia and Palmyra will always be associated while history 
remains. The virtue, the wisdom, and the heroic spirit 
of that extraordinary woman were never equalled in the 
annals of antiquity. She was at first nominally the 
regent during the minority of her son Vaballatus ; but 
unfortunately, ambition urged her to lay claim to supreme 
authority, and adopt the high-sounding title of " Queen of 
the East." By conquest she soon added Egypt to her 
possessions in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor, and 
during a period of five years governed her kingdom with 
wisdom. In A.D. 270 the warlike Aurelian ascended the 
throne of the Casars, and, after subduing his enemies in 
tlie West, he turned his arms against the fated Zenobia, 


Her armies were defeated in a pitched battle near 
Antioch, and, having retreated to Emesa and there rallied, 
they were again routed by the Emperor, and driven back 
upon their desert home. Aurelian pursued them across 
the parched plains, and invested Palmyra, which capitu- 
lated after a long and bloody resistance. Zenobia 
attempted to escape, but was captured on the banks of 
the Euphrates, and brouglit into the presence of the stern 
Emperor. When being led off captive, a woman's fears 
prevailed, for she heard the rough soldiers clamouring for 
her death. In a moment of weakness her best friends 
were betrayed, and they, including the philosopher 
Longinus, were put to an ignominious death. She was 
afterwards led to Rome, and there, loaded with jewels, and 
fettered with shackles of gold, she was led by a golden 
chain along the Via Sacra, in front of the chariot of the 
triumphant Aurelian, while all Eome crowded to the spot 
to see the Arabian Queen. She was worthy of a better 
fate. If common humanity did not prevent the Roman 
citizens from exulting over an honourable but fallen foe, 
surely the memory of her husband's victories, and of liis 
services rendered to the state, might have saved her from 
the indignity of appearing before a mob in chains." 

Aurelian captured Palmyra in A.D. 272, and left in it 
a small garrison of Roman soldiers ; but soon after his 
departure the people rose and massacred them to a man. 
On receiving this intelligence the Emperor returned, took 

' The principal sources for the history of Zenobia are the ' Trigint. 
Tyran.' of Treb. Pollio, and Vossiscus' ' Biogi-aphy of Aui-elian.' lu the 
' Annales' of Joan. Zonaras there are also some important facts brought 
to light. 


the city, pillaged it, and put the inhabitants to the sword. 
The city was soon afterwards repaired by the orders of 
the conqueror, and the great Temple of the Sun redeco- 
rated ; yet it never recovered its former opulence, and no 
public monument has been found of a date subsequent to 
this period, though several were erected only a few years 

A Latin inscription, akeady referred to, of the reigns 
of Diocletian, Maximinian, and Constantius (A.d. 292-305), 
shows that at this period the walls of the city were re- 
built — probably they had lain in a ruinous state from the 
time of Aurelian.' But the period of Palmyra's grandeur 
was now past, and we have scarcely a notice in history of 
its decline and fall. In the ' Notitise Ecclesiasticje' we 
find it mentioned as the seat of a bishop in the province 
of which Damascus was metropolis.^ When the followers 
of Mohammed swept across Syria and Arabia with their 
conquering armies, Tadmor fell an easy prey ; yet still in 
the wars that occurred between the Omeiyades and Abas- 
sides it is spoken of as a large town, and strongly fortified. 
From a very remote age a large colony of Jews lived in 
this city, and towards the close of the twelfth century 
Benjamin of Tudela states there were still 4000 of his 
brethren dwelling there. A century and a half after this 
time Abulfeda speaks of it as a mere village ; and in the 
present day it consists of a few miserable huts that seem 

* See the Greek inscriptions in Wood's 'Ruins of Palmyra,' and 
Le Brim's 'Voyage au Levant,' ui sup. 

* Ruins of Palmyra, p. 31. 

^ See A Sancto Paulo Geographia Sacra, p. 294, and Notitiae Antiquse, 
p. 50. 


to cling to the ruins of the Temple of the Sun. Its 
people, oppressed on the one hand by the wandering 
Bedawin, and on the other by the Turkish government, 
are poor and servile ; yet still their robust frames, com- 
manding stature, and ruddy complexion bear testimony to 
the salubrity of the air, and to the genial effect of its 
medicinal springs. It is now a great halting-place for the 
Baghdad and Damascus caravans. 

Tuesday^ Sth April. — Sheikh Mohammed and his tram 
remained in Tadmor during the whole of our visit, and 
only left this morning a short time before us, on receiving 
a promise that we would breakfast with him in his tent 
on our way back. Bidding adieu to Sheikh Fares, who 
accompanied us to the gate of the village, we mounted 
our dromedaries, and turned their heads westward. The 
ruins were soon passed, and the Valley of Tombs left 
behind, and in two hours we dismounted at the tent-door 
of the Arab chief 

Our first business here was to draw up a contract 
between 'Amer and Mohammed, that they would thence- 
forth unite in conveying travellers to Tadmor, each 
retaining one-half of the gain. This document, duly 
signed and sealed, was committed to my care to be given 
with all due form to Mr. Misk. Breakfast was then 
served, consisting of delicious dates spread over a large 
copper tray, with a little pyramid of snowy butter in the 
centre. With the help of our own bread, we made a 
hearty meal, and at noon resmned our journey. 

Chap. IV. BETUli:^' TO DAMASCUS. 249 

For the sake of variety 'Amer proposed to take us 
back to Damascus by the ordinary route, to which we 
readily agreed. Our road thus led up the great plain, and 
nothing could be imagined more dreary than the prospect 
around us : a delicate flower, or a few tufts of grass, or a 
stunted weed, occasionally sprang up through the flinty 
soil, but the hills on each side were bare and white, and 
the plain so completely deserted, that for seven long hours 
we rode on without seeing a single living creature. The 
sun went down, and the western horizon was deeply 
tinted with that rich golden hue which is only seen in the 
East. We had begun to fear the necessity of a night 
march, or a bivouac under the canopy of heaven, exposed 
to the piercing winds of the desert, when the eagle eye of 
the ageily descried the form of a solitary camel standing 
motionless upon the horizon. He uttered a cry of joy, 
and we swept onward with increased energy. The last 
streak of the brief twilight had already disappeared, and 
the bright stars in the dark vault over-head shone with a 
brilliancy that is unknown in the cloudy West. Having 
surmounted an easy swell in the plain, we suddenly saw 
before us, in a shallow wady, the lights of a little encamp- 
ment. We wrapped our cloaks around us, and rode on in 
silence till we reached a tent-door, where we dismounted, 
and, entering, became the guests and proteges of its 
master. No water was offered to us, and none had been 
in the encampment for two days ; but bowls of camels'- 
milk were presented to each, and the evening meal soon 
made its appearance. 

We found, on inquiry, that this was but a section of a 
large tribe of the Sab'a, other portions of which were 

M 3 


spread over the plain and neighbouring mountains. They 
received us with genuine Bedawy hospitality, supplying 
our wants with the best of what they possessed, and not 
troubling us with either excuse or apology. 

Wednesday, 9th. — Our hard and humble couch did not 
prevent refreshing sleep, and at five o'clock this morning 
we were again in the saddle. The little encampment was 
soon out of sight, and the broad plain before us, desolate 
and dreary as ever. Ere long a tower-like building ap- 
peared on the horizon, and attracted our attention. We 
reached it at seven o'clock, and found to our surprise a 
square tower with a cross figured upon several parts of it. 
Beside it are some ruins, with the remains of a richly- 
ornamented doorway, similar to some of those in Palmyra. 
A few hundred yards to the north-east is a circiJar en- 
closure surrounded by an earthen dyke about ten feet high. 
A ruined aqueduct can be traced from it across the plain, 
toward the mountain-range on the south This was evi- 
dently intended as a resting-place for caravans. It is about 
half-way between Kuryetein and Tadmor. 

The snowy tops of Lebanon were now distinctly visible 
in front, and the plain tlu'ough which we travelled became 
undulating, with little valleys like water-com'ses inter- 
secting it ; the herbage, too, assumed a fresher look, and 
flowers and weeds were more frequent. The mountain- 
range on the south is of an almost uniform elevation 
throughout, but that on the north decreases in altitude 
towards the west. 

Dreary and desolate as this great valley seems, it is not 
without its associations, historic and sacred ; and the whole 
route we were now following is one that has been noted 


for long centimes. Along it Abraham travelled when 
journeying to the land of promise, in obedience to the 
command of his God ; and Jacob followed in liis footsteps 
with his wives and cliildren, flocks and herds, men and 
maid servants. Sis route would necessarily be regulated 
by the foimtains at which he could obtain the necessary 
suppHes of water. The time occupied by the journey 
(ten days) proves that he could not have passed round by 
Northern Syria, but must have taken the shortest course 
to Mount Gilead, where Laban came up with liim. Foi 
these reasons it is clear he must have passed the copious 
springs of Palmyra and Kuryetein, and thence pursued his 
journey through the fertile territory of Damascus. The 
distance from the banks of the Euphrates at Harran could 
not be accomplished in less than ten days by one encum- 
leered as he was, and it would not require a longer time 
where despatch was used. Laban, however, on his swift 
dromedaries, could easily perform the same journey in 
seven days. A truer or more vivid picture of patriarchal 
life could not be witnessed than the march of an Arab 
tribe across this dreary region. But in later years, when 
Palmyra was in its glory, this valley was the great channel 
through which the wealth of India and of Eastern Asia 
flowed to Syria, Greece, and Western Europe. Palmyra 
is now in ruins, and the channel of coimnerce is weU-nigh 
dry ; but the time may yet come when the withering 
blight of Islam shall be removed from this unliappy 
empire, and when the desert liighway shall be again one 
of the channels of communication between Eastern Asia 
and Europe. 


We reached Kuryetein at three o'clock, and took up 
our quarters at the house of the sheikh. Here we found 
Miguel, the brother of Sheikh Mohammed, with a few of 
his followers, awaiting the arrival of the travellers from 
Beyrout ; and here too we found a strong party of 'Amer's 
tribe keeping watch upon the others. We soon learned 
that intelligence of our capture had been speedily con- 
veyed to 'Amer's tribe, with some vague rumours of his 
own death. This party had therefore been sent to inter- 
cept Miguel, and, if they found the reports of 'Amer's 
death true, to take blood revenge. Such is desert law, 
and it serves admirably to restrain the fierce passions of 
the Bedawin, and to prevent bloodshed. A blood-feud, 
when it once arises between tribes, is almost interminable. 
The fearful sentence of " blood for blood " hangs over the 
head of every individual ; and whenever opportunity 
occurs, be it sooner or later — after a lapse of a few hours, 
or after the lapse of many years — the sentence is executed. 
The greatest care is consequently taken, whatever forays 
and reprisals may be made, to avoid bloodshed. 

Kuryetein is situated in the plain, but a spur from the 
southern hills runs out towards it, at the extremity of 
which are copious fountains of pure water. These are the 
only fountains in the whole of tliis vast region, and they 
must consequently have given an importance to the locaHty 
from the earliest ages. Considerable ruins, consisting of 
broken columns and large hewn stones, are found among 
the houses and in the walls of the modern village. Mr. 
Wood observed here fragments of two Greek inscriptions, 
but he does not say whether they contained any name or 


date.^ I shall afterwards have occasion to refer to this 
place when giving my views as to the line of the northern 
boundary of the land of Israel. I will only remark here, 
that, from its position and its copious fountains, I have been 
led to suppose that it may possibly be the site of Hazar- 
enan, " The village of fountains," on the border of Da- 
mascus northward.^ 

The abundant waters are used in the irrigation of the 
fields and gardens round the village ; and the inhabitants, 
being warlike and courageous, and moreover within reach 
of the military station of Hasya, are able to defend their 
crops against the Bedawin. There is a little community 
of Christians here, belonging to the Syrian or Jacobite 

Thursday, 10th. — We left Kuryetein at 5-30 this morn- 
ing, and continued our journey along the great valley, 
which here turns to the south of west. Before we had 
proceeded more than a few miles we heard some shots 
across the plain on our right, and our chief manifested con- 
siderable anxiety. He informed us that this was one of the 
most dangerous parts of the whole region, being a much- 
frequented border-land, where predatory bands of Bedawin 
are almost constantly on the watch for stray wayfarers. 
He urged us to be on our guard against robbers ; but we 
had little means of defending ourselves in case of attack, 

* Ruins of Palmyra, p. 34. 

* Ezek. xlvii. 17, and xlvii. 1; Num. xxxiv. 9-10. May not Kunjetein 
be the modern representative of the .ancient episcopal city called by the 
several names Corada, Caradcd, Carotca, or Earotcu, and whose bishop 
was styled in the acts of the Council of Chalcedon Ka^iihaiuv 'E.^iffxavro; 1 
See S, Pauli, Geog. Sac. p. 295, and Not. Ant, p. 62. 


and we felt tliat, miless the number of our assailants was 
very small, we must become an easy prey. 

In five hours we passed a large ruined caravanserai on 
the side of the road. The range of mountains, on the 
south side of which we had travelled in going to Palmyra, 
was new close on our left, rising up bleak and barren from 
the desolate plain. The opposite range, distant apparently 
about five miles, is considerably loftier, but its features are 
the same. At 3*40 we reached the village 'Atny, having 
passed several small klians now lying ia ruins, and in 
another hour we entered the gate of Jerud. Next morning 
we set out at an early hour, and reached Damascus a little 
after noon, glad to have escaped the dangers of the desert, 
and to enjoy agam the comforts of civilised life. 




The Barada — The Salahiyeh hills — Diimmar — Fine valley — Ancient 
aqueduct — Great fountain of Fijeh — Wady Barada — Suk, the ancient 
Abila — Roman road and aqueducts — Inscriptions — Discoveries of 
M. de Saulcy — Histoiy of Abila — Sublime pass — Roman bridges 
— Plain of Zebdany — Fountain of the Barada — Physical geogi-aphy 
of district — The "Rivers of Damascus" identified. 

I HAVE already stated that the surpassing beauty and rich- 
ness of the vast plain of Damascus, and the very existence 
of the city itself, depend entirely on the waters of the 
Barada. The reader may therefore wish to accompany me 
as I ascend the wild and picturesque ravine through which 
this noble river descends from its source in the distant 
mountains. Along this route I have often ridden, alone 
and in the company of friends and strangers, by day amid 
unclouded splendour, and by night when the pale moon 
threw her silvery rays on crag and peak, and yet I have 
never wearied of the scene. I cannot promise my reader 
that he will not feel weary of my attempt to describe 
scenes familiar to me as the home of my youth ; but I could 
safely assure him that, if I had him here on some balmy 
morning in spring, mounted on a spirited Arab, his atten- 
tion would not flag till we had reached the end of our 
proposed journey. 

In half an hour from the city we cross the great canal 


Taura, and, passing through a section of the large village 
of Salahiyeh, emerge from the verdant gardens and dense 
orchards of Damascus. The road now skirts the mountain- 
side, which rises up on the right, bleak, white, and pre- 
cipitous, while close on the left it is washed by a sea of 
verdure. Ascending diagonally some fifteen minutes 
more, we reach the spot beside a little wely, on the brow 
of the deep wild glen, from which is obtained the justly- 
celebrated view of Damascus and its magnificent plain ; 
but another view lies before us no less remarkable, if less 
famed — a view which for savage grandeur and naked de- 
solation has scarcely a parallel. The bare hills, white as 
snow, slioot up into conical summits, smooth as if scarped 
by the hand of man ; beyond this is the Sahra, like a sea 
of molten iron ; and farther still in the distance rises ab- 
ruptly the great central ridge of Antilibanus, furrowed by 
torrents and rent to its very foundations by yawning 

Descending from this spot over naked slopes of white 
cretaceous limestone, filled with nodules of flint and huge 
ammonites, we reach in half an hour the little village of 
Dummar, pleasantly situated on the green banks of the 
Barada. The Yeztd, the highest of the numerous canals 
led ofi" from this river, washes some of the houses. The 
ordinary road to Ba'albek here crosses the river, and, wind- 
ing for a time along its banks, strikes over the dreary 
plain until it descends into the valley again near Suk. 
We shall take another and more interesting course that 
will lead us past the great fountain of Fijeh. 

Leaving the village behind, we skirt the bare white 
hills, and follow a narrow and slippery path along the side 


of the valley. The scenery below us is now exquisitely 
beautiful. The vale is of considerable breadth, and ver- 
dant meadows and blooming orchards of walnut and apricot 
trees spread out on each side, wliile a fringe of lofty pop- 
lars marks the serpentine course of the stream ; and the 
whole is shut in by groups of graceful conical hills, whose 
snowy whiteness sets off the deep green of the foliage. 
Soon, however, we leave this little paradise, and, after forty 
minutes' winding through desolate wadys, emerge upon 
the great plain of the Sahra. It is at this place less barren 
than where we formerly crossed it on the Beyrout road, 
and here and there may be seen little patches of culti- 
vation. A dreary ride of three miles now brings us to the 
head of a fine valley, down wliich our road winds to the 
left, among groves of fig-trees and terraced vineyards. On 
the right is the precipitous mountain rising over us some 
three thousand feet ; on the left is a long slope surmounted 
by a wall of naked rock ; while in front is the deep valley 
through which the Barada rushes, concealed by the dense 
foliage and overshadowed by lofty cliffs. On reaching the 
end of this valley, which is called Wady Bessima, we sud- 
denly find ourselves beside a little village of the same 
name, built on the very brink of the foaming torrent, and 
surrounded by some of the wildest and most romantic 
scenery I have ever seen in this land. After sweeping 
through the narrow strip of gardens above the village, the 
river enters a gorge so narrow that no space is left even 
for a goat-path along the bank. Here, tunnelled through 
the side of the perpendicular cliff, is an ancient aqueduct 
which once brought water from the great fountain of Fijeh, 


and its dry bed now forms the only path of communica- 
tion between this village and that of Ashrafiyeh, twenty 
minutes farther down. 

Strange and wonderful are the tales that are told of this 
aqueduct. Tradition ascribes its construction to some 
daughter of a king who reigned in Palmyra, and who thus 
conducted the waters of Fijeh to her native city. A 
writer in the American ' Bibliotheca Sacra ' has referred 
to this tradition, and has annexed to it the statement that 
the aqueduct has been traced for nine hours across the 
plain towards Palmyra, and that it is again seen near that 
city ! This is a striking and romantic tale, but there are 
a few points that require proof ere we can release it from 
the realms of fancy. It will first be necessary to establish 
some connection between the aqueduct at Bessima and that 
on the plain of Damascus, and this we believe has never 
yet been done. Between the spot where the one ends, or 
at least beyond which it cannot be traced, and the place 
where that on the plain begins, is a distance of some six- 
teen miles. It will further be necessary to prove that 
these canals are of the same character. The aqueduct 
in the plain is, like numerous others in the same district, 
subterranean, constructed not merely for conveying but for 
collecting water. I have traced this aqueduct across the 
plain to its termination — not at Tadmor, however, but at 
the ruins of a considerable town on the borders of the 
desert east of Damascus. The tradition above referred to 
is, I presume, about equally well foimded with one I heard 
at the fountains of Solomon, near Tyre. Standing some 
years ago on the brink of one of these wonderful struc- 


tures, I asked a venerable Arab beside me, " From whence 
do these waters come, my father ! " " From Baghdad, 
my lord!" was the grave reply. "And who brought 
them here ? " I again inquired. " Alexander, by the help 
of a Jan," responded the profound antiquary ! 

For about two miles above Bessima the river with diffi- 
culty forces its way between lofty rocky banks, now 
rushing headlong against some projecting cliff on the one 
side, and, when driven back, turning fiercely towards the 
opposite. The winding of the glen affords continued 
variety of scene, and successive pictures of wild grandeur, 
as we ride along the shelving path, which is in some 
places hewn in the side of the cliff almost over the bed of 
the torrent. A lofty mountain-chain, in fact, is here cut 
through ; it seems to have been rent by some wondrous 
convulsion of nature to its very foundations. The once 
regular strata have been tossed into countless forms. The 
banks tower aloft, almost perpendicularly, more than a 
thousand feet, while on the north side the mountain 
summits rise abruptly near two thousand more. No 
description could convey a just impression of tliis sublime 
pass. And the industry of man has added much to the 
beauty and picturesqueness of nature. Wherever a tree 
can take root, or a little terrace can be constructed for the 
vine, the space is occupied ; and the foliage of the fragrant 
walnut in many places shades the rocky path, while its 
spreading branches touch the vine that clings to the pre- 
cipice beyond it. 

Passing through this valley we reach, a mile and a half 
above Bessima, the little village of Fijeh, and a few yards 


beyond it the great fountain of the same name. This 
fountain is some seventy yards from the bed of the Barada, 
on the left bank, and bursts forth from a cavern underneath 
an old temple at the foot of a naked cliff. The mouth of 
the cave was formerly confined, by strong masonwork, to 
an opening about a yard square ; but this is now ruinous. 
From this opening, and from pores in the earth, and 
fissures in the rock on each side, the water gushes out 
with great force and a noise like thunder, and forms, a few 
yards below, a torrent thirty feet wide and three feet deep, 
with a current so rapid, that, though on level ground, 
none would venture to ford it. Beside the fountain are the 
massive ruins of another small temple. These temples 
were perhaps dedicated to the guardian nymph or genius. 

Here I recommend the wayfarer to rest, and spread 
his carpet on the huge stones on the summit of the ruin, 
and contemplate the grandeur of nature in the leaping and 
boiling torrent at his feet, and in the jagged cliifs far over- 
head that shut in the little valley. Shaded by the wahiut 
and tapering poplar, he can defy even an eastern sun, 
wliile the spray from the bounding waters diffuses a 
delicious coolness amid the fiercest summer heats. No 
officious guide will intrude upon his privacy, and no 
sturdy bandit will demand a bakhshish. Some village 
girl in her picturesque costume may pause for a moment 
to look at the stranger, or to offer him a blusliing apricot 
from the little basket she carries so gracefully upon her 
head ; but from other visitors the traveller feels secure. 

Fijeh is one of the two great sources of the river Barada, 
and contributes about two-thirds of the water that spreads 


verdure and beauty around the ancient city of Damascus. 
Many have thought that this is one of the rivers of which 
Naaman spoke ; but Fijeh is a fountain, and not a river. 
It is very correctly described by the celebrated geographer 
and historian Abulfeda. Of late years it has been fre- 
quently visited, and more frequently described, by tra- 
vellers, but in none of their works have I seen an account 
so clear, definite, and simple, as that of the Arab his- 

Lea^ong the foimtain, we follow a difScult and even 
dangerous road along the shelving side of the mountain, 
liigh above the stream. The valley now expands, and the 
belt of gardens and orchards along the banks becomes con- 
siderably broader : while the hills, being less precipitous, 
are cultivated in terraced patches among the rocks. In 
half an hour from ' Ain Fijeh we reach the little village of 
Deir Mukurrin, and in twenty minutes more Kefr ez- 
Zeit. The wady now turns north-west, and runs in a 
zigzag course to Suk, distant fifty minutes, its sides sloping 
more gently, and affording a light soil for cultivation. On 
the left bank of the stream are two small villages, Kefr and 
Berheleiya ; and on the right are two more, Deir Kaniin 
and Huseiiuyeh. I may here observe that the notes of 
Burckhardt, and of the many who have transcribed from 
him, on this part, are very incorrect, and have created con- 
siderable confusion in attempts to fix the precise site of the 
ancient Ahila. There is no village here called Suk, except 
that above referred to, and which will be described pre- 

' Abulfed. Tab. Syr. p. 15. 


sently ; and the only villages in this section of the wady 
are those already named. Burckhardt, who afterwards 
became such a close and accurate observer, seems to have 
penned the notes of the first part of this journey from 
memory. He says, for example, that he crossed the 
Barada several times between the bridge at Dummar and 
Judeideh (which he writes Eldjdide !). This is altogether 
a mistake — he did cross a small tributary of the Barada ; 
but the great and only road runs on the right bank of that 
river from the bridge at Dummar to that at Suk.^ 

The situation of Suk is very picturesque, and the 
scenery around it of surpassing grandeur. It stands upon 
a piece of level ground on the right bank of the river, 
embowered in the dense foliage of its gardens and orchards. 
Beside it rises the lofty mountain called Neby Habil, whose 
sides are mostly sheer precipices of naked rock. A short 
distance above the village the wady makes a sharp turn to 
the west, thus completely shutting in the view ; and here, 
rising abruptly before you from the very bed of the stream, 
towers in stern grandeur the great central ridge of Antili- 
banus. In the recess formed by the bend of the river in 
the mountain-side may be seen the dark entrances to 
numerous sepulchral caves hewn in the calcareous rock — 
some high up in the face of the cliff, and only accessible by 
long flights of steps; others lower down, and easy of 
access. By following the main road, which skirts the 
base of Neby Habil for a few hundred yards farther up, to 
the point where the valley turns, we obtain the best view 

* Travels in Syria, pp. 1, 2. 


s.\\u 1% 

) ) 




\' ( "^ 


'' tlvV- 

) '^ 

\'i I 

1 Geographical Mile. 



of these interesting tombs ; and near them we now also 
observe deep excavations in the projecting cliffs for the 
passage of a road and aqueduct. The accompanying plan 
will give a better idea of the general features of the scenery 
and disposition of the ancient remains than any description 
of mine. 

It has now been well known for more than thirty years 
to every student of sacred geography that this is the site 
of the ancient Ahilaof Lysanias, the capital of the tetrarchy 
of Abilene. The old itineraries fix the position of that 
city with sufficient accuracy to identify it. It was on the 
great road between Heliopolis and Damascus, thirty-two 
miles from the former city, and eighteen from the latter.^ 
But still more clear and decisive evidence was brought to 
light when Mr. Banks, nearly forty years ago, discovered 
two Latin inscriptions, containing the name of the city, 
on the side of the excavated roadway above mentioned.* 
Though many travellers have visited the place, yet none 
have as yet given such a description of the remains of 
antiquity and the precise position of the ruins as their im- 
portance demands. On several occasions I have had ample 
opportunity of examining them, and will now give a 
summary of the results of my investigations. 

3 Reland. Palest, pp. 314 and 393. 

* Correct copies of these inscriptions may be seen in the 'Journal of 
Sacred Literature' for July, 1853; where there is also a full description 
of the existing ruins, accompanied with a sketch of the history of Abila. 
A full and satisfactory commentary on these iuscri2Jtiona w;vs given by 
John Hogg, Esq., F.K.S., in a paper read before the Royal Geographical 
Society, 25th June, 1849, a copy of which the author kindly forwarded 
to me at Damascus during the past year, 1854. 


