Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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21, V. 18.


Another large stone is immured in the same wall, but
much higher up, over a far larger gate, now built up, at a
spot behind which the kitchen is at present situated, the

ornamental part of which [ ^ "j j

might lead us to

infer that another still older inscription might still exist
here. Unfortunately I was unable to bring a ladder to the
spot to examine the stone more accurately. It is to be
hoped some future traveller may accomplish tins.

Appendix F. (P. 319.)— The history of the Palm-wood of
PJiaran forms the central point of the histor}- of the whole
Peninsula. The accounts of it given by the Greeks and
^Romans furnish a new proof for this, although their geogra-
phical determinations in great measure have not hitherto
been correctly comprehended. Thus the Poseidion of Ar-
temidorus, Diodorus, and Strabo, is generally placed at the
extremity of the Peninsula, which is now called Eas Mo-
hammed ; also by Gosselin, Letronne, and Grosskurd, who
nevertheless had already recognised the manifestly incorrect
comment of the Strabonic manuscripts (p. 776: tov ['EXai/iVou]
yivxov). As Poseidion was situated icithin {ivdorepa) the
Gulf of Suez, and here the zvest coast of the Peninsula was to
be described, this altar of Poseidion therefore of necessity was
situated either at Eas Abu Zelimeh, the harbour of Faran,
or at Eas Gehan, whence there was a more southern and
shorter communication with Wadi Piran through Wadi
Dhaghadeh. That i\\e pahn-grove (^oivlkmv) of those authors
is not to be sought at Toe, but in the "Wadi Piran, has been
already justly acknowledged by Tuch (Sinait. Inschr. p. 35),
although he still places Poseidion at Eas Mohammed (p. 37).
It was the Seed Bal, the palm-grove of Baal, from which the
mountain first received its name. It appears, in earlier
times, while the grove itself was still called by the inhabitants
Seeb Bal, that the name of Paran was especially employed
for the harbour at Abu Zelimeh, and for a Pharanitic settle-
ment on the site of ancient Elim, near the present Gebel

554 APPEiroix.

Hammam Earaim, still alwa}' s called Earaj^" by the Arabic
authors. (See note, p. 307.) Here also, probably, was the.
spot where Aeistoi^ landed under Ptolemy Philadelphus,
and founded Poseidiok".

Artemidorus (in Strabo, p. 776) and Diodorus (3, 42)
mention Mapavlrat., in place of which Gosselin, E.itter, Tuch,
and others, read ^apavlrai. As the Maranites, however, in-
habited the eastern coast of the Peninsula, and are said to
have been totally destroyed by the G-arindaees, I cannot see
any support for this supposition. The ravine of Phaea,
mentioned by Josephus (Bell. Jud. 4, 9, 4), in Judaea, does
not belong hither.

The name of the Pharanites on the western coast of the
Peninsula first appears in Pliny (H. N. 37, 40), for there is
no reason to regard the Fliaranitis gens, whom he places in
Aralia Petrcca, as differing from the JPharanifai of Ptolemy.
That the northern station Phara (circa ten hours west of
Aila) has nothing to do on the tablet of Peutinger with the
Pharanitic palm-grove, is placed beyond a doubt by Eitter
(p. 147,&c.).

Ptolemy, in the third century, is tlie first who mentions a
^lace called Pharax (km/jlt] ^apdv) ; but on account of the de-
tailed comparison not agreeing, the basis and the connection
of his statements deviating widely from the true conditions,
they have for that very reason hitherto remained in obscurity.
His construction of the Peninsula becomes clear at once,
when we take into account that he has evidently taken the
blunt angle of the coast at Eas GIehajS' (whither by his lati-
tude he removes Cape Pharan, instead of to Hammam
Paraun) to be the most southern point of the Peninsula,
from which the more remote coast runs up again towards the
north-east. Thereby the Peninsula, according to him, be-
comes about 50' too short, although the longitude of his point
corresponds with the true one. The real extremity (Eas
Mohammed) now corresponds with the point whither he
places the bend of the Elanitic Gulf (emarpocpr] tov 'EXaplrov
koXttov). T lie whole of the Elanitic Gulf (Gulf of Akaba)


contracts witli liiin into a small angle (/iv^o?) of 15', because
all is pushed too far to the north. The coast from the
" bend" as far as "On/?; in reality corresponds with that from
Has Fuetak (the dKpcorrjpiov TTjs rjTTeipov of Diodorus and
Artemidorus, in front of which was situated the island of
Phokes) to ' Ai2^ Us"EH, and his Elanitic Grulf, the north part
of which (emaTpocfirj) he places 66° Ion., 29° lat., now
assumes the form of the gulf whose innermost point is now
marked by 'Aiijir UjS"eh. He imagines the Bay of Pharan

