« PreviousContinue »
with the names of Cain, Nimrod, and Abraham, and it may have been Cain himself who raised the first altar here when he made that offering for which the Lord “had not respect.” More likely, however—and this is the Arab belief-it was the city of refuge built by Cain, whose fear must have been very large if one may judge from the size of the materials used.
Cain could not fail to build a temple, however. He would try to ease the punishment which he declared was greater than he could bear, and with burnt offering and architecture would seek to propitiate an angry God. How long the worship inaugurated by him lasted we can only surmise—to the flood, maybebut the Phænicians came next, and set up temples to their Gods, whoever they were, and after the Phænicians came Solomon, who built a temple to a sort of compromise god by the name of Baal-a deity left over by the Phænicians and adapted to Judean needs and ceremonies—hence the name, Baalbec. Solomon built the temple to Baal to satisfy certain of his heathen wives, and he made the place a strong city to rival Damascus—the latter having refused to acknowledge his reign.
After Solomon, the Romans. Two hundred years or so after Christ–in the twilight of their glory and their gods—the Romans under Elagabalus brought the glory of Grecian architecture to Baalbec, named the place Heliopolis, and set up temples that wereand are—the wonder of the world.
What satisfactory gods they must have been to deserve temples such as these-each shrine a marvel of size and beauty—more splendid even than those FROM THE TIME OF ADAM BAALBEC BECAME A PLACE OF ALTARS
of the Acropolis of Athens in their lavish magnificence! This carved doorway to the Temple of Jupiter; this frieze of the Temple of Bacchus; these towering six columns of the Temple of the Sun; still holding their matchless Corinthian capitals and amazing entablature to the sky—where else will one find their equals, and what must they have been in their prime, when these scarred remnants can still overpower the world!
It was another religion that brought ruin hereearly Christianity-presently followed by early Mohammedanism-each burning with vandalic zeal. It was the good Emperor Constantine that first upset the Roman gods and their temples. Then Theodosius came along and pulled down the great structures, and out of the pieces built a church that was an architectural failure. Then all the early Christians in the neighborhood took a hand in pulling down and overturning; hacking away at the heathen sculpture and tracery — climbing high up the walls to scar and disfigure — to obliterate anything resembling a face. Then pretty soon the early Mohammedans came along and carried on the good work, and now and then an earthquake took a hand, until by-and-by the place became the ghastly storm of destruction it appears to-day.
I was ill when I saw Baalbec. My flesh was burning and my pulse throbbing with fever. Perhaps my vision was distorted and the nightmare seemed worse than it really is, but as I stood in that field of mutilation and disorder, gazing along its wrecked and insulted glory, and through tumbling arch and ruined door caught vistas of fertile and snow-capped hill, I seemed to see a vision of what it had been in the day of its perfection. Also, I felt an itch to meet one or two of those early enthusiasts—some night in a back alley when they were not looking for me and I had a piece of scantling-I felt a sick man's craving, as it were, to undertake a little damage and disfiguration on my own account. Oh, well, it's all in the eternal story. Religions established these temples; religions pulled them down. The followers of one faith have always regarded as heathen those which preceded them. There lies a long time ahead. Will the next religion restore Baalbec or complete its desolation?
Some little Syrian girls beset Laura on the way back to the hotel and tried to sell her some bead embroidery which it seems they make in a missionschool established here by the English. One of them -a little brown madonna of about ten could speak English quite well. Laura asked her name.
“Name Mary,” she said.
Sure enough, we had forgotten. The first Mary had indeed been Syrian, and I imagined her, now, a child-brown, barefoot and beautiful, like this Mary, with the same pathetic eyes. Laura-young, fairskinned and pink-cheeked—was a marvel to these children. They followed her to the door, and when she could not buy all their stock in trade they insisted on making her presents, and one of them-little Mary-begged to be taken to America.