Charles Bucke.

Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

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different languages, which have nearly the same sig-
nification. The sun was worshipped by the ancient
inhabitants of the country, under the name of Baal.
Balbec signifies the vale of Baal ; and Heliopolis the
city of the sun.

* Chap. vhi. venri 5, 6.


That Balbec derived, not only its religion, but its
very name, from Ileliopolis in Egypt, is rendered
certain by a passage in Macrobius : " In the city
called Heliopolis, the Assyrians worship the sun with
great pomp, under the name of the Heliopolitan
Jove ; and the statue of this god was brought
from a city in Egypt, also called Heliopolis, where
Senumens or Senepos reigned over the Egyptians, by
Opios, ambassador from Delebor, king of the Assy-
rians, together with some Egyptian priests, of whom
Partemetis was the chief, and it remained long
among the Assyrians before it was removed to

The same author adds, " that he declines giving
the reason for this fact, or telling how the statue was
afterwards brought to the place, where in his time it
was worshipped, more according to the Assyrian
than the Egyptfan rites, as circumstances foreign to
his purpose."

As Balbec has never been the seat of a monarch,
antiquaries are greatly at a loss to conceive how the
expense of these magnificent structures could have
been supplied by private or municipal liberality.
The orientals, however, explain the prodigy by a
never-failing expedient, they were constructed by
the fairies or genii !

That these temples did not exist when Pompey
went through Heliopolis to Damascus is probable,
because the writers of that time, who mention less
remarkable structures with admiration, take no no-
tice of any such building ; and it is certain that they
did exist in the time of Caracalla ; because Heliopolis
is to be seen on many of his coins ; and vows in
favour of him and his empress are recorded in two
inscriptions, the remains of which are still to be seen
on the pedestals of the columns of the great portico
of the temple.

168 HI INS M 1 < ITIE8.

That Heliopolis was constituted a colony by Au-
gustus Ca?sar, is rendered probable, by -nine medal*
which still remain, and in which it is called, k -( 'olonia
Julia Augusta;" but it was not till the time of
Sfptimius Severus that the temple was impressed on
the reverse of the coins.

When we consider the extraordinary magnificence
of the temple of Balbec, we cannot but be greatly
surprised at the silence of the Greek and Roman
authors in respect to it. Mr. Wood, who has care-
fully examined all the ancient authors, has found no
mention of it. except in a fragment of -lohn <>1
Antioch, surnamed Malala, who attributes the build-
ing of it to Antoninus Pius. His words are :
" /Elius Antoninus Pius* built a great temple at
Heliopolis, near Li ban us, in Phoenicia, which was
one of the wonders of the world." Some Roman
medals also have been found, upon the reverse of
which is a representation something similar to those
temples, with the inscription: COLOMA HKMOPO-

One circumstance, however, militates against the
idea that Antoninus Pius was the builder of these
temples; viz., that Julius Capitolinus says no-
thing about them, though he gives a list of that
emperor's buildings, and speaks of others of much
less consideration. It must, however, be remembered,
that the work of Julius Capitolinus is known to
be so extremely defective, that though Antoninus
reigned one-and-twenty years, and transmitted to
posterity the character of one of the best princes that
ever ruled, yet the particulars, that merited such
extraordinary praise, are utterly unknown.

Gibbon thus remarks upon the different fortunes
of Balbec and Kmesa: "Among the cities which
are enumerated by Greek and oriental name- in the
But. Chroo. lib. ii.


geography and conquest of iSyria, we may distinguish
EMESA and HELIOPOLIS ; the former as a metropolis
of the plain ; the latter as the metropolis of the
valley. Under the last of the Caesars they were
strong and populous ; the turrets glittered from afar;
an ample space was covered with public and private
buildings ; and the citizens were illustrious by their
spirit, or at least by their pride ; by their riches, or
at least by their luxury. In the days of paganism,
both Etnesa and Heliopolis were addicted to the
worship of Baal, or the sun : but the decline of their
superstition or splendour has been marked by a sin-
gular variety of fortune. Not a vestige remains of
the temple of Emesa, which was equalled in poetic
style to the summits of Mount Libanus ; while the
ruins of Balbec, invisible to the writers of antiquity,
excite the curiosity and wonder of European tra-

In the reign of Heraclius its garrison was strength-
ened, that it might be enabled to withstand the
Arabs; and when Christianity gained the ascendancy
nnder Constantine, he shut up many pagan temples ;
but it was Theodosius, who converted its temple into
a Christian church, the walls of which are still
standing. The conversion of it into a fortress was
the work of the Caliphs, when this part of the
world fell under the government of the Caliphs,
called the Ommiades; an incurious and therefore an
ignorant race, during whose time nothing is recorded
of Balbec, although it was then a considerable city.
The ancient name, Balbec, during this time was re-
stored, instead of Heliopolis, which was probably a
translation of Balbec, or at least substituted for it,
when it passed out of the possession of its own native
oriental inhabitants.
In Ebn Haukal's* oriental geography, Balbec is

* An Arabian traveller iu the tenth century.