The ancient name Ahila still clings to this spot. On 
the summit of the lofty hill Keby Habil, above referred to, 
is a gigantic tomb called Kabr Habil — Tlie Tomb of 
Abel.^ Beside it is a small building in ruins, the character 
of the workmanship of which, as seen in the massive 
foundations and finely -hewn stones and moulded cornices 
scattered around, shows that it must be ascribed to the 
Eoman age. It was fourteen yards long by seventeen wide ; 
and in front, towards the east, there was a portico, the 
columns of which have fallen and rolled down the mountain- 
side to the river far below. The position of the ruin, 
situated on the summit of a lofty and almost inaccessible 
hill, and the fact that the door is towards the east, are suffi- 
cient to prove that it was originally a temple, and not 
a place intended for Christian worship, as Pococke has 
represented it. I searched in vain for any trace of an 

From this place I descended the hill on the north side 
to the modern bridge, which now spans the stream. Here 
on the right bank are remains of Uvo aqueducts tunnelled 
in the rock, which appear to have been intended for con- 
veying water to that portion of the city that stood on this 
side of the stream. One of them is still in good repair, 
and used for irrigating the gardens and fields above the 

5 V*-J& Hahil is doubtless only a corruption of \j\, which corresponds 

to the Hebrew ? 3 >{, and signifies a "moist or gi'assy place." One 
can see at a glance how appropriate is such a name to this spot, where 
the rich verdure, occasioned by the abundant waters, presents such a 
contrast to the bleak and parched slopes around. A local tradition, 
often mentioned by travellers, makes this the place where Abel fell by 
the hand of Cain, and where his mortal remains now rest. 


modem village. Crossing the bridge to the left bank, I 
climbed up for some minutes among huge masses of rock, 
which the wear of centuries has separated from the frown- 
ing cliffs above, and then reached the ancient road here 
hewn in the solid rock. Its breadth is 12 feet, and the 
total length of the cutting 450. The wall of rock on the 
left is in places from twenty to thirty feet high ; but on 
the right, next the river, there are large open spaces 
occasioned by the inequalities of the precipice. The road 
terminates at the edge of an overhanging cliff, and was 
formerly carried along on arches or colonnades. On the 
north wall of the excavations are two Latin inscriptions, 
each occurring in two different places. The larger and 
more important inscription records that the " Emperor 
Caisar M. Aur. Antoninus Aug. Armeniacus, and the 
Emperor Caesar L. Aurel. Verus Aug. Armeniacus, re- 
stored the road broken away by the force of the river ; the 
mountain being cut through by the agency of Julius Verus, 
legate of the province of Syria, at the expense of the 
inliabitants of Abileyie." The date of this inscription must 
be about A.D. 1G4.'' Pococke also saw and cojaied a 
fragment of a Greek inscription, in which the name of 
"Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene" is found. ^ 

Immediately below this road, and running parallel to it, 
is an aqueduct, also hewn in the solid rock. Where it is 
tunnelled, it is about two and a half feet wide and four high; 
but m some places it is open above, and the cutting is not 
less than twelve feet deep. Through this I passed to the 

« See 'The City of Abila,' by John Hogg, Esq., F.ll.S. 
7 Id. 



precipice at the termination of the road. Here stood in 
Maundrell's day some heavy columns,® the fragments of 
which may still be seen on the bank of the river below. 
These were probably intended to support the roadway, as 
there is no space for even a small building. Beside the 
columns I observed the folding doors of one of the tombs, 
formed of stone, like some of those I had seen at Palmyra. 
Upon them was a short Greek inscription, merely recording 
the name of the founder. In passing along the shelving 
bank from the aqueduct I noticed a narrow road on the 
left, partly hewn in the solid rock, winding up a wild 
gorge in the mountain-side by a series of steps. I followed 
its course, and in a few minutes reached extensive quarries 
on the summit of the cliff. Returning by the same path, 
I followed the line of the great road and aqueduct below 
the tombs, and observed distinct traces of them for about a 
quarter of a mile farther down, now supported by strong 
masonry, and now tunnelled or hewn in the rock. Where 
these terminated the ruins of the ancient city began to 
appear. Fragments of columns, massive foimdations, and 
heaps of hewn stones, are scattered along the river-side, 
half buried in the soil. Just opposite Suk I discovered the 
foundations of a fine portico, with the steps in front, and 
the bases of some of the columns still in their places ; but 
I searched in vain for any trace of bridge or viaduct over 
the deep bed of the stream. M. de Saulcy discovered a 
" fine remnant of a bridge, evidently of Greek or Roman 
construction ;" but M. de Saulcy was an inventive genius.' 

^ Maundrell's Travels, p. 134, 
9 Joui-ney round the Dead Sea and in the Bible Lands, vol. ii. p. 537. 


On the summit of a little tell, somewhat farther down, 
are the ruins of a small village, comparatively modern, but 
constructed out of the materials of more ancient and un- 
posing buildings. The ruins extend altogether for more 
than a mile along this left bank ; and some distance below 
them, near the little village of Kefr, are the prostrate 
remains of a temple. The principal part of Abila appears 
to have stood on this side of the river. 

We forded the stream with much difficulty below Suk, 
and proceeded to examine the right bank and the village 
itself for remains of antiquity. Here, also, are broken 
columns, some of them of massive proportions, and frag- 
ments of sculptured cornices. On a stone in the wall of 
the mill, which stands on the very brink of the river, one 
of my companions discovered a Greek inscription, wliich 
we at once proceeded to copy. It is unfortunately very 
defective, but it appears to have been originally intended 
for a family tomb or mausoleum. The date still remains 
clear; it is in the year 512 (a.d. 200), and month Dcesius 
(May). On another stone, found by M. de Segur, the 
French consul at Damascus, is likewise a Greek inscription 
of the Christian age, containing the name of a bishop, 
John, and the date 875 (a.d. 563).^ 

It was with considerable surprise that I lately read the 
narrative of M. de Saulcy's visit to this place, in which he 
pompously claims all the honour of having discovered these 
ruins and inscriptions, and of having identified the site of 
the ancient Abila ! As the work of this French savant 

' All these iuscriptions may be found in the article above referred to 
in the 'Journal of fciacred Literature' for July, 1853. 

N 2 


has attained to considerable popularity, and has attracted 
much notice both in France and England, I may be allowed 
to call the reader's attention to a few facts connected with 
his pretended discoveries at tliis place. It is to be observed 
that, from the moment he enters the village of Siik, he 
professes total ignorance of all previous researches, and of 
everything that had been written about this interesting 
spot before his time. It was only when he saw an old 
miU, constructed, as he supposes, from the ruins of an 
ancient temple, that he became convinced of the fact that 
he was on the site of an ancient city ! After a little 
farther examination, he adds, " Ancient remains are 
visible everywhere in and around the village, and it 
would be evidently most interesting, were it possible, to 
fund some inscription from which we might learn the name 
of the city formerly existing here. On my return to 
France I resolve to make some researches concerning this 
locality, and Jiave good hopes that I may succeed in deter- 
mining the name. (! !) I little thought at the moment 
that the very next morning the problem would he solved^ ^ 
Thus writes the member of the French Institute, for 
the sake of heightening the dramatic effect, and exciting 
the attention and admiration of his readers, whom he sup- 
poses as profoundly ignorant as he himself professes to be. 
Next morning he sallies forth, notwithstanding the " im- 
satisfactory aspect of the heavens," and, urged on by anti- 
quarian zeal, he is almost tempted to " risk life and limb," 
by crossing the river on a ladder, in search of the hoped- 

* Journey round the Dead Sea and in Bible Lands, voL ii. pp. 535-7. 


for inscriptions. Discretion was deemed tlic better part 
of valour, however, and, leaving the more ventiu'ous abbe 
to pursue his researches alone, he returned to the village 
" rather ashamed of himself." In due time the abbe 
comes back enraptured with the discovery of the ruins of 
an " immense city," a " vast necropolis," and "splendid 
inscriptions among the rocks." The enthusiasm of M. de 
Saulcy is now excited to the highest pitch, and he is 
" quite ready to attempt the dangerous passage of the 
ladder;" but, fortunately for the cause of science, there 
was no occasion to hazard such a valuable life. A brldf^e 
was found farther up, crossing wliich, he scaled the moun- 
tain-side, and there saw before him the inscriptions he had 
longed for. After briefly commenting upon them he 
concludes as follows : — " The problem of the unknown 
name of the ancient city happened thus to be immediately 

and perfectly resolved. The city was Ablla The 

reader may thus obser^'e that chance greatly favoured me, 
by thus supplying in my need a precious document con- 
cerning the name and history of the city through the ter- 
ritory of which we were passing." ! 

It is indeed difficult to understand how one so well 
versed in ancient itineraries, and so deeply learned in tlie 
geography of this land, should have been so long Ignorant 
of a fact which every schoolboy can learn from his dic- 
tionary of geography ! It is strange that he, a member of 
the French Institute — of which honourable distinction he 
so often reminds his readers — should have known nothing 
of inscriptions the purport of which was communicated to 
the world in 1820 in one of the best-knoAvn periodicals of 
Europe, the 'Quarterly Review;' which were published 


at large, with a memoir by Letronne, in tlie ' Journal des 
Savans' for March, 1827, and again, in the following 
year, in the great work of Orellius ; and which have since 
that period been referred to and commented on by scores 
of travellers and literary men ! All this, however, we could 
perhaps believe ; and, had no other circumstance come to 
my knowledge, I might have rested content with giving 
M. de Saulcy full credit for his ignorance, and should pro- 
bably have regarded him as a zealous but unfortunate anti- 
quary, whose discoveries were made some forty years too 
late. The public will no doubt be astonished to learn 
that I now accuse the learned " Member " not merely of 
ignorance, but of an act of literary dishonesty umvorthy 
of a scholar. M. Anton Bulad, of this city, has informed 
me that before M. de Saulcy left Damascus, on his way to 
Ba'albek, he had given him copies of the inscriptions he 
professes to have discovered, and had directed his attention 
to the village of Suk-wady-Barada, as the site of the 
ancient Abila ! 

Such is a specimen of the learning and researches of a 
man whom a recent reviewer represents as " having con- 
tributed to our geographical and historical knowledge a 
series of discoveries equal in importance and extent to any 
which human intelligence and perseverance have accom- 
plished since Columbus passed the Atlantic Ocean, and 
added a new and boundless field for the exercise of human 
energy." ! ! ^ 

Having already published a critique on some alleged 
difficulties connected with the history of Abila, and the 

* Dublin University Magazine for Sept. 1853, p. 382. 


mention of Abilene as a tetrarcliy in the Gospel of Lukc,^ 
I will here only give, in a few sentences, the leading 
events of its history. 

About sixty years before the Christian era, Ptolemy, 
the son of Mennaeus, was king of Chalcis, whose territory 
embraced the whole southern ridge of Antilibanus.^ Upon 
his death, Lysanias, his son, succeeded to the throne, and 
removed the seat of government to Abila, which, for that 
reason, and to distinguish it from other cities of the same 
name in Syria, was called the " Abila of Lysanias ; " ^ and 
the whole kingdom over which he ruled was called, in 
accordance with the common practice of the period, " The 
house of Lysanias." ' Lysanias was murdered through the 
artifices of Cleopatra, who drew for a time the revenues of 
the kingdom of Chalcis. After her death Abilene was 
farmed by Zenodorus the robber.^ The latter, wishing to 
augment his limited revenues, allied himself to the banditti 
who then Inhabited the strong defiles of Trachonitls, and 
this territory, which is now called by Josephus " The 
house of Zenodorus," was, in consequence, wrested from 
him by Csesar, and given to Herod the Great (B.C. 20).^ 
Herod, in his will, as Josephus informs us,^ bequeathed 
the provinces of Gaulonitis, Trachonitls, and Pancas to his 
son Philip ; but the historian makes no mention of Abilene^ 
nor does he say to whom it was given, though he expressly 
states that only a certain portion of the " House of Zcno- 

* Journal of Sacred Literature for July, 1853. 

* Joseph. Aut. xiii. 6, 3; xiv. 3, 2; 7, 4; 12, 1. 

* "Abila coguoraine Lysauii," Ptol. Geog. v. 15. 
' T«v oiKoy rou huraviov. Joseph. Allt. XV. 10, 1. 

8 Strab. Geog. xvi. p. 520. " Joseph. Aut. xv. 10, 1, 

» Id. xvii. 8, 1. 


dorus " was sulijcct to Philip.^ Two things are especially 
deserving of notice in this latter statement, when viewed 
in connexion with what I have said above : — First, what 
Josephus formerly called the " House of Lysanias," from 
its then late ruler, he now calls the " House of Zeno- 
dorus," from its last governor ; and, second, a certain part 
being spoken of as given to Philip, we naturally conclude 
that the remaining part, which we know to be the pro- 
vince of Abilene, passed into the hands of some other 
person, and that person, Luke informs us, was Lysanias ; 
and hence we conclude that, when Josephus says, at a sub- 
sequent period,^ that the province of Abilene had been the 
tetrarchy of Lysanias, he must refer, not to the first 
Lysanias, who was king of Chalcis, but to the second, 
who, according to Luke, was tetrareh of Abilene. Thus 
the narratives of Luke and of Josephus, when carefully 
considered, are found to agree in the minutest point. No 
farther mention is made of Abilene by the ancient histo- 
rians than that it was subsequently given by the Emperor 
Caligula to Agrippa, the grandson of Herod,^ and, finally, 
by Claudius to Herod Agrippa, the last of the Herodlan 

Ablla was the seat of a bishopric during the early cen- 
turies of the Christian era, and was represented at the 
Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. The latest notice I have 
found of its ecclesiastical rulers is that on the inscription 
already referred to, which is dated A.D. 563. 

* Id. xvii. 11, 4. 

^ This was in a,d. 44, when the Empei-or Claudius bestowed these 
provinces upon Agi-ippa. — Joseph. Ant. xx. 7, 1. 

* Joseph, xviii. 6, 10. ^ Id. xx. 7, 1. 

Chap. V. THE ANCIEXT ABA^^A. 273 

In A.D. 634 Abila was captured and plundered by the 
Saracens. The circumstances under which this capture 
was made are worthy of record here, as tending to explain 
the origin and meaning of its modern name. There lived 
at that time, in a convent here, a priest widely celebrated 
for sanctity and learning. An annual fair, having some- 
thing of the character of a pilgrimage, was held at his 
residence at Easter. This was the great mart for the lux- 
uries of Northern Syria, and Christians from far and near 
regularly assembled to honour the saint, obtain his bless- 
ing, and get gain. The pious followers of the Prophet 
had just completed the plunder of Damascus, and were 
looking round the neighbouring cities for a fair opportunity 
of extending the faith and obtaining additional booty, when 
they were informed of this great fair. Not a moment was 
lost : the Christian merchants were surprised by the war- 
like Muslem soldiers, and stripped of everything. Since 
that period the name of the place has been Suk Wady 
Barada, " The Fair of Wady Barada." 

Above the ruins of this ancient city the valley becomes 
narrower, and the scenery wilder. Naked precipices rise 
up on each side, and closely confine the foaming torrent 
which dashes onward, strugo-ling with fallen rocks and 
projecting cliffs. The road, after crossing the bridge, fol- 
lows the left bank, where a way has been cut for it, in 
some places along the smooth shelving bank, and in others 
througli the soft chalky rock. In half an hour we pass, by 
this sublime glen, through the great central ridge of Anti- 
libanus, and emerge on the beautiful plain of Zebdany. 
On the left as we leave the defile there is a fine waterfall, 
and a few yards above it are the remains of two Roman 

N 3 


bridges, one of wliicli spanned the Barada, and the other 
conveyed an ancient aqueduct across the bed of a winter 
stream that comes down from Wady el-Kurn, and joins 
the river at this point. 

The plain of Zebdany, which we now enter, is not more 
than half a mile wide at its southern extremity, as a line 
of low, naked hills projects into it from the south-west. 
Down this section the Barada flows in an easy current, 
winding among verdant meadows, as if reluctant to com- 
mence its fierce struggle with the rocks and crags below. 
Four miles above the pass its channel sweeps round to the 
west, where the plain opens up to a breadth of nearly 
three miles, and, following the coiirse of the river, we soon 
find ourselves on the banks of a miniature lake, some 300 
yards long by 50 wide. This is the source of the Barada. 
The head of this little lake is close to a line of lofty and 
rugged mountains, which shuts in the plain of Zebdany on 
the west ; but the whole of the water issues from the plain 
underneath the lake, and there is not even a winter-stream 
flowing into it from the heights above. 

The total length of this fine plain is eight miles from 
north-east to south-west. It resembles a vast amphitheatre 
shut in by lofty mountains whose rugged and barren sides 
contrast well with its smooth surface and rich verdure. To 
determine the elevation of this plain above the sea, and 
the average fall of the river from its source to Damascus, 
I have made repeated measurements with the aneroid, and 
sometimes under peculiarly favourable circumstances, when 
the instrument could scarcely have been at all affected by 
a change in the state of the atmosphere, having ridden 
from the plain of Zebdany to the plam of Damascus in 


less than four hours, under a cloudless sky. The result 
of these measurements may not be uninteresting to the 
general reader, or without value in a geographical point 
of view. 

The mountain-range on the east of the plain is the main 
or central ridge of Antilibanus, and has an average elevation 
of about 6000 feet ; but one of its peaks, eight miles north- 
east of the fountain of the Barada, attains an altitude of 
7000 feet, and is, with the exception of Hermon, the 
loftiest mountain in the whole range of Antilibanus. The 
opposite range on the west of the plain, which travellers 
and cartographers have hitherto universally represented 
as the central chain, is considerably lower, and rapidly 
decreases in altitude a few miles farther north. The plain 
itself is 3343 feet above the sea. The Barada falls only 
70 feet from the fountain to the ruined Eoman bridges, 
where it enters the first defile.^ Between this point and 
the modern bridge above SClk it falls 251 feet; between 
the bridges and the village of Judeidch, on the plain of 
Sahra, two hours above Dummar, the fall is 563 feet ; and 
between Judeideh and Damascus 265 feet. Tlie whole 
fall, therefore, from the fountain to the city is 1149 feet; 
and, estimating the distance at 23 Eoman miles, this gives 
an average fall of nearly 50 feet to the mile. 

The nature of the strata of the limestone rock at the 
wild glen near Suk is well worthy the attention of the 
geologist. There is here a vast bed of fossil organic re- 

® It will be observed that the elevation assigned to this plain by 
Russegger agrees very nearly with the results of my measurements. 
According to his calculation, the xniined Roman bridges are 3346 feet 
above the sea, being only a difference of 73 feet from my estimate. — 
Reisen, i, p. 757. 


mains, not less than a mile in length, and in some places 
exceeding 100 feet in thickness. Trunks of trees, branches 
of every size and form, and even the delicate tracery of 
leaves figured upon the calcareous rock, may be seen scat- 
tered about through the valley, and piled up in the over- 
hanging cliffs. 

I have elsewhere endeavoured to identify the " Rivers 
of Damascus," which were preferred by the proud Syrian 
to all the waters of Israel ;^ but it may not be considered 
out of place here to state a few of the arguments which 
appear to favour the conclusion that this is the ancient 
Ahana. There are at present just two rivers of any note 
or importance in this whole district, the Barada and the 
''Awaj ; and the careful observer cannot resist the conclu- 
sion that these are the rivers referred to by Naaman.^ 
They are both within the boundaries of the territory of 
Damascus, and it is to be remembered that Naaman speaks 
of rivers and not fountains. This fact, I believe, is fatal 
to the supposition that i\\Q fountain of Fijeh is one of the 
rivers of Damascus. 

The only point of difficulty is to decide which is the 
Abana and which the Pharpar. It would doubtless seem 
natural that the more important stream, and that with 
which a citizen of Damascus would be most familiar, 
should be first mentione d A Damascene of the present 
day would never put the 'Awaj before the Barada in 
speaking to a stranger. The latter is much the larger 
river, and some branch of it meets him in every quarter 
of the city, and the murmur of foimtains supplied by it 

7 Journal of Sacred Literatm-e for July, 1853. 

8 2 Kings V. 12. 


falls upon his ear in almost every dwelling. It alone 
flows through the city, the other river being at the dis- 
tance of several miles. But besides, the name Abayia is 
sometimes written Amana, and there is a mountain of the 
same name spoken of in Cant. iv. 8, which critics suppose 
takes its name from the river whose source is in it.^ If 
this be admitted, then we argue that Amana and Hermou 
are mentioned as distinct mountains, and that, conse- 
quently, the source of the Abana cannot be in tlie latter ; 
but the source of the 'Awaj is in the Hermon, and the 
Barada rises in a mountain-range nearly a day's journey 
northward. Hence the 'Awaj cannot be the Abana, and 
the Barada and Abana must be identical. These argu- 
ments do not amount to absolute proof, but they render it 
highly probable that the noble stream which we have now 
followed to its source is the first of those rivers exultingly 
referred to by Naaman in comparison with the waters of 

In the north-eastern corner of the plain of Zebdany, at 
the foot of the mountain, is a small fountain of pure 
water, called 'Ain el-Funduk, " The fountain of the Cara- 
vanserai," which sends forth a little stream to join the 
Barada. Towards the close of the summer, however, its 
waters are almost wholly exhausted in the irrigation of 
the intervening fields and gardens. There is anotlicr and 
much larger fountain at 'Ain Hauwar, a village about 
three miles to the north-east. Its waters flow through a 
narrow but fertile valley to the village of Zebdany, at the 
entrance of the plains ; but here they are conveyed in a 

» Poll, Synopsis Crit. Sac. Cant. iv. 8, Gesenius, Heb. Lexicon, 

s. V. moN. 


thousand little channels over orchards and fields. It is 
these fountains, with numerous others of less note in 
the declivity of the mountains, that render the plain of 
Zebdany one of the most beautiful and fertile spots in 

Chai'. YI. mount HERMON. 279 



Bludan — Ancient " High Place" — Mountains of Antilibanus — Inac- 
curacy of maps — Banditti — Fearful tale — Easheiya and its prince 
— Ascent of Hermon — Interesting ruins on summit — The sources 
of the Phnrpar — Descent to Hasbeiya — Source of the Nahr Has- 
bany — Tell el-Kady, Dan, and the fountains of ih.e Jordan — Banias, 
Coesarea, Philippi — Great castle of Banias — The Lake Phiala, and 
Koman Road — Extent of Jebel esh-Sheikh and Jebel el-Heish — 
Arab robbers — Beit Jenn and the second source of the Pharpar — • 
M. de Sauloy's discoveries ( ?) — Description of the Pharpar — Ap- 
l^roach to Damascus from the west. 

The village of Bludan, from which I propose to set out 
on my next excursion to scale the summit of snow-capped 
Hermon, and explore the sources of the sacred streams 
that spring from its rugged sides, has been my summer 
residence for four years. Many of the pages I now pre- 
sent to the public have been penned amid the refreshing 
shade of its delicious gardens, while enjoying a short re- 
laxation from more important labours. 

Bludan is situated on the mountain-side, more than a 
thousand feet above the plains of Zebdany, on the decli- 
vity of the loftiest peak of Antilibanus. Around and 
above it fountains gush forth, whose waters, being carefully 
distributed over the easy slopes, render the soil wonder- 
fully productive. Extensive orchards of walnut, apricot, 
almond, and apple-trees please the eye, and enrich the 
.industrious inhabitants with the abundance of their fruit. 


Graceful poplars line the rivulets, and extensive vineyards 
spread along the hill-sides and cluster in the glens. The 
view from the village is wide and beautiful, embracing a 
large portion of the southern section of Antilibanus, with 
the range of Libanus from Sunnin and Kuneiyiseh to the 
lofty peak at the cedars. As you stand on some terraced 
roof looking down those vine-clad slopes, Zebdany, em- 
bowered in its forest of gardens and orchards, lies at your 
feet, and its lovely plain of waving corn and verdant 
meadows stretches away beyond. Moimtain-ranges, lofty, 
steep, and rugged, shut it in on either side, while away 
in the background the hoary head of Hermon towers aloft 
over a confused mass of black and bare mountain-tops. 
When seen as I have often seen it, on a calm summer 
eve, the last red rays of the declining sun reflected from 
the snow of Hermon, and tinging with golden light every 
peak and precipice around, it is surpassingly lovely.^ 

On the morning of August 30th, 1852, I left Bludan, 
accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Frazier, and ]\Ir, Peck, an 
American traveller, whose lively sketches of the East have 
appeared in the columns of the ' New York Observer,' and 
have been since read with pleasure and interest on the spot 
where they were first written.^ We descended the moun- 

' Bludan has been selected, on account of the excellence of its water 
and the salubrity of its air, as the summer quai'ters of the Damascus 
Mission. Mr. Wood, her majesty's consul, also spends the summer 
months in this village, and others of the European residents occasion- 
ally join our little circle. The village contains about 500 inhabitants, 
two-thirds of whom are Christians of the Greek Church, and the rest 
Muslems. The elevation is, according to barometrical measui-ement, 
4524 feet above the sea. During the hottest days of summer the ther- 
mometer seldom rises above 80° Fahr., and the nights ai'e almost 
always cool and pleasant. 

* A detailed account of this excursion was communicated to Dr. 


tain-side diagonally by a steep and somewhat difEcult 
path, now winding round the bosom of a deep glen, and 
now skirting some projecting cliff, at one time encom- 
passed by masses of richest foliage, and at another clam- 
bering over the scarped rock. Five minutes below the 
village are the ruins of a large convent, with some colunms 
and arches still standing ; and fifteen minutes farther the 
narrow path winds among the shattered fragments of a 
small village, whose remote antiquity is proved by the 
sepulchres and sarcophagi that are seen in the rocks 
around. On the left, above the ruins, amid a grove of 
ancient oaks, is erected a rude altar, where the villagers 
are wont to go and hreah earthen jars in honour of some 
saint or demon, whom they call Um esh-Shiikalcif, " The 
Mother of Fragments !" Around the altar are founda- 
tions of large stones, apparently of remote antiquity. May 
not this be the site of one of those " high places" where 
the ancient Syrians assembled to pay a strange homage to 
their voluptuous gods? And may not the singular and 
destructive rites by which the people now seek to pro- 
pitiate the tutelary saint or deity be some lingering rem- 
nant of the worship of their remote ancestors ? 

We reached the plain in half an hour, and a pleasant 
ride of an hour and twenty minutes more brought us to 
the banks of the little lake from which the river Barada 
flows forth. From hence we travelled S.AV. along the 
broken gi'ound at the base of the rugged line of hills, and 
in an hour reached the village of Batruny. Continuing 
in the same direction till within a short distance of the 

Edward Robinson of New York, and inserted by him in tlie ' Bibliothcca 
Sacra' for January, 1854. A sketch, of it by Mr. Peck also appeared in 
the ' New York Observer.' 


eastern entrance of Wady el-Kurn, we turned suddenly to 
the right, and, clambering up the steep mountain-side, 
gained the summit in another hour. Here we had a com- 
manding view of wild Alpine scenery, with the great 
plain of Damascus in the distance. The mountain-range, 
on the top of which we now stood, extends unbroken from 
Wady el-Kurn to where it is intersected by the deep gorge 
of the river Yahfufeh, forming the western boundary of 
the plains of Zebdany and Surghaya. Its greatest eleva- 
tion is nearly 6000 feet, but it decreases considerably 
toward each end, and especially the northern. From 
Zebdany to Wady el-Kurn the sides rise abruptly in 
broken precipices with yawning ravines, and along the 
top is a ridge of jagged rocks, the favourite retreat of the 
partridge and wild boar. 

I have seen no map — I believe none has hitherto been 
published — on which the Antilibanus range is delineated 
with any approach to accuracy. Berghaus places the 
loftiest range on the western side of the plain of Zebdany, 
and continues it N. by E. in an imbroken line ; but the 
fact is, that one hour north of Wady Yahfufeh there are 
no mountains whatever in this line. A glance at the map 
accompanying this work will show the true direction and 
structure of these mountain-chains. 

Descending towards the west by a path running parallel 
to the wild glen on our left, we reached the little plain of 
Judeideh close to its southern extremity, and crossing the 
Beyrout road turned south-west up a rugged valley, along 
whose sides the dwarf oak and prickly shrubs spring up 
among rocks and cliiFs. Ascending gradually for an hour 
and a half, we emerged on a plateau, wild and rugged in 


the extreme. On our left ran a range of hills resembling 
some Cyclopean wall rent and shattered to its foundations, 
and, sweeping round to the right in the distance before us, 
it joined a line of wooded heights and completely shut in 
the view. In front, perched upon the jagged summit of 
this range, stood the village of Yuntah. 

