페이지 이미지
PDF

christian companions only, the conversation became more free and unconstrained than while they were present. . . . . . . . . . . . “Our supper consisted of a dish of rice, peas, and onions, all stewed together in oil; and ungrateful as such a mess must naturally be to an English palate, my appetite was rendered so keen by hunger, that I literally and truly enjoyed it, and made a hearty meal. By way of dessert, some walnuts and dried figs were afterwards served to us, besides a very

-curious article, probably resem

bling the dried wine of the ancients, which they are said to have preserved in cakes. Those of which we now partook might also be called wine-cakes: they were of the shape of a cucumber, and were made out of the fermented juice of the grape formed into a jelly, and in this state wound round a central thread of the kernel of walnuts; the pieces of the nuts thus forming a support for the outer coat of jelly, which became harder as it dried, and would keep, it was said, fresh and good for many months, forming a welcome treat at all times, and being particularly well adapted for sick or delicate persons, who might require some grateful provisions capable of being carried in a small compass, and without risk of injury on a journey. “In the village itself, and not

far from the dwelling of our host, I

was taken into the house of a Mohammedan family to be shown what was justly considered to be the greatest curiosity in the place. The lower part of the room into which we were introduced was appropriated to the cattle of the family. It was about fifteen feet

square, and was surrounded by a bench of solid rock, about two feet broad, and two feet high. In the upper surface of this bench or raised seat were hewn, close to each other, separate troughs or cisterns of about eighteen inches square, and nearly two feet deep. At one corner of this singular apartment was a trough or cistern, with an outlet for conveying the water through the building; and beyond the walls of it, in the same direction, were seen the remains of a small subterranean chamber, hewn out of the rock, and ornamented with stucco on its walls. The most curious part of all was the pavement of the first room, which was a sort of Mosaic work, formed of very small stones united together on a bed of cement below them. The persons who showed us this apartment asserted that the stones were of various colours, naming white, green, red, yellow, and blue; but if this were really the case, the surface was now too dirty to enable us to perceive the variety of colours described. It appeared to me, at first sight, to be a thin layer of natural stone, liable to break in squares, as I had before seen a layer of that kind only a few inches below the surface of the earth, near the spot where the Roman sarcophagus had lately been dug out of the rubbish; but, on a closer examination of the whole, I thought it to be really an artificial work, as the joints were in many instances too illshapen to be natural. The separate pieces were, in general, less than an inch square ; and, though dark at the upper surface as if stained, were white at the bottom. The stone itself was a coarse marble, and the cement on which the whole

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

whole reposed was a fine lime. I had no doubt, indeed, after a close examination, that the work was entirely artificial, and as such it might be considered, perhaps, as ancient a specimen of that kind of pavement as any in existence. Were it not for this display of labour and expense, I should have thought the apartment originally meant for a stable, with the square pits hewn in the raised bench running round it for grain, and the large trough in the corner for watering the cattle; but, with a Mosaic pavement in the centre, and the square excavations serving as rude cisterns for water all around, it appeared more probable that it had been a very ancient bath. On the outside of this building, to the eastward, and above the stuccoed subterranean chamber, we were shown another pavement, of a similar kind, the stones being only larger in size, or nearly two inches square; like the former one, this was a coarse white marble imbedded in lime, and resembling, at first sight, a layer of stone naturally fractured into squares, as in the vein of this kind near the sarcophagus already described. It is not improbable but that the hint of this rude Mosaic might have first been taken from nature; consisting originally of a simple imitation of such broken layers, and the idea subsequently improved by all the successive varieties of colour and form through which it must have passed, before the art attained its present high state of perfection." The difficulty of travelling in the Hauran, at the time of Mr. , Buckingham's sojourn, seems to have arisen in great measure from the scarcity of corn to seed the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

