Page images
PDF
EPUB

XIII. TYRE.

And again,

February 27th. We have now been two days wandering over the ruins of Tyre, and I understand the topography of the whole neighborhood perfectly; indeed, Dr. Robinson had made me better acquainted with this place and its surroundings than any other which we have yet visited.

His description, though the best we have, will nevertheless bear amendment. For example, the land does not project to the south of the causeway, as he represents, but it does to the north and northwest. The west end of the island is not wholly a ledge of ragged, picturesque rocks; there are a few such, however, at the southwest corner. it does not correspond very closely with fact to represent this as originally a long, narrow island. It was scarcely a mile in length, and not much less in breadth, measuring, from the extreme angle of the island, some four hundred paces to the east of the present wall of the city. To be very accurate, it is thirteen hundred and twenty-five paces one way, and ten hundred and thirty-six the other.

The causeway does not "lie between the shore and the northern part of the island," and it would not have reflected much credit upon the sagacity of Alexander's engineers to have carried it in that direction, because the strait is broader, and the sea deeper there than toward the south end. Alexander would, of course, build his work where there was the least depth and shortest distance. The point of the island which extended farthest toward the main land lies directly east of the fountain nearly three hundred paces, as appears from the remains of Tyre's most ancient wall at that place. These very interesting remains were uncovered by quarriers some three years ago, but as the stone were too heavy for their purpose, they left them, and they are now nearly buried again by the shifting sand. From this point the island fell back rapidly toward the northwest, and more gradually toward the southwest. I doubt not but that Alexander's work first touched this projecting angle. The

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

ANCIENT WALL-HARBORS OF TYRE.

265

largest part of the causeway, however, lies to the south of it, and the wind from that direction has there thrown up the greatest amount of sand.

There yet remains one solitary specimen of Tyre's great sea-wall, that mighty bulwark which no enemy could overthrow. At the extreme northern end of the island, a stone nearly seventeen feet long and six and a half thick, rests just where Tyrian architects placed it thousands of years ago. As in every case that I have examined, the foundation laid for these gigantic blocks is made with stone comparatively small. When the sea is quiet we will visit this interesting portion of the old wall.

[graphic][merged small]

I do not believe that there ever was an available harbor south of the island. Not only is the water too shallow, but the southwest and west winds render it utterly unsafe to anchor there. When, therefore, authors speak of two, I suppose they must refer to the inner harbor and outer roadstead, both of which are on the north of the island. The natives, it is true, have a tradition that there was a harbor on the south, but their story is connected with incredible fables about a wall built by Alexander through the deep sea to Ras el Baiyod, a distance of eight or ten miles!

VOL. I.-M

.

The number of granite columns that lie in the sea, particularly on the north of the island, is surprising. The east wall of the inner harbor is entirely founded upon them, and they are thickly spread over the bottom of the sea on every side. I have often rowed leisurely around the island to look at them when the surface was perfectly calm, and always with astonishment. Tyre must have been a city of columns and temples par excellence. The whole north end appears to have been one vast colonnade.

The land along the western shore, and the entire south half of the island, is now given up to cultivation, pasturage, and the general cemetery of the town; and here are found the remains of those splendid edifices for which Tyre was celebrated. About three years ago, the quarriers who were digging out stone for the government barracks at Beirût uncovered a large hajarîyeh-floor--a few feet below the surface. Descending through rubbish some ten feet farther, they came upon a beautiful marble pavement, among a confused mass of columns of every size and variety of rock. I went down and groped about amid these prostrate columns, and found the bases of some still in their original positionsparts of what was once a superb temple. One fragment of verd antique was particularly beautiful. In an adjoining quarry they had just turned out a marble statue of a female figure, full size, modestly robed, and in admirable preservation. May not this be the site and the remains of the famous temple of Belus, or of Jupiter Olympus, both mentioned by Dios; or of Astarte, or Hercules, described by Menander? It is the centre and highest part of the island, and must have been very conspicuous from the sea. The mind becomes quite bewildered with the mighty revolutions and desolations which such excavations reveal. The floor above these remains is the same in kind as those now made in Tyre, but the house to which it belonged has wholly disappeared, and must have been destroyed before the city of the Middle Ages was built, for it is outside of the walls; and yet the ruins of this temple were then buried so deep below the surface that the builder probably had not the

« PreviousContinue »