In a little over half an hour, having crossed the plateau 
and ascended the rugged slope, we reached this strangely- 
situated village. It was not without some apprehension 
we approached it. Its inhabitants, Druzes, we knew to 
be covetous and bloodthirsty, and its sheikhs little better 
than bandit chiefs. Only two weeks previous to our visit 
six of these sheikhs, with a few of their retainers, went in 
the night to Suk-Wady-Barada, entered a house, tore an 
unoffending young man from the arms of his wife, and 
almost hewed him to pieces in her presence, and then 
coolly rode away with large booty in money and jewels. 
My. Wood, the British consul, was in an adjoining room 
when the bloody deed was committed. Hearing the wail- 
ing of women, he ran out and found the young man dead, 
with a frightful gash across his face, which severed his 
tongue, his head almost separated from his body, and 
numerous other wounds in various places. The murderers 
afterwards, with characteristic Arab politeness, apologised 
to the consul for having committed the deed while he Avas 
in the village ! The government, at the urgent demand 
of Mr. Wood, sent fifty horsemen to apprehend the mur- 
derers, but they assembled their retainers in their rocky 
fastness and drove them back. In attempts afterwards 
made the Pasha was not more successful, and for months 
Sheikh Daud of Yuntah became the dread and the pest of 


this whole region. At length, however, through the 
exertions of our consul. Sheikh Daud was seized by the 
Druze cloief Sheikh Said Jimblat, and sent in chains to 
Beyrout. It was then found that the wife of the mur- 
dered man had been the chief mstigator of the crime, and 
had subsequently, in male attire, followed the fortunes of 
the murderer of her husband ! 

As Sheikh Daud was still at large when we visited the 
village, we knew not what kind of reception we might 
meet with ; yet we did not choose to go out of our way 
to avoid him. Our apprehensions were not lessened by a 
nearer ^dew of the villager itself, and of such of its people 
as we met on approaching it. It occupies a strong posi- 
tion on the summit of a rocky ridge, and might be de- 
fended by a few resolute men against a large force. The 
inhabitants were like their coimtry, wild and savage- 
looking, and were all armed with long guns and knives. 
We observed a number, as we ascended the slopes, peering 
at us from behind precipices and from the house-tops 
above. None, however, either saluted us or interfered 
with us ; and we rode on, well pleased to have escaped both 
insult and attention from a gang of murderers and rebels. 

Descending the hill on the south, we came, in fifteen 
minutes, to an elevated undulating plain, with huge 
masses of jagged rocks cropping up here and there 
through the fertile soil. Turning to the south-west, we 
continued our course along it, passing a large circular 
reservoir, with a few stone sarcophagi lying beside it, now 
serving as drinking-troughs. We soon afterwards entered 
a rocky district, our path winding among huge white lime- 
stone boulders. Low mountain-ranges, scantily covered 


with oak forests, shut in this plain on either side, and 
gave a picturesque appearance to the wild scenery. 

At three miles and a half from Yuntah we reached the 
brow of a steep declivity, where a scene of beauty and 
grandeur suddenly opened up to our view, for wliich we 
were altogether unprepared. At our feet lay a fertile 
plain, regular as an amphitheatre, in whose centre rose a 
graceful little hill, its sides clad with rich vineyards, and 
its summit crowned with the village of Kefr Kuk. On its 
right rims a range of wooded hills, rent by numerous 
ravures; beyond it are the green slopes on which stand 
Rasheiya and ' Aiha ; while on the left it is shut in by lofty 
mountains, over whose summits towers the snow-capped 

We descended the slope and crossed the plain to Kefr 
Kuk, where we found some remains of ancient ruins, 
round a large reservoir of stagnant water. From an 
upright stone, now forming the side of a gateway, I copied 
a Greek inscription, which merely informs us that the 
edifice, of whatever kind it was, to which tliis stone be- 
longed, was constructed by a certain Benahos in the year 
3G0 (A.U. 48).^ 

After a short delay we resumed our journey across the 
fine plain, which, in its form and the riclmess of its soil, 
greatly resembles that of Zcbdany ; I found also on looking 
at the aneroid that it has exactly the same elevation. In 

^ The inscription I here insei-t, for the gratification of the anti- 
quarian ; ; 

C T O Y C Z T 


the village of 'Aiha, which we now saw on the declivity 
of the mountain to the left, are ancient remains of some 
importance, but I did not visit them. We rode up the 
vine-clad slope to Rasheiya, which we reached about 
4 o'clock, and pitched our tent beneath the shade of a 
giant walnut, in the valley on the south side of the village. 
We were soon visited by two interesting boys, grandsons 
of the Emir Eflfendi, a scion of the princely house of 
Shehab, and now governor of the district of Easheiya. 
Having expressed a desire to obtain a good view of the 
surrounding country, they invited us to the palace, from 
the roof of which there is a commanding prospect. We 
gladly accepted their invitation, and at once set out, clam- 
bering up the steep hill through terraced vineyards. On 
reaching the palace it was deemed necessary we should 
first pay our respects to the old Emir, and we were con- 
sequently ushered into a room where we found him seated 
at an open window, gazing on the magnificent alpiae 
scenery around. He rose as we entered and invited us 
to a seat by his side, and, after the customary rather 
lengthened salutations, ordered pipes and coffee. Learn- 
ing that it was our intention to ascend Jebel esh- Sheikh, 
he told us of ruins on its summit of which we had never 
heard before. He also assured us, in answer to our ques- 
tions, that there are large numbers of bears on the moim- 
tain, which at the present season commit great ravages on 
the vineyards along its base. We inquired about leopards, 
and he said they were still found, but were not numerous. 
We were as much struck by the intelligence of the aged 
prince as by his gentle manners, dignified mien, and 
venerable aspect, set off by a flowing beard white as the 


snow on the head of Hermon. After taking formal leave, 
and politely declining liis pressing invitation to make tlie 
palace our home, we were accompanied by two of his sons 
to the summit of an ancient tower connected with the 
palace, called Burj er-Eash; from this tower, they said, 
the village takes its name. The whole country was now 
spread out before us like a map ; and as the young emirs 
kindly told us the names of the several villages in sight, 
we noted them down, and took their bearings. Hosts of 
servants and retainers had assembled in the courtyard ere 
we descended, to look at the strangers, and bright eyes 
were seen flashing through the jalousies of the harim. As 
we wound our way through crowds of armed retainers, and 
prancing horses richly caparisoned, we could not but think 
that, were the costume slightly changed, the palace of 
Easheiya would pass for an English baronial hall of five 
hundred years ago. 

August 31. — Having procured a strong and active 
guide, we prepared to set out for the summit of the 
mountain. Some time was required to fasten on our 
water-jars, pack our little stock of provisions, including a 
basket of delicious gi'apes, a baklisMsh from a friendly 
natur,* and arrange the necessary baggage. All being at 
last ready, wc mounted at 6*25. After riding a few 
minutes down the valley, we turned to the left with our 
flxces to the mountain-top, now bcavitifully pencilled on the 
background of a deep blue sky. Following the windings 
of a little vale for forty minutes, amid vineyards and 
groves of fig-trees, we reached a large pond of clear water 
at the entrance of a miniature plain. Our path led 
* The watch of a vineyard or other fi'uit-orchard. 

288 MOUNT HEEMOX, A2s'D THE Cii.u>. VI. 

tkrougli it, and was almost overshadowed by the dense 
foliage and clustering vines. In twenty minutes more we 
arrived at tlie moutli of a wild ravine. The ascent now 
began in good earnest. The whole way from hence to the 
summit was difficult and laborious. There is no regular 
path, but our stalwart guide led the way, now following 
the bed of a winter torrent, now scrambling over a shelving 
bank, and now zigzagging up the steep slope. The sur- 
face of the mountain is hei^e covered in almost every part 
with loose fragments of white limestone, resembling the 
sea-beach, but different in this respect, that, instead of 
being rounded, they are sharp and angular. As we ad- 
vanced, the stones put in motion by the leaders of the 
party touched others below them, and, these giving their 
impetus to others, the ripple spread as it advanced till the 
whole hill-side seemed flowing like a torrent, with a 
strange rustling noise, to the depths below. Those in the 
rear were sometimes even endangered by a larger block 
being set in motion. At 9*20 we reached a natural cave, 
havhig lost half an hour in waiting for stragglers, and in 
gazing with admiration on the comitry far below, as each 
valley and plain opened up to view. At this place, turn- 
ing south-west, we skirted the mountain-side for twenty 
minutes, ha\4ng the summit on our left, and then dis- 
mounted at a small fountain. 

There being no water higher up, we determined to halt 
here till evening, and then proceed to the top and make 
arrangements for the night. Wisliing, however, to see 
and explore as far as practicable the southern range, I 
mounted my horse, and, taking the guide, wandered away 
along the mountain-side. I soon fomid that the ravines 


that ran at right angles to my route could not easily be 
passed on horseback ; so, leaving my horse with the guide 
to await my return, I set out alone. After crossing several 
deep valleys and intervening ridges, I came at last to a 
point where I saw, far below on the right, Wady et-Teim 
and Merj 'Ayiin, with the broad plain of the Hiileh below 
them. On my left were the elevated plains of Jedur and 
Jaulan, and before me the lofty mountain-ridge running 
from Hermon nearly due south. The whole of this chain, 
which is much lower than Hermon, as seen by the eye 
and carefully examined by a telescope, presented the same 
general aspect as the mountain on which I stood — white 
and naked calcareous rocks, with intervening slopes of 
loose stones. The only signs of vegetable life are the 
small plants near the summit ; and these, so far as I could 
see, consisted of but two varieties — a dark velvety plant 
which, springing from a single stalk, rises to the height of 
about six inches, and spreads over the ground like a cir- 
cular cushion; the other, that everlasting drab-coloured 
prickly shrub one meets with in every part of the Syrian 
desert, and which appears as sapless as the stones and 
shingle among which it springs up. 

I examined with some care the geological features of 
Hermon, as I had been informed that Lieut. Lynch had 
seen traces of granite and other primitive rock on his 
journey from Hasbeiya to Damascus. This does not appear 
in his published work or in the ' Official Report,' but I 
understood that he had made such a statement in the first 
sketches of the expedition given in the newspapers. In 
his work he says, " As we descended, the limestone rock 
disappeared, giving place to sandstone and trap ; and, 

VOL. I. 


lower down, serpentine occasionally cropped out." He 
must here refer to the spurs which run out eastward from 
Hermon, and not to the mountain itself. I have passed 
round about three-fourths of its base, and have marked 
well the height to which the trap ascends ; and this is 
pretty uniform. The whole mountain is limestone, similar 
in texture to that along the ridge of Libanus. The only 
fossils I perceived were corals near the summit. I enter- 
tain some doubts about the discovery of the serpentine, 
and I am inclined to think that he may have confounded 
it with the hard black or greenish trap that abounds along 
the eastern base. 

Leaving the spot 1 had gained on the top of the ridge, 
I turned my face toward the summit of the mountain 
northward. An hour's smart climbing brought me to a 
peak, separated from a still loftier one to the north by a 
valley some two hundred feet deep, on the sides of which 
were banks of snow. Between these two peaks we after- 
wards pitched our tents and spent the night. I now 
descended a ravine to the spot where I had left my horse, 
and returned to the fountain. 

At 4-30 I mounted again, and at 5*30 stood on the 
summit of Hermon. I shall not soon forget the feelings 
that filled my breast as I gazed on the magnificent pano- 
rama spread out before me. I could scarce realize the 
thought that my feet stood on that sacred moimtain of 
which inspired penmen had written ; and that the Land 
of Israel, God's gift to Abraham's seed, was before me. 
And yet it was so ! Looking westward, that expanse of 
water, now gleaming like burnished gold beneath the rays 
of the sinking sun, is the " Great Sea," the border of the 


" Promised Land." On tliat low promontory jutting out 
behind those mountains stands Tyre, the ancient queen 
of the sea ; and those mountains are called Lebanon. That 
blue ridge far away to the south is Carmel, and the broad 
plain of Esdraelon stretches along its base, with Jezreel 
and Shunem, Endor and Tabor, Nain and Nazareth, on its 
borders. Here on the south, deeply depressed, are the 
still waters of the sea of Galilee, and the narrow valley 
running away beyond marks the course of the Jordan. 
The picturesque hills on the left bank of the Jordan are 
the hills of Gilead ; and the elevated plateau on this side 
of them, extending far eastward, is the " Land of Bashan." 
On the north are the lofty parallel ridges of lAbanus and 
Antilibanus, rising peak over peak far as the eye can see, 
and enclosing between them the rich valley of Coelesyria. 
At the eastern base of Antilibanus is a broad plain covered 
with verdure ; and the eye can just detect a bright speck 
in the centre of it — that is Damascus, the oldest city in 
the world. 

What a multitude of wondrous events docs memory 
crowd together in this narrow space ! Through these 
mountains and plains roamed the patriarchs with their 
flocks and herds. This country was witness to the 
prowess of Samson, the valour of David, and the wisdom 
of Solomon. Here God's ancient people were cheered by 
revelations of eternal truth from on high ; and they were 
awed and solemnized by wondrous manifestations of Di- 
vine power and love. The feet of the Son of God and 
Saviour of the World trod these cities and villages, while 
tlieir inhabitants beheld his miracles, his sufferings, and 
the heavenly purity of his life. Here too was consum- 



mated the glorious work of man's redemption, when Jesus 
died and rose again, having vanquished death and Satan, 
and brought life and immortality to light. Of incidents 
venerable for their high antiquity, of events celebrated lor 
their display of valour and patriotism, and of acts hallowed 
by the loftiest manifestations of Divine power and love, 
this land was thus the scene. 

The arrival of my companions roused me from a pleas- 
ing reverie, and, having issued the necessary orders for 
the arrangement of the tent, we proceeded to examine the 
several summits of the mountain. These are three. The 
loftiest is on the northern side, commanding a panoramic 
view of the whole Buka'a, with the great mountain-ranges 
of Libanus and Antilibanus. The next is only some 
two or three hundred yards south of the former, and over- 
looks the sources of the 'Awaj and the eastern plain. 
The difference in altitude between these two cannot be 
more than twenty feet. The third peak is about a qvzarter 
of a mile west of the latter, and is that which I had before 
ascended from the south. It is about a hundred feet 
lower than the others. On the north-west and south-east 
the declivity is steep and rapid from these peaks, while on 
the north-east and south the sides slope more gently, but 
yet uniformly, for upwards of 2000 feet, to lofty ridges 
which run out in those directions. I now took out my 
aneroid to complete the series of altitudes I had taken in 
various parts of the Antilibanus range, at this the highest 
and most important point. Great, however, was my dis- 
appointment when I found the needle so entangled with 
the thermometer that it could not retrograde sufficiently 
to mark the altitude. It stood fixed at a pomt indicating 


an elevation of about 8500 feet. I resolved, in descend- 
ing, to mark the point where it should begin to act again, 
and then estimate the remainder ; but in this, too, I was 
disappointed, for, as I was scrambling at night down a 
cliff, I fell, and so damaged the instrument that I could 
not rely upon it. 

On the second of the summits above referred to we dis- 
covered some very curious and hiteresting ruins. In 
passing over a rocky projection on our way to it from the 
first peak, our guide pointed out the entrance to a large 
artificial cavern ; beside it lay a fragment of a column 
and a number of hewn stones. As we ascended the peak, 
however, we found more extensive and interesting remains. 
Eound a rock which rises to a height of some fifteen feet 
are the foundations of a circular wall of stone, apparently 
of great antiquity. This ring is about sixty yards in 
diameter ; and in the centre of it and of the rock is a rude 
excavation eight feet deep, open above. Within this 
enclosure, on the very brow of the mountain, on the south 
side, are large heaps of hewn stones, some of them bevelled, 
and others with a plain moulding romid the edges. 
Among the stones we were enabled to trace the founda- 
tions of a small temple, but we could see no columns or 
inscriptions. A friend who afterwards visited it informed 
me that he had discovered on one of the stones a fragment 
of a Greek inscription. The style of the building was 
simple and severe. I thought I could recognise two dis- 
tinct eras in these ruins. The stones of the temple were 
apparently of a later date than those of the ring. But 
who were the founders of structures so strangely situated, 
difficult of access, far from human habitation, and, for the 


greater part of each year, deeply imbedded in impenetrable 
snow ? What was the object for which they were erected, 
and what is their probable date? Some light may be 
thrown on this subject by a consideration of other cir- 
cumstances. On three lofty peaks of Antilibanus I also 
found ruins of great antiquity ; but none of them had the 
circular ring, which seems to be the simplest, and probably 
most primitive, form of sacred architecture. The Dru- 
idical rings of the British islands are well known, and one 
of these which I have sometimes visited on the top of 
Mount Greenan, near Londonderry, Ireland, is somewhat 
similar in structure to that on Herraon, and commands, 
like it, an extensive view eastward. We know from 
ancient history, and especially from the Bible, that in the 
early ages the summits of mountains were almost univer- 
sally selected for the performance of sacred rites and the 
worship of the gods. Especially does this seem to have 
been the case in Syria ; and the Israelites, upon entering 
the land, were expressly enjoined " utterly to destroy all 
the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess served 
their gods, iipon the high mountains, and upon the hills ;" 
and at a later period they were threatened with judgments 
because " they set them up images and groves in ever^ high 
hill, and under every green tree ; and there they burnt 
incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom 
the Lord carried aivay before themy ^ When such were 
the feelings and practices of ancient devotees, the lofty 
peak of Hermon would soon be selected for the erection of 
an altar and the burning of a sacred fire. The glorious 
view there obtained of the sun's course, from his risiug in 

* Deut. xii. 2, 3, auti 2 Kings xvii. 10, 11. 


the eastern desert to his settmg in the Great Sea, would 
designate it as a fit locality for his worship. This spot I 
consider, therefore, as one of the most interesting, as well 
as one of the most ancient sanctuaries in this land. Kor 
ai"e we destitute of direct evidence in favour of this view. 
In two passages of Scripture the name Baal-Hermon is 
applied to this mountain.^ The only reason which can be 
assigned for this is that Baal was there worshipped, and 
that a sanctuary of his was there erected. Hieronimus, 
in the ' Onomasticon,' makes the following statement, which 
leaves the matter without a shadow of doubt : " Diciturque 
esse in vertice ejus (sc. ^rmon) insigne templum, quod ab 
Ethnicis cultui habetur e regione Paneadis et Libani.'"'' It 
can scarcely be called in question that the temple here 
referred to is that whose ruins we have described. Its 
situation, on the summit — in vertice — is sufficiently ex- 

As we stood amid these ruins, in the very spot, in the 
centre of that ring, where of yore the sacred fire burned, 
and looked westward over mountain and hill, and far away 
beyond, along that line of bui'nished gold which gleamed 
and sparkled on the surface of the water, to the bright 
orb whose departing splendour illmnined sea and sky, we 
could scarcely wonder that men, unenlightened by inspir- 
ation, should have adored such an object. The setting 
sun presented strange and beautiful phenomena from this 
point of view. A stratum of purple-coloured haze ran 
round the whole horizon, which was clearly defined as the 
circle round a ship in the midst of the ocean. As the sun 

« Jiulg. iii. 3, and 1 Chron. v. 23. 

^ Onomasticon Urbium et Loc. Sac. Scrip., ed. Bonfr., p. 10. 


dipped into this he seemed at once to be converted into a 
series of" rings, arranged in the Ibrm of a double cone ; in 
a little time the upper cone disappeared, and the under 
one remained like a huge top balanced on the horizon ; 
and this afterwards gradually became flatter, and spread 
out, until at last it suddenly disappeared. And while we 
gazed at this picture in the west, that behind us on the 
east was not less striking or beautiful. The shadow of 
the mountain fell on the plain like a great pyramid — larger 
and larger it grew, until its apex touched the horizon. 
And it did not stop here ; it raised its summit aloft, dis- 
tinctly figured on the sky as it had been on the earth, 
and at last, as the sun touched the water, it stood before 
us as a vast aerial pyramid, with its broad base on the 
earth and its top in the heavens. 

When it became dark we set fire to the dry prickly 
shrubs that almost cover the mountain-top, and in a short 
time the whole summit was one sheet of flame. This was 
the signal to our friends in Bludan of our safe arrival. As 
we left our splendid Baal-fire to go to our tent, the moon 
rose, and we were thus permitted to witness another mag- 
nificent scene as each peak and precipice was in succession 
tinged with her silvery light. 

September 1st. — The first dawn of the morning revealed 
us shivering on the loftiest peak of Hermon. The ther- 
mometer, which stood at 52^ at sunset in the tent, was 
41^^ when we rose ; and on the summit the cold was still 
more intense, for a sharp biting wind was blo-\ving there. 

My principal object now was to examine and sketch 
the great outlines of the Antilibanus range, which lay 
before me like an embossed mass, and to mark the upper 


sources of the river 'Awaj on the eastern slopes of Hermon. 
Ample details of my observations having already appeared 
in the pages of the ' Bibliotheca Sacra,' ^ I will not weary 
my reader with any recapitulation here ; but will only 
point out a few of the principal features. 

A sentence or two in the ' Narrative of the United 
States Expedition' had formerly struck me as inaccurate, 
and now I determined to test them. They are as follows : 
" From the summit (of Hermon) the country below, which 
had seemed so mountainous to the upward view, appeared 
an immense rolling plain. Far to the north-west, at the 
verge of the seeming plain, were the red sands, a dazzling 
line of gold separating the luxuriant green of the plain 
from the light azure of the far-stretching sea. Upon that 
line of sand, like clustering dots upon a chart, were the 
cities of Tyi'e, Sidon, and Beirut. . . . Another plain 
stretched from the opposite side, south to the Hauran and 
to the east, until it was lost in the great desert." State- 
ments like these may be pardoned, on the plea of poetical 
licence, in such works as the ' Crescent and the Cross ;' 
but in a professedly scientific work, undertaken for the 
advancement of knowledge, they are altogether inexcus- 
able. The " seeming plain" is a pure fiction, as the ridge 
of Lebanon on the north-west is at least 6000 feet high. 
The red sands, that "dazzling line of gold" which 
separated the luxuriant green (!) of the plain from the 
light azure of the sea, existed only in the imagination of 
the writer. The naked white summits of Lebanon com- 
pletely shut in the view on the north-west ; and if Lieut. 
Lynch saw Beyrout, he must have possessed a power of 

^ Bibliotheca Sacra for Jan, 1854, pp. 51, scq. 



clairvoyance that enabled him to look through some 
twenty miles of mountain. Southward and eastivard 
there is a plain, but it is bounded in some places and 
intersected in others by several ridges of hills. On the 
east may be seen the blue outline of the Tellul or Jebel 
^ Agar ; on the south-east the parallel ranges of Jebel el- 
Aswad and Jebel Mania run across the plain ; while on 
the south, Jebel Hauran shuts in the view. 

On the north-west and north the view is bounded by 
the lofty ridge of Libanus, along whose base lies the great 
plain of the Buka'a. On the south of the latter is a line 
of low hills, which, projecting to the nortli-east for some 
ten miles to the village of Mejdel 'Anjar, separates the 
lower section of the plain from a narrow valley that may 
be regarded as a continuation of Wady et-Teim. On the 
east side of this valley is the chain of Antilibanus, con- 
sisting of several distinct ridges. The most westerly ridge 
runs from Easheiya toward Yiintah, a little south of wliich 
it branches : the left branch forming the boundary of the 
Bukaa, and the right joining the Zebdany range at Wady 
el-Kurn. On the eastern side of this ransre is the broken 
valley along which our route lay from Yiintah to Eash- 
eiya ; and on the right of the latter is the central and 
main ridge. The latter is irregular and of great breadth 
near the base of Hermon, extendmg from 'Aiha eastward 
to the desert plain of Sahra. Its course is north-east, by 
Demas and Suk-wady-Barada, towards the lofty peak at 

I afterwards proceeded to the middle peak, on which 
stand the ruins described above, as from it alone the south- 
eastern slopes of the mountain are visible. 


A lofty spur runs out from Hermon eastward toward 
Damascus, and on its soutliern side is a deep ravine, called 
by my guide Wady Bar bar. Near its extremity, where 
it opens into tbe plain, is the village KiUat Jendal, with 
some ruins. South of this village is a lofty peak, the 
termination of another spur that projects from the moun- 
tain ; and south of this again is a valley, wider, deeper, 
and longer than the former, which seems to open Hermon 
to its centre. From the spot on which I stood there is an 
unbroken descent of full six thousand feet to the bosom 
of this valley, and there, beneath the brow of the giant 
moimtain, are a number of small fountains whose waters 
imite beside the village of 'Arny, half an hour below, 
forming a large stream, which, flowing past Eimeh, 
Khii-beh, and Bkasem, enters the plain and winds across 
it to S'asa. This is the north and principal branch of the 
river 'Awaj, the ancient Pharpar. Its general course 
from 'Arny to the plain is due east, and from thence to 
S'asa south-by-east. 

The exact elevation of Hermon has never yet been 
ascertained, and it has been estimated, according to the 
fancy of travellers and savans, from 8000 to 15,000 feet. 
If the appearance of the snuw upon the summit be taken 
as any guide, I would say that Jebel Sunnin and Jebel 
esh-Sheikh must be nearly of the same height. I have 
been able to observe them both, week after week, for the 
greater part of four summers, in connexion with the peak 
at the Cedars, as the three are visible from Bludini ; and, 
judging from the gradual melting of the snow, the last 
mountain is evidently tlie loftiest, and Jebel esh-Shcikh 
ranks second. This mode of calculation is no doubt liable 


to error, from the different positions of the mountains and 
the direction from which they are viewed ; but for these 
I have made allowance. As seen from Bludan, the snow 
disappears from Sunnin towards the close of summer ; but 
from Hermon and the mountain at the Cedars very rarely. 
In 1853 no snow could be seen on any of these mountains. 
This, however, was regarded by all who knew anything of 
them as a very remarkable occurrence.^ 

My companions being now ready to start, I mounted 
and rode off with them at 9*45. We descended the 
western declivity by a steep and dangerous path, and in 
an hour and a quarter reached a small fountain called 'Ain 
el-Lauz. From thence, in thirty -five minutes more, we 
arrived at a deep wady, which runs from Rasheiya along 
the base of Hermon. Crossing it, we ascended a range of 
low but very picturesque hills, and, having reached the 
summit, we had before us a beautiful valley shut in by 
wooded heights on each side, and running down in front 
to Wady et-Teim. The little village of Sh'ait, with some 
ancient ruins, lies in its bosom, embowered in the rich 
foliage of giant walnuts. As we passed through the 
gardens below the village, the grapes hung in festoons 

' Russegger gives the following elevations ; but on what data he 
estimates the height of the two peaks of Hermon I do not know: — 

Paris feet. 

Highest summit of Jebel esh-Sheikh 9500 

Highest point (Kuppe) of Ajlln 6000 

Highest point of the Jaulan 5000 

Plateau of the Hauran, in the centre 2500 

Valley of Hasbeiya (Wady et-Teim ?) 1800 

The top of Jebel esh-Sheikh visible from Tiberias (?) . 8500 

The highest point of Jebel ed-Druse 6000 

— See Ritter, 'Palestina imd Syrien,' ii. 160-1. 


from the branches of the trees that overshadowed our 
path, and the fences on each side were almost covered 
with the tempting fruit. In another hour we passed 
through Kufeir, and fifty minutes afterwards entered 
]\Iimis, both of these being situated in rich valleys similar 
in character and scenery to that of Sh'ait. An hoiu* more 
found us beside the palace of the Emirs of Hasbeiya. 

