« PreviousContinue »
BAALBEK-AGE OF RUINS.
None older than the age of Antoninus Pius, I believe. The grand entrance to the platform of the temple was on the east side, fronting the city, and was adorned by twelve noble columns. On the pedestals of two of these columns are long Greek inscriptions, but they are so high in the wall that it is difficult to get at them. I was twice let down by ropes from the top of the wall, and copied them with no little pain and with some peril. As they have been often printed, you can study them at your leisure, if you have a . fancy for such researches. I myself do not believe that Antoninus did much more than repair, or restore temples already there, and then, like modern Arabs, write his own name and deeds
them. During the last thirteen centuries, the Mohammedansfanatical haters of all temples, idols, and even innocent statues—have done what they could to deface and destroy the architectural and artistic beauties of Baalbek, and they have recorded their zeal and success in numberless pompous inscriptions; none of them, however, have much historic value. By these barbarians, the entire platform, vaults, temples, and all, were early converted into a strong fortress, and it is still known to them only as Kul'a et Baalbek-castle of Baalbek.
We have so many admirable drawings of these temples, and from so many different points, that I fancy myself perfectly acquainted with them.
True; but, like most other fancies, you will find very little correspondence between it and the reality, if your experience coincides with mine. As you approach from Zahleb, the columns come into view at a great distance, and appear small. Hour after hour you ride on in tedious monotony, and seem to get no nearer, the temples no larger. Half a dozen times you prick your horse into a gallop, expecting to dash right in among the columns, but hold up again to breathe your jaded nag, who has not one grain of your enthusiasm. At length, as his iron hoof clatters on the pavement at the gate, you exclaim in disappointment, almost vexation, Is this Baalbek ? Yes, it is, sir; and now give
over the rein to the groom, and yourself to two days' diligent exploration and study. You will need all that time to master the problems before you; and when you have left, you will long to return, and will do so if you can. I have repeated my visits half a dozen times, and always find something new to admire. The first impression of disappointment runs rapidly into admiration and wonder. You go to the end of a prostrate column, and are almost startled to find that, on tiptoe, and with the hand at utmost stretch, you can not measure its diameter! You climb in between two of those standing columns, and feel instantly dwarfed into an infant. Looking up to the entablature with a shudder, you wonder how big it may be. A fragment lies at the base; you leap down and measure. It is fourteen feet thick!
And such fragments and such columns are all around, and block up your way. Little by little, and with difficulty, you grasp the grand design, and, going out eastward into the centre of the broad platform, take your stand in front of the main entrance. With those six pillars to help your imagination, you reconstruct the whole noble edifice, with twenty such giants on a side! and there you may be safely left much longer than we have time to wait for you. It is growing late, and the subject tedious. If you want to study either Baalbek or Palmyra in detail, I commend you to the magnificent drawings of Wood and Dawkins. They visited Baalbek in 1751; but, though thus old, they are far more elaborate and minute than any oth
Of written descriptions there are countless numbers, but the only way to become really possessed of Baalbek is to visit, explore, and study it for yourself. Dr. Robinson's admirable chapter on Baalbek, in his last volume of Researches, is the best and most comprehensive epitome of all that has been or can be said about these wonderful remains, and I advise you to study it attentively.
Here is a plan of the original platform, which I drew on the spot some twenty years ago, which will materially aid you or any one else to comprehend this now confused wilderness of ruins. The cause of greatest perplexity arises
Whole length of the
ts, 476 feet.
Greatest width, 397 feet.
Plain high wall.
or Castle. Magazine,
Width, 157 ft. 4 inches
120 feet long,
whole building. Arched entrance to vaults extending under the
built upon. Great stones of the old foundation, in line, but not
Six columns yet standing.
Length from outside the
columns, 324 feet.
Great stones in this wall's foundation.
PLAN OF TEMPLES AT BAALBEK.
from the many Saracenic castles and towers with which these barbarians have encumbered and disfigured every part of the grand platform. The entire length from east to west is about eight hundred and eighty feet, and the width across the central court nearly four hundred. The plan itself gives all the details and measurements which are necessary to render the design intelligible. To picture the whole magnificent group of portico, courts, towers, and temples as they once appeared to the proud citizens of Baalbek, one should stand some little distance in front of the main entrance, and restore, in imagination, the portico, one hundred and eighty feet long, adorned by twelve splendid columns, reached by a noble flight of steps. Landing among these columns, and stopping to admire the highly ornamented pavilions at each end, the visitor passes through the deep portals into the main court of the temple, nearly four hundred feet square, and surrounded on all sides by chapels, oratories, niches, and statues of exquisite workmanship. All these, however, will be unheeded at first, for at the south end of the vast court towers the peerless temple itself, with its statues, golden gates, and colonnades rising to the sky. This is a study by itself, and we shall let each one prosecute it as he likes. The smaller temple was an after-thought, perhaps erected from the ruins of the other; both, however, are of the same pale white limestone from the adjacent hills, which, though hard and durable, does not take a high polish. The architecture, as the drawings have taught all the world, is Corinthian, and the carving and ornamental tracing is rich and elaborate. The best specimens of this are seen in the entrance to the smaller temple. There are other remains about Baalbek which would merit and receive attention any where else, but in the presence of these gigantic works they are passed by unnoticed, nor can we spend time now in describing them. The visitor is surprised to see the fragments of granite columns scattered about the ruins, which must have been brought from Egypt, and transported over the mountains to this central and elevated spot by machinery, and along roads every trace of which has long since disappeared from the country.
ANCIENT TEMPLES IN LEBANON.
This is quite enough about Baal-gad and ancient heathen temples; but the discussion has abundantly confirmed the remark made at the outset, that either there is something in the structure of these cliffs and valleys of old Hermon peculiarly suggestive of religious, or rather superstitious edification, or that there was something remarkably devotional in the character of the inhabitants of this mountain. All these temples belong to Anti-Lebanon, while Lebanon proper, though the more magnificent of the two, had scarcely any, and none that have become historic. There was a small one at Bisry, on the Owely, another at Deir el Kŭlah, above Beirût; one at Fakhrah, near the Natural bridge on Dog River; one at Aphcah, the source of the River Adonis; two rude oratories at Naous, above Deir Demitry; one at Nihah, facing the Buk'ah, and another on the north end of Lebanon, at a place called Deir; but none of these ever attracted much attention, or deserved to do it, while Hermon is crowded with them. I hope we may be able to visit them hereafter, but at present I am more inclined to visit the couch and seek repose. The young Jordan will sing our lullaby.