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BURIAL-PLACE OF HEROD THE GREAT.
It is more probable that the fortress and city of Herodium, mentioned by Josephus as the place selected by Herod the Great for a fortified retreat, were erected on this mountain. “It was distant from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. It was strong by nature, and fit for such a building. It is a sort of moderate hill, raised to a farther height by the hand of man, till it was of the shape of a woman's breast. It is encompassed with circular towers, and hath a straight ascent up to it, which ascent is composed of steps of polished stones, in number two hundred. Within it are royal and very rich apartments, of a structure that provided both for security and for beauty.
About the bottom there are habitations of such a structure as are well worth seeing, both on other accounts and also on account of the water which is brought thither from a great way off, and at vast expenses; for the place itself is destitute of water."
No doubt Herod made it a kind of paradise, from which it may have derived its present Arabic name, Jebel el Fureidîs — Little Paradise Mountain. It is not certain that Herod ever resided here, and all his lavish expense only prepared a tomb for his dead body, which was brought from Jericho, where he died, and was buried here with great display and ostentation. Josephus gives two separate descriptions of this august funeral.'
Traces of all these supposed works of Herod remain. The circumference of the mountain-top is about seven hundred and fifty feet; and the foundations there of the wall and towers are still visible, and also the remains of a considerable town at the north-western base of the hill. Mr. Drake and others of the Palestine Exploration Fund mention the broken aqueduct by which water was conducted thither from the Pools of Solomon, or from some of the springs in the valley of Ŭrtâs. There is also a broken cistern amongst the ruins, the dimensions of which are some two hundred feet square, which was probably filled by this aqueduct.
I notice that Jebel el Fureidîs is called Frank Mountain by travellers, and is so put down on the maps.
That name appears to have been given to it near the close of the seventeenth century, but the tradition that represents the last 1 Ant. xv. ix. 4.
? Ant. xvii. viii. 3, and Wars i. xxxiii. 9.
castle which the Crusaders held after the capture of Jerusalem as being situated upon it dates from the end of the fifteenth century.
On the occasion of my visit to the cave of Adullam, so much time was spent at Jebel el Fureidîs and the vicinity, that the declining sun began to cast his mild and subdued light over the plains below Bethlehem, where the shepherds were keeping watch by night when the world's Redeemer was born ; and we were admonished to make all haste to reach Mar Saba, where we were to spend the night. Somehow or other we made but slow progress, and night came upon us bewildered in a labyrinth of wadies while there were yet two long hours to Mar Saba, whither the muleteers had preceded us, and which we had to reach, or otherwise sleep out in the wilderness supperless, and at the mercy of our villanous guides. On we marched, up and down, and down and up, over sharp ridges, in deep wadies, and upon slippery rocks or through stiff mud; but finally, without accident or injury of any kind, we dismounted at the entrance to the convent. I shall never forget that evening ride. Our imaginations had been held wide awake from hour to hour by bad roads, doubtful guides, and the dismal notes of owls and jackals. The moon, rising over the brown hills of Moab, flashed and trembled on the Dead Sea, giving just light enough to make the crags appear more stern and the chasms more profound. At the convent, two towers, one on either brow of the gorge, loomed up through the misty moonbeams, like grim old giants, to guard the access. We entered through a low iron door, went down, turned round, passed through a second door, then down again by winding stairs, across queer courts, and along dark passages, until we reached at length our rooms, hanging between cliffs that towered to the stars, or seemed to, and yawning gulfs which darkness made bottomless and dreadful. It was a transition sudden and unexpected from the wild mountain to the yet wilder, more vague and mysterious scenes of Oriental enchantment. Lights gleamed out fitfully from hanging rocks and doubtful caverns. Winding stairs, with balustrade and iron rail, ran right up the perpendicular cliffs into rock chambers, where the solitary monk was drowsily muttering his midnight prayers. It was long after that hour before sleep visited my eyes, and then my dreams were of Arabs and frightful chasms.
MAR SABA.-URTAS, ETAM.
339 Daylight next morning stripped off much of the wild and fearful from the midnight view, but even then Mar Saba was the strangest convent I had ever seen. We, of course, visited the curiosities of the place: St. Saba's sepulchre, beneath an octagonal mausoleum ; the numerous chapels, covered with pictures and Greek inscriptions; the really splendid church, blazing with silver and gold; the vault, filled with fourteen thousand skulls of martyred monks! and I know not what besides, with which this convent-castle is crowded. No description had in the least prepared me for what I saw, and no pen-picture could do justice to the original. It must be seen, and every visitor will be well rewarded for his three hours' ride from Jerusalem to visit it. The stupendous cliffs of Wady en Nâr -the Kidron-full of caverns, now the home of bats and owls instead of monks and hermits, are not the least impressive of the many wonders that cluster around this strange retirement of Santa Saba.
We have passed quite away from the fine valley of Ŭrtâs, and yet I think it is a place of considerable interest.
It is believed to be the ancient Etam of the Hebrew kings—a name which rarely occurs in the Bible, and nowhere in such relation to other places as to indicate this locality, unless it be in 2 Chronicles xi. 6, where it is named along with Bethlehem and Tekoa. The truth is that its celebrity depends upon the fables of the rabbins more than the pages of sober history. The fountain near the village, however, must have always filled the valley below it with orchards and flourishing gardens; and it is not an unreasonable supposition that David, who so intensely longed for even a drink of water from his native Bethlehem, would have shown a similar partiality for this pretty valley below it, where he must have often played while a child. Not unlikely he had purchased it before he died, and when Solomon came into possession of it, he further adorned it with pools and orchards; and in traversing this vale, I always love to reproduce in imagination the scene when it was filled with fruits and flowers, and these many-shaped hills on either side, and on all sides, were terraced to their tops, and dotted everywhere with country villas, amidst olive-groves, fig-orchards, and clustering vines. Josephus says that “there was a certain place, about fifty