« PreviousContinue »
conducted in stone tubes along the ridge southwest for six or eight miles to the temple that occupied the place of Deir el Kūlah. From thence it descended the steep mountain, about fifteen hundred feet, in a direction nearly west, where it was carried over the river of Beirût on a series of lofty arches. The highest tier numbers twenty-five, and the canal upon them was one hundred and sixty feet above the bed of the river. The next tier below has fifteen arches; the third has only three, and the lowest two. The wall is twenty feet broad, and is built of well-cut stone; altogether a very imposing structure. Though carried over the river at so great an elevation, the canal meets, on the Beirût or west side, with perpendicular cliffs, and passes directly through them by a tunnel cut in the solid rock. I once crept into it for thirty or forty feet, beyond which it is choked up with rubbish. Descending to the margin of the plain, the canal was led along the base of the hills southward, past the Khan es Shîâhh, and thence westward to the vicinity of Beirût, and the water was distributed by many pipes to yarious parts of the city. As the plain west of Es Shîâhh is very low, the canal had to be elevated by a long line of arches, erected upon an immense wall. This was built solid throughout, of large, accurately cut stone, after the Roman style, and about forty feet broad. No traces of the arches remain, except masses of tufaceous deposit formed by the trickling of the water through the aqueduct, as is seen along the ancient canals of Tyre and Acre. The wall itself, however, was nearly entire when I first came to this country; but the rapid growth of Beirût created such a demand for building-stone that the greater part of it has been quarried and brought to the city. In this process, palm and olive trees, which had grown old upon the top, have been undermined and thrown away, and where the work of quarrying has been completed, the ground has been leveled, and orchards of mulberry-trees are now flourishing. What a pity! Beirût now greatly needs just the supply of water which this noble canal once brought to it, and a moderate expense would have restored it to its former use. But this is only one of a thousand of Syria's sad desolations. The Arabs, as a matter of course, ascribe this aqueduct to Zobeîda, a sort of Moslem St. Helena, according to popular legends, but, in historic truth, the wife of Haroun er Raschîd. It is quite impossible to ascertain who constructed it; but, whether made by Phoenicians, Greeks, or Romans, it was an admirable work, and a great blessing to Beirût. The entire length can not be less than twenty miles, and the starting-point is at least two thousand feet above the sea.
January 26th. The roofs of these houses afford such a delightful promenade, and the prospect is so beautiful, that I can scarcely keep away from them, day or night. So absorbed was I just now in gazing about, that, if it had not been for the parapet, I should have walked quite off, and then have found myself on the ground with a broken limb or neck, I suppose. As it was, I made a desperate stumble, and was excessively frightened.
A very practical illustration, that, of the wisdom and humanity of the command in Deut., xxii. 8, When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy
roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house if any man fall from thence. This ordinance ought still to be enforced by law wherever the roofs are flat, and resorted to for business, relaxation, or for sleeping. In Syrian cities the roofs are a great comfort. The ordinary houses have no other place where the inmates can either see the sun, “smell the air,” dry their clothes, set out their flower-pots, or do numberless other things essential to their health and comfort. This is particularly true within the city walls; but even in villages the roof is very useful. There the farmer suns his wheat for the mill, and the flour when brought home, and dries his figs, raisins, etc., etc., in safety both from animals and from thieves.
During a large part of the year the roof is the most agreeable place about the establishment, especially in the morn
ing and evening. There multitudes sleep during the summer, in all places where malaria does not render it danger
This custom is very ancient. Though, according to our translation of 1st Samuel, ix. 25, 26, Samuel calls Saul to the top of the house, that he might send him away, instead of from it, yet, taking the whole passage together, there can be no doubt but that the process should be reversed. The Arabic has it thus: “And Samuel conversed with Saul upon the top of the house, and spread his bed for him, and he slept on the roof; and very early in the morning Samuel called Saul from the top of the house," etc., etc. This is natural, and doubtless the correct history of the case. Saul, young, vigorous, but weary with his long search, would desire no better place to sleep than on the roof. But there should always be battlements, and commissioners should be appointed to see that they are kept in proper repair. The Moslems generally build very high parapets, in order to screen their women from observation; but the Christians are very negligent, and often bring blood upon their houses by a sinful disregard of this law of Moses.
Your remark about the Moslems suggests the thought that if Uriah's house had been thus protected, David might have been saved from a long series of dismal crimes, and Israel from dreadful calamity.
True; but then the roof of David's palace was probably so high that he could look directly down into the courts of the neighboring houses. There are such in all cities, and you can scarcely commit a greater offense than to frequent à terrace which thus commands the interior of your neighbor's dwelling
Isaiah has a reference to the house-tops in the 22d chapter which I do not quite understand. He says, verse 1st, What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops ? For what purpose did the inhabitants of Jerusalem thus go thither?
This is a remarkable passage. Verse 2d goes on to say, Thou art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city ; from which one might suppose that the people had gone to the
roofs to eat, drink, clap hands, and sing, as the Arabs at this day delight to do in the mild summer evenings. But, from verses 4th and 5th, it is plain that it was a time of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity; which naturally suggests the idea that the inhabitants had rushed to the tops of the houses to get a sight of those chariots and horsemen of Elam and Kir, with whom their choice valleys were full, and who were thundering against the gates of the city. And, as Oriental houses generally have no windows looking outward into the streets, or, if there are such, they are closely latticed, there is no place but the roofs from whence one can obtain a view of what was going on without. Hence, when any thing extraordinary occurs in the streets, all classes rush to the roof and look over the battlements. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, at the time of this Persian invasion, were probably seized with phrensy and madness, as they were long after, at the siege of Titus. According to Josephus, some reveled in drunken feasts, and kept the city in alarm by their stirs and tumults; some were engaged in plunder and murder, when the slain were not dead in battle; some wept bitterly, like Isaiah, and refused to be comforted because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people; in a word, it was a day of universal and utter confusion. Nobody could sit still, but all hurried to the housetops, either to join in untimely riots of fanaticism and drunken despair, or to watch with fear and trembling the dreadful assault upon their walls and gates; no wonder they had wholly gone up to the house-tops.
Was it customary in the time of our Saviour to make public proclamations from the tops of the houses ?
Such an inference may fairly be drawn from Matthew, x. 27, and Luke, xii. 3. Our Lord spent most of his life in villages, and accordingly the reference here is to a custom observed only in such places, never in cities. At the present day, local governors in country districts cause their commands thus to be published. Their proclamations are generally made in the evening, after the people have returned from their labors in the field. The public crier ascends the