« PreviousContinue »
sense of danger. Every man has arms, and has the right both of wearing and using them: and no man makes a journey, be it only to a neighbouring village, without sword and pistols. Now this tends to quiet, earnest, solemn manners. If a scuffle takes place, it is not a black eye, or a bloody face that is the result, but the certain death of some of the parties; and hence they are taught the principle of self-restraint and moral control. .....
3. The Arabs, and Orientals in general, sit much more than we do. The tradesmen all sit at their work; the smith, the carpenter, and the merchant, the butcher, the joiner, and the spicemonger, sit quietly and transact their business. They sit as tailors do, cross-legged, but with the feet doubled in beneath them. They sit on their feet, and maintain that such is the most natural and easy position. They seem to have no pleasure in motion: no man goes out to take a walk; no man moves for the sake of exercise. They go out, as they say, to smell the air, by some spreading tree or fountain of water. And yet they are capable of enduring great and long-continued labour. Abu Mausur travelled with us nearly forty days, riding at the rate of from six to eighteen hours a day; and yet, though never upon a horse, he was always with us at the requisite time and place. He performed the journey on foot and was rarely far behind.
Take, then, these things together, and you will easily perceive that in the city of Damascus everything is still and calm as the unclouded sky and the balmy air. The hoof of the camel falls noiselessly on the unpaved street; the sheep-skin foot-gloves of the Damascenes make no sound; and all the movements, both of men and animals, are slow and solemn. Here, then, are some of the principal differences between an eastern and a western city, as seen in general, and as they would strike the eye of the beholder; and we are, therefore, now prepared to nter the city.
REV. DR. GRAHAM.
BASHAN AND ITS GIANT CITIES.
BASHAN is the land of sacred romance. From the remotest historic period down to our own day there has ever been something of mystery and of strange wild interest connected with that old kingdom.
In the memorable raid of the Arab chiefs of Mesopotamia into Eastern and Central Palestine, we read that the “Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim” bore the first brunt of the onset. The Rephaim, that is, “the giants,” for such is the meaning of the name,- men of stature, beside wbom the Jewish spies said long afterwards that they were as grasshoppers. These were the aboriginal inhabitants of Bashan, and probably of the greater part of Canaan. Most of them died out, or were exterminated, at a very early period; but a few remarkable specimens of the race—such as Goliath, and Sippai, and Lahmi
-were the terror of the Israelites, and the champions of their foes, as late as the time of David;-and, strange to say, traditionary memorials of these primeval giants exist even now, in almost every section of Palestine, in the form of graves of enormous dimensions.
We shall presently see, if my reader will accompany me, that the cities built and occupied forty centuries ago by these old giants exist even yet! I have traversed their streets; I have opened the doors of their houses; and I have slept peacefully in their long-deserted halls,
“ But how,” you ask me, can we account for the preservation of ordinary dwellings in a land of ruins ? If one of our modern English cities were deserted for a millennium, there would scarcely be a fragment of a wall standing.”—The reply is easy enough. The houses of Bashan are not ordinary houses. Their walls are from five to eight feet thick, built of large square blocks of basalt; the roofs are formed of slabs of the same material, hewn like planks, and reaching from wall to wall; the very doors and windowshutters are of stone, hung upon pivots projecting above and below,
Some of these ancient cities have from two to five hụndred houses still perfect, but not a man to dwell in them.
On one occasion, from the battlements of the castle of Salcah, I counted thirty towns and villages, dotting the surface of the vast plain, many of them almost as perfect as when they were built, and yet for more than five centuries there has not been a single inhabitant in one of them!
BETH-GAMUL.–From a high square tower I saw that the city of Bozrah was in ancient times connected by a series of great highways with the leading cities and districts in Bashan and Arabia. They diverge from the city in straight lines; and my eye followed one after another till it disappeared in the far distance. Towns and villages appeared in every direction, thickly dotting the vast plain ; a few of those to the north are inhabited, but all those southward have been deserted for centuries. I examined them long and carefully with my telescope, and their walls and houses appeared to be in even better preservation than those I had already visited. This has since been found to be the
friend Mr. Cyril Graham visited them, penetrating this wild and dangerous country as far as Um el Jemâl, the Beth-gamul of Scripture, which I saw from Bozrah.