horses, (in consequence of a great drought:) and he says, “A foot passenger could therefore make his way at little or no expense, as travellers and wayfarers of every description halt at the sheikh's dwelling, where, whatever may be the rank or condition of the stranger, before any questions are asked him as to where he comes from, or whither he is going, coffee is served to him from a large pot always on the fire, and a meal of bread, milk, oil, honey, or butter, is set. before him, for which no payment is ever demanded or even expected by the host, who, in this manner feeds at least twenty persons on an average, every day in the year, from his own purse: at least I could not learn that he was remunerated in any manner for this expenditure, though it is considered as a necessary consequence of his situation as chief of the community, that he should maintain this ancient practice of hospitality to strangers. . . “One of the peculiar characteristics of difference between the ruined towns in the Hauran and those of the countries to the westward, is this, that in the former no fragments of broken pottery are seen, while near the ruins of ancient cities in Syria and Egypt, considerable quantities of such fragments are invariably found, either collected in heaps or scattered about on the surface of the earth. From this, one would infer, that abundant as was the use of earthen vessels in the two former countries, and particularly along the banks of the Nile, they were not much used in the Hauran, where, as stone had been so universally applied to all parts of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

their buildings from the want of wood, the same material, or perhaps metal, might have served for all their domestic utensils, and supplied the place of clay. Even at the present day, indeed, the want of this is so general, that there are no potters or potteries in the country, and scarcely a vessel of earthenware is anywhere to be seen. The large jars used in their houses for containing corn and other provisions are made of mud, and chopped straw, simply dried in the sun; their small drinking cups for coffee are of chinaware brought from Damascus; their cooking utensils are all of iron or copper tinned on the inside; and water, wherever we had yet had occasion to ask for it, was handed to us in round wooden vessels, about the size of an English gallon, such as is used in measuring corn, about the same size, shape, and material, and not round like a bowl; in every part of Syria and Egypt, however, the jars and water-pots are of red and yellow pottery of burnt clay.” The Druses who inhabit the country before the traveller arrives at Bosra, are communicative and tolerant: but Mr. B. hastened anxiously through them, (not staying, as Burckhardt did,) and in good time reached his destination: “Having alighted," he tells us, “at the house of a person well known to both my guides, our first enquiry was as to the state of the roads, and the probable safety of a journey from thence to Damascus. In answer to our questions we received only vague assertions of what was already known to us, namely, that there was no assurance of safety in any

~ part of the Hauran, without being well armed and in a party.” Bosra itself is an extremely interesting place, but Mahometan jealousy prevented the author from giving so particular an ac- . count of its curiosities as he wished. “It was in vain,” says Mr. Buckingham, “that I directed my enquiries as to any traditions respecting this celebrated city; not one among our whole party remembered the poetic passage in Isaiah, ' Who is he that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength o' (chap. lxiii. ver. 1.) Not one of them remembered any thing of even of the name of Judas Maccabeus, by whom this city was taken; nor were they at all aware that it had been a post contested by the Romans, Parthians, Saracens, or any other people, as a fortified and border possession; but imagined that it must have been originally one of the principal cities of Solomon, and from the decline of the Jewish power have passed at once into the possession of the Christian Greeks, to whom they attributed all the principal remains now seen in the city.” But though he could get little of its antiquities, our countryman acquired information of another kind at Bosra. He says, “On arising in the morning I found that I had been bitten all over, during my sleep, by an insect, whose bite seemed to combine the venom of the bug and musquito in one, and to be more painful than either. I was informed, on enquiry, that this inSect

sect was peculiar to Bosra, and failed not to select strangers for its feast in preference to those who were old residents of the place, which was the reason, probably, of so little pains being taken to use precautions against it.

“About 200 yards to the west of the castle of Mezereebe, is a lake called Ras-el-Bezhy. It is the source from whence issues the ancient stream of the Hieromax, or, as it is now called by the Arabs, Shereeaht Mandoor, from the latter being the name, as I was assured, of a celebrated chief who once governed the whole of the tract through which that stream runs, from its source at Mezereebe, to its outlet into the Jordan, near the southern extremity of the Sea of Tiberias. The lake is about a mile in circumference; it has a small grass-covered islet in the centre, and an abundance of fish in its waters, equal in size and not inferior in beauty to the gold and silver fishes which are kept suspended in glass globes in England. The water is sweet and transparent, and the lake never dries. All around its margin are seen large round masses of the black porous stone before described, which are in equal abundance also at the outlet of the stream that issues from it, near the hot springs of the Hami. These black masses are all separate and unconnected with each other, each being rounded like the large stones on a sea-beach; and masses of the same size and form were seen by us scattered over every part of the plain that we had yet traversed

