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FROM THE ARAB CAMP TO JERASH.
JANUARY 31st. We quitted our station at an early hour, and, after leaving the camp, passed again through a rich and beautiful country. It was about an hour after our first setting out that we came to another torrent, in a deep ravine, the stream of which was called Nahr-elZebeen. The ford at which we crossed it was scarcely more than ten yards wide, and here the banks were covered with rushes, planes, and oleanders. It appeared to us to be only a more northern portion of Zerkah or the Jabbok, which we had already passed over once; but this the Arabs contradicted, though they said that, like Zerkah, it mingled its waters with those of the Jordan, and ran together with them into the Dead Sea.
In ascending from the valley of this stream, and going up its steep northern bank, we were shown what appeared to us to be a tower, with a wall and portions of ruined edifices near. This place was called Zebeen, and gave its name
to the torrent below. It was said to have been an old Christian settlement; but, as we were not permitted to turn aside to see it, we could not determine with accuracy either its age or character.
We were here interrupted and thrown into a momentary alarm, by the pursuit of two horsemen, who came galloping over the brow of the hill behind us, commanding us with a loud voice, and in an authoritative tone, to halt and give an account of ourselves. Though we considered ourselves to be in a strange and almost an enemy's country, we were not, however, in a condition to yield to the menaces of so small a force. We therefore replied to their challenge in a tone equally haughty with their own, and refused to satisfy them either from whence we had come or whither we were going; so that they soon desisted from their pursuit and left us.
In continuing our way to the north-east, we still went through a beautifully fertile country; and, after passing three or four ruined buildings of considerable size on the road, we came about ten o'clock into a charming valley, from whence we obtained the first sight of the ruins of Jerash.
We approached the remains of this city on the southern side, and saw, at first, a triumphal
gateway, nearly entire. * The architecture of this was not of the most chaste kind, though the masonry was good. It bore a striking resemblance to the work seen in the ruined city of Antinoë, in Upper Egypt, on the eastern bank of the Nile. On each side of the large central arch of this gateway, which was wide enough for chariots, there was a smaller one for footpassengers, and over each of these was an open square window. The front of the whole bore four columns, which were placed one on each side of the smaller arched passages, and one in each of the intervals between these and the large central one. These columns were of a small diameter, and constructed of many separate pieces of stone; their pedestals were of a square form, but tall and slender; on each of these was placed a design of leaves, resembling very nearly a Corinthian capital without the volutes; on this again arose the shaft, which was plain, and composed of many small pieces, but as all the columns were broken near their tops, the crowning capitals were not seen. The pediment and frieze were also destroyed, but enough of the whole remained to give an accurate idea of the original design, and to prove that the order of the architecture was Corinthian.
* No. 1. in the General Plan.
After passing through this first gateway, we came upon the fragments of its own ruins within; but seeing no vestiges of walls connected with the gate itself on either side, we concluded that this was an isolated triumphal arch, placed here for the passage of some hero, on his way to the entrance of the city.
Just within this gateway, on the left, we next observed a fine naumachia, for the exhibition of sea-fights. This was of an oblong shape, with its southern end straight, and its northern end of a semicircular form. It was constructed of fine masonry, smooth within, but having the rustic projections without, and being finished on the top with a large moulding, wrought in the stone. The channels for filling this naumachia with water were still visible, and the walls within were from six to eight feet deep, though level with the soil without; but as this space was now used as a field on which corn was actually growing, it is probable that the soil had accumulated progressively there, and that the original depth was much greater.
Passing onward amid heaps of ruined fragments, we came next to a second gateway, exactly similar in design to the triumphal one without, but connected here on both sides with
* No. 2. in the General Plan.