170 ni!N> or LMCTBN1 CT1

mentioned thus : "Beyond the border- of I), nic-lik
is Baalbek, situated on nn eminence. Here an- the
gates of palaces, sculptured in marble; and lofty
columns, also of marble. In the whole region of
Syria there is not a more stupendous or considerable
edifice than this *."

Tin* approach to this ruined city is thus described
by Mr. Bruce: "The form of Mount Mlmnus,
as seen from the plain of Bekka, is this : first,
a range of mountains, extremely proper for cul-
ture, and of no considerable height, sloping easily to
the plain, and covered with trees that are not very
thickly planted. On the other side of these rises a
chain of mountains of an extraordinary height, bare
for the most part, and stony, cut in every rain, and
covered with snow, except in summer. Thus they
continue till they descend much more steeply on the
other side towards the sea. The valleys within this
high chain of mountains, which on one side run pa-
rallel with the sea-coast, and on the other form tho
east side of the plain of Bekka, are mostly narrow ;
but abundantly fertile, were they in the hands of
better people, under a better government ; industry
being here always followed by oppression."

Mr. Came describes his arrival thus : " The sun
set on the vast temple, and the mountains around it,
with indescribable grandeur ; the chain of Anti-
Libanus, in front, was covered with snow ; and tho
plain, wild and beautiful, stretched at its feet farther
than the eye can reach : the pigeons, of many-coloured
plumage, flew in clusters round the ruined walls, at
whose feet were a variety of trees and flowers,
amidst which ran a clear and rapid stream."

We now pass to Mons. La Martine : " On reach-
ing the summit of the breach, we knew not where to


fix OUT eyes. On every side we beheld marble doors
of prodigious dimensions, windows and niches, bor-
dered with exquisite sculpture, richly ornamented
arches, fragments of cornices, entablatures, and capi-
tals. The master- work of art ; the wrecks of ages,
lay scattered as thickly as the grains of dust be-
neath our feet. All was mystery, confusion, inexpli-
cable wonder. No sooner had we cast an admiring
glance on one side, than some new prodigy attracted
us on the others. Every attempt, we made to inter-
pret the religious meaning of the monuments, was
immediately defeated by some newly-discerned ob-
ject. We frequently groped about in this labyrinth
of conjecture. One cannot restrict, in one's fancy, the
sacred edifices of an age, or a people of whose reli-
gion or manners nothing certain can be known.
Time carries his secrets away with him, and leaves
his enigmas as sports for human knowledge. We
speedily renounced all our attempts to build any
system out of these mins ; we were content to gaze
and admire, without comprehending any thing beyond
the colossal power of human genius ; and the strength,
of religious feeling, which had moved such masses
of stone, and wrought so many master-pieces."

The ruins of Balbec do not present a crowd of
fallen edifices, spread over a large extent, like those
of Palmyra ; they consist only of three distinct build-
ings, which stand not far fco, Pac h other, in a plain
at a short distance from the inhabited rn ^ n f j] ie
town. As in the instance of Palmyra, where we
shall have to make a similar remark, it is impossible
to convey an adequate idea of these works of art,
without the accompaniments of plates*. We adopt,
therefore, an abstract of the account of M. Volney,

* For these the curious reader may turn to the fine work of
Messrs. Daukins and Wood. There are several plates of these
ruins, also, in Pococke's and Brace's travels. When at Balbe