{fJ^vxos Kara ^apdv) to be from Cape Earan {aKpcoTrjpiov ^apdv)

to the inland town of the same name, as the angle of Elana,
and the innermost angle of Heroonpolis north of Arsinoe.
Prom this same construction of the Peninsula it followed
that the P-aithenes, who were situated below the Pha-
ranites, on the same coast near Tor (even now called 'Pat^oO),
are now placed on the coast facing Arabia (Trapa Trjv opeLvfjv
rqs Evdaifiovos ^Apa/^las), therefore on the eastern, in place of
the western coast of the Peninsula; and finally, as the
natural result of this, he makes the primitive chain of moun-
tains extending from Paran to Pas Mohammed (oprj peXava)
run towards Judsea, therefore up towards the north-east, in
place of down towards the south-east.

Prom all this, it is evident, that the place Phaean of
Ptolemy is identical with the well-known Pharan in the
Wadi Piran, and the Phoenikon of Artemidorus and Strabo.
Still less can we doubt that the Phaea]S" of Eusebius also
(s. V. 'VacjiLdLp), and of Jerome, which is expressly (s. v. ^apdv)
called a town {rroXi^, oppiduni), and situated (certainly some-
what too near) three days' journey from Aila, was the town
in Wadi Piran, although by a confasion with the Biblical
wilderness of Paran, it is added that the Israelites on their
way back from Sinai went past this Pharan. (Compare
Pitter, p. 740.)

According to the manuscript of the monk Ammoxitjs
(Illustr. Chr. Martyr lecti. triumphi ed. Combefis. Paris,
1660), the town of Pharan was converted to' Christianity in
the middle of the fourth century by a monk Moses, born in


Pharan itself, but his narration, wliicli is evidently an inven-
tion, and belongs to about 370, must by no means be em-
ployed as an historical authority for that period, and seems
to rest chiefly on some passages of a romance of jSTilus, which
was written for an edifying object, and his seems to have been
composed with a similar intention. In jS^ilus, who is placed
about 390, but over whose period and writings much uncer-
tainty still hangs, a Christian counsellor (/3ovXt/) of the town
of Pharan is mentioned (Nili opp. qusedam, 1539. 4°).
Soon after this, since the first half of the fifth century, Le
Quien, from authorities of very unequal value indeed
(Oriens, Christ, vol. iii. p. 751), cites a list of hisJiops of
Phaea^t, who can be followed down to the middle of the
twelfth century. (See Eeland, Palaest. vol. ii. p. 220.) All
the monks of the entire mountain range were subordinate
to these bishops.

"With reference to the foundation of the present convent
on Gebel Musa, it is indeed ascribed to the Emperor
Justinian by Said ben Bateik (Eutychius), who wrote
about 932 — 953 (D'Herbelot, s. v.), as well as in the con-
vent inscriptions of the twelfth or thirteenth centuries,
which have been communicated above ; but this is most de-
cidedly contradicted by the far more reliable testimony, pecu-
liarly valuable here, of Peocopius, who was the cotemjporary
of Justinian. He says, in his special treatise about the
buildings founded by Justinian (Proc. ed. Dind. vol. iii. de
adif. Just. p. 326), that the emperor built a cliurcTi to the
mother of God, " not upon the summit of the mountain, but
a considerahle way heloio it^^ (napa ttoXv epepdev^ in accordance
with the locality, which can only mean on the intermediate
space of ground half-way up the mountain, where the chapel
to Elijah now stands). Separated from this he had also
erected a very strong castle {(ppovpiov) at the foot of the
mountain (eV rov opovs Trpoiroda), and provided it with a good
military guard to check the incursions of the Saracens into
Palestine. As Procopius directly before and afterwards, as
well as throughout the whole paper, distinguishes very