Beth-gamul is unquestionably one of the most remarkable places east of the Jordan. It is as large as Bozrah. It is surrounded by high walls, and contains many massive houses built of huge blocks of basalt; their roofs and doors, and even the gates of the city, being formed of the same material. Though deserted for many centuries, the houses, streets, walls, and gates are in as perfect preservation as if the city had been inhabited until within the last few years. It is curious to note the change that has taken place in the name, What the Hebrews called “ The house of the camel,” the Arabs now call “ The mother of the camel,"
“On reaching this city,” says Mr. Graham, “I left my Arabs at one particular spot, and wandered about quite alone in the old streets of the town, entered one by one the old houses, went up stairs, visited the rooms, and, in short, made a careful examination of the whole place; but so perfect was every street, every house, every room, that I almost fancied I was in a dream, wandering alone in this city of the dead, seeing all perfect, yet not hearing a sound. I don't wish to moralize too much, but one cannot help reflecting on a people once so great and so powerful, who, living in these houses of stone within their walled cities, must have thought themselves invincible; who had their palaces and their sculptures, and who, no doubt, claimed to be the great nation, as all Eastern nations have done; and that this people should have so passed away, that for so many centuries the country they inhabited has been reckoned as a desert, until some traveller from a distant land, curious to explore these regions, finds these old towns standing alone, and telling of a race long gone by, whose history is unknown, and whose very name is matter of dispute. Yet this very state of things is predicted by Jeremiah. Concerning this very country he says these very words: The cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein ;' and the people (Moab) shall be destroyed from being a people.
No less than eleven of the old cities which I saw from Salcah, lying between Bozrah and Beth-gamul, were visited by Mr. Graham. Their ramparts, their houses, their streets, and doors, are nearly all perfect; and yet they are "desolate, without man.” This enterprising and daring traveller also made a long journey into the hitherto unexplored country east of the mountains of Bashan. There he found ancient cities, and roads, and vast numbers of inscriptions in unknown characters—but not a single inhabitant. The towns and villages east of the mountain range are all, without exception, deserted: the soil is uncultivated, and "the highways lie waste.” In the whole of those vast plains, north and south, east and west, DESOLATION reigns supreme. The cities, the highways, the vineyards, the fields, are all alike silent as the grave, except during the periodical migrations of the Bedawîn, whose flocks, herds, and people eat, trample down, and waste all before them. The long predicted doom of Moab is now fulfilled: “The spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape: the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the Lord hath spoken. Give wings unto Moab, that
their gates it may flee and get away; for the cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein.”
KERIOTH.—Among the cities in the plain of Moab upon which judgment is pronounced by Jeremiah, Kerioth occurs in connection with Beth-gamul and Bozrah; and here, on the side of the plain, only five miles distant from Bozrah, stands Kureiyeh, manifestly an Arabic form of the Hebrew Kerioth. Kerioth was reckoned one of the strongholds of the plain of Moab. Standing in the midst of wide-spread rock-fields, the passes through which could be easily defended; and encircled by massive ramparts, the remains of which are still there,-I saw, and
every traveller can see, how applicable is Jeremiah's reference, and how strong this city must once have been. I could not but remark, too, while wandering through the streets and lanes, that the private houses bear the marks of the most remote antiquity. The few towers and fragments of temples, which inscriptions show to have been erected in the first centuries of the Christian era, are modern in comparison with the colossal walls and massive stone doors of the private houses. The simplicity of their style, their low roofs, the ponderous blocks of roughly hewn stone with which they are built, the great thickness of the walls, and the heavy slabs which form the ceilings,—all point to a period far earlier than the Roman age, and probably even antecedent to the conquest of the country by the Israelites.
Moses makes special mention of the strong cities of Bashan, and speaks of their high walls and gates. He tells us, too, in the same connection, that Bashan was called the land of the giants (or Rephaim); leaving us to conclude that the cities were built by giants. Now the houses of Kerioth and other towns in Bashan appear to be just such dwellings as a race of giants would build. The walls, the roofs, but especially the ponderous gates, doors, and bars, are in every way characteristic of a period when architecture was in its infancy, when giants were masons, and when strength and security were the grand requisites. I measured a door in Kerioth: it was nine feet high, four and a half feet wide, and ten inches thick,—one solid slab of stone. I saw the folding gates of another town in the mountains still (13)