This village, with its beautiful gardens and terraced 
vine and olive yards, has been often visited and described, 
and I will not add a word to the full details that may 
elsewhere be found. ^ 

September 2nd. — We left Hasbeiya at 8*5, and descended 
the ravine to Wady et-Teim in order to see the sources 
of the most important tributary to the Upper Jordan. 
Tliis fine fountain is in the midst of a large pool a short 
distance to the right of the mouth of the ravine. A 
stream flows from it down the wady, southward ; and our 
route led us for a time along its right bank. The valley 
is here rich and picturesque. The sides slope gently up- 
wards from the dense foliage that almost conceals the 
turbid river, and are carefully cultivated. In an hour 
and a half from Hasbeiya we passed Suk el-Ivlian, a large 
deserted caravanserai where a weekly fair is held, which 
is largely attended by the population of the neighbouring 
villages. Fifteen minutes afterwards we crossed the river 
by a substantial bridge of a single arch and ascended the 
slope on the left bank. On gainmg an eminence we 

• One of the fullest accounts of Hasbeiya and its population is given 
in Wilson's ' Lands of the Biljle,' vol. ii. pp. 181-9. See also particular 
notices of the Nahr Hasbany and its fountain in the ' Bibliotheca Sacra,' 
Feb. 1846. 


observed the small villages of Kufeir Hamam and Kufeir 
Shubeh ; and some distance south, on the side of a well- 
wooded hill, Kasheiyat el-Fukliar. Descending hence 
into a picturesque vale, in which is the bed of a winter 
torrent fringed with oleander and overshadowed by the 
sparse foliage of a grove of ancient olives, we passed at 
10*15 the small village of Khiireibeh. We soon after 
crossed another valley still more beautiful than the pre- 
ceding, and on its northern bank, some twenty minutes 
on our right, we saw Marieh. The road now ascended to 
and traversed an elevated plateau, thinly covered with the 
oak and some other trees, and having a rich soil and 
luxuriant vegetation. The sun's rays poured down upon 
us like a torrent of liquid fire, while swarms of large flies 
collected around us and stung our horses almost to mad- 
ness. I was glad to gallop away in front and take refuge 
for a few minutes under the shade of a spreading oak 
until the baggage came up. But the broad plain of the 
Huleh soon opened up before us, with the lake in the 
distance and the heights of Hunin on the west. Hunin 
itself was visible with its crumbling ramparts ; and below 
it on the north we could see the white threshing-floors of 
Ibel — the ancient Ahel-Beth-Maachah. 

At 12-20 we entered the Huleh, and forty minutes 
afterwards were sitting beneath a noble oak-tree beside 
the fountains of the ancient Dan — now Tell el-Kady. We 
spent some two hours wandering among the liixuriant 
herbage, rank weeds, and dense coppice that almost con- 
ceal this interesting site. An Arab encampment was 
spread around the gushing fountains, and hundreds of 
sheep, oxen, and camels were scattered over the rich plain. 


The tell itself is cup-sliaped; hollow in the centre, and 
encompassed by a circular run, such as might be formed 
by the crumbling ruins of a massive wall. It is in part 
artificial and in part natural. It appears to have been at 
one time the crater of a volcano, and when selected as the 
site of a city the natural rim was scarped, and probably a 
wall built along its summit. In several places I saw what 
appeared to be the foundations of a wall. On the north 
and north-west sides of the tell are heaps of stones scat- 
tered over the plain, which appear to have been at one 
time used in buildings. The whole place is now so over- 
grown with rank vegetation that it is difficult to ascertain 
what traces may remain of the ancient city. 

Within the circular rim is a fine fountain shaded by 
some noble oak and terebinth trees. The stream from it 
flows out on the south side, turning several mills m its 
course. But on the west side of the tell is the great 
fountain, bursting forth apparently from underneath it. 
The abvmdant waters form a large pond, from which they 
flow southward a rapid river. This is the principal source 
of the Jordan. 

This whole region has, within the last few years, been 
carefully examined by different scientific men and geogra- 
phers of eminence ; and the results of their investigations 
Eitter has, with his usual industry and accuracy, collected 
in his ' Erdkunde.'" The latest researches have been 
those of De Saulcy, Lieut. Van de Velde, and Dr. Robin- 
son, The remarks and theories of the former are of little 
value, but I doubt not M, Van dc Vcldc will dcHneatc 
the geographical features with equal accuracy and artistic 
" Palestina xmd Syrien, ii. 177, scq. 


skill, and Dr. Eobinson will display his well-known deep 
sagacity and profound learning in the elucidation of its 
topographical and political history. These topics do not 
fall properly within my province, and even if they did I 
would leave them in abler hands. 

There is one great city, however, which occupies a 
conspicuous place in the early history of the Israelites, 
whose site has hitherto escaped the notice of travellers 
and geographers. I refer to Hazor, the capital city of 
Jabin, one of the most powerful of the Canaanitish kings.^ 
A comparison of the various references made to it in the 
Bible and Josephus* shows that it must have stood in or 
very near the plain of the Huleh. In May 1850 I made 
a journey down the ridge of Libanus to the Merj 'Ayun, 
and southward to Tiberias. My route lay along the west 
side of the Huleh ; and there I observed a low line of 
hills extending from the rising ground at the foot of the 
Merj 'Ayun for some two or tliree miles into the j)lain. 
At the southern extremity of these hills there are foun- 
tains, and here I observed some huts, with, apparently, 
heaps of loose stones on the slope above them. I inquired 
the name of the place from some Arabs whom I met, and 
was told it was Sasur. The huts were distant, so far as 
I can remember, about a mile east of our road. I noted 
the name at the time, but did not think of its importance, 
and it was not till nearly three years afterwards that, on 
examining my old notes, I observed the name, and it 
immediately struck me that this might be the site of the 
long-lost Hazor. I have since directed the attention of 
several individuals to the place, but am not aware that it 

3 Josh. xi. 1, 10-13. ■* Joseph. Ant. v. 5, 1. 


has as yet been explored. M. de Saulcy professes to have 
discovered Hazor, and, so far as I can understand his topo- 
graphy, he places it at or near the spot I have indicated 
above. His description of the ruins, however, leaves one 
in considerable doubt whether they are ruins at all.^ 

From Tell el-Kady an hour's ride across the plain, and 
up the easy slopes of the eastern hills through fine forests 
of oak, brought us to Banias, the Ccesarea Philippi of the 
New Testament. Our steps were first directed to the 
celebrated fountain where once stood the temple built by 
Herod.'' We afterwards wandered for hours among the 
extensive ruins of this ancient city, where hewn stones 
and massive foundations and fragments of granite columns 
testify alike to its former strength and grandeur. The 
place, unlike most of those in Palestine, is not less remark- 
able for the natural beauty of its situation than for its 
classic and sacred associations. Here are towering moun- 
tain, and wooded vale, and battlemented height, and 
gushing fountain, and crumbling ruins, and wide-spread- 
ing plain, all finely blended in one glorious picture. But 
as I stood and gazed I could not but feel that a far deeper 
and holier interest is attached to this spot than tlie attrac- 
tions of natural scenery or historic and classic associations 
can ever confer. Its soil was trodden by the feet of the 
Sox OF God. Beneath the shadow of that frowning pre- 
cipice, and along the banks of that clear stream, our Lord 

* Journey round Dead Sea, &c., ii. pp. 470, seq. This place is well 
worthy of the attention of future travellers. There are several circum- 
stances which lead me to believe that the city of Hazor must have stood 
in the pltin; and the site here suggested would I believe agree in every 
l^oint with the statements of the ancient writers. 

« Joseph. Ant. xv. 10, 3. 


and his disciples often wandered ; within those crumbling 
walls the lips of the Saviour unfolded Gospel Truth to 
men whose dust now mingles with its kindred earth ; and, 
perhaps, on some one of those mountain-peaks above, 
Peter, James, and John obtained a glimpse of heaven's 
glory in the Transfiguration. 

As we sat in our tent previous to retiring to rest an 
armed retainer of the sheikh was announced on business. 
Being introduced, he said the country was in a state of 
rebellion, the Arabs were close to the village, and robbers 
of all kinds infested the neighbourhood : his master, there- 
fore, would not be answerable for the safety of our persons 
or our property unless we engaged a regular watch for 
the night. I replied at once that our persons we were 
prepared and able to protect, and that, as our property was 
within the village, and as the sheikh, according to his own 
admission, had power to protect it by placing guards, I 
would hold him responsible for anything that might be 
stolen ; but I would neither employ nor pay a guard. 
We got no reply, and nothing was stolen. 

September '6rd. — We rose by daybreak, and, having 
engaged a guide to conduct us to Beit Jenn, we mounted 
our horses at 4'50. Our first point was the castle ; and 
so, leaving our muleteers and servants to follow by the 
ordinary road, we struck up the hill, and after an hour's 
hard climbing were within its walls. Its great strength, 
vast extent, beautiful masonry, and splendid situation, far 
surpassed my expectations. The antiquary here sees 
much to wonder at, and the lover of nature much to 
admire. The stones of the exterior walls are almost all 
bevelled, and in many cases the central part is hewn 


smooth after the Jewish or Phoenician style ; especially is 
this the case in the semicircular flanking towers. The 
castle completely covers the summit of the steep hill, and 
is m form oblong, swelling out considerably at both the 
east and west ends. At each end is a keep or citadel, 
capable of separate defence ; that on the east being much 
the strongest. In several parts of the building we found 
huge tanks or reservoirs, which even at this season con- 
tained a good supply of water. The peculiarity of the 
position, and the admirable arrangement of the defences, 
must have rendered it impregnable before the invention 
of gunpowder. This castle must evidently be of remote 
antiquity ; but I have not been able to find any notice of 
it in history before the time of the crusades;'' and I 
sought in vain for ancient inscriptions among its ruins.^ 

We left this interesting ruin at 7"15, and followed the 
path along the summit of the ridge that connects the castle 
"with the mountains on the east. We now ascended the 
hill through groves of oaks, having on each side of us wild 
and picturesque ravines, and in an hour and a half reached 
the summit. A large and well-cultivated valley was hero 
spread out before us, encompassed by wooded heights. It 
is called Merj el-Yafury, from a wely of the same name 
near its southern extremity ; its length is about three 
miles, and its breadth one and a half. Along its southern 

7 SeeWilken, Geschich. der Kreutz, vii. 328; Abulfed. Tab. Syr., ed. 
Koehler, p. 90. 

• As Banias and its castle were visited by Dr. Robinson during hia 
recent journey in this land, I do not here think it necessary to say 
anything of thoir history or antiquities. Notices of them may be found 
in Burckhardt, 'Travels in Syria,' pp.40, seq.; Do Saulcy, 'Joiu-ney 
round Dead Sea,' &c., vol. ii. pp. 487-9G; Wilson's ' Lands of the Bible,' 
vol. ii. pp. 174-81; and lUtter, 'Paliistina und Syrien,' vol. ii. 19o-'2u7. 


extremity, near the singular little lake called Birket er- 
Eam, the ancient Pluala, runs the Roman road, extending 
from Banias across the mountain-range to Kuneiterah, and 
thence by S'asa to Damascus. Traces of it may still be 
seen in many places. 

Descending into the valley, we skirted the mountain- 
range on its north-western side, and then ascending sur- 
mounted the rising ground on the north at 9*25. From 
this spot we saw the village of Mejdel esh-Shems, about 
fifteen minutes on our left. We had here a fine view of 
the mountain scenery, and remained a few minutes to ex- 
amine its features. The lofty ridge which extends south- 
ward from the great peak of Hermon terminates at this 
place by an abrupt descent of some 4000 feet. A deep 
valley, that runs from Mejdel to the Huleh, on the north 
side of the castle and town of Banias, sweeps round the 
southern base of this declivity, and cuts it off" from the 
lower and broader ridge to the south. The latter ridge is 
picturesque, but wants the grand features of Hermon. It 
slopes gently up from the eastern plains, and has a more 
rapid descent to the deep basin of the Huleh. It is almost 
completely covered with forests of oak. The rock east of 
Banias is in general basalt mingled with sandstone impreg- 
nated with iron, and the heights aroimd Mejdel and to- 
wards the eastern plain are wholly basalt, but the lofty 
ridge of Hermon northward is altogether limestone. 

We now crossed a valley, down which flows to the 
eastern plain a winter stream from the fountain at Mejdel 
and the mountains abo^'e, and, ascending a rugged liill- 
side, reached 'Ain et-Tin at 9*45. The whole country 
here is wild and desolate, but a rich soil is always found 


between the boulders and projecting cliffs of basalt, which 
would amply repay careful cultivation. The country was 
said to be unsafe owing to the hostile attitude assumed by 
tlie Druzes in opposition to the proposed conscription. 
Both at Hasbeiya and Banias attempts had been made to 
dissuade us from taking this route ; and our guide, though 
well known in the district, seemed much alarmed. All the 
people we met were armed, and we observed that the hus- 
bandman carried his gun slung across his shoulders while 
engaged in the ordinary labours of the field. The appear- 
ance of the people was far from prepossessing or pleasing ; 
and never hitherto, not even in the deserts of Palmyra, 
when enjoying the comforts of a Bedawy prison, had I seen 
such savage-looking men. We were, however, a strong 
party and well armed ; and we knew that Arabs would be 
chary of attacking Franks under such circumstances. Our 
numbers and strength were still further augmented by two 
armed cavaliers whom we found awaiting our arrival at 
Ain et-Tin. They had joined our party at Banias, but 
pursued their route thus far while we were engaged in 
examining the castle. Not deeming it safe, however, to 
go farther without us, they stopped at the fountain till we 
came up. 

We now ascended the ridge, and, having traversed a 
rocky plateau on its summit, descended into a little fertile 
plain called Merj el-Hathcr, from a village of the same 
name on its eastern side. The plain is encompassed by low 
wooded heights, except on the west, from which rises ab- 
ruptly the great ridge of Jebel esh-Sheikh. The forests 
of oak which clothe the mountain-sides are fast falling 
beneath the axe of the charcoal manufacturer. 


I made particular inquiries in several places about tlie 
names given to the great mountain-chain we were now 
traversing, and the result was, that, while each little sec- 
tion or district is distinguished by an appellation of its 
own, taken from some village or fountain, yet the great 
chain has two general names — Jehel esh-Sheikh, and Jebel 
el-Heish. The former is applied to that section which ex- 
tends from a line joining KatSna and Rasheiya on the 
north, to one joining Banias and Kuneiterah on the south, 
which would thus run along the Eoman road. The section 
south of the Roman road is called by the latter name. I 
stated above that from the summit of Hermon a lofty ridge 
runs southward, and terminates abruptly at Mejdel; at 
Hather a spur strikes out from it, at first eastward, but 
afterwards turning south : it forms the western boundary of 
the Merj el-Yafury. 

We now struck through the fields directly across the 
plain, leaving the ordinary road on our right. We had 
commenced the gentle ascent on the north-east, when a 
wild-looking Druze, black as Erebus, darted out from 
among the oak-trees, and hastily demanded of our guide 
whether the muleteers in the rear belonged to us. He 
answered hesitatingly, and tried to evade the question; 
but I declared at once that they did. He then said that, 
if they had not been in our employment, they never would 
have left the plain alive. On demanding the cause of 
such strange words, he said that I was at liberty to walk 
over his fields and eat his maize, but that if another did it 
the earth would drink his blood. I replied we were 
strangers, and did not know the road ; and that, if we had 
injured anything, or our muleteers had taken anything, we 


would pay for it. He said, "You are Englishmen, and I 
am your slave ; my fields are yours, and you have a right 
to all." And in a moment he was out of sight again. It 
is no unusual thing in this land for muleteers and others 
who are in the employment of travellers to commit depre- 
dations on the fields and orchards of the villages they may 
pass through, knowing they are safe under the protection 
of their masters. 

We soon reached a rocky plateau covered with large 
boulders of basalt, among which sprung up the ilex and 
prickly shrubs ; and this, the guide informed us, was the 
most dangerous part of the road, where travellers were 
often plundered and stripped by wandering parties of Arabs. 
On this very spot, some two years ago, a party of English- 
men, with a lady in company, were attacked and robbed, 
and, according to the usual Arab custom, stripped of every 
article of dress, and thus left to pursue their journey to 
Damascus as they best could. No such romantic adventure 
awaited us, and we went on our way in peace. 

On this plateau a road branches to the left, leading to 
'Arny and the summit of Hermon. At 11-30 we reached 
the brow of a wide and deep valley, and, having descended 
its southern bank by a winding path, we turned to the 
right into a wild ravine, through which winds the bed of 
a winter torrent. Following its course eastward for twenty 
minutes, we came at twelve o'clock to a place where it 
falls into another ravine ; and here, at the point of junc- 
tion, stands the little village of Beit Jenn. A fine stream 
comes down the wady, and flows through the centre of 
the village : its source, I was informed, is one hour west, 
a few points north, at the foot of Jebel esh-Shelkh; and it 

312 MOU]S^T HERMON, AND THE Cir.vp. VI. 

is separated from the fountain at 'Arny by a lofty and 
rugged ridge. This is the second great source of the river 
'Awaj, the ancient Pharpar. 

The sides of this wady are lofty precipices of naked 
rock, white and broken ; and these contrast well with the 
rich foliage of the poplars, walnuts, and apricots that 
line the banks of the torrent. Above the houses of the 
village the cliffs are honeycombed with excavated 
tombs ; but with the exception of a few hewn stones in 
the walls oi" the little gardens, I saw no other traces of 

Leaving Beit Jenn at 1"10, we followed the course of 
the stream down the ravine, which resembles a great 
fissure in the mountain-side. In fifteen minutes we 
reached 'Ain Beit Jenn, a large fountain boiling up on the 
right bank of the wady. Its waters about equal those that 
descend from the village, with which they immediately 
mingle. In fifteen minutes more we emerged upon the 
plain. From hence the river runs in a deep channel to 
Sasa, distant eight miles east-by-south, and there it joins 
the stream from 'Arny. I dismounted at the mouth of the 
ravine, that I might take such bearings as would fix its 
position with accuracy upon the map, and that I might 
examine more minutely the features of this section of the 
plain. At this season it looked bleak and blasted, and only 
in the narrow bed through which the river flows was there 
any appearance of verdure. Irby and Mangles, and like- 
wise Mr. Thomson, traversed the district early in the year, 
ere the summer's sun had yet dried up the winter's rains ; 
and hence they describe it as well watered by the nume- 
rous tributaries that fall into the river Beit Jenn. Had 


they returned a few months later, they would have found 
the soil parched and all the tributaries dried up. 

My companions were now far in front, and so I mounted 
ray horse and galloped after them, along a good road close 
to the foot of the mountain. At 2'30 I reached the side 
of a little fertile plain, covered with fields of waving corn, 
intermixed with patches of green meadow. It extended 
up among the liills on the left in a triangular form, and on 
the right ran down to the banks of the river 'Arny. A 
quarter of an hour afterwards I saw on my left the village 
of Hiny, built on the western slope of a tell that rises up 
near the head of the plain. In ten minutes more I had 
passed this plain ; and I observed, a few yards on the left 
of the road, a canal conducted round the brow of a low spur 
that here shoots out from the mountains. It brings the 
water from the river 'Arny, and this accounts for the ver- 
dure and fertility of the fields I had just crossed. Fol- 
lowing the same course, I reached the large Druze village 
of Kefr Hauwar at 3 '2 5. 

We had thus travelled in the same route which Burckhardt 
pursued forty -two years before, from Mejdel esh-Shems 
to tliis village. One of his statements, however, requires 
correction. He says " that at three hours and a half from 
the point where the Wady Beit el-Djanne (Beit Jenn) 
terminates in the plain, is the village Kefrhauar," ' I rode 
from the one to the other in less than an hour and a half, 
and the real distance is six geograpliical miles. He also 
says that S'asa lay one hour and a half to the right of Kefr 
Hauwar, which would make it less than half the distance 

* Travels iu Syria, p. 46. 
VOL. I. P 


of Wady Beit Jenn. The tnith is, however, that the dis- 
tance between these two villages is four and a half miles. 

M. de Saulcy also followed the same road on his journey 
from Banias to Damascus, March 6th and 7th, 1851 ; and 
at this village made one of his most ivonderful discoveries I 
His description of the important iiiins he here found is so 
graphic, and the arguments by which he identifies (?) the 
site so characteristic of the work and of the man, that I 
shall trouble the reader with a few extracts, with com- 
ments. Upon Zimmermann's map he had seen the name 
of ' Nimrod's Tomb ' connected with Kefr Hauwar ; and 
he enjoys, in anticipation, the discovery of some venerable 
relic of that mighty hunter ! Great, however, was his dis- 
appointment when a peasant pointed out to him Kahr 
Nimrud (Nimrod's Tomb), consisting of two stones thrown 
at random in the middle of a field I But, as he says him- 
self, for this bitter arcliseological disappointment the pre- 
siding genius of antiquarians owed liim some compensation, 
which was soon bestowed. On entering the village his 
attention is attracted by the fragment of an ancient build- 
ing, and on approaching it he can scarcely suppress his 
enthusiasm when he finds that he has imexpectedly dis- 
covered .... a pedestal four feet high, with the base of a 
column, two feet six inches in diameter, resting upon it ! 
And his companion, the abbe, is no less successful in his 
explorations, for he discovers a few words of a defective 
Greek inscription on some loose stone. Euins such as 
these must have been intended for ornamenting some great 
and noted city! Thus, very naturally, reasons the French 
savant ; and he at once determines to identify it. A long 
array of names and distances, taken from the ' Itinerary' of 


Antonine and the ' Pentinger Tables,' is now paraded before 
the reader's eye ; and no less than four pages are filled 
with arguments pro\ing that all previous attempts to 
identify the great Roman highways in tliis region are 
quite wrong. M. de Saulcy in a moment makes an en- 
tirely new arrangement. The whole face of the country 
is changed, and the distances in the Tables are increased 
or diminished ad libitum to suit his plan. In Antonuie's 
' Itinerary,' Aere is the first station from Damascus, and 
Neve the second : this learned writer consequently an- 
nounces his opinion that Kefr Hauwar must take the place 
of Aere. It is true Aere is represented as from thirty-two 
to thirty- four miles from Damascus, while Kefr Hauwar is 
confessedly a little over twenty (the true distance is nine- 
teen), and it is difiicult to arrange any sites for Neve and 
Capitolias ; yet still a single stroke of his magic pen is 
sufficient to set aside such trifles as these, and he thus 
sums up his arguments : — " If the reader will reflect on 
the importance of a locality containing such a temple 
as that the remains of which are still standing in Kafr- 
Haouer (!), and especially on the evident analogy between 
the names of Aere and Haouer (! !), I hope he will agree 
with me as to the propriety of identifying Aere with Kafr- 
Haouer." ' 

If M. de Saulcy had condescended to lay aside for a few 
minutes the ponderous tomes of his Ancient Itineraries and 
Tables, and to take up Ritter's ' Palastina und Syrien,' he 
would ha-\'e seen at a glance that the site of Aere had been 
unquesticmahly identified by an inscription years ago f and 

» Journey, kc, vol. ii. pp. 504-12. * Paliist. und Syr., ii. 814. 

p 2 


a little inquiry and examination might have shown him 
that its distance from Damascus corresponds exactly with 
the numbers in the Itineraries.^ A little observation also 
might have convinced M. de Saulcy that no Eoman road 
had ever run along the route he had followed ; and a little 
reading of modern travels would have shown him that 
traces of the ancient road still exist in many places between 
Banias and Kuneiterah, and between the latter place and 

Having thus satisfactorily disposed of Kefr Hauwar 
and the Itinerary of Antonine, he turns next to the 
Pentiuger Tables, and, finding a place called Ad Am- 
montem, between Banias and Damascus, twenty-eight 
miles from each, he proceeds to identify it. The arguments 
he makes use of for this purpose are probably the most 
extraordinary specimens of reasoning in the whole compass 
of literature. I will here give the substance of them as 
literary curiosities. 

About a thousand yards from Kefr Hauwar, on a rising 
ground, is situated the small village Beitimah (Beitima). 
Along the foot of the decli-sdty flows a river which is 
named, in Zimmermann's map, 3IoiedebSerane ; and this 
river is spanned by an ancient bridge. Such are M. de 
Saulcy 's premises. And now for liis syllogisms. 

"In earlier days,'* writes the utilitarian savant, ' ' bridges 
were constructed merely to afford a passage to public 
roads ; consequently, over the bridge situated between 
Kafr-Haouar and Beitimah an ancient public (or high) 
road formerly passed." This then quite agi'ces with the 

^ The line of this Roman road vdW be described in tlie sequel, when 
speaking of the kingdom of Bashau. 


ancient road in the Pentinger Tables! But, again, tlie 
name Ad Ammontem is equivalent to Ad-Montem, and 
ad-montem signifies "on a height," Now Beitiraah is on 
a height, and therefore this ancient place exactly suits the 
Roman station under consideration ! And, lastly, to con- 
clude the demonstration, there is the river, the Moiedeb- 
Herane ; and the eagle eye of the learned antiquarian at 
once detects the " skeleton" of the Latin word Ammontem 
in this strange-looking name — Moiedeh, Ammontem. There 
can be no doubt as to their identity ! The proof is now 
complete and conclusive, and he has no hesitation in 
identifying Ad Ammontem with Beitimah ! ■* 

The analysis of the singular name of this river, Moiedeb- 
Herane, might well puzzle any lexicographer ; I believe, 
however, that I have found a key to it. The name of this 
river is Nahr ^ Amy (" the river 'Arny"), so called from 
the village near its source. But the general name known 
among the peasantry is Moiet ^ Amy (" the water of 
'Arny") ; and M. de Saulcy well remarks that " nothing, 
unfortunately, is more common than examples of names 
having been mutilated by travellers who were not familiar 
with the sounds of the Arab tongue," Some traveller, 
who was about as deeply learned in Arabic as ]\I. de 
Saulcy himself, has heard this name, and, on committing 
it to writing at the time, or possibly in transcribing it 
afterwards, metamorphosed it into Moiedeh- Her ane. 

The more I read of M. de Saidcy's work, the more am 
I inclined to think that its author is a clever literary icag 
• — a kind of geographical Miguel Cervantes, in fact — whose 

* Journey round the Dead Sea, &c., vol. ii. pp. 512-1 3. 

318 5I0UXT nERMON, AND THE Chap. YI. 

sole object has been to turn into ridicule the vast erudition 
and profound research that some have thought proper to 
expend in attempts to defend and maintain silly theories, 
absurd traditions, and insignificant minutiae, connected 
with the topography of this land. 

Leaving my companions to enjoy the cool shade in the 
gardens of Kefr Hauwar, where the tent was already 
pitched, I wandered away to the summit of a little tell, on 
which stands the tower mentioned by Burckhardt. It is 
nothing, however, but a small modern house, and may 
probably have been intended originally for a Druze place 
of worship. The view from it is very extensive, and 1 
took several important bearings and observations. Toward 
the Hauran the country is one unilbrm plam, slightly 
undulating, with isolated conical hills rising at intervals. 
Some of these are cup-shaped, and evidently craters of 
extinct volcanoes. The Nahr 'Arny rims in a deep 
channel on the north-east side of Kefr Hauwar, distant 
nearly half a mile ; and from hence it follows a winding 
course to Sasa, passing only one village on its way : the 
name of this village I did not learn, but it is probably Beit 
Sabir. It is strange that Burckhardt does not mention 
this river, though he passed it between Kefr Hauwar and 
Beitima. ^ From this point I was able to take in at one glance 
the whole section of the plain through which the 'Awaj 
\vinds from the moment its two branches leave the mountain 
defiles till they unite their waters at Sasa, and from thence 
till the river passes at Kesweh, between the parallel ridges 
of Jebel el- As wad and Jebel Mania. Though it caimot 

^ Travels in Sjria, p. 64. 


for a moment be compared with the magnificent plain 
watered by its sister the Barada, yet it contains not less 
than sixty square miles of cultivated land, whose fertility 
is solely owing to the river, and it supports a population of 
nearly 10,000 souls. I formerly entertained the opinion 
that the 'Awaj was but a small and insignificant stream, 
but now I see that it is unquestionably the second river of 
Damascus. I iiave since examined the 'Awaj at many 
points of its long course, from its fountains on the side of 
Hermon to the lake in the distant plain; and I have 
besides visited and examined all the other streams and 
fountains in this region ; and I now feel persuaded that, if 
Naaman meant tivo rivers, and not tivo fountains, when he 
uttered the well-known words, " Are not Abana and 
Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of 
Israel ?" the Barada and 'Awaj must be these two. 

