« PreviousContinue »
be quarried away for building-stone. This invaluable barrier has thus been so much lowered that the sea breaks over into the harbor in every storm, not only endangering the ships and boats, but causing a strong current to set eastward under the arches of the causeway which leads to the castle. These arches will, ere long, give way, as others have before, and thus the castle will be cut off from communication with the city. This castle itself, though mostly in ruins, has something to interest the antiquary. The oldest part is built nearly solid, with a large number of granite columns placed at regular intervals in the wall; this shows, of course, that it was not erected until after the columns had become part of Sidon's ancient ruins; nevertheless, it is built of very heavy stones, having the Phoenician bevel, and probably dates back to the beginning of our era.
The slightly-pointed arch in the most ancient part does not prove it to be modern, for I have seen this kind of arch in buildings undoubtedly older than the Saracens; nor do I believe that these barbarians ever invented any
arch. They found one to their taste, which they modified and appropriated to their own structures. I called your attention to the old wall which extended along the shore northeast to the little brook Kumly; from thence southward it is not easy to trace it for some distance; but it kept along the terrace which rises above the general level of the plain, and bent round west to the sea about twenty rods to the south of the present upper castle. The Tell on which this castle stands is artificial, and, what is more remarkable, is made up, in a great measure, of old pottery, rubbish of houses, and thick beds of broken purpura, thrown out from Sidon's ancient manufactories of purple dye. The bluff facing the sea shows this conglomeration at least twenty feet thick. Southeast of the upper castle is a mazar, frequented mostly by Jews, and called Sidāne. The people do not know who he was; and, if it were a shrine dedicated to old Sidon himself, there would be nothing strange in the fact that the Jews frequent it. So they do Neby Seijûd yonder, on the top of Jebel Rihān, and many other places of the same character, al
though they •are held by Moslems. Columns, sarcophagi, broken statuary, and other evidences of a great city are found every where in these gardens, with the oldest trees growing in fertile soil many feet thick above them. These are the most remarkable remnants of Sidon's original greatness which the tooth of Time has left us. They do not contradict her ancient renown, though they throw very little light upon her history.
If the city was anciently so large, what has become of the vast amount of stone ? I see nothing of it on all the plain.
You do well to commence your study of ruined cities with this inquiry. The thing puzzled me greatly at first, but the disappearance of the stone can easily be accounted for in all cases.
In fact, a large part of many old cities was built of sun-burnt brick, and these, of course, need not be sought for. In many cities the building material was a soft cretaceous stone, which crumbled back to soil almost as rapidly as sun-burnt brick. Most of the towns along the Syrian coast, however, are built of an argillaceous sandstone, mixed with comminuted shell, which, though porous and easily cut, will yet, if protected from the weather, last for
ages; but, when exposed, it disintegrates rapidly, and soon melts away to dust. This process is hastened every time the ruins are worked over for new buildings. The stones must always be re-cut before they are put into a wall, and, after being thus reduced two or three times, they become too small for use, are thrown out into the fields, and quickly dissolve. A ruined city of this kind along the coast, or in any position from which the stone can be easily transported, is quarried over and over again, until nothing remains but shapeless heaps of rubbish. Thus the stones of Sarepta, Athlîte, Cæsarea, and even of Tyre and Sidon, have recently been carried to Acre, Beirût, and Joppa, by boat, in immense quantities, and, after being cut afresh, and much reduced in size, are placed in buildings, which, in turn, will fall to ruin in a hundred years, when the same process will be repeated, until they are found no more. In other places, where the material is compact limestone,
and not subject to these causes of destruction, it is broken up and burnt to lime. We saw how the sarcophagi at Khủldeh are thus destroyed. At Kedes, an old city near the head of the Lake of Hums, I found the peasants breaking up beautiful marble columns with sledge-hammers for the same purpose. When I remonstrated with them, they replied that they had no other use for these columns, and that this had been the lime-quarry for all the region time out of mind. The whole country about that lake is volcanic, and these marble columns had been brought there from a great distance for their special accommodation. Need we wonder, therefore, at the disappearance of ruins, after the long lapse of twenty centuries of sạch Vandalism? I once saw the fragments of a beautiful marble statue which had been broken up for the lime-kiln. And if a sarcophagus is discovered, no matter how admirable the workmanship, you must be very expeditious if you hope to rescue it from their destructive hands. Such a one was lately uncovered here at Sidon, adorned with beautiful devices, wrought with exquisite skill. One of our friends heard of it, and went the very next morning to secure it, but too late. The owner of the ground had broken it to fragments to build into his garden wall! You need not hesitate, therefore, about the identity of an ancient site, merely from the fact that the existing ruins do not correspond to the demands of its history.
12th. We have had another charming walk through the gardens up to Neby Yahyeh, and certainly the prospect from the Neby is exceedingly beautiful.
It is; but that from the high point two miles farther south, called el Mūnterah, is much more striking and extensive. Take your stand on the ruins of the temple which once crowned that promontory, and gaze down on plain, sea, and city six hundred feet below, and, if you are not charmed, I shall despair of satisfying your fastidious taste. But we need not layish all our admiration on Sidon's surroundings, lovely as they certainly are. Many other spots will challenge equal admiration.
It may be so; but can any thing of the kind be more rich and ravishing than those orange and lemon trees, loaded with golden fruit, single or in compact clusters, garnished with leaves of liveliest green, and spangled all over with snow-white flowers of sweetest fragrance? With a little distance to lend enchantment, Sidon's fair daughters gliding through these verdant bowers might pass for “ladies of the Hesperides," as Milton has it, set to watch these golden apples. Then those bananas, with their extraordinary leaves a dozen feet long, and drooping like great pendent ears,
strike my fancy exceedingly. I can not say that I am yet reconciled to the fruit. When green
it looks like our pawpaw of Ohio, and when ripe has a sickish-sweet taste, and
a doughy feel in the mouth. Miss Bremer says she thought she was biting into soap.
Yes; but she soon became extravagantly fond of them, and so will you. Did it ever occur to you to compare the list of modern fruits with those mentioned in the Bible? The result will probably surprise you. In numberless places we read of grapes and figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, apples, and almonds, and these cover almost the entire list. But here, in Sidon, we have all these, and, in addition, oranges, lemons, citrons, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, quinces, bananas, prickly pears, and many smaller berries and fruits, none of which are once named in the Bible. The same superiority characterizes the modern Flora. There is no allusion to our glorious oleanders, which adorn every water-course in the land. It is doubtful whether even the rose is mentioned. The word khăbbāzleh, translated rose in the Song of Solomon' and in Isaiah,a is so like our Arabic name of the malva, khubbazy, as to suggest the inquiry whether a beautifully flowering variety of this plant was not the “rose” of the Hebrew poets. We have them very large, double, and richly variegated. Some are perennial, and grow into a prettily shaped bush. Again, there is no mention of pinks, or geraniums, or the clematis, the ivy, the honeysuckle, or of scores of other flowers which add so much to the beauty of the hedges, and forests, and fields of Palestine. What a pity that Solomon's botany is lost, in which he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon, to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall! The cedar we know, but what is the hyssop of the royal botanist? Mr. B-French consul of this city, and an enthusiastic botanist, exhibited to me two varieties of hyssop: one, called z'atar by the Arabs, having the fragrance of thyme, with a hot, pungent taste, and long, slender stems. A bunch of these would answer very well for sprinkling the paschal and sacrificial blood on the lintel and posts of the doors, * and over the persons and houses cleansed from the leprosy. Mr. B-,
-, however, thinks, that a very small green plant, like a Song ii. 1.
3 1 Kings iv. 33
4 Ex. xii. 22.