exactly between the convents and the clmrcJies, and the mili-
tary guard-liouses, it is evident that, according to him,
Justinian did not found the present convent together with
his church. The military castle was, however, probably at a
later period employed, and rebuilt into a convent. Besides,
the church founded by Justinian higher up the hill was not
dedicated, like the present convent church, to St. Kathaeine
(see Le Quien, vol. iii. p. 1306), but to Mary. AVhat is said
by Eutychius (who Eobixsox first cited, though he placed him
somewhat too early, still in the tenth century), both about
the building of the convent, and in still more direct contra-
diction with Procopius, about a church built upon the
summit of the mountain, deserves therefore no more credit
than the conversation between the emperor and the architect,
which is communicated. As little must we ascribe to Jus-
tinian, on the statement of Ben Batrik, the foundation of the
convents of Eateh (at Tor) and of Kolzum (a hisliop of
Clysma, by name Poemes, is inserted at the Constantino-
politan Council as early as 460 ; see Acta Concil. ed.
Harduin, ii. 696, 786), as in this case he would undoubtedly
have been mentioned by Procopius. Phaeain" is not men-
tioned by Procopius. On the contrary, he narrates (de bell.
Pers. i. 19, 164 ; de sedif. 5, 8) the important fact, that the
Saracen Prince Abocharagos, reigning there, had presented
the Emperor Justinian with a large palm-grove ((j)oiptKa>va),
situated in the centre of the land (eV tt] fieo-oyala) . On closer
consideration of this account, scarcely a doubt can remain
that the palm-grove of Phaean is here understood, not the
place on the coast ^olvUcov Kafir), mentioned by Ptolemy
(vi. 7, 3), or a palm-grove totally unknown to us, also situated
in the midst of a solitary wilderness, wholly unprovided with
water. According to Ammonius and jS'ilus all the inhabi-
tants of Pharan had then become Christian, and a church at
all events existed there ; thereby it is easier to understand
the gift made by Abocharagos, which Justinian himself pre-
sented to the Phylarch of the Palestinian Saracens. jS^o
doubt the foundation of the castle in the higher mountains,


for watcliing over tliose Saracens, was in connection with,

Next to Procopius, Cosmas Indicopleustes is by far the
most authentic authority of that period. He was not only both
a cotemporary of Justinian, but likewise describes (about 540)
what he himself saw upon the Peninsula. His work is the only
one containing detailed geography belonging to that period,
and his unassuming narration bears everywhere the marks of
unvarnished truth. It is so much the more remarkable that
he neither mentions a convent edifice, nor indeed the locali-
ties at Gebel Musa, but only Phaka:n", although he had the
path of the Israelites especially in view. (See below more of
this.) That on the other hand A]S'T0N1NUS Placentintjs,
who is held by others to be the h. Antoninus Martyr, never-
theless in his Itineraeium {Acta Sanctor. Mxty, vol. ii. p.
X — xviii), which is placed by Hitter about 600, should again
speak of a convent at the thorn-bush (Procopius does not
yet make mention of the thorn-bush), between Horeb and
Sinai, therefore on the site of the present convent, appears
rather to lead us back to the opinion so decidedly expressed by
Papebeoch, who first published the Itinerary, that this nar-
rative, which has excited such various considerations, though so
learnedly defended, does not belong to an earlier period than
the eleventh or twelfth centuries. At all events, it would be
very desirable if the writings of Ammonius, Mlus, and
Antoninus, that have been cited, and so many others attri-
buted to the first Christian centuries, were submitted to a more
searching and connected criticism than has hitherto been
the case.

The earliest bishop of Mount Sinai to whom we can
refer, is not to be found before the eleventh century, Bishop
Jorius, who dies 1033 (Le Quien, iii. 754). The name in
the second Constantiuopolitan Council (a. 553), signed
Phronimus episc. Synnaii (Acta Concil. ed. Harduin, vol. iii.
p. 53), or Stnaitanorum (p. 206), and in the fourth council
(a. 870), the one named Constantinus ep. Stfai (Harduin,
vol. V. p. 927), have been incorrectly brought hither (Eitter,


Abhandl. der Berl. Akad. 1824, p. 216. Halbinsel Sinai,
p. 96), as they belong to Synaus, or Synn-aus, in Phrygia.