The province in which the fountains of the 'Awaj are 
situated is called AkUni el-Belldn — the "district of 
Bellan." It comprises the whole eastern slopes of Jebel 
esh-Sheikh, and a section of the plain at its base extending 
nearly to Sasa. It contains twelve villages, with a mixed 
population of Muslems, Druzes, and Christians. Originally 
it formed part of the territory of the ancient Maacathitcs.® 
Under the Romans it appears first to have constituted part 
of the kingdom of Chalcis, but was afterwards annexed to 
the tetrarchy of Abilene, of which Lysanias was governor.' 
The whole valley of the river from Aklim cl-Bellan to 
the lake is called Wady el- A jam. ^ Sasa, the first village 

« 1 Chron. xix. 6. 

7 Joseph. Ant. xv. 10, 1 and '■>; also compare id. xix. 5, 1, with Luke 
iii. 1. 

8 The meaning of this word is " The vale of the Persians," 

320 MOUNT HERMON, A:^!) THE Chap. VI. 

in this district, was formerly a large fortified caravanserai — 
one of a regular series erected at intervals on the great 
caravan-road from Damascus to Egypt. It was built by 
Senan Pasha about A.H. 990,^ but is now in a great measure 
ruinous and deserted. The 'Awaj runs from Sas'a for 
about six miles in a north-easterly direction, having on its 
right bank an undulating plain thickly strewn with large 
boulders and broken fragments of basalt ; and on its left 
a level tract, where the limestone takes the place of the 
volcanic rock. The features of the whole district are for- 
bidding and monotonous. The river afterwards turns 
nearly due east, and runs in a tortuous and very deep 
channel to the village of Kesweh, some five miles lower 
down. On the north bank the low range of Jebel el-Aswad 
here commences, leaving a fertile plain about a quarter of 
a mile wide along the side of the river. ^ 

September 4:th. — We left Kefr Hauwar at 4*30, crossed 
the river 'Arny twelve minutes afterwards, and rode up 
the north bank to the half-ruined village of Beitima. 
We now passed over an undulating plain, having the 
base of Jebel esh-Sheikh about an hour on our left. At 
5*40 we crossed a deep wady with a very small stream 
which flows down from the wild ravine at Kul'at Jendal. 
At seven o'clock we entered the large village of Katana. 
Westward of this place the plain runs far up into the 
mountains, between the northern spur of Jebel esh- 
Sheikh and the low hills that bound the Salira on the 

" Tarikh el-Moliibby, IMS., s. v. ' Senan Pasha.' 

' These notices of the river are made from observations taken at a 
subsequent period. The lower section of the 'Awaj, with the lake into 
which its surplus waters ilow, will be considered in a subsequent part 
of this woi'k. 


south-west. Around Katana are line gardens and fertile 
fields, abundantly watered by a stream whose source is a 
quarter of an hour to the west. On the map attached to 
Burckhardt's Travels in Syria a river is laid down, haAnng 
its source high up in Hermon, and flowing past Kat§,na to 
the lake eastward of Damascus ; and all subsequent carto- 
graphers have copied it, some with additions and alterations, 
to increase the effect. This river is purely imaginary. 
The stream from Katana is completely exhausted before it 
runs three miles from its fountain. 

We left Katana at 7" 15, and followed the ordinary road 
to Damascus. Here is a desert plain, which only requires 
water to make it a paradise. At nine o'clock we passed 
the large village of Muaddamiyeh, five minutes on our 
right, and soon after entered among extensive vineyards. 
A large canal from the 'Awaj is conducted along the plain 
to this place, and, turning down half a mile to the east, it 
meets another from the Barada, and thus the Abana and 
Pharpar mingle their waters near the ancient city of 
Damascus. No contrast could be greater than that be- 
tween the section of the plain Avhich is irrigated and that 
not irrigated — the former, rich and fertile, covered with 
luxuriant vines, now bending under the weight of the 
clustering bunches, and farther to the right clothed with 
dense groves of olives and mulberries, encircling the gi-eat 
village of Daraya ; the latter a bare desert, burned up 
by a scorching sun, without a particle of verdure to relieve 
the eye. On the left of the road, at the distance of about 
half a mile, is the base of the low range of hills called 
Kalabat el-Mezzeh, whose sides slope gently iipwards, white 
as snow, and naked as a rock. 

P 3 

322 MOUNT HERMOX. Chap. VI. 

In half an liour more we were within the gardens of 
Damascus, pursuing our journey amid the most delicious 
groves, sheltered from the sun's rays by the dense foliage 
of the fragrant walnut, and having our ears regaled with 
the murmuring of waters and the voice of birds. 

At 10*25 we passed through the village of Kefr Susah, 
and at 10*45 entered the gate of the city. The whole of 
this day's journey was accomplished at a fast pace ; and 
careful estimates, subsequently made when constructing 
the map, showed that we had ridden altogether nearly 
twenty geographical miles, allowing for the winding of the 
road — namely, seven from Kefr Hauwar to Katana, and 
nearly thirteen from thence to Damascus. Burckhardt's 
account of the distances of this section of his route must 
consequently be inaccurate. From Kefr Hauwar to Katana 
he makes four hours ayid a half, while from the latter 
village to the city he makes only four hours.- 

* Travels in Syria, pp. 46-7. 

Chap. YIT. HELBOX. 323 



Tradition of Abraham — Grand defile of M'araba — Menin and its exca- 
vated temples — The vale and vineyards of Helhon — Sublime pass 
of ' Ain es-Sa-heb — The site of Helhon identified — Gi'eek inscriptions 
— Ride over Anti-Lebanon. 

Having remained in Damascus for two days, we set out 
for Bludan on the morning of Tuesday, the 7th of Sep- 
tember, intending to visit on our way the excavated 
temples of Menin and the site of the ancient Helhon. As 
these interesting places have never hitherto been described 
by any writer, I will give a brief sketch of the result of 
our researches. 

We left the city by Bab Tuma, and, after winding for 
tliirty-five minutes among the gardens, emerged on an 
open and naked plain, and reached Burzeh in twenty 
minutes more. This village I previously referred to as 
celebrated on account of the sanctuary of Abraham which it 
contains, where the patriarch is said to have offered thanks 
to God on turning back from the pursuit of the kings who 
had pillaged Sodom and carried away Lot.^ Burzeh is 
finely situated at the entrance of a wild ravine which 
completely intersects Jebel Kasyiin, the lowest ridge of 
Antilibanus, opening a passage for the united streams 

' Gen. ch, xiv, .'""ee above, in History of Damascus. 

324 HELBON. Chap. VII. 

from the valleys of Helbon and Menin to flow into the 
plain of Damascus. It is encompassed by luxuriant gar- 
dens, and extensive vineyards spread along the base of the 
mountains towards Salahiyeh. The little building cover- 
ing the sanctuary presents nothing worthy of notice. In 
the precipitous rock behind it is said to be a deep fissure 
or cave, but this is carefully concealed. 

Passing to the left of the village, we rode up the glen. 
At first the sides have an easy slope, though rugged and 
broken, but they soon assume a wilder and grander aspect, 
the grey limestone rocks being piled up in huge masses, 
like a Cyclopean ruin, and leaving, in some places, a tor- 
tuous bed, only a few feet wide, through which rushes the 
foaming torrent. In the narrowest parts the road is in 
the rocky channel of the river, and it is not without some 
danger that one makes the passage, especially in the early 
spring. In a little over half an hour we emerged in an 
open country, with swelling white hills, intersected by 
fertile and well-wooded valleys. Following the course of 
the river, among orchards and groves of the fragrant 
walnut, we reached the village of M'araba in ten minutes. 
It is built on the declivity of a ridge of flint that here 
intersects the cretaceous limestone strata. The houses 
have a picturesque appearance as they are seen perched on 
the side of the rock over the dense foliage of the vaUey 
beneath. Below this village the valleys of Helbon and 
Menin unite, the former coming down from the north- 
west, dividing the several ridges in its course, the latter 
falling into it from the north, — not so wild or so grand, 
but more picturesque. 

We struck up the latter valley, following the windings 

CiiAP. YII. HELBOX. 325 

of the stream for the sake of the refreshing shade, and 
leaving the ordinary road a little distance on the right. 
Our ride here was delightful : a gentle breeze blew among 
the trees, cooled by the waters that leaped and foamed in 
their rocky bed at our feet The rays of the sun beat 
fiercely upon the white and parched hills around, but 
here, beneath the spreading branches of the walnut and the 
tapering poplars, we could defy them. In forty minutes 
from M'araba we reached the village of Tell, situated, as 
the name implies, on the summit of a gentle eminence, 
and evidently occupying a site of remote antiquity. Large 
stones and some fragments of columns may be seen in the 
modern houses and court-yards, while the rocks aromid 
are honeycombed with excavated tombs. 

Passing on, we still followed the left bank of the valley, 
which now increases in depth and beauty. After some 
time we crossed the stream by a rude bridge, and ascended 
high up the slope on the right bank. The scenery is here 
very striking. The valley runs in a tortuous course, like 
a river of verdure, while its banks rise up, naked, smooth, 
and almost white as snow, and are here and there sur- 
mounted, far overhead, by frowning cliffs, like old baronial 
castles in ruins. After some ten minutes more we again 
descended to the bed of the river, and soon found ourselves 
in a gloomy defile, with lofty precipices of rock on each 
side, and the narrow path which has been hewn out for 
the road wet with the spray and foam of the mad river. 
This pass led us into a valley or basin, like a vast amphi- 
theatre, with vine-clad glens radiating from it on all sides, 
and lofty ridges of naked rock dividing them. In the 
centre of the basin is a low hill, on which stands the vil- 

326 HELBON. Chap. YII. 

lage of Menin, We rode through it, and dismounted at 
the fountain on the other side. It bursts forth at the foot 
of a lofty precipice, and the stream from it sweeps round 
the southern side of the tell, fringed by lofty poplars, and 
its banks lined with luxuriant orchards. In the cliff over- 
head are numerous dark openings to excavated sepulchral 
caves ; but in the brow of a cliff on the north side of the 
village are the most important and interesting remains of 
antiquity. As we ascended the steep slope from the vale, 
our attention was first arrested by massive hewn stones 
lying on each side of our path : one of these measured 
twelve feet in length, and had a plain moulding along one 
side, as if intended for the upright of a door. On gaining 
the top we found its fellow standing erect, and soon saw 
that it had been hewn out of the cliff, to which the lower 
part of it was still attached. Behind this, but facing the 
west, is a small temple 24 feet long, 17 wide, and about 
22 high, with a vaulted roof wholly excavated in the solid 
rock. At the eastern end is a rude recess about four feet 
deep, and extending nearly the breadth of the chamber. 
The doorway is now much broken, but the remains of a 
small portico are still there, with the columns, steps, and 
balustrades all hewn out of the rock. On the north side 
of this is another excavated chamber, somewhat smaller, 
but having the same general features. The doorway is 
nearly perfect, and has a border two feet wide, richly 
ornamented with sculptured wreaths and flowers, and over 
it a cornice of still greater beauty. It shows both taste 
and skill in the design and execution. 

In front of these chambers, at the distance of about fifty 
feet, stood a fine building facing the south. Tlie fomida- 

CiiAP. Vir. HELBOX. 327 

tions alone now remain entire : these were in part hewn 
out of the rock, and the walls thus formed are chiselled to 
represent masonwork. In front was a portico of four 
columns three feet five inches in diameter. A noble stair- 
case, with balustrades, all hewn out of the solid rock, led 
to this structure. Numerous buildings seem to have stood 
upon the sides of this hill, but they are now mere masses 
of confused and shapeless ruins. Ascending to the summit 
of the cliff overhead, I found some foundations, and a large 
excavated cistern coated internally with fine cement. 

The object for which these expensive and lasting monu- 
ments were constructed cannot now be conclusively esta- 
blished, unless some inscription should be hereafter dis- 
covered among the ruins. They do not in any respect 
resemble the tombs that are fbimd so plentiiidly scattered 
over this land and among these mountains. They are 
larger and loftier, and want the recesses for the reception 
of bodies which are universally foimd in sepulchral caves. 
In all probability they were a group of temples dedicated 
to the tutelary deities of the town that stood below. 

Leaving Menin, we turned westward, and rode through 
extensive vineyards and fig-orchards, which cover the 
whole vales and swellmg hills between this place and 
Wady Helbon. Some distance on our right rose one of 
the ridges of Antilibanus, naked and precipitous. In fifty 
minutes' smart walking we reached tlie valley of Helbon, 
which is here called Wady Dereij, from a small village of 
that name situated on its right bank. The scenery of the 
valley at the place we entered it is wild and grand. A 
large basin is formed by the surrounding hills, and is shut 
in on all sides by steep slopes and towering precipices. 

328 IIELEOX. Chap. VII. 

The bottom is filled witli the most luxuriant vineyards, 
mixed with the pomegranate ; and to the terraced sides 
the fig-trees cling. On descending we found, close on 
our right, a wall of naked rock several hundred feet high, 
and in its centre a huge fissure only a few feet wide, di- 
viding it to its foundations. Through it rushes a fine 
stream, and a narrow roadway has been hewn in the side 
of the clifi" above it. This is the entrance to the upper 
wady of Helbon. Near the summit of the clifi, on the 
right side of the pass, are two sarcophagi with sjnall niches, 
having fragments of statues over them, all hewn in the 
rock. On the side of one of these, to which I ascended 
with some difiiculty at a later period, is a Greek inscrip- 
tion, simple and chaste as epitaphs ought to be, but afibrd- 
ing no clue to the age of the monument or the station of 
its occupant.^ 

About a hundred yards farther west is another similar 
monument ; and some distance beyond it is a fine Doric 
facade, consisting of two semi-columns supporting a plain 
pediment, with a bust in the centre. Between the columns 
is a shallow recess, with a sarcophagus. These are all hewn 
out in the side of the cliff", and were originally accessible 
by long flights of stairs. 

The stream, after winding through the basin, enters a 
wild gorge, in which it flows across the plain of Sahra. 
This singular ravine varies from twenty to forty yards in 
width, and the rocky precipices that shut it in have an 
elevation of from fifty to a hundred feet. It is filled T\'ith 
trees, poplars and walnuts, wherever space can be found 

2 The inscription is as follows :—AYCIMAXOY AaPOYMNHMEION— 
" The memorial of Lysimachus the son of Adrus." 

Chap. YII. HELBON. 329 

to plant them, and during the summer months, when the 
water is low, it affords a pleasant and cool path, which I 
have often followed on my way from Bludan to the city. 

This section of the Salira is the property of Helbon. It 
is more undulating than that farther to the west, and the 
little valleys are all filled with luxuriant fig-orchards, 
whose fruit is the most delicate I have tasted in Syria. 
Along the slopes on the north are line vineyards extend- 
ing for miles. 

Following the excavated road through the wild pass, 
we entered the upper valley of Helbon. The pass is 
only a few yards in length, and on reacliing the inner side 
we find a sublime gorge with overhanging cliffs, and a 
little fountain of purest water bubbling up at their base. 
An aqueduct has been hewn out for it along the side of 
the precipice, and a bridge in the very centre of the pass 
carries it to the other side, where it drives a mill, and 
then flows off to water the vineyards and orchards below. 
The fountain is called 'Ain es-Saheb. A short distance 
above it the glen expands, and is filled with A'ineyards, 
and verdant with the foliage of the fig and pomegranate : 
the steep sides are terraced wherever the industrious pea- 
sants can find a footing. 

Winding along the left bank for half an hour, we skirt 
a projecting ridge, and a picture of wild grandeur and 
picturesque beauty opens up before us, for which even the 
fine scenery below has not prepared us. At our feet is 
a little vale filled with dense masses of the richest foliage ; 
the mountain-sides rise up from it, here and there ter- 
raced for the vine, but in general steep, naked, and uni- 
form, as if scarped by the hand of man ; while near two 

330 HELBOX Chap. YII. 

thousand feet above are frowning cliffs of bare white rock, 
shattered by convulsions of nature, and wrought into 
yawning caverns and fantastic designs by the action of 
the elements during long centuries : and there, in a little 
recess, are the white minaret and terraced roofs of the 
ancient Helbon, just appearing over the tops of the fruit- 
trees that encompass it. As we approach along the tor- 
tuous lanes, under tlie shade of the spreading fig-trees 
and tall poplars, we observe heaps of massive hewn stones 
piled up in the terraces and garden-walls around, mingled 
with broken shafts and fragments of richly-moulded friezes 
and sculptured cornices. On entering the village a small 
modern portico erected over the fountain attracts our 
attention. It is supported by beautiful spiral columns 
with Corinthian capitals. Beneath it is a massive stone, 
now serving as a water-trough, on the side of which is a 
fragment of a Greek inscription in very large and well- 
formed characters. During a former visit, in company of 
Messrs. Robson and Barnett of Damascus, I succeeded in 
copying it, after much opposition on the part of the vil- 
lagers, who refused to permit us to remove the accumula- 
tions of rubbish beside the stone. It is as follows : — 


The remaining part was probably on another stone, and 
the whole appears to have been placed over some doorway 
or portico. 

In the gardens beside the village are the foundations of 
a large structure, the ruins of- which are strewn around 
on every side. Two fragments of inscriptions are found 
on broken stones near it, and many others exist in several 

Chap. YII. HELBOX. 331 

parts of the village. All of them, however, are either so 
short, or have been so much mutilated, that no valuable 
information can now be obtained from them. Many of 
the houses of the village are constructed of old materials, 
while heaps of hewn stones are piled up in the gardens 
and orchards below, affording imquestionable evidence that 
here stood in former ages a town of some extent and con- 
siderable architectural beauty. 

The name at once suggests that passage in Ezekiel 
where the prophet, describing the glory and luxuries of 
Tyre, and of the nations and cities that traded in her rich 
marts, says, " Damascus was thy merchant in the multi- 
tude of the wares of thy making, ibr the multitude of all 
riches ; in the wine of Helbon and white wool." The 
force of the description consists in tliis, that in the mar- 
kets of Tyre every kingdom and city found ample demand 
for its own staple produce of manufactures. Damascus 
lias been long famed for its rich brocades, chaste ornaments 
of precious metal, and finely-tempered arms. It was thus 
the merchant of Tyre in the multitude of wares and of all 
riches. But Damascus has for ages been the great depot 
fur the wool of the vast flocks that roam over the Arabian 
plains, and consequently this city traded in wool in the 
marts of Tyre. The wine of Helhon was another staple 
commodity supplied by the Damascenes. Is it not natural 
to suppose that it also was produced in the neighbourhood 
of the city ? In some of the versions, such as the Syriac 
and Vulgate, the word Helbon is translated as descriptive 
of the quality of the wine, " fat" or " rich ;" but in the Scp- 
tuagint, and by modern critics almost without exception, 
it is regarded as a proper name. The Greek is XeX/Swv. 

332 HELBOX. Chap. VII. 

It has been generally thought hitherto that the modern 
city of Aleppo, called Hahh by the Arabs, is the place 
referred to by the Prophet. Ptolemy mentions a Chaly- 
bon, ^aXv^ajv, among the cities of Syria ;^ and Strabo 
says the kings of Persia, from their love of luxuries, 
drank olvov sx Sy^iar tov XaXf/3wv40v, " Chalybonian wine 
of Syria." ^ But if we even shoidd admit that the modern 
Haleb is the Chalybon of Strabo and Ptolemy, there are 
strong reasons against our identifying it with the Helhon 
of Scripture. The words, it will be observed, are not the 
same ; but the great objection lies in the relative situation 
of the two places. Why should not the people of Chaly- 
bon themselves carry their own wine to Tyre ? Tyre, in 
those days, was much more easy of access to Aleppo than 
Damascus ; and if strange merchants had engaged in the 
conveyance of the wine of Chalybon, we should expect 
them to be some maritime people, such as those of Sidon 
or Arvad. 

These things render the identification of Helbon and 
Aleppo highly improbable ; and there is, besides, no evi- 
dence that the grapes of Aleppo are such as would make 
wine of a fine quality. Here, however, in the territory of 
Damascus, is a site, manifestly of high antiquity, whose 
name is still identical with that mentioned by Ezekiel. 
The Arabic ..xXcs. corresponds precisely to the Hebrew 
}13^n; and the territory of Helbon is celebrated in the 
present day for producing the finest grapes in the country. 
The inhabitants are now exclusively Muslems, and con- 
sequently the manufacture of wine is not carried on by 
them, but the grapes of the district are held in the greatest 

3 Ptol. Geog. V. 16. •* Strab. Geog. xv. p. 505. 

Chap. TII. HELBON. 333 

esteem by the vintners of Damascus. At the convents of 
M'alula, farther to the north-east, along the same slopes, 
some of the most delicious wine in Syria is still made, 
and I have been informed that the grapes are generally 
brought from the vale of Helbon. In the Avhole of this 
wild and beautiful valley, and throughout the wide dis- 
trict subject to the modern village, the vine is now the 
staple produce, and there is ample evidence that it was 
at one time far more extensively cultivated. With such 
evidences in its favour I have little hesitation in statinsf 
that we have here the Helhon of Ezekiel, whose wine was, 
some twenty-five centuries ago, conveyed by the mer- 
chants of Damascus to the marts of Tyre : and if this be 
admitted, it aflfords an additional proof of how scrupulously 
exact and how admirably consistent the sacred writers were 
in all their statements, even the most minute. It is highly 
probable that, if some time and labour were expended in 
a close examination of the existing ruins, and perhaps also 
in the uncovering of some that may have been buried 
beneath the surface, inscriptions would be found giving the 
ancient name, and affording some clue to its history.^ 

* The following fragments of inscriptions I also copied from stones 

at this place : — 

1. A YC J AC M A M BO|/<f?iklO Y 

This is well inscribed in hu-ge charactei-s on a stone in the large ruin 
above refen-ed to. The next appears to contain the same name. It is 
now on the side-post of a gate : — 

The next is also on a gateway, and much defaced. It is written on two 
faces of the large stone: — 

f I w N tp I A I n n 

O Y 

c 9 '"5 f I m/ 

n o c e K T 
a/ N c I A c^;gf 

N A N £ © WiM 

334 HELBOX. CuAp. VII. 

Leaving this interesting spot, which I have since visited 
more than thirty times, we continued our course up the 
wild and beautiful glen, winding along the banks of silvery 
streams, beneath the cool shade of spreading walnuts and 
apricot-trees. In half an hour we reached the upper 
fountain, which gushes out from a cleft at the foot of a 
cliff that rises overhead, almost a sheer precipice, nearly 
two thousand feet. The savage grandeur of the scenery 
around this little fountain is beyond description. A turn 
in the valley shuts out all view of the verdure below, and 
the naked mountain-sides rise up bare and steep to the 
toppling cliffs, and the cliffs themselves seem to touch the 
clouds, while the valley is filled with shattered fragments 
of rock, as if nature had been engaged in some fearful 
work of destruction. 

The road from hence becomes dreary and monotonous ; 
only a few solitary walnuts appear at intervals, as if they 
had wandered from their places ; even the vineyards soon 
disappear from the naked slopes, and all is barren and de- 
solate, save where the sparse foliage of the sumaJc fills up 
little nooks and comers among the rocks. Yet even here 
are interesting remains of the taste and the wealth of 
Syria's inhabitants in long-past ages. Over the summit of 
a projecting rounded peak on the mountain-side are scat- 
tered the ruins of a fine temple. The style of the building 
was massive, simple, and severe, somewliat resembling that 
at Mejdel ' Anjar, near the ruins of Chalcis. 

An easy ride of two hours firom the upper fountain over 
barren mountains brought us to the deep wady Hureiry, 
or Nejas, as this section of it is called. It runs to the 
south-west, revealing, as through a vista, the snow-capped 

Chap. YII. HELBON. 335 

peak of Hermon. In thirty-five minutes more we stand 
on the brow of the great central ridge of Antilibanus, 
commanding a view which for extent and beauty is scarcely- 
surpassed by any in this region. The vine-clad slopes of 
Bludan are at our feet, extending to the luxuriant orchards 
and verdant plain of Zebdany ; beyond them is a range 
of dark, frowning mountains, over which are seen graceful 
wooded hills, with deep vales winding down to the great 
plain of the Buka'a ; while beyond all, the noble chain of 
Libanus, with its wavy summit, is spread out before us, 
from tlie lofty snow-crowned peaks of Akkar to the abrupt 
descent into the wild ravine of the Litany ; and on the 
left the view is shut in by Hermon. Often have I gazed 
on this glorious panorama, at all liours, from the earHest 
dawn till the last streak of twilight had disappeared from 
the western horizon, and always with fresh admiration. 

Half an hour more down the steep declivity brought us 
to Bludan. 

On a previous occasion I had taken another and much 
longer route from the valley of Helbon to this place. After 
passing the upper fountain we turned to the left, and, 
crossing the ridge that separates this valley from that of 
the Barada, descended to the little village of Ifry, about 
an hour up the mountain-side from the great fountain of 
Fijeh. Here, in the midst of wild and barren motmtains, 
we found remains of antiqiiity which show that in the 
palmy days of Syria no spot, however remote, was unoc- 
cupied. The following fragment of an inscription we 
there copied, but, owing to the want of light in the old 
mosk in which it is found, combined with tlie wear of 
centuries, it is not without inaccuracies. It is here in- 

336 HELBON. Chap. VII. 

serted as containing a date (?) and the ancient name of 
the place. 



From hence we traversed the mountains to the village 
of Hureirj, situated in the lower part of the Wady Hu- 
reiry, and about one hour distant from Suk. In it are 
ruins of considerable extent, and a long Greek inscription 
may be seen on a stone over the fountain, but it is now 
so much defaced as to be illegible. From this place I 
crossed the main ridge of Antilibanus diagonally to 
Bludan in two hours, passing on my way a singular build- 
ing of remote antiquity, perched on one of the loftiest sum- 
mits. This I take to be the site of an ancient high place. 

^ I am not quite satisfied whether this number Z K, 27, be intended 
for the year or the day of the month. The last word ought evidently to 
be A^iuxou)/ — of the people of Apheiros. In this we can see the name Ifry. 




Kurdish Sliepherd. 



Roman road — Beautiful view of the GhHtah — Convent of Saidnaya — 
Miraculous image of the Virgin — Ancient tombs and ruins — Said- 
naya the ancient Danaha — Ilavine and sepulchral caves of Jubb 
'Adin — M'aldla — Wild pass and excavated tombs — Topography 
of the eastern slopes of Antilibanus — The Syriac language spoken 
— Yabi-6d, the ancient Jahruda, and its ruins — Night march to 
Kuteifeh — Dangers of travel — Fine temple at Maksura — Kuined 
town discovered — Probably the ancient Tchea: 

On the I'dth of October, 1852, I set out in company 
with the Rev. S. Robson and the Rev. J. Bamett to visit 
the ancient villages of Saidnuya, M'alula, and Yabrud. 
As the country through which we proposed to travel is 
little known, we determined to examine its topography 
and antiquities as closely as time would permit. Having 
only three days to spare for the survey of a wide district, 
we dispensed with tents and equipage, taking light lehdfs 
VOL. I. Q 


to serve the place of both beds and coverlets ; we were 
thus enabled to traverse with speed and ease the wide 
plateaus and mountain-ranges, and to diverge irom the 
more frequented roads whenever inclination might prompt 
us, or any object of interest attract our attention. 