since our entering the Hauran. The stream that issues from the lake flows in nearly a westerly direction, with few windings, till it empties itself, at the spot already indicated, into the Jordan, which is considered to be about fifteen hours' journey from hence, in a W. S. W. direction.” The whole of this part of the country is covered with strange remains of the antiquities of various people. Corinthian architecture lies mingled-with that which appears to be Saracenic; and Christian and Mahometan crumble together; and some remains seem to be of still more ancient dates than the oldest of these. Near a place called Dahhil, is the ruins of a great Roman aqueduct; and Mr. B. continues: “From hence, in half an hour after passing the aqueduct, we saw the town of Ikketeeby on our left, at the distance of a quarter of a mile. Rising from among its dwellings was seen a square tower with the appearance of a pyramidal base, like the one before described at Dahhil, but we were not sufficiently near to it to speak with certainty on this subject. A few minutes after this, we entered a place named Gherba, which is also called the town of Job, from a tradition that the prophet Job was born and resided here, and that this was the scene of his history as detailed in the sacred volume. “On our way from Mezereebe to this place, we had passed in sight of several towns, to the southward of our route, among which were El-Draah, or Idderahh", a

* “This is thought to be the city of Edrei, so frequently mentioned in the Jewish writings, as one of the most important places in the territory of Bashan, the king of which, in the time of Moses, lived at Ashtaroth, which by some is considered to be the

sance with Bosra.”

large large town with a high square tower, appearing at the distance of four or five miles off like the tower of Oomel-Russas, or that in the valley of Adjeloon. Idderahh is, however, now entirely deserted, and the inhabitants have taken refuge at Gherbee. This migration of persons from one town to another is said to be frequent throughout the whole of the Hauran, in consequence of the incursions of the Arabs belonging to the tribes of Beni Hassan, Beni Ibn Saood, Beni Saiide, and others, who come down from the eastern mountains in large bodies, and scour the plains below from one end to the other. We were assured that, only a week since, a party of 300 Arabs had come down from the hills, and taken off from Rimzah, one of the largest towns here, and in the sacred way of the Derb-el-Hadj, or road of the pilgrims from Damascus to Mecca, upwards of 100 head of cattle, in horses, oxen, and sheep; and this was said to be no unfrequent occurrence; in so unprotected a state are the

[ocr errors]

lives and property of individuals

residing in these parts, and so insecure also is the whole of the country for travellers, whether journeying on business or for pleasure. “On entering the town of Gherbee, I noticed small enclosures, like meadows, for the flocks, with a sort of watch-house built in the centre of each for the shepherds, who remain in them night and day, relieving each other by watches, for the purpose of guarding their herds from secret depredation, as well as to give the alarm in case of open attack. “In passing by a heap of ruins, among which were some sculp

tured blocks, I remarked one with an inscription on it, almost obliterated. The characters were certainly neither Arabic, Greek, nor the Hebrew now in use, but rather resembled some of the old inscriptions in unknown characters found in India, and particularly like some of those on the caves of Kenneri, in Salsette, near Bombay. As I remembered the great interest excited by the written characters at Mount Mokatteb, near the Desert of Sinai, from which the learned in Europe hoped to obtain some light as to the lost character of the original Hebrew, from which the Chaldaic is now used, I was particularly desirous of alighting to copy this inscription, four or five lines of which, at least, were tolerably distinct, and with some patience might have been accurately transcribed; but my guides resisted this most strenuously, as we were now in a town of 400 Mohammedans, with only four Christians in the whole place, at the house of one of which we were to alight: and this being known, we should be sure by such a step to attract a crowd around us, and be ill-treated as infidels and sorcerers. I was obliged, therefore, to yield to their refusal, and descending into the lower part of the town, with ruined dwellings on each side of our road, we alighted at the house of my old guide Abu Farah's friend.” This extract is in several ways interesting—from its references to spots made sacred by scripture and tradition; from its picture of Arab manners, even in what we may style domestic intercourse; but, above all, from its showing what lights upon the early history of mankind may here be found, and

« 이전계속 »