Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

FROM THE TIME OF ADAM BAALBEC BECAME A PLACE OF ALTARS THE NEW YUK PUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOX TILDEN FOUNDATI

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.
“But that's an English name."
She trotted along silently, thinking; then said:
No, Syria-Mary Syria name.”

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.

We saw the celebrated “big stones” next morning. Several of them are built into the lower tiers of the enclosing temple wall, and three of these—the largest ones—measure each from sixty-two to sixty-four feet long and are thirteen feet thick! They rest upon stones somewhat thicker, but shorter-stones about the size of a two-story cottage—and these in turn rest on masonry still less gigantic. Evidently it was the intention of the builders to increase the size of their material as they went higher, and the big block still in the quarry carries out that idea..

Authorities differ as to when these big stones were laid, and how. Some claim that they were put here by the Romans, because they find Greek axe-marks on the ones below them. But then I found American jack-knife marks on them too, and the names of certain of my countrymen, which proves nothing except that these puny people had been there and left their measurement. If these monster stones had been laid by the Romans only two thousand years ago, we should have had some knowledge of the means by which they were transported and lifted into place. There is no such record, and nowhere else at least did the Romans ever attempt structure of such gigantic proportions. That is precisely the word, “gigantic,” for there were giants in the days when these stones were laid — stones that could have been there six thousand years as well as two thousand, being of such material as forms the foundations of the world.

If Cain did any building at Baalbec, he did it here. He did not finish the work, it would seem, or at least not in these proportions. Perhaps his giants deserted

« PreviousContinue »