Leaving the city by Bab Tuma, we followed the same 
route as on a previous tour to Burzeh, which we reached 
at 7*10 A.M. ; and, passing through the lower part of the 
village, we crossed the stream that comes down the wild 
ravine from Helbon. A few minutes after we commenced 
to ascend diagonally the range of hills that here bounds 
the plain, by an ancient road deeply excavated in the 
chalky rock. The ascent soon became steep, difficult, and 
even dangerous. The old road zigzags up the ledges of 
naked rock in a regular series of staircases ; but these are 
now so much worn and |)olislied by the traffic and travel 
of long centvirics, that it was with difficulty our horses 
could keep their feet. Here and there, too, huge masses 
of limestone had become detached from the cliffs above, 
and, rolling down, entirely blocked up the narrow way. 
This road mvist unquestionably be of Roman origin, and is 
one of those useful monuments with which that enterpris- 
ing people filled every laud that became subject to their 
sway. All the cities and all the more important villages 
in this country were at one time connected by well-con- 
structed roads. Over the broad plains, along the slielving 
mountain-sides, and through the wildest glens, traces of 
them may still be seen ; thus proving that no work, how- 
ever great, and no obstacle, however imposing, could 
check the industry or baffle the engineering skill of this 
wonderful people. What a contrast do the present rulers 


of Syria present to the ancient Eomans ! There is no 
spirit of enterprise or of patriotism in the Turkish nation. 
Everything seems to be on the "road to ruin." The 
large caravanserais along the great lines of traffic, that 
were built at vast expense, and furnished -with many 
requisites for the safety and even comfort of travellers, are 
now, without a single exception, fast falling to ruin ; even 
the very mosks, which the piety of their forefathers reared 
up and adorned, are neglected, and no attempt is ever 
made to repair them. As to roads, I need say nothing 
about them ; there is not a public road in Syria. 

At 7 '50 we reached the top of the pass, where we 
turned round to gaze on the magnificent plain. The 
richest part of the Ghutah was now spread out before us, 
and exhibited in the best light for revealing the matchless 
beauty of the picture. A thousand little streams, meander- 
ing through luxuriant orchards, verdant meadows, and 
wide-spreading plain, reflected the bright beams of the 
morning sun ; and the city itself lay in the midst like a 
string of pearls carelessly thrown on a mantle of green 
veUet. On the west, too, was another picture scarcely 
less pleasing. The valley of Menin, filled with dense 
foliage, runs across the white plain, encompassing the 
village of Tell, and shooting out numerous branches 
among the snow-white hills on each side. 

As we rode down the easy slope into the plain of 
Sahra, a little troop of gazelles crossed our path : putting 
spurs to my horse, I dashed into the midst of" them ; but 
the ground being \cxy rucky, I was soon obliged to give 
up the chace. 

We now passed diagonally across the eastern section of 

Q 2 


tlic Salira, whose surface is here undulating, and to some 
considerable extent cultivated. On the right it becomes 
still more uneven, and spurs from the ranges on each side 
project far into the plain, and even in places interlace. In 
a little over an hour we reached the foot of the lofty hills 
that bound it on the north, and in twenty minutes more 
had gained the summit by a winding path. From this 
spot we had a commanding view of nearly the whole 
Sahra, and I was able to take some important observations. 
In descending from this place we passed round the head 
of a fine vale filled with vineyards, extending down on 
the left to the picturesque basin in which Menin is situ- 
ated; and then, crossing a little ridge, we entered the 
fertile plain of Saidnaya. This plain is perfectly level, 
and its soil is almost equal to that of the Ghutah, There 
is no water for irrigation; but as it has a considerable 
elevation, more rain falls upon it during winter, and the 
heat of summer is not so excessive. On our right we now 
saw the little Christian village of Ma'arra, nearly half an 
hour distant on the south side of the plain, with the bare 
summit of Jebel Tiniyeh rising up beyond it. On our 
left, on the mountain- side, was Telfita. We passed the 
plain diagonally, our course from Burzeh to this spot 
having been nearly due north ; and, on surmounting a 
spur from the mountains on the left, we suddenly came in 
sight of the convent and village of Saidnaya — the former 
occupying the of a precipitous ledge of rock in the 
midst of a wide and rugged valley ; and the houses of the 
latter scattered along its base and clinging to its sides. On 
the spot where we stood is a cubical structure of massive 
hewn stones, like the pedestal of a great column or colossal 


Statue. The journey from Damascus to the convent-gate 
occupied four hours and twelve minutes. 

The position and aspect of this building more nearly 
resemble those of a feudal castle of the middle ages than a 
peaceful retreat of piety and virtue. The lofty massive 
walls stand on the summit of a scarped rock ; and the only 
mode of access is by a winding staircase hewn out in its 
side, which leads to a narrow door plated with iron and 
studded with large nails. This opens upon a narrow 
passage or hall, from which corridors branch off to each 
side. Passing this hall, we advanced though an open arch- 
way to the little area in front of the church, a large build- 
ing, but not of great antiquity. In front is a portico of 
four short columns supporting arches instead of a pediment. 
The door is small and perfectly plain ; over it are three 
figures wretchedly painted, the central one of which is 
supposed to represent the Virgin, and has upon it 
the blasphemous title ^]^^i^jj|,.^ On her right hand is 

Michael the Archangel, and on her left Gabriel. The 
interior is divided into nave and aisles by ranges of short 
c<jlumns which support the roof. The whole of the walls, 
pillars, and wooden altar-screen are adorned, or rather 
disfigured, by paintings ; most of which would about 
equal in point of merit and execution the first attempts of 
an ill-conditioned schoolboy with a charred stick upon a 
white Avall ; while a few are so disgustingly obscene that 
one feels relieved that the artist has been unable to portray 
with any good degree of distinctness the creations of his 
prurient fancy. 

' "The Mother of God." 


Our attention was especially invited to one picture, 
which seemed to be regarded as a masterpiece by the 
attendant priest and the worthy abbess. It is a universal 
favourite with all the residents and visitors, and is there- 
fore placed in full view beside the entrance-door. So close 
and frequent have been the examinations of this rare work 
of art, that it is now much injured by contact with rough 
fingers, and it has been deemed prudent, in order to pre- 
serve a design of such originality and power, to obtain a 
duplicate and hang it above it. This painting represents 
the Day of Judgment. Christ is seated upon a throne, 
with the twelve apostles, six on each side. Below, on the 
right, is the doorway to heaven, with Peter standing 
beside it grasping the massive keys ; opposite this door, 
on the left, is pictured some horrible but indescribable 
creature, which has not the likeness of anything, at least 
on earth, whose capacious mouth forms the entrance to 
hell. Between these is a great balance with an angel on 
one side and Satan on the other. Considerable caution, 
however, appears to have been thought necessary in deal- 
ing with the latter personage under any circumstances, as 
two angels are holding him down by long iron hooks. 
The place and modes of punishment are likewise graphic- 
ally delineated. In one place are seen numerous little 
devils, fearful in form and terrible in countenance, mounted 
on the backs of spirits (!) and belabouring them with heavy 
sticks ; while in another place is a long range of women 
exposed to the attacks of huge serpents, which gnaw such 
members as were most guilty. More minute details I 
cannot give ; they are too disgusting to be even thought 
of ; and yet, be it remembered, this is a holy sanctuary, in 


which the purest females of the Greek churcli sliut them- 
selves up lest they should be contaminated by contact 
with a sinful world. I have visited most of the principal 
picture galleries in Europe, and I have seen many paint- 
ings that did not manifest a very pure taste or a very 
high standard of moral feeling ; but it has never been my 
lot to see such disgusting obscenity as that exhibited on 
the convent- walls of Saidnaya. 

But the great attraction of the convent of Saidnaya is 
the " Lady Chapel," where the wonderful and wonder- 
working image-picture of the blessed Virgin is enshrined 
as tutelary goddess. Having expressed a desire to pay it 
a visit, we were, after some ceremony, and after being 
obliged to take off hats and boots, admitted to the holy 
sanctuary. It is beautifully and richly ornamented — the 
floor being of tesselated pavement of marble, and the lower 
parts of the wall of the same material inlaid with mother- 
of-pearl. Higher up are rows of chased silver lamps and 
pictures of saints innumerable. On the eastern side of the 
chamber is a silver door, some eighteen inches square, 
opening into a little recess, where the portrait of the 
Virgin, painted by Luke the Evangelist, is now preserved 
in a silver casket ! It is, of course, death to touch it, or 
even to look at it. The attendant priest assured us that 
one-half of the portrait is stone and the other half flesh, 
and that the miracles wrought by it are without number ! 
Saidnaya is consequently the holiest shrine of" the A'irgin 
connected with the Greek churcli in Syria. It is not 
merely regarded with deepest veneration by the poor and 
illiterate, but the whole clergy, from the patriarch to the 
humblest priest, with the whole laity, unite in paying 


homage to this strange and holy hnage. The sick and 
afflicted flock to it from every part of the surrounding 
country ; and many are the cures chronicled each return- 
ing summer. The salubrity of the mountain air, and the 
bracing exercise on the mountain-side, often revive the 
enervated Damascene who retires to this convent from the 
heat and filth of the city ; and his recovery is piously 
ascribed to the miraculous intervention of this picture. 

And such is a fair specimen of the religion, the morality, 
and the superstitions of the Greek Church in this land. 
None but a people sunk almost to the lowest depths of 
moral degradatioii would tolerate the disgraceful pictures 
that cover the walls of this convent ; and none but a 
people who had either forgotten or discarded the process 
of reflection and of reason would credit for a moment the 
absurd and contradictory tales and legends related of the 
goddess that is there worshipped. With such manifesta- 
tions before our eyes, it is vain to plead, in this Church's 
favour, the purity of primitive worship and the orthodoxy 
of primitive creeds. It is in vain to bring forward mouldy 
decretals and worm-eaten homilies and canons, and insist 
that from these we must judge the Greek Church. The 
Greek Church must be judged, like all others, by compar- 
ing her ■present rites and forms of worship, and the 
morality that is now practically inculcated within her pale, 
with the infallible standard of God's Word. It may be 
that, like a long-neglected garden, we can still discern 
some lovely flower drooping beneath the shade of the rank 
weeds and luxuriant brambles ; and we can still trace 
some straight path untrodden and grass-grown now ; but 
every semblance of order has long since disappeared, and 


the wild desolation of nature lias overspread it. The 
Greek Church in Syria is a fit emblem of Syria itself. 
The shattered remains of its former glory may still in 
places be seen ; and the theological antiquary may per- 
haps be able to trace, amidst heaps of rubbish, the form 
and proportions of some once noble structure. He will 
often be retarded in his labours by the wretched fabrics of 
modern days, which crowd around and almost conceal the 
ruins of the ancient building, like the mud hovels of the 
Arab round the beautiful columns of tliie Temple of the 
Sun in Palmyra. And even when every effort has been 
used, and all his patience, and industry, and antiquarian 
lore exhausted, none but the practised eye will be able to 
follow his details. 

In the conA'ent of Saidnaya are forty nuns and an 
abbess ; the latter receives her appointment from the 
patriarch, and is subject directly to his authority. She 
cannot be distinguished in dress or appearance from the 
others, and seems as illiterate and ignorant as any of them. 
The dress of the nuns is a long robe of coarse blue calico, 
with wide slierwul of the same material ; on the head is a 
large black veil, which can be so arranged, at the pleasure 
of the wearer, as to envelop the whole person. It is 
similar in all respects, except in colour, to the veils worn 
by the village women. 

This convent is of high antiquity, and local tradition 
ascribes its erection to the emperor Justinian. When 
visited by Sir John Maundeville, in the beginning of the 
fourteenth ccntuiy, it presented the same appearance as 
it does at the present day, and was then famous as now 
for the wonder-working image of the Virgin it con- 

Q 3 


tained.^ Maundrell went to it from Damascus during his 
celebrated journey in the year 1697. He repeats tlie tra- 
dition that it was founded by Justinian, and relates the 
strange legend, still in current circulation, about the in- 
carnate picture of the Virgin.^ He, like Maundeville, 
bears testimony to the excellence of the wine made here ; 
and it ought to be remembered that this is in the district 
of the ancient Helhon, to which I have already referred. 

In an Arabic manuscript in ray possession, entitled ' A 
History of the Seven Holy Greneral Councils,' written near 
the beginning of the seventeenth century, by INiacarius, 
who Was first bishop of Aleppo and afterwards patriarch 
of Antioch, are given the names of the ancient episcopal 
cities ; and attached to most of them are their modem 
appellations, which a careful investigator could then, no 
doubt, easily obtain from the old documents in the various 
convents and churches. In this book I liave found the 
name of Saidnaya recorded as one of the episcopal cities 
under Damascus, its ancient name being Danaha. The 
first mention of this place is found in Ptolemy,^ who ranks 
it under the cities in the territory of Palmyra. The name 
also occurs in the ' Notitias Ecclesiasticse ' as the seat of a 
bishop, subject to the metropolitan of Damascus.* No- 
thing more, however, is known of its history. 

In and around the village and convent are many evi- 
dences of the place having been inhabited by men of 
wealth and taste from a very early age. In the rugged 

2 Travels of Sir J. MaUndeville, London, 1727, p. 149. This writer 
remarks that .Saidnaya was in his days famous for its vines. 

3 Maundrell's Journey, Oxford, 1707, pp. 130-33. 
^ PtoL Geog. V, 15. 

^ See S. Paulo, Geog. Sac. p. 295, and note; also Not. Ant. p. 62. 


cliffs along tlie mountain-side above it are numerous 
sepulchral caves hewn in the solid rock, some of which 
are spacious and a few tastefully ornamented. From one 
on the east side of the rock on which the convent stands 
Maundrell copied three short Greek epitaphs from the 
ends of sarcophagi. One of these contains the date 510, 
corresponding to A.D. 198. There still stands in the 
village, a few yards below the convent, a square tower of 
fine masonry, which cannot be of a much later date than 
the tomb where Maundrell found the inscriptions. It 
stands on a platform composed of three tiers of massive 
hewn stones an'anged so as to form steps all round. It 
is a perfect square, twenty-nine and a half feet on each 
side, and twenty-six feet high. The interior is vaulted, 
the arches springing from massive square piers at the 
angles, in one of which is a narrow winding staircase lead- 
ing to the top. The door is on the south, and is orna- 
mented with a plain moulding round the sides and a pedi- 
ment : a deep moulding also runs round the top of the 
building. The ruins of several other simple but massive 
structures are strewn along the mountain-side and in the 
valley below. 

From the terraced roof of the convent we had a com- 
manding view of the mountain-ranges and wide plains 
eastward. The plain of Saidnaya is a little o-ver two 
miles wide and about eight in length ; the ridge that 
bounds it on the south-east runs in an unbroken line from 
the village of Menin to the parallel of Jebel Tiniyeh. It 
attains its greatest altitude nearly opposite tlie convent, 
and gradually decreases as it advances eastward. The 
plain of Saidnaya being elevated some hundreds of feet 


above the Sahra, this range looks low from this side when 
compared with its appearance as seen from the south. 
The slopes on this side are gentle, and, to a great extent, 
cultivated; but those opposite are steep and completely 
barren, and are surmounted by a lofty wall of naked rock. 
Our attention was here drawn to a ruin on the summit of 
Jebel Tiniyeh, which, a priest mformed us, had been a 
convent, but which I suppose to be one of those high 
places erected by the ancient Syrians. Above the village 
and convent rises a lofty and rugged mountain to a height 
of about 5000 feet. It is called Jebel Mar Shurabin, 
"The Mountain of St. Cherubim," from a ruined convent 
on the summit. On the sides of this hill are numerous 
little chapels, now almost all in ruins, dedicated to the 
most celebrated saints of the Greek Church. A list of 
them is given by Maundrell, which I had neither time 
nor inclination to verify. These, I presume, are the con- 
vents with which Berghaus has so profusely adorned this 
portion of his fine map of Syria. It is scarcely necessary 
to say that not one of them occupies its true position ; and 
indeed the whole of this region is, in this and all the other 
maps I have ever seen, a mere fancy sketch. 

We left the convent at 1*10, having thus spent about 
two hours in our investigations and surveys. On a subse- 
quent occasion I had still longer time and better oppor- 
tunity for examining every object of interest and noting 
the features of the surrounding country, and I have here 
inserted the results of the whole. Biding down the steep 
slope, we soon reached the side of the plain, and then turn- 
ing our horses eastward skirted the base of the mountam 
among luxuriant vineyards and fig-orchards. The moun- 


tain on our left soon began to decrease in altitude, and at 
four miles from the village it was only a broad swell: from 
this point the plain, consequently, greatly increases in 
breadth, extending to the base of anothir precipitous 
mountain-ridge nearly two miles to the north-west. It 
does not however retain its fertility, but is stony and 

At 2'50 we had the little village of Akaubar a short 
distance on our right ; and tliree-quarters of an hour after- 
wards, having despaired of finding either shade or water, 
we dismounted, and, sitting down on the parched soil, 
proceeded to satisfy the cravings of hunger. Ten hours 
of constant and vigorous exercise had considerably whetted 
our appetites, and we did ample justice to the viands our 
servants had brought from the city, notwithstanding the 
absence of chairs and tables, and exposure to the scorching 
rays of an eastern sun. 

Opposite the place where we now squatted a little group 
of conical hills rises up in the centre of the plain, and on 
the brow of one of them stands a white cupola which is 
seen from afar, called Wely Habes. The village of Ta- 
wany was only about twenty-five minutes distant, but, as 
it stands bleak and desolate-looking on the parched plain, 
without a tree, or green shrub, or patch of verdure to 
relieve the painful whiteness, it presented no attraction to 
lead us away from our path or bring us mto contact with 
swarms of bloodthirsty flea.«. 

We mounted again at 4*10, and proceeded in a course 
that led us nearer to the mountain-range on our left. We 
here met vast droves of sheep led by wild-looking shep- 
herds from the distant mountains of Kurdis^tan. The 


costume of these men is very singular. A conical felt cap 
like that of the Persians is their uniform head-dress, and 
a square-shaped coat of the same material almost com- 
pletely envelops them, the opcmng in front merely serv- 
ing to display the ends of a pair of formidable pistols and 
the hilt of a heavy scunitar. Two little patches are 
roughly stitched to the coat, into which is inserted a large 
club, their universal weapon in minor quarrels.^ Their 
sheep and goats are small and shaggy, some of the latter 
having spiral horns of enormous length. Neither the 
shepherds nor their flocks can easily be distinguished at 
any considerable distance from the dull white plains over 
which they roam, on their way from their far distant 
homes to the market at Damascus. 

In an horn- we turned up a wild gorge that here opens 
the mountain-chain to its centre. A small stream forces 
its way through it, and a road was in former days hewn 
out along the side of the perpendicular cliff, but now it is 
almost completely blocked up by the huge masses of rock 
that in the course of ages have tumbled down from the 
toppling precipices overhead. At the best the ravine 
never averaged more than from fifteen to twenty feet in 
width, but at present it is in places so narrow that loaded 
mules cannot go through it ; while the walls of rock on 
each side rise up to the height of several liundi'cd feet. 
After wmding for ten minutes through this sublime pass 
we came to a basin-like cavity in which is situated a 
small village, the towering cliffs overhanging it on the 
south side being literally honeycombed with sepulchral 
caves. My companions thought we had reached M'alula, 
* See sketch at head of chapter. 


and inquired the way to the convent of St. George, but 
we were no little astonished to find that both Malula and 
its convent were still a good hour distant, and that the 
name of the village we had thus by chance entered was 
Jubb 'Adin. We would fain have lingered among these 
curious tombs to observe their structure and search lor 
some inscription that might record the name of the place 
or the date of these singular monuments ; but the sun had 
already sunk from view behind the lofty summits of Anti- 
libanus, and, having wandered from the regular path, we 
did not wisli to be benighted amid the wild glens through 
which we had yet to wend our weary way. 

We turned nearly due east, and ascending the steep 
side of the basin soon reached the summit, from which we 
could look down into another, similar in character to the 
preceding, but larger. Through this a road passes from 
Damascus to Yabrud, which, during the summer months, 
is the route taken by the Tartar post to Aleppo and Con- 
stantinople, in consequence of the Arabs infesting the 
ordinary caravan-road. Having crossed this ravine, Ave 
came to the brow of another, still larger and wilder than 
the former. The lofty ridge of rock on the right is here 
severed in two places, leaving a narrow ridge between 
the deep gashes. On the summit of this ridge stands the 
little convent of St. George, and along the base of the 
cliff on its southern side clusters the village of IM'alula. 

The brief twilight was fast waning as we knocked at 
the gate of the convent : it was soon tlirown open, hoAv- 
ever, and we met witli a licarty reception from the worthy 
old superior, with whom we had been previously ac- 
quainted. Some of his friends from the city were with 


him on a visit, and among others the agent of the patri- 
arch Maxiraus, a shrewd and clever monk. The superior 
is a Damascene of good family, and though he has taken 
the vow of perpetual poverty he is possessed of a consider- 
able amount of property in the city. It is said that the 
patriarch keeps him here to prevent his relatives exercis- 
ing such an influence over liim as might lead him to 
alienate his fortune from the church. After pipes and 
coffee had been served, and nearly an hour passed in 
interesting conversation, our servant came to inform us 
that an apartment had been prepared for our exclusive 
use, and that dinner was laid. Our worthy host begged 
us to lay aside ceremony, and, rising, ushered us to 
our chamber, where all had been got ready with true 
Eastern despatch. He now urgently pressed us to permit 
him to send us a bottle of the wine for which his convent 
has been long celebrated, and which our servants had 
assured him we would not drink; but we politely de- 
clined, greatly to his astonishment. 

October 20th. — I have already stated that the ledge of 
rock on which the convent of St. George stands is sepa- 
rated from the chain, of which it appears to have at one 
time formed a part, by two deep chasms like huge fissures, 
one on each side. It is much lower than the adjoining 
peaks, and retreats considerably from their line, thus leav- 
ing in front toward the south a large open space, now 
filled up with the houses and gardens of the village. The 
convent is built on a platform of rock near the brow of the 
ledge from which there is a sheer precipice of some 200 
feet to the houses below. Beyond the ravines the cliffs 
rise to more than four times that altitude, sloping upwards 


at an angle of about thirty-five degrees from the wide 
basin on the north, but presenting bold and rugged j)er- 
pendicular laces to the south. The ravine on the east 
side is the grandest and altogether the most remarkable. 
Descending from the convent during a subsequent visit, I 
entered it near a little fountain that gushes out from the 
base of the mountain behind. At first the walls of rock 
on each side are low, but they gradually increase until 
they attain an altitude of some 200 feet or more. The 
chasm is often not more than three feet wide, and seldom 
exceeds seven. The sides are jagged and irregular, but 
the one is an exact impression of the other, thus showing 
that in former times the cliffs were united, but by some 
fearful shock were rent to their foundations and a path 
opened up. Near the centre of the pass a huge mass of 
rock has become detached from the upper part and has 
fallen to within a few feet of the bottom, where it became 
wedged between the opposite walls and still remains, 
threatening to crush every successive wanderer that passes 
beneath it. Wliile winding through the dark defile I 
could scarce refrain from a shudder when I looked up- 
ward at the gradually narrowing opening overhead with 
its projecting angles and toppling summits. Toward the 
southern extremity the chasm expands, but enormous 
blocks of rock have tumbled down, and almost fill up the 
cavity. On emerging, a scene of rare grandeur and beauty 
suddenly opens up in front. Close on the left is the con- 
vent of St. Thecla perched on the side of the rock and 
almost wholly constructed in a spacious cave or fissure. 
On the right is the village, its terraced houses clinging to 
the steep declivity, while beyond it rises a towering cliff, 


whose sides, as well as those of the cliffs and precipices all 
round, are thickly dotted with the dark openings to sepul- 
cliral caves. In the centre is a sweet vale clothed with 
the rich foliage of the walnut and mulberry, among which 
broken columns and crumbling ruins may here and there 
be seen, now half concealed by the little terraces and 
garden walls. 

After a hasty walk round the hill on which the convent 
is built we proceeded to examine the spacious sepulchral 
caves which completely fill its sides. So close are these 
tombs to each other, that in later ages doors of communi- 
cation were opened between them, and large dwellings 
thus formed. In one of them we found a wine-press in 
full operation, and in the same establishment was also a 
dibs manufactory. Dibs is the name of a rich syrup made 
by boiling the juice of the grape. We did not succeed in 
discovering any inscription among the tombs or ruins. We 
now resolved to scale the lofty cliff on the east, that we 
might from thence gain a good view of this section of 
Antilibanus. The summit did not appear more than seven 
or eight minutes' distant, yet it was not till after more 
than half an hour's hard climbing up the naked and slip- 
pery rock that we reached it. Our toil was well repaid, 
however, by the splendid view we were able to command, 
and by the distinct conception we were able to form of the 
general features of the several mountain-ranges. We had 
now reached the loftiest of those gigantic terraces which 
form the eastern slopes of Antilibanus, and the upper ter- 
race we found to be the broadest of all. From the spot on 
which we stood on its eastern brow to the foot of the 
mountains on the north-west, Ave estimated at about two 


hours ; but I afterwards found from careful observations 
that the true distance is nearly nine miles. The great 
range here alluded to is the central chain of Antilibanus, 
which runs along the eastern side of the plain of Zebduny, 
and continues in an unbroken line (north-east by compass) 
till it sinks down into the plain of Hums. The plateau at 
its base resembles a plain as seen from a distance ; and it 
is comparatively level, though here and there intersected 
by deep valleys and watercourses, with low lines of swelling 
hills between them. The soil is light and stony, but not 
barren. The rains and snows of winter constitute its only 
supplies of moisture, and it is consequently parched by the 
summer's sun. Some portions of it are cultivated by the 
inhabitants of the two villages that are situated in it, and 
the numerous others along its borders. 

We now stood upon the second mountain-chain, which 
forms the supporting wall of this upper terrace. The sum- 
mits of this ridge are but little elevated above the level of 
the terrace itself. This correspondence in elevation does 
not appear at first sight, as immediately behind the brow 
of the ridge the action of the water forcing its way tlirough 
the yawning chasms into the plain below has, in the course 
of long ages, worn out a series of basin-like cavities ; and 
in traversing these the traveller seems to be at one time 
passing through the deep defiles, and at another clambering 
over the intervening ridges, of a lofty mountain-chain. It 
is only when a commanding position is gained, and the eye 
can take in the whole panorama, that the general features 
are perceived, and the peculiarity of their construction 
becomes apparent. The several ridges which constitute 
these eastern slopes then seem like the crests of so many 


broad waves, graceful in form and gentle in slope as seen 
to the leeward, but bold and frowning as we meet tlicm 
surmounted by tlieir toppling cliffs. 

This second ridge commences at the upper fountain of 
Helbon, passes behind Saidnaya, and then continues its 
course to Jubb ' Adin, M alula, and Yabrud. A t the latter 
place it branches, the principal branch turning to the 
northward and joining the main chain. 

The third general ridge begins at Menin, and runs from 
thence, as before stated, to a point in the parallel of Jebel 
Tiniyeh, where it sinks down into the plain of Kuteifeh. 
Here, however, it is connected by broken ground and low 
hills with another mountain-chain, which commences some 
distance to the north-west, and has been already referred 
to as extending eastward along the side of the gi'eat plain 
or valley to Kuryetein and Palmyra. This ridge forms the 
supporting wall of the second terrace, in which is the plain 
of Saidnaya. 

T^\\Q fourth general ridge is the Salahiyeh range, wliich 
divides the Sahra from the plain of Damascus. It com- 
mences at the foot of Hermon, near Katana, and runs 
tlience along the plain of Damascus to Jebel Tiniyeh, 
where it separates into two branches, enclosing a little vale 
through which I afterwards passed in going from Kuteifeh 
to Maksura. The branches are both intersected by the 
river Mukubrit, and beyond it they extend eastward in 
serrated lines along the border of the desert to Palmyra. 

The several ridges are not parallel : they open out like 
a fan, having the noble peak of Hermon for iheir centre. 
I have been particular in describing the features of this 
great mountain-range of Antilibanus, because it has hitherto 


been a terra incognita to cartographers. A glance at the 
map accompanying this work will be sufficient to show 
what a transformation the face of the country has under- 
gone even since Berghaus's map was published ; and no 
later author, so far as I know, has attempted any improve- 
ments. There are but few places here sufficiently inte- 
resting to invite the attention of the antiquarian or the 
ordinary traveller, and the district has consequently been 
avoided by the one and overlooked by the other. Many 
travellers journey yearly to Palmyra, and yet no ffood 
description has hitherto been given to the public of the 
great route between Damascus and that interesting city. 
It is hoped therefore that the present sketches may serve 
to fill up a blank in the geography of this land.^ 

Having completed our observations, we descended by 
the same way we came up, and fovmd a sumptuous break- 
fast spread for us in the old convent. Our morning's walk 
had prepared us for doing ample justice to it. 