1 7-J ur INS OP ANcn:\r ci ;

since his description is, perhaps. t!i- I. >t that wu
have: " In elite-ring tin- principal gate, which fan's
the mountain on the east, we come to an In xa^mial
court, which is one hundred and eighty feet in dia-
meter. This is strewed with broken columns, muti-
lated capitals, and the remains of entablatures and
cornices. Around it is a row of ruined edifices, which
display all the ornaments of the richest architecture.
On passing through this court towards the west, we
enter a large square, three hundred and fifty feet
wide, and three hundred and thirty-three in length.
Along each side of this court runs a sort of gallery,
divided into various compartments, seven of which
may be reckoned in each of the principal wings. It
is not easy to conceive the use of this part of the
structure ; but it does not diminish our admiration
at the beauty of the pilasters, and the richness of the
frieze and entablature ; neither is it possible to avoid
remarking the singular effect which results from the
mixture of the garlands, the large foliage of the capi-
tals, and the sculpture of wild plants, with which they
are every where ornamented. At the -west end of this
court staud six enormous columns, which appear to
be totally unconnected with the rest of the build ing.
On a more attentive examination, however, wo dis-
cover a series of foundations, which seem to mark out
the peristyle of a grand tempi*, << which these co-
lumns belonged. Pw*ke supposes this temple never
to i., L..WU nnished. We must examine them nar-
rowly before we can conceive all the boldness of the
elevation, and the richness of their workmanship.
Their shafts are twenty-one feet eight inches in cir-
cumference, and fifty -eight high ; so that the total
height, including the entablature, is from seventy-

thc latter mule numerous drawing* ; all of which he presented to
George the Third. " These," says he, " are the richest offering of
the kind that were ever presented to a sovereign by e subject."


one to seventy two feet. These six pillars are all
that now remain of twenty-four*.

The southern side of the grand temple has, at
some distant period, been blocked up to build a
smaller one, the peristyle and walls of which are still
remaining. This temple presents a side of thirteen
columns by eight in front, which, like all the rest of
the ruins, are of the Corinthian order t. To reach
the smaller temple from the larger one, you must
cross trunks of columns, heaps of stone, and a ruinous
wall. After surmounting these obstacles, you arrive
at the gate, where you may survey the enclosure,
which was once the habitation of a god ; but instead
of the awful scene of a prostrate people, and sacrifices
offered by a multitude of priests, the sky, which is
open from the falling in of the roof, only lets in light

* " The entry to the great Temple of the Sun is from the east,
through a noble portico of twelve circular columns; and the first
apartment in which the visiter finds himself is a magnificent hexa-
gonal hall, one hundred and eighty feet in diameter, exhibiting on
all sides the remains of an architectural beauty and magnificence of
the richest character, in the columns and other ornaments of a
circle of chambers which run around it. Beyond this is a still
larger court, of nearly a square form, Leing three hundred and
seventy-four feet in one direction, by three hundred and sixty-eight
feet in another, and at the farther extremity of that is the far-
stretching pillared structure forming the proper temple. As may
be observed from the view, nine of the lofty columns, which had
composed this part of the edifice, are still to be seen standing toge-
ther. There had been originally fifty-six in all, namely, ten at
each end, and eighteen others along each of the sides. The entire
length of the space which they include is two hundred and eighty-
five feet, and its breadth is one hundred and fifty-seven feet. The
height, including the plinth, is eighty-seven feet." ANON.

h The effect of the Corinthian order depends as much on the
execution of the sculptured details as in the harmony and correctness
of the proportion ; and the miserable specimens we have about
London, with a stunted capital, and a few cramped projections,
called acanthus leaves, would not be known as the same order of
architecture by the side of these bold, free, airy, and majestic masse*
of building. ADUTSON.

174 RUINS 01

to show a chaos of ruins covered with dust ami
weeds. The walla, which supported the roof, are
thirty-one feet high, and without a wiinl<>\v. Tin-re
are tablets in the form of lozenges, on >\hich an-
represented Jupiter seated on his eagle, Leda caressed
by the swan, Diana with her bow and crescent.
and several busts which seem to be figures of
emperors and empresses.

The number of lizards to be seen is so great, that
Mr. Bruce says, that those he saw one day in the
great court of the temple of the sun amounted to
many thousands ; the ground, the walls, and stones
of the ruined buildings being covered with tlu-iu.
Besides these two, there is a smaller temple of very
great beauty. The building itself, exclusive of the
pillars, by which it is surrounded, is only thirty-two
feet in diameter ; and the height is divided into two
parts, in the lower of which the architecture is Ionic,
and in the higher Corinthian. The grace and light-
ness of the exterior of this edifice has induced several
competent critics to call it " a perfect gem of art."