Appendix Gt. (P. 320). — It must be most absolutely denied
that an interrupted and distinct tradition about the posi-
tion of Sinai in the Peninsula was preserved as late as the
Christian times. The name Choreb, or Sinai, appears even
at a very early period to have been understood for the whole
of the lofty range in the Peninsula, which was constantly
regarded from a distance as one single mountain. No one
before the time of the Christian hermits attached any in-
terest in connecting a fixed geographical notion with the
name that had been transmitted. We only read of Elijah
that he fled to the "Mount of God Choreb," and there
(1 Kings xix. 9) went into the same cave (for it is pre-
supposed that it is known) in which the Lord had already
appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai (2 Exodus xxxiii. 22).
The native Arab tribes by degrees became so much changed,
that not one of the Old Testament names remained in its
original position. The Grreeks and Eomans only knew one
spot on the whole Peninsula, the Palm-wood of Pharan, be-
cause this spot only, and the harbour leading to it, was of
any importance since the mines of that wilderness had been
exhausted. Eiran must of necessity have been the earliest
central point for the Christian hermits also ; that moun-
tainous wilderness, aff'ording necessary means of sustenance,
in the greatest retirement, must have appeared better
adapted for them than any other district, since here we also
find the most ancient church of the Peninsula. When
gradually the individual Biblical localities began to be more
accurately investigated, people had no other means for
forming their determinations than we possess now, and
besides understood far less to employ these means, since all
acute criticism of the Biblical passages, which could alone
give them information, at that time lay far removed.
They understood the name Sinai as an indeterminate
appellation for the whole range ; but when they searched
for Sinai in a siugle mountain, Seebal then must


have immediately presented itself. Thither also points
all that we read about the matter in authentic writings
during the first centuries, but to these the writing of the
monk Ammonius certainly does not belong in the opinion of
those who examine accurately, and hardly the edifying
romance of Nilus. "What Josephus (Ant. iii. 5) says of
Sinai (r6 ^lvoIov) may very well refer to Serbal, at all events
not to Gebel Musa, as has been already shown by Hogg (in
several passages, p. 207). According to Eusebius, Choreb
and Haphidim were situated at Pharan (eyyvs ^apdv, see
note, p. 313), and Sinai near Choreb (jrapaKeLTai rw opn 2iva,
see above). Jerome (s. v. Choreh) regards both mounts as
one, which he likewise places at Pharak, and consequently
recognises in Serbal. The account by jSTilus also, about
the Saracenic attack at Sinai, either does not belong to the
time in which it is placed (c. 400), or refers to Serbal, for
here a cliiircJi {iKKhrjo-la) is frequently (p. 38, 46) mentioned,
which at that time did not exist at Gebel Musa, and Nilus,
that very same night in which the scattered slain had been
buried, goes down to Pharan, which would have been impos-
sible from Gebel Musa. Finally, Cosmas Ikdicopleustes,
who traversed the Peninsula about the year 535, probably im-
mediately before the building of the Justinian church, passes
through Eaithu, i. e. Tor, which he regards as Elim, although
he only found a few palm-trees there (the present consider-
able plantations are, therefore, of more recent date), and
across the present AYadi Hebran to Eaphidim, which is
now called Phara:n". Here he was at the termination of his
Sinai journey. From this spot Moses went with the elders
" upon the Mount Choreb, i. e. Sinai, which is about 6000
paces (one mile and a half) distant from Pharan," and
struck the water out of the rock ; here also the tabernacle
of the congregation was built, and the law was given;
thereby the Israelites besides received the Scripture, and
had leisure to learn it for their application ; thence we may
date the numerous rock-inscriptions which are still to be
found in that wilderness (especially at Serbal). (Eira •noKiv


Trapcvepakov ds 'Pa^idtV, 6i? tt]u vvv KaXovfievTjv ^apdv' kol bLyjrev-
(TovTOiv avTcop, TTopeverat Kara Trpocrra^Lv Beov 6 Mcovaiis pera tojv
TTpea-fSvTepcov Koi rj pa/356? ev tt] x^^P*- o.vtov, els Xcopfj^ to opos,
rovTecrriv iv t