M'aliila is manifestly a site of remote antiquity, but I 
have been unable to discover any clue to its ancient name 
or history. I made such search for inscriptions as my time 
admitted of, but in vain. I have examined the ancient 
geographical works and Itineraries with no better success ; 
and even in the ' Notitia3 Ecclesiastics ' I have discovered 
no name whose analogy might lead X^) identilication. A 

■^ Ritter has collected within the compass of a few pages the substance 
of all the information we possess of the eastern slopes of Antilibanua; 
and a perusal of that section of his great work will satisfy the reader 
that his remark is just when he thus writes: " Aber audi diese Angaben 
lassen noch Vieles zu wiinschen in dieser bis heute Terra inoxjnita geblie- 
benen Landschaft am Ostabhange des Anti-Libanon die auch schon 
Berghaus auf seiner Kartenzeichnung mit Kecht als sehr zweifelhaft 
dargestellt hatte." — Paliistina uud Syrien, iv. 25U-G8. 


tradition of the monks is that it was formerly called Lao- 
dicea, but its position does not accord with that of any of 
the cities of that name mentioned by ancient writers. It 
is somewhat remarkable that the inhabitants of Malula still 
use the Syriac language, though they are also acquainted 
with Arabic. A few rites peculiar to the ancient Jacobites 
are likewise observed here in marriage ceremonies by both 
Mohammedans and Christians, though the latter now be- 
long to the Greek and Greek Catholic Churches. The 
only other places where the Syriac is spoken in Syria are 
the two neighbouring villages of 'Ain et-Tineh and Bukh'a. 
The former is a little over a mile and a half south of Ma- 
lula, and the latter about three miles north-east. 

We bade adieu to our worthy host and mounted our 
horses at ten o'clock. Our route lay up the north side of 
the basin to the great plateau, wliich we reached in half 
an hour. In another half-hour we passed the small village 
of Bukha, lying in a little bleak valley on our right. This 
valley crosses the road, and cuts deeply into the plateau 
for miles on the left. Near its extremity I saw on a 
rising ground, during a subsequent visit, the \illage of 
'Asal el-Werd, about five miles distant. A few minutes 
afterwards we reached the brow of a considerable declivity, 
leading down into a lower and more fertile part of the 
plateau ; and from thence, away in front of us, through 
a break in the ridge, we saw the white houses and bloom- 
ing gardens and orchards of Yabrud. Our route lay along 
the base of the Malulu range, which, owing to the lower 
level of this section of the plateau, seems to have a con- 
siderable elevation. An hour and a half smart riding 
brouo-ht us to the little village of Eas el-'Ain, situated at 


the entrance of the sublime gorge which here intersects 
the ridge, opening up a way to Yabriid. Among the 
modern hovels we observed some few broken shafts and 
large hewn stones, which were probably once used in en- 
closing the fine fountain that here springs up. Turning to 
the rio;ht, and windincr for a few minutes amono; luxuriant 
vineyards, we entered the ravine, whose sides are naked 
rocky precipices, pierced, like those of Jubb 'Adin and 
M'alula, with numerous sepulchral caves. Five minutes 
from Ras el-'Ain we reached another large and beautiful 
fountain gusliing out from the foot of the cliiF on our left. 
In the verdant meadow along the banks of the stream that 
flows from it we picketed our horses, while we ourselves 
sat down in the cool shade beside the crystal waters to 
enjoy a few minutes' repose and eat our noonday meal. 
A friendly natur brought us some fine-looking bunches of 
grapes, but we found them still sour and unpalatable, not- 
withstanding their tempting appearance. We were told 
that it would take another month to ripen them, as both 
air and soil are cold. 

We left this beautiful spot at 1"25, and continued our 
course through the ravine, which is not narrow or barren 
like those in this range we had previously A'isited, but of 
considerable width, and densely filled with the luxuriant 
foliage of the orchards that line the banks of the stream. 
As we advanced, the view in front became more interest- 
ing and picturesque. The conical summit of a snow-wliite 
hill appeared over the trees, while a little to the left the 
terraced roofs of Yabrud could be seen through every 
opening. We entered this fine and populous village at 


As we passed along the streets I observed on every side 
remains of ancient buildings of considerable extent and 
beauty. Among these was a square tower, almost similar 
in form and character to that at Saidnfiya. But the prin- 
cipal object of interest is the church, a large building of 
high antiquity, whose walls are constructed of massive 
stones, well hewn and jointed, the layers near the founda- 
tion having in some places the peculiar Phoenician hevel. 
It is probable that the building was first constructed for a 
temple, and afterwards, when Christianity became the re- 
ligion of the empire, it was dedicated to the service of the 
true God ; and it appears that ever since it has remained 
in the hands of the Christians, so that it may thus be one 
of the most ancient ecclesiastical structures in this part of 

The name Yabrud at once suggests the Jahruda of 
Ptolemy, mentioned in connection with Laodicea ad Li- 
banum.^ It became an episcopal city at a very early 
period, as its bishop, Genadius, was present at the Council 
of Nice, and it was subsequently represented at the Council 
of Chalcedon.^ Nothing more is known of it, but that it 
remains to the present day the seat of a bishop. Its situ- 
ation is pleasant and salubrious. The opening in the 
mountains to the west affords a passage for the fresh and 
healthful breezes which blow during the hottest days of 
summer, while the broad undulating plain to the east 
leaves the site free and cheerful. Though the sun's rays 
beat with great power on the white gravelly soil and 
chalky mountains, yet the temperature in the shade is 

Ptolem, Geog. v. 15. » S. Paulo, Geog. Sac. p. 294. 


generally very low. As we rode through the streets we 
were objects of curiosity to crowds of men, women, and boys, 
who came flocking round us. There was no insolence or 
antipathy manifested by any of them : on the contrary, all 
seemed anxious we should remain there for the night. The 
inhabitants are robust and healthy, and there is a freshness 
and elasticity in their looks and movements which are the 
sure indications of pure air and perfect freedom from the 
dread influence of miasma. It would appear, in iact, as 
if the only disease known among them were ophthalmia, 
which is no doubt occasioned by the dazzling whiteness of 
the chalk hills and flinty plains around. 

We left Yabrud at 2*10, and after half an hour's easy 
ride up a gentle slope reached the summit of a low ridge 
which strikes out from the hills on the right, and runs 
diagonally across the plain to Nebk. From this point wc 
looked down into a fine fertile vale which only requires 
water to make it a paradise, and on the slopes beyond it 
saw the little village of Kusttil. In half an hour more we 
had passed the plain, and were standing in the shade of 
tlie large khan in the centre of tliis villixge. Beside us was 
the great caravan-road from Damascus to Aleppo, and we 
could trace it along the level plain till it wound in among 
the white tells that almost concealed Nebk from our view. 
A few hundred yards below us, on the side of the road, is 
a large pond of pure water supplied by a subterranean 
aqueduct coming in from the west. It is similar in struc- 
ture to those already referred to in the plain of Jerud, and 
is about a mile in length. 

The name KustuI suggests the Latin Castellum ; and it 
is highly probable that a Roman castle once occupied this 

VOL. I. R 


site, serving to protect the caravans, and to afford shelter 
and food perhaps to passing travellers on this great road. 
This place is mentioned by Abulfeda as giving the name 
to a division or section of the country.^ 

At 3*15 we again mounted and set out at a quick pace 
along the great caravan-road, which here rims in a direc- 
tion south-west toward Hermon, whose snow-crowned 
summit soon came in sight. This is a bleak and dreary 
district. There are no trees, there is no verdure, there is 
nothing to attract the eye or excite the attention. The 
blasted gravelly soil covers the undulating plain on every 
side, and the mountains rise up beyond, naked and deso- 
late ; while over all is the unvarying blue sky, and the 
scorching sun pouring down a torrent of fierce rays on the 
luckless traveller. We spurred on our horses, passing in 
quick succession the little cisterns which in former days 
were constructed to supply the wants of the thirsty voyager, 
but are now, like everything else in this land, in a state of 
ruin. The road, however, has defied both time and the 
Turks ; and notwithstanding the wear of the one and the 
neglect of the other, is still proverbially good — that is, 
good for a Syrian road. The plain is level and the soil 
firm, and it is consequently impossible that it could be 

About an hour after leaving Kustiil we saw the little 
village of Kaldun high up on the mountains on our left, 
and in an hour and three-quarters more we entered a 
narrow defile, which completely intersects the mountain- 
chain. The winter stream from Malula, after a course of 
a little over three miles across the plain, by 'Ain et-Tineh, 

» Tab. Syr. p. 27. 


here enters the mountains and forces its way. through a 
wild ravine to the plain of Kuteifeh. The road winds 
along its bank ; and in one place, where the bed is narrow, 
a broad way has been hewn in tlie solid rock along the side 
of the cliff above. At the entrance of the pass is a large 
ruined khan. 

The sun had set, and the brief twilight was fast waning ; 
but the moon shone brightly, and the rugged rocks and 
toppling cliffs far overhead assumed a thousand fantastic 
shapes, as the silvery light fell upon projecting portions, 
and enveloped the intervals in deepest gloom. It seemed 
as if the wild glen had suddenly become tenanted by all 
the Jans and Efrits of the Muslera world. The hoarse call 
of the partridge and the plaintive cry of the jackal occa- 
sionally broke in upon the dead silence of nature. This 
defile is not always safe, even by day, and at night none 
but large caravans would venture to pass it. We had 
been warned at Yabrud of our danger in setting out at so 
late an hour, but we felt here, as we had often done under 
similar circumstances, that the very dreariness of the place 
was our greatest source of security. In forty minutes we 
emerged on the open plain, and thirty-five minutes after- 
wards entered the village of Kuteifeh. It was not without 
some difficulty we got accommodation for ourselves and 
our horses ; but we at last succeeded in finding a large 
court- yard and an empty room. Our servants sooti pre- 
pared dinner, and in the mean time we entered into con- 
versation with our host — an old man, with a long silvery 
beard and voluminous turban. After a hearty meal we 
spread out our lehafs, and were soon asleep. 

October 2Ut. — We were up again ere the first dawn 

K 2 


of morning had tinged the eastern hills, and had com- 
menced negotiations for a guide to Maksura. When we 
first introduced the subject, many a fear was expressed for 
our safety, and many a doubt suggested whether the Arabs 
would permit us to pass, at least so comfortably clad as we 
now were. We were assured a strong guard of villagers 
would be absolutely necessary ; but after much talking 
we persuaded the son of our host to accompany us alone, 
at moderate wages. Before starting, however, I wished to 
obtain some bearings, and clambered up to the roof of the 
house ; but on my object being known, I was invited by 
our new guide to the top of the minaret of the mosk. 
Considerably surprised at such an invitation from a Muslem, 
I readily accompanied him; and we met the Muezzin 
descending, after having summoned the faithful to morning 
prayer. The sun had not risen, and the features of the 
extensive panorama had not yet become distinctly de- 
veloped, so that I had a few minutes to examine the great 
khan to which this mosk belongs. It is a large quad- 
rangular building of excellent masonry, containing several 
spacious courts, with numerous apartments for the mer- 
chants and their wares, and ample accommodation for their 
horses. It was erected by the celebrated Senan Pasha 
A.H. 988 ; but since his time it has been totally neglected, 
and is now fast falling to ruin. 

From the spot on which I now stood I had a fine view 
of the great plain I had formerly traversed on my way to 
Tadmor. The gardens of Jerud and 'Atny were visible ; 
more to the east, and much nearer, was Muaddamiyeh, and 
a little to the right, beyond it, the guide pointed out the 
gardens of Paihaibeh, at the entrance of a broad valley in 


the low mountain-range. Westward I looked over the 
plains of Kuteifeh and Saidnaya to the rugged summit of" 
Jebel Shurabin, and on the south-west Tiniyeh reared up 
its rounded head, bare and barren, while a little to the 
right of it was the abrupt termination of the Menin 

At 7*20 we mounted our horses and rode off across the 
plain due south. On reaching the foot of the hills we 
struck up a shallow winding valley, and at 8*3 gained the 
summit of the first ridge. Here I first observed the division 
in this range of hills referred to above. Turning to the 
left, we followed a narrow path down a barren wady to the 
side of a little dreary plain. Large flocks of sheep and 
goats were scattered over the white hills : one is astonished 
that they can pick up suflicient lierbage on these blasted 
slopes to supply the wants of nature. The shepherds, 
hale and strong young men, were all armed with long 
muskets and pistols ; and our guide assured us that forays 
are often made among them by the Bcdawin of the great 
desert. After skirting the southern side of the little plain, 
we came at nine o'clock to the base of a line of lofty barren 
hills running at right angles to our path, and we liere 
turned to the right down a wild glen in a direction nearly 
due south. A few minutes afterwards we passed a small 
brackish fountain, of which our guide drank greedily, 
though to us the water tasted nauseous and bitter. The 
scenery increased in grandeur as we advanced. The rocks 
on each side of the ravine rose up in broken and jagged 
masses, and tlw) smooth summits of the mountains were 
intermixed with towering clifis. 

About half an hour below the fountain, on surmountiuL' 


a rugged eminence, the plain of" Damascus suddenly opened 
up before us, extending westward to the base of Hermon, 
confined on the south-west by the low ranges of Jebel el- 
Aswad and Jebel Mania, but towards the south stretcliing 
out again to the Jebel Hauran ; while on the east it is shut 
in by the graceful group of the Tellul. As viewed from 
this point, it appears as if almost completely surrounded 
by mountains. Our guide appeared to feel considerable 
anxiety as we approached the plain ; he seized his musket 
with a firmer grasp, examined the lock, and " girded up 
his raiment," as if preparing for action. Many an exciting 
tale, too, did he relate of the encounters of his people with 
the Bedawin, of his own " hair-breadth 'scapes," and of 
the danger he now encountered in acting as our guide. 
As we rode along, therefore, we kept a sharp look-out for 
wandering bandits. We ourselves knew that we had 
reached the borders of civilization, if we had not already 
passed them, and that, if any roving party of Bedawin 
should appear, we ran a fair chance of being plundered. 
As we surmounted the last ridge, we looked anxiously 
over the broad expanse of plain now lying before us, but 
we souijht in vain for the black tent, or the wide-spreading 
flocks, or the roving cavaliers. The ploughman was there 
with his oxen, and the village shepherd with his few 
goats, and the peasant with his hoe, all peacefully labouring. 
Our guide was pleased, and we felt disappointed — perhaps 
agreeably. Maksura was now before us, and the road 
straight ; we consequently paid ofi" our guide, who returned 
in peace, while we cantered forward to the» village. The 
plain is here fertile and perfectly level. On our left, as 
we advanced in a direction about south-east, the hills on 


the left receded towards an opening in their line opposite 
Maksura. Through this opening a small stream, called 
Nahr el-Muktibrit, descends from Ruhaibch to the plain. 
At 10'20 we reached the banks of the stream and the gate 
of Maksura. 

Our attention had for some time been attracted by a 
large and heavy building rising high above the flat roofs of 
the houses, and which, from its situation, on the top of a 
gentle eminence, forms a conspicuous object. On entering 
the gate we proceeded to it at once through the narrow 
and tortuous streets, and, on reaching it, were no little sur- 
prised at the size, beauty, and completeness of the structure. 
It is a Corinthian temple, perhaps unique in design. At 
each end is a handsome pediment supported on semi- 
columns, in the centre of which is a spacious arched door- 
way ornamented with pilasters and deep mouldings. The 
cornice and frieze of the pediment are carried round the 
whole building and supported by pilasters. The exterior 
doors admit to small vestibules, and these open by arched 
doorways into the cell, whicli is nearly square ; its walls 
are ornamented with pilasters supporting a richly-wrought 
cornice. The roof has fallen, but the walls are nearly 
perfect, and are fine specimens of Roman masonry. 

It will be seen that there was a clear passage through 
this temple from east to west, all the doors being exactly in 
a line. On the eastern front, near the north-eastern angle, 
is a Greek inscription in large characters inscribed on the 
smooth wall, without tablet or any other mark ; so that one 
is almost inclined to suspect that it wtxs put on at a later 
date. The inscription is as follows : — 




The temple was thus erected in the year of the Seleu- 
cidae 557, which corresponds with a.d. 246, during the 
reign of the two Philips. The word <I)(X(5r9ra;v has been 
designedly erased by his successors, no doubt to mark their 
abhorrence of the foul arts by which he had accomplished 
the ruin of his much-loved predecessor.^ This date is of 
some importance, as tending to establish the fact that it 

' Mr. Hogg, in his notes on ' Greek Inscriptions from Syria and the 
Hauran,' read before the Hoyal Society of Literature, suggests another 
cause for the ei'asure of the name of Philip in this inscription. He thus 
writes : " It has been a subject of great controvei-sy whether or not the 
elder Philip had embraced Christianitj'. The afiSrmative would seem to 

be the fact from Jerome and Eusebius. And if the letters v^'i Ai( 

have originally been cut where Mr. Porter marks an erasure on purpose, 
this circumstance would appear in some degree confirmatory of it; for 
the temple, at first dedicated to Jui^iter, might possibly have been 
aftervmrds converted into a Christian church, when Philip himself became 
a Christian." I scarcely think however that, even thougli Philip had 
become a Christian, he would have ventured during his short reign to 
change a temple of Jupiter into a church. Mi-. Hogg's suggestion as to 
the erased letters is no doubt correct. They are as follows : — 
■t/X/vrTiav u'^icrrai S« - - 


was the era of the Seleucidce, and not that of Alexander, 
which was in former times ahnost universally used in 83013. 
Philip was a native of Syria, and erected there some 
important monuments, the ruins of which, as we shall 
hereafter see, still exist. 

During the year 1854 I sent a copy of this inscription, 
with some others, from the Hauran, to John Hogg, Esq., 
Hon. Sec. to the Eoyal Society ; and in reply he informed 
me that it had been copied so long ago as 1821 by the 
Count di Vidua, and published both by him, and after- 
wards by Bockh in the ' Corpus Grac. Inscrip.,' vol. iii. 
p. 288. Mr. Hogg suggests that the name of the place is 
Aiehala, AixaXoc. The name of the village is at present 
written Dumair in the government registers; but it is 
better known to the Arabs as Maksura. 

Ascending to the top of the temple by a staircase in tlie 
south-eastern angle, I obtained a fine view over the vast 
plain from the Tellul to Hermon. My attention was 
directed by several of the villagers, who sat by my side, to 
three large castle-like buildings several hours distant south- 
by-east, and I was informed that they are of great strength 
and beauty, containing some white sculptured stones of 
great value. They called them the Diura, or " convents." 
They are situated on the desert plain between the lakes and 
the Tellul. 

When we were about to mount our horses and return to 
Damascus, the sheikh, seeing the interest we appeared to 
take in the examination of this fine ruin, informed us that 
half an hour east of the village the remains of a great city 
lie upon the plain ; and thougli wc had a long journey still 
before us, Ave resolved to visit them. Accompanied by the 

R 3 


sheikh on his fine mare, and several of his people on foot, 
we set out at a rapid pace. After leaving the village we 
noticed along the sides of the road several sarcophagi, and 
many sepulchral caves excavated in the chalky rock of the 
plain. We also passed three subterranean aqueducts, 
which still bring down copious streams from the mountains 
on the left. The third aqueduct has a strongly-built 
reservoir, and immediately below this, about two miles 
distant from Maksura, commence the ruins of the town. 
Heaps of hewn stones lie strewn over the plain, mixed 
with broken shafts and moulded cornices. On the eastern 
side of them are the foundations of a large and strong 
fortress, nearly sqviare, and about three hundred yards in 
the side. There were two gates, one on the north and the 
other on the south, flanked by heavy towers of excellent 
masonry. At the angles there are likewise massive towers. 
In the interior of this fortress some large and beautiful 
buildings once stood, but the whole is now so completely 
ruined, that we could form no conception of their character. 
I galloped from ruin to ruin during my short stay, in the 
hope of discovering some inscription, but in vain. I have 
little doubt, however, but that a careful survey would be 
attanded with better success. We were informed that in 
the mountain-side, a short distance beyond the ruins, is a 
divan, or "theatre," and another copious fountain of water. 
We had no time left to visit them, and were reluctantly 
compelled to turn away from these singular ruins. 

There can be no doubt that tliis town is of Roman 
origin, and there is no evidence that it has been inhabited 
since the time of the Saracenic conquest. It was a strong 
border city, intended to keep the Arabs in check, and 


probably those other large buildings away to the south- 
ward constituted part of a line of fortresses erected along 
the borders of the desert. I have not been able to discover 
any reference to this place in any author, Greek, Latin, 
or Arab. In the Antonine Tables there is a route given 
as follows : — 

Geroda M.P. 

TelsecB ,, 16 

Damasco ,, 24- 

Aere „ 32 &c. 

Now Geroda might possible/ be identified with the mo- 
dern Jencd, a large and flourishing village on the great 
caravan-route to Palmyra. From Jerud to Maksiira is 
about sixteen Eoman miles, if we allow for the curves in 
passing through the valley of the Miikiibrit, and from 
hence to Damascus is twenty-four miles. I merely suggest 
this correspondence in distances, and in the names Geroda 
and Jerud, to call the attention of others to the subject, 
who may have more time and better opportunities than I 
have for the prosecution of such investigations. 

We now galloped back to Maksuia along the banks of 
an ancient canal, which formerly conveyed a supply of 
water to the town, whose ruins we had left behind. The 
sheikh pressed us to remain with him during the night, and, 
on our refusing, said we would not surely leave the village 
without partaking of his hospitality, and tlius honouring 
him in some way. This we could not well refuse after 
the kindness he had already shown us ; we consequently 
remained for a short time and partook of a hearty lunch. 
Mounting our horses at 3 * 10, we started for Damascus. 
On leaving the village we met a small party of Arabs on 
their beautiful mares; they were tlie chiefs of a tribe of 


the Anezy now encamped beside the lakes, and had come 
here to negotiate for wheat and barley. As we rode 
through the gardens we observed large hewn stones scat- 
tered about, as if the buildings of the villages had at one 
time extended thus far. Crossing the dry bed of the 
canal, we struck across the level plain in a straight course 
for Damascus, whose forest gardens we saw in the distance. 
The plain has a fertile soil, but is here altogether uncul- 
tivated, and the rank vegetation by which it is covered in 
spring is principally devoured by the vast flocks of the 
Bedawin. In two hours and a half we reached the fine 
village of 'Adhra, whose fields and gardens are abundantly 
watered by the great canal Taura, one of the streams from 
the Barada. Here we passed through a large encampment 
of Arabs. The sun had already gone down, and darkness 
soon set in ; but we had a good road and a bright moon. 
It was past 9 o'clock when we knocked at Bab Tuma, and 
later still ere we reached our own houses ; there, however, 
the fatigues of the journey were soon forgotten amid the 
comforts of home. 




Druze war — Fine scenery of the plain — "Harran of the Columns " — 
Mouth of the Abmia — The character and extent of the South and 
East lakes — A battle-field — Singular ruins — Adventure in the 
mai-shes — Tell es-Salahiyeh, an Assyi-ian mound — The lake Hijaneh 
and mouth of the Pharpar — The SSfJt. 

During the summer of 1852 the Druzes of the Hauran 
had refused to contribute their number of conscripts to the 
regular army ; and the serashier, or commander-in-chief 
in Syria, was ordered to march against them with all his 
available forces. During our previous journey his army 
was in the field ; but having been worsted in several severe 
skirmishes, he withdrew his troops ere the winter set in, 
leaving only strong outposts to guard the plain of Damascus 
against any forays of the rebels. While the hostihties 
continued, travelling in the eastern and southern divisions 
of the plain was not safe ; now, however, the campaign 
having terminated, an excursion might be made with com- 
parative safety. The lakes I had never as yet visited, and 
the lower parts of the Barada and 'Awaj remained still 
unexplored. I had often projected an excursion into this 
terra incognita, but more important labours had hitherto 
prevented me irom carrying out my plans. A short in- 
terval of leisure now occurring, and opportunity offering, 
I got up a strong party, secured an intelligent guide, and 
made all necessary arrangements lor an excursion. 


November 11 th. — Our party assembled this morning at 
an early hour. It consisted, in addition to Messrs. Eobson 
and Barnett, who were my companions on the last journey, 
of the Eev. G. Lansing, and M. Anton Bulad, the learned 
Greek monk, whose name has been before refen'ed to in 
this work. We had also two servants and a guide, all 
well mounted. We left the East Gate at 7 • 57. The air 
was fresh and frosty, and the wind blew keenly in our 
faces as we rode along the banks of the Akrabany, one of 
the canals from the Barada. Ere long the rising sun dis- 
solved the hoar-frost that covered the grass and foliage, 
and lighted up the distant hills^so that they appeared like 
gigantic gilded domes rising over the forests of the plain. 
A cloud rested on the summit of Hermon, and the deep 
sound of thunder was heard in the distance ; we therefore 
feared some approaching change. As the day advanced, 
however, every cloud disappeared, and every hill and 
mountain round the whole horizon stood forth in bold 
relief from the clear blue sky. It was a glorious day ! 
But why speak of" the weather in the East ? Amid tlie 
clouds and gloom of Old England, and the mists of Scot- 
land, and the showers of the Emerald Isle, the weather may 
form a topic of conversation ; and a glorious November 
day would there indeed be a rara avis. But in Syria, 
where for six long months the deep azure of the heavens 
is scarcely ever shaded by a passing cloud, why speak here 
of a glorious day? However, it was glorious, even for 
Syria. The atmosphere was transparent as crystal; a 
passing shower had dispelled the quivering haze that 
looms over the plain during the summer heats ; and the 
magic influence of the mirage did not convert the parched 


soil into placid lakes with " verdant isles among ;" Nature, 
in fact, appeared as it existed. 

We followed the ordinary eastern road for some dis- 
tance, and then, turning to the right, passed between the 
villages of Meliha and Balat, skirting the side of the 
latter, in which we observed some fragments of columns 
and large sarcophagi. A ride of eighteen minutes more 
among orchards and fruitful fields brought us to Zibdin ; 
and at 8'50 we reached 'Ain Halush, a large fountain 
sending forth a fine stream, and watering, as I afterwards 
learned, five large villages with their territories. It is by 
far the most copious fountain in the whole plain. Our 
road now ^lay along the left bank of the stream for ten 
minutes, when we crossed it by a substantial bridge of one 
arch, and seven minutes afterwards entered Nolch. Here 
I stopped for a time to make observations, and ascertain 
the names of the several villages in sight. The people we 
found sullen, and unwilling to give any information what- 

The orchards and forest-gardens of Damascus extend to 
this place, and we had hitherto ridden beneath the shade 
of the walnut, the apricot, or the olive; but there was 
now before us an open plain, perfectly level, extending far 
away to the east and soutli. The villages that thickly 
stud its surface have each its little grove of fruit-trees and 
tapering poplars, but tlie intervals are without a tree or 
shrub. Alter passing Koleh we still found the plain well 
cultivated for some distance ; but then large patches of 
waste land began to appear, and they became more fre- 
quent and extensive as we advanced. On our left, at the 
distance of two miles and a half, was the river Barada 


meandering across the flat expanse in a course nearly due 
east. Numerous villages stand along its banks, and the 
plain near it has a richer and fresher aspect at this season, 
owing to the abundant supply of water for irrigation, 
which is led off by ancient canals. After a fast ride of 
three hours forty-three minutes from the city, we entered 
the large village of Harran el-'Awamid — the whole dis- 
tance being fourteen geographical miles. 

