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XVII. LAKE PHIALA-CASTLE OF BANIAS.
March 4th. According to your location of the “ entrance into Hamath” in our conversation of last night, I suppose you make the northern end of the Buk'ah the limit of Israel's inheritance in that direction ?
I do not mean to be led into a discussion of this vexed question, as difficult to settle as any other boundary-line which has perplexed the politicians of Europe and America; but when I have stood at the Kamûa Hermel, and looked out northward and eastward over the vast expanded plain of Hamath, I have felt assured that I stood near that celebrated "entrance," and a careful study of all the passages in the Bible which deal with this question has confirmed the impression made by the eye and the scene.
What is this Kamûa, which you have mentioned more than once?
Here is a drawing of it, which will convince you, at a moment's glance, that it is worthy of a visit.
It is the most singular monument now standing in this part of Syria, and was probably erected by some of the Seleucida, kings of Antioch, but this is not certain. It seems to represent hunting scenes, and some of them were sufficiently fond of the chase to lead them to seek immortality in connection with its trophies. What else it was intended to commemorate can not now be ascertained, for the tablets of inscriptions, if ever there were any, are gone. The southwest corner has fallen down, showing the fact that the entire structure is built solid throughout. It is nearly thirty feet square and about sixty-five high, the latter fifteen of which is a regular pyramid; the remaining fifty feet is divided into two stories, with a pedestal of three feet and a half. There are square pilasters at the corners of the lower story, and additional ones in the centre of the upper story. Upon a broad belt of well-smoothed stones, near the top of the first story, are the animals and hunting imple
ments, drawn at about full size. The execution, though graphic and bold, looks toward the burlesque.
From its elevated position, I saw this curious monument, when coming from Aleppo in 1846, for a day and a half before I got to it, and wondered all the while what it could be, as no traveler had visited it or the region about it. Since then it has become a favorite detour from the regular route to the cedars from Baalbek, and I would advise all who can to make it, not merely to see the Kamûa, but also the sources of the Orontes at Lebweh, 'Ain, and Mugharet er Rahib, near Hermel. The ride to the cedars from this fountain, up Wady el Farr, is one of the most romantic in Syria
any where else. But it is high time we were in the saddle, for we have a smart ride, and plenty to see before us to occupy one day.
You had a long ramble this morning, or at least you forsook the pillow and the tent at a very early hour.
I am too deeply interested in these scenes to waste the morning hours in sleep. My first visit was to the fountain to bathe and drink, I shall not lose the memory of that hour, should I live a thousand years. Then I followed the brook, crossed over to the western side, and strolled away, I know not how far, among those venerable oaks. Returning, I climbed to the top of the castle on the northwest corner of the city, and looked into the wilderness of bushes and briers that hides the brawling river at its base. Descending to some mills, I forced my way through sharp thorns to the southwest corner, and then followed up the wall to the gate and bridge over the ravine called Sāāry, which, I suppose, formed the southern fosse of the city. From the southeastern corner I followed the ditch, which brought me back here to the tent.
You have made the entire circuit of the city, which, indeed, is not great; but as it was entirely surrounded by deep ravines, or by a ditch which could be filled with water from the great fountain, it must have been a very strong place; this, however, was merely the citadel: the city spread out on all sides far beyond these narrow limits. The traces