Harrdn el-Awamid, " Harran of the Columns," receives 
this appellation from three noble Ionic columns which 
stand in the centre of the village. There is now no build- 
ing connected with them, nor are the traces of any visible. 
They stand upon pedestals six feet high, and the total 
height to the top of the capital is about forty feet ; the 
shafts measure eleven feet six inches in circumference. 
The stone is a black basalt, very hard but porous. In the 
streets and lanes of the village I observed large numbers 
of broken shafts and hewn stones, showing that some im- 
portant structures once stood in this place. 

From the terraced roofs of the houses that cluster round 
the pillars I got an extensive and clear view of this section 
of the plain ; and here, again, my attention was called to the 
three ruined buildings called the Diura, which I had first 
seen on my visit to Maksura. One of them especially 
seemed large and lofty, and the villagers spoke in glowing 
terms of their extent, and the beauty of some of the white 
stones on the walls. All, however, refused to accompany us 
when we proposed a visit to them, and assured us that a 
hundred horsemen dare not attempt the journey. We 
heard this with sorrow ; but we still hoped for more cheer- 
ing intelligence in some other villages. A short distance 


east of Harran we distinctly saw extensive marshes filled 
with forests of gigantic reeds, intermixed with considerable 
spaces of clear water. Their border runs southward, as 1 
afterwards ascertained, about five miles; and then, sweeping 
round to the eastward for some five more, turns toward 
the north. This is a portion of the Bahret el-Kihliyeh, or 
" South Lake." 

We left Harran at 11-40, and rode straight toward the 
village of 'Ataibeh, in a direction nearly north-east, the 
border of the marshes being close on our right the whole 
way. In twenty-five minutes we forded the principal 
channel of the Barada, a little above the spot where it 
flows into a large expanse of clear water in the midst of 
the marsh. The river was here some thirty feet wide, by 
about four in depth in the centre ; but the current was 
sluggish. Two points of some importance were now esta- 
blished; namely, first, that the Barada contiuKes to flow 
during the whole summer into the lake. The present 
season had been unusually dry, no rain having fallen since 
April, except a slight shower, which could not aftect the 
river, and there having been little snow during the previous 
winter ; and yet, notwithstanding these unfavourable cir- 
cumstances, here was still a deep and wide stream. Second, 
we now also had ocular demonstration that the waters in 
the lake do not dry up during the summer. There is not, 
it is true, a large expanse of clear water, and the lofty reeds 
conceal a great part of what docs exist ; yet still there is 
some clear water, and there are marshes of vast extent. 

In half an hour more we forded the second branch of the 
Barada, not much inferior in size to the first, and, like it, 
flowing into a section of clear water, which almost en- 


compasses the large village of 'Ataibeh. After a short stay 
in this village we remounted, and proceeded eastward to 
examine the extent and boundaries of the lakes. Our 
course now lay nearly south-east along the border of the 
South Lake, which has here the same features we observed 
opposite Harran. In half an hour we reached a deep and 
wide canal, which almost seems as if it had been the work 
of man, though it is, in reality, only a natural wady. 
Through this in winter and spring the surplus waters of 
the South Lake flow northward into another. We rode on 
at a smart pace for another quarter of an hour over un- 
dulating and elevated ground, and tlaen ascended a little 
tell covered with graves, called Tell Maktel 3Iusa — the 
" Tell where Moses was slain" — the section of the lake to 
the south of it being also called Baliret Mahtel Musa. 
We could hear of no tradition attached to the spot ; but 
the situation corresponds to the place called 3Ierj Rdhet 
by Abulfeda, where, he says, a battle was fought (a.h. 64) 
between the Yemeniyeh and Kaisiyeh, in which Merwan, 
the chief of the former party, gained a signal victory. The 
field of battle he describes as in the Ghutah of Damascus, 
toward the east. The position, the ancient tombs, and the 
name of this little mound, all tend to suggest that this may 
be the spot referred to by the historian.^ Tliis was one 
of the fiercest battles that took place between the rival 
factions of the Muslems in tlie early days of Islam. 
Merwan was the khalif elect of the house of Omeiyah, and 
the Yemeniyeh, with Hassan at their head, embraced his 
cause ; while Abdullah, his rival, was powerfully aided by 

' Tab. Syr. pp. 16-17. 


the famous Dehak, the son of Kais, whose party was called 
the Kaisiyeh. This battle sealed the fate of Abdullah, for 
Dehak hunself, and eighty of the nobles of Syria, were 
slain ; and Merwan was established on the throne of the 

From this mound I was able to define with considerable 
accuracy the form and extent of the South Lake. From 
numerous observations made at this and other places along 
its borders I found that its extreme length is about six 
miles and a half, its breadth five and a half, and its total 
circumference nearly twenty miles. Tall reeds grow in 
e^^ery part of it, and serve very clearly to define its boun- 
daries even from a distance. The ground on its northern 
and north-eastern sides has an average elevation above the 
level of the water of nearly thirty feet, but it undidates, 
and in some places rises to double that height. The whole 
of this ground, with the plain on the east side, is sparsely 
covered with the tamarisk, which grows to the height of 
from six to eight feet, branching out so as often to cover a 
space ten or twelve feet in diameter. 

We now turned northward and rode across the rolling 
plain among groves of tamarisk to survey the other lake, 
called Bahret esh-ShurMi/eh, the " East Lake." Li ten 
minutes we passed over another little tell covered with 
Arab graves. The sons of the desert rest here in solitude 
after a life of wandering, the daring marauder and the 
brave warrior side by side in the silent tomb. We rode 
over their graves in peace, for death had paralysed the 
strong arm and removed from earth the fierce spirit. In 

* Ockley's History of the Saracens, pp. 434-36. 


fifteen minutes more we were standing on a rising ground 
on the side of the East Lake, now presenting a vast ex- 
panse of waving canes, with little clear spots of water here 
and there. From careful observations I afterwards esti- 
mated the extent of this lake as follows : — total length 
eight miles and a half, extreme breadth about four miles, 
and circumference twenty miles. Its borders are less 
clearly defined than those of the other, owing to the 
marshes extendinop for some distance along the banks of 
the streams that fall into it. The distance between these 
two lakes averages more than a rnile, and the elevation of 
the ground is such that they can never unite except by 
means of the wady above referred to. 

From this point I had a pretty clear view of the Diura 
through a small telescope. They are large and apparently 
strong buildings, now half ruinous, standing in the midst 
of the great plain beyond the lakes. The distance of the 
nearest, that on the north, I estimated at about two hours 
(the guide said four) ; the southern one is six or seven 
miles distant from the northern, and the central one lies 
eastward near the base of the little group of hills cailled 
the Telliil. The distance of Dukweh, the highest conical 
peak of the Tellul, I afterwards estimated, from several 
bearings taken at different points, to be about sixteen miles 
from 'Ataibeh. Neither in the plain nor hills beyond the 
lake could I see any other ruins either ancient or modern, 
and there are no settled inhabitants in the whole region. 
'Ataibeh and Harran are border villages, and between the 
latter and Maksura the country is waste on both sides of 
the East Lake. Abulfeda, in speaking of the lake of Da- 
mascus, says it is on the east side of the Ghutah, a little 


to the north, and " there are there thickets of canes, and 
likewise places of defence against the enemy, which are 
celebrated."^ The Diura are probably the fortresses or 
strongholds to which the historian alludt'S, and which in 
former ages formed part of a regular line of defences 
against the incursions of the restless Bedawin. 

After a careful examination of the whole district around 
us, we rode along the side of the marshes for some dis- 
tance in a north-western direction, and then turned into 
them by a winding path thrpugh the thicket of reeds. In 
about fifteen minutes we reached a low mound called Tell 
el-Khanzir, the " Hill of the Swine," at the side of which 
is some very deep water. Leaving my horse at this spot, 
I followed the guide we had brought from the village in 
among the dense reeds, through which we had difficulty 
in forcing our way. They are here from twelve to fifteen 
feet high, and some of them over twenty. I was anxious 
to see the wild swine, but, though we found places where 
they had been recently wallowing, and could even hear 
them as they forced their way through the thicket in the 
distance, I was not so fortunate as to get sight of any. As 
we crouched down in a favourable spot waiting for their 
approach, and listening to their hoarse growl, the guide 
told me in whispers that during the previous year he had 
missed the path and lost his way near this spot, and was 
three days and three nights among the marshes ere he 
could (£et out. I can well believe it, for nothinjr save the 
blue sky can be seen from within, and, if once the track 
is lost, the wanderer at once gets entangled among the 

^ Tab. Syr. pp. 156, 7. 


marshes; and, even should he know something of the 
right direction, he is compelled to turn and wind about to 
avoid the deep pools and impassable morasses. On hear- 
ing this, I at once proposed to return to my companions, 
as I had no wish for an ad^'enture in such a locality, even 
with the prospect of enjoying the society of a few wild 
boars. We got back in safety, and, mounting our horses, 
set out for 'Ataibeh, which we reached as the sun was 
going down behind the lofty Hermon. 

We had now solved the mystery of the lakes into which 
the waters of the ancient Ahana flow, and had made 
observations which will henceforth effect a complete trans- 
formation in the maps of this region. Instead of one lake, 
which has hitherto been so neatly delineated by cartogra- 
phers, with rivers concentrating to it from all quarters of 
the neighbouring mountain -ranges, there are, in reality, 
two lakes of considerable extent, and the Barada, forming 
a kind of delta with its branches, pours into them the only 
supply of water they receive from the mountains. The 
East Lake receives its chief supplies from the South Lake, 
through the narrow wady above referred to ; but there is 
likewise a small branch of the Barada that crosses the 
plain above 'Ataibeh, and flows directly into it ; and the 
surplus waters of the great canal Taura, augmented by 
the fountain of Kuseir, flow down past 'Adhr'a and enter 
it from the north-west. During the winter it also re- 
ceives on the north the small stream Nahr el-]\Iukubrit, 
whose source is at Ruhaibeh on the plain of Jerud. 

The Barada flows in a winding course due eastward 
across the beautiful plain. Its banks are closely lined with 
groves of fruit-trees and long ranges of poplars as far as 


the Tell es-SalaJiiyeh, about eight and a half miles from 
the city. The scenery along it is everywhere rich, and 
in some places exceedingly picturesque. The long branches 
of the willow and the giant arms of the walnut often meet 
across the gently-flowing river, which is tlms shrouded in 
gloom, and forcibly reminds one of those quiet nooks so 
often met with on the trout-streams of Old England. The 
Tell es-SalaMyeh is one of the most interesting remnants 
of antiquity in the whole plain. It is an artificial mound 
of an oval form, about 300 yards in diameter and about 
100 feet in height. The whole surface is covered with 
loose earth, composed mainly of brickdust and fragments 
of broken pottery. On the southern side, next the bank 
of the river, a portion of the mound has been cut away, 
and here may be seen the regular layers of sun-burnt 
brick of which the whole appears to have been con- 
structed. From the present form of the mound it seems 
that there was originally a large platform built, from 
twenty to thirty feet high, and then in the centre of this 
stood a lofty conical structure, which during the course of 
long centuries has gradually crumbled down to its present 
form. On the western side of the mound, beside the 
little village, I found, on my first visit to this place, a 
limestone slab, about five feet long by three wide, contain- 
in o- a bas-relief representing an Assyrian priest. The 
workmanship is rude and the stone has been defaced ; but 
still it was sufficiently plain to show the costume and atti- 
tude of the figure. I sketched it at the time, intending 
on some future occasion cither to obtain a cast or the 
stone itself; but, unfurtunately, it has since disappeared, 
and I have been unable to discover what has been done 



with it. I here insert my sketch of this singular monu- 
ment, and also of the mound itself.'* 

Our servants, who had remained behind in the village, 
had in the mean time arranged our quarters for the night 
in the house of the sheikh, and here we found a sump- 
tuous dinner laid out. M. Bulad produced an ample store 
of Damascus delicacies, with a bottle of excellent wine. 
The vigorous exercise of the day had prepared us for 
doing justice to even less inviting dainties than those now 
before us. A number of the villagers had gathered in, and 
were squatting in close order round the walls, watching 
our every movement and wondering at the facility with 
which we introduced the little spears (forks) into our 
mouths, and thinking, no dovibt, what fools tlie Frangh 

* See a sketch of Tell es-Salahiyeli facing page 373. 


are to endanger their faces with such weapons, while they 
have fingers, and might use them like other men. The 
whole of our proceedings were manifestly a mystery to all 
the spectators, and many a nudge did they give each other 
as some new feat was performed with the knife and fork ; 
but their wonder found no expression save in an occa- 
sionally muttered umllali I 

While thus occupied in these necessary duties, we at the 
same time opened negotiations about our proposed journey 
to the Diura. Our Damascus guide, we soon found, was 
strongly opposed to our proceeding farther east. If fear of 
danger was the reason, he ought undoubtedly to have been 
the last to decline, for in the variety and number of his 
weapons he resembled a portable armoury. We tried our 
own powers of persuasion, holding forth strong induce- 
ments, in the shape of a liberal bakhshish^ to any five men 
who would accompany us. It was all in vain. Druzes, 
Arabs, robbers of all kinds and sects, were now, they said, 
prowling along the borders of the desert, awaiting a favour- 
able opportimity to plunder and run. Our friend the monk 
was as eager as any of us, but the people were obstinate, 
and utterly refiised to go. In fact it is well known that 
these border villages which have the lakes and marshes as 
a defence against incursions of the Bedawin are almost 
constantly at war with them, and they arc consequently 
afraid to venture beyond the bounds of their own terri- 
tories. We were thus compelled to give up our intention 
of visiting these distant ruins lor the present, and to con- 
fine our investigations to the lakes. 

During the course of the evening we were informed that 
a party of regular cavalry had arrived in the village, and 

VOL. I. s 


were attempting by force to get possession of the court- 
yard where our horses were picketed, and, in fact, of the 
whole house we now occupied. We sent one of our ser- 
vants with a peremptory order for the soldiers to go else- 
where, and to inform them that Englishmen had for the 
time hired the house, and wovdd prevent the Pasha himself 
from entering it. A word from us was of more weight 
with the unruly soldiers than all the remonstrances and 
efforts of the poor villagers, and we were left in undis- 
turbed possession. Our host was delighted at this deliver- 
ance, and assured us that our presence had saved him from 
imposition, and perhaps from personal abuse. So it is in 
this unhappy land, where there is no justice and no equity. 
Franks are now hailed as protectors wherever they go, and 
are cordially welcomed to almost every house, because it is 
known they have some sense of justice, and intend to pay 
for what they get ; but government officials are shunned 
and feared as if they had the plague. In fact, Turkish 
officers, from the pashas to the lowest grade of police, are 
looked on as so many robbers. The people would much 
rather remain idle than work for the government; for 
when they are compelled to labour, their animals are al- 
ways abused, and they themselves beaten if they com- 
plain; and they either get no pay at all, or receive a 
miserable pittance, about one-fourth of what they could 
gain elsewhere. 

November I'^tJi. — We returned this morning to the vil- 
lage of Harran, which we reached at 8*35, and continued 
our journey to Kefrein, fifteen minutes farther. Here we 
turned a little to the left towards Judeideh. I left my 
companions to follow the direct road, and, putting spurs to 


my horse, followed as closely as possible the indented border 
of the marshes, so as to note particularly the amount of 
water still found here, and the extent of the lake. I found 
water at every point, but generally concealed beneath the 
rank grass and forests of reeds. Tlie numbers of wild-fowl 
were almost beyond conception. They rose up in clouds 
before me as I advanced, and, sweeping round for a few 
minutes, settled down again at a little distance. Geese, 
ducks, storks, herons, and water-fowl of endless variety, 
appeared on every side. At 9 '30 we reached Judeideh, 
or Judeidet el-Khas, as it is called, to distinguish it from 
other villages of the same name. Here w^e stopped a few 
minutes to take bearings, and fix accurately not merely 
the position of the village, but the southern border of the 
South Lake, which sweeps round from this place first south- 
by-east and then east. 

As we left the village our road led us up a gentle swell 
in the plain, which extends eastward as far as we could 
see. It is considerably higher than the village, and thus 
prevents the extension of the lake and marshes southward. 
The soil on this swell is exceedingly rich, though now in 
a great measure uncultivated. The tamarisk grows upon 
it luxuriantly, and likewise large quantities of the plant 
called Kily, lij, or Ashidn, ^U^l, by the Arabs — the 
Salsosa fruticosa — whose ashes arc largely used in the 
manufacture of soap. The rock here, and in the whole 
southern section of the plain, is basalt, and occasionidly 
crops up over the soil in broken masses or in small conical 
mounds, some of wliich arc cup-shaped. The basalt forma- 
tion extends over the whole province of the Hauran, and 
eastward into the desert as far as we could see. 

s 2 


In 53 minutes we reached Hijaneh, which lies south- 
by-west from the last village. Beside it is a large rocky 
mound covered with ancient ruins. To the summit of 
this we immediately proceeded, taking with us an intelli- 
gent native to tell us the names of the several places in 
view. This tell commands an extensive prospect over the 
whole surrounding country. On the north and north-east 
is seen the Ghutah, with its evergreen forests, and the 
Merj, teeming with villages ; then the flat surface of the 
lakes covered with waving forests of canes, and the undu- 
lating ground beyond rising up with a gentle slope to the 
loot of the Tellul range. It is somewhat singular that the 
three border villages, Maksura, 'Ataibeh, and Hijaneh, are 
in a line : and eastward of this line there is no settled in- 
habitant. The range of hills so often referred to, called 
Tellul, is about fifteen miles in length, and runs nearly 
north and south, the conical peak Dtikweh being near the 
centre, and distant from Hijaneh eighteen miles. Both on 
the north and south of these hills the plain extends to the 
horizon. From the southern extremity of the Tellul to the 
Jebel Hauran there is an unbounded plain : only one soli- 
tary blue peak, rising up in the far distance (S. 62^ E.), 
breaks the uniformity ; and this peak, our intelligent guide 
informed me, is in the centre of the Safa. On the south 
a rolling plain extends to the base of the Jebel Hauran, on 
the northern extremity of which a lofty tell was clearly 
seen ; and on visiting that region some months afterwards, 
I recognised it as Tell Maaz, near the ruins of Bathanyeh, 
the ancient Batancea. The villages of Hit and Hiyat were 
pointed out near it, and appeared like black specks on the 
mountain-side. On the south-west lay the Lejah, some 


ten miles distant ; and in the midst of it rose a conical 
peak, wliich I afterwards identified as Tell Amara. More 
to the west the view is shut in by the heights of Mania. 
The villages of Adiliych and Hurjilleh are visible between 
this range and Jebel el-Aswad. 

The Lake Hijaneh {BaJiret WJaneh) lies on the south 
and south-east of Tell Hijaneh. It is upwards of five 
miles long, by about four and a half in breadth. It was 
entirely dry at the tune of our visit ; but the forests of 
waving reeds and the dark colour of the soil distinctly 
marked the boundaries of the water during the winter and 
spring seasons. One of my companions had before visited 
this spot in the month of June, and found then a large 
expanse of water. We were informed that it very rarely 
dries up completely, but remains a marsh during the entire 
summer and autumn. The river 'Awaj enters this lake at 
its north-western angle, about twenty minutes below where 
we stood. I could clearly trace its winding course over 
the undulating plain, from the spot where it passes out 
from between the ranges of Mania and Aswad. Its bed 
was quite dry nearly to that point. A winter torrent 
called the Liwa, whose source is in the Jebel Hauran, also 
falls into this lake at its southern extremity ; but it only 
flows w^hile the snow is melting in the mountains, or heavy 
rain falling. This torrent will be afterwards more fully 

About half an hour south of Tell Hijaneh is a little 
mound covered with ancient ruins, called Kasrein, " the 
two Castles ;" and beyond the lake is another much larger 
mound, also crowned with ruins, which are said to re- 
semble the Diuru. It is called MastJlbeh. There are like- 

s 3 


wise some scattered ruins on a rising gi-ound in the centre 
of the lake. We did not visit any of them — the more dis- 
tant ones through fear of the Arabs, whose flocks we saw 
far away on the plain, and those near us we did not con- 
sider sufficiently important. I still hope, on some future 
occasion, to explore this unknown region, and to go as far 
as the Tellul, from which a wide prospect might no doubt 
be obtained toward the east. The whole of this vast tract 
is now without a settled inhabitant. The desert tribes 
roam freely over it. In the autumn it is parched and 
barren, but in spring there is excellent pastiu-age. 

I had now completed my survey of the eastern part of 
the plain of Damascus, and of the whole border-land from 
Palmyra to the northern boundary of the ancient kingdom 
of Bashan. From observations made during my several 
excursions, that section of the map accompanying this 
work which embraces this region, has been exclusively 
constructed. Whatever opinion may be formed as to the 
importance of my researches, there can be no question that 
the geographical information I now present to the public 
is new. In Burckliardt's * Travels in Syria ' there are a 
few brief notes on the topography of this region, but they 
are both vague and incorrect. It is there stated that at 
the end of the Ghutah or Meij of Damascus begins the 
Jebel Hauran, the northern part of which is called the 
Safd;^ and, I presume, from this information Berghaus has 
delineated the Safa upon his map, but this is altogether 
incorrect. From the termination of the plain of Damascus 
to the commencement of the Jebel Hauran extends a fine 

* Travels in Syria, Appendix, No. VI. 


level plain about twenty miles in length. I have carefully 
examined it both from the tell at Hijaneh and from the 
northern spurs of Jebel Hauran, and I have also travelled 
along it ; and I can therefore confidently affirm that the 
Sala is not located there. The guide whom we employed 
at Hijaneh informed us that he had on several occasions 
accompanied the Arabs to the Saf a ; and on being asked 
where it was situated, he pointed to the blue peak away 
on the horizon, and said that that peak was in the midst of 
it. This peak is a journey of a day and a half from 
Hijaneh, and at least twelve hours north-east of Jebel 
Hauran. He stated besides that the Safa is like the Lejah, 
only more difficult of access. There are no hills around it, 
but a wall of jagged rocks, the passes through which are 
only known to those who inhabit it. There are no springs 
in it, and the small quantity of rain that falls during the 
winter is not sufficient to provide a store for summer use. 
In the plain, a short distance from its eastern border, are 
fountains much frequented by the Arabs. There are some 
small tribes of Arabs who constantly inhabit this wild 
region, pasturing their flocks among its defiles, and culti- 
vating a few patches of soil. All these particulars were 
confirmed by subsequent inquiries made during my visit 
to the Hauran. During last summer, too, I had an op- 
portunity of conversing with the great Bedawy sheikh, 
Mohammed ed-Dhuhy, whose powerful tribes roam through 
these regions. He had come to consult Dr. Paulding about 
a severe wound which had deprived him of the use of his 
right arm. After some talk about other districts, I in- 
quired about the SafS,. " Ya Beg ! " he exclaimed. 
" Wulluh ! It is an accursed place, und its people arc an 


accursed people. They steal and plunder, and there is 
little hope of reprisals, for they live among rocks that no 
Bedawy can penetrate. Three years ago, Ya Beg ! I went 
with my people to revenge many acts of aggression and 
bloodshed, but they would not come out to the plain ; and 
when we attempted to go in to them, they shot us and 
speared us among the defiles, where we were helpless. 
My two brothers and my uncle were killed at my side, 
and eighty of my people shared their fate. I, too, did not 
escape : a spear pierced my shoulder, and a gun-shot broke 
my arm ; and now look at this ! " And he held up his 
right hand, withered and powerless. The doctor informed 
me that this was one of the most remarkable cases he had 
ever known. Very soon after receiving the wound the 
arm became quite insensible to pain, and dried up until 
nothing appeared to remain but skin and bone. In tliis 
way it continued for a year, when suddenly severe shooting 
pains began to affect it, and, strange to say, the blood com- 
menced to circulate, and the flesh to fill up gradually but 
slowly from the shoulder downward. Two years had now 
passed, and the process of revivification was still going on, 
having got as far as the back of the hand. The doctor 
informed the delighted sheikh that his hand would soon be 
restored again ; and he gave him a stimulating lotion, after 
trying some galvanic shocks, to assist nature in its singular 

Returning to the village of Hijaneh we took a hasty 
lunch in the house of our guide, and, mounting our horses, 
set out for the city. Our road led for some time westward, 
bringing us close to the bed of the 'Awaj, and then turned 
to the north-west, running parallel to it. The plain is 


here very rich, and in some places cultivated. On our 
left, along the wady, were thick groves of the tamarisk. 
In an hour and twenty-five minutes we reached the large 
village of Ghuzlaniyeh, watered by a canal from the 'Awaj, 
which, being spread over the surrounding fields and 
gardens, rendered them fresh and verdant even at this 
season. In half an hour more we reached Karahta, where 
I observed some ancient remains. Skirting the side of a 
low tell, we now turned to the left, and, having crossed a 
fertile and well-cultivated plain, we ascended the lofty Tell 
Abu Yazid, or, as it is generally called by the peasants, 
Abu Zid. From hence we had a fine view of this section 
of the plain, and of the valley of the 'Awaj east of Jcbcl 
el-Aswad. Below us, half an hour distant, near the bank 
of the river, is the little village of Nejha, standing like a 
ruined fortress on the summit of a rocky mound. Verdant 
meadows stretch along each side of the stream for some 
distance below it, and there presented a gay and animated 
appearance. A few battalions of regular soldiers, and 
some troops of irregular cavalry, were here encamped to 
check the incursions of the rebel Druzes. Little parties 
were seen scattered round the white tents engaged in the 
exciting exercise of the jerul, and display nig by their 
sudden and graceful evolutions, not less the matchless 
speed, docility, and training of the noble animals they 
rode, than their own dexterity in managing tlicm. But 
the steady discipline of the regular soldiers, and tlie skilful 
evolutions of the Kurdish fight horse, were not always 
sufficient to resist the impetuous attacks and fierce deter- 
mination of the warlike Druzes. Once and again were 
villages plundered, and to the vciy gates of the city the 


daring rebels sometimes penetrated. Often have I heard 
the booming of the cannon and the dropping fire of the 
musketry during the stilhiess of the night, when every 
other sound was hushed ; and there was something solemn 
in the thought that each deep sound was perhaps the 
death-knell of a human being. This is past now, and the 
Turkish armies are engaged in more honourable warfare. 
Still, except a new line of policy is adopted in the govern- 
ment of Syria, fresh rebellions may be with confidence 

On the summit of this tell is a wely, sacred to the 
memory of Abu Yazid el-Bistany, which now forms a 
place of pilgrimage for many people of the surrounding 
country. The whole summit appears to have been at one 
time fortified ; a deep moat encompasses it, within which 
are large quantities of hewn stones. 

Leaving the tell, we struck across the fields in a straight 
course toward the city, fording in our way several deep and 
wide canals. These canals are singular in their structure, 
and, as they constitute part of a regular system, by which 
the whole outskirts of the plain of Damascus were once 
thoroughly irrigated, it may not be out of place here to 
describe their construction. The waters of the Barada, it 
has already been seen, are led off in numerous canals and 
ducts, and spread over the surface of the soil in the fields 
and gardens. And here, where this process of imgation is 
going on, other canals have been tunnelled underneath the 
surface, to collect the superfluous water that percolates 
through the soil, or boils up from numerous little fountains 
and springs below. A stream is thus collected, and led oflf 
to a lower level, and then employed like the other canals. 


In former days these extended over the whole plain to the 
lake?, thus irrigating the fields and gardens in every 
section of it. Some of these subterranean aqueducts are 
now in admirable preservation, and contain large streams. 
The amount of labour and capital that was thus expended 
on the cultivation of the plain of Damascus is incalculable, 
and the modern inhabitants are living on the industry of 
their ancestors. 

In one hour and twenty-five minutes we reached 
'Akraba, and in three-quarters of an hour more entered 
the East Gate of Damascus. 




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