In respect to the six columns, " In order tu
reach them," says M. de La Martine, " we had to
pass external boundary walls, high pedestals, ter-
races, and foundations of altars. At length we
arrived at the feet of the columns. Silence is the
only language of man, when what he feels outstrips
the ordinary measure of his impressions. We stood
in mute contemplation of these six columns, and
scanning with our eyes their diameter, their eleva-
tion, and the admirable sculpture of their architraves
and cornices. Their diameter is six feet, and their
height upwards of seventy- two. They are formed
out of two or three blocks, which arc so perfectly
joined together, that the junction lines are scarcely
discernible*. They are composed of light yellow

No cement or mortar is uted iu their construction, but tne


stone, presenting a sort of medium between the
polish of marble and the deadness of turf. When
near them, the sun lighted them only on one side,
and we sat down for a few moments in their shade.
Large birds, like eagles, scared by the sound of our
footsteps, flutttered above the capitals of the columns,
where they have built their nests ; and returning,
perched upon the acanthus of the columns, striking
them with their beaks, and flapping their wings
like living ornaments, amidst these inanimate won-
ders, all of which appear to resemble works of

Branching off to the southward of the arenue, you
come to the stumps of some fluted columns sticking
above the sand on either side of a small simple gate-
way ; and a few paces to the westward, on an emi-
nence, re the ruins of the small temple just now
mentioned; and from thence is enjoyed the mag-
nificent coiqy-d'ce'd of all the ruins and the vast

Beyond the circular colonnade lie the prostrate
remains of a very magnificent building, constructed
of a species of marble superior to the generality of
that used in these ruins. The walls are constructed
of large single stones, nicely fitted one above another.
Richly ornamented windows extend around the
walls, and some columns of one entire piece, twenty-
two feet in length and about nine in circumference,
lie prostrate on the ground.

" About fifty yards distant from the temple," says
Mr. Maundrell, " is a row of Corinthian pillars, very
great and lofty, with a most stately architrave and
cornice at the top. This speaks itself to have been
part of some very august pile ; but what one now
sees of it is but just enough to give a regret, that

large square stones are neatly adjusted, and to closely fitted, as to
render the joining almost invisible.

176 urr

there should IK- no more remaining. 1
curiosity of tins place, which a man need In- well
assured of his credit, before he vmtun s to relate, h>t he
should he thought t-> strain the privilege of a traveller
too far. That which 1 UK an is a large piece of
an old wall, which encompasses all these structures
last described. A wall made of Mich monstrous
great stones, that the natives hereabouts, (as it is
usual in things of this strange nature,) ascribe it to
the architecture of the devil. Three of the st
which were larger than the rest, we took the pains
to measure. We found them to extend sixty-one
yards in length; one twenty-one; the other t\\o
each twenty yards ; and in the breadth of the same
dimensions. These three stones lay in one and the
same row to the end ; the rest of the- wall was made
also of great stones, but none I think so great as
these. That which added to the wonder was, that
these stones were lifted up into the wall more than
twenty feet from the ground."

Besides these ruins, there are several very large
subterraneous passages, which lead under the great
citadel, immense vaults of very massive architecture,
constructed in a very beautiful manner. Some of
these, no doubt, were tombs ; and this leads us to
remember, that Mr. Browne says*, that when he was
at Zahhlc, he met with a young man, a Druse, who
told him, that near Balbec, a few years ago. in
digging, the body of a man was found interred in a
kind of vault, having a piece of unstamped gold in
his mouth ; near him a number of leaden plates
marked with characters, to them unknown. These
were sold and melted. La Martine says, that not far
from Balbec, in a valley of the Anti-Libanus, human
bones of immense magnitude have been discovered ;
and that this fact is so confidently believed among the

Travel* in Africa, Egypt, and Syria, p. 406, 7, 4to.


neighbouring Arabs, that the English consul in Syria
(Mr. Farren), a man of extensive information, pro-
poses to visit those mysterious sepulchres.

The walls of the ancient Heliopolis are traceable
in many directions, and show that the city must
have been of a very considerable extent. " These
walls," says Mr. Wood, " like most of the an-
cient cities of Asia, appear to be the confused
patch-work of different ages. The pieces of capitals,
broken entablatures, and, in some places, reversed
Greek inscriptions, which we observed in walking
round them, convinced us that their last repairs
were made after the decline of taste, with materials,
negligently collected as they lay nearest to hand,
and hastily put together for immediate defence."

The stone of which the temple is built was brought
from the neighbouring quarry, at the bottom of
which there is a single stone lying seventy feet in
length, fourteen in breadth, and fourteen feet six
inches in thickness. Its weight, according to these
dimensions, must be above 1130 tons! It would
require, we are told, the united strength of sixty
thousand men of our time to raise this single stone !

The stones used at Balbec are the largest that
have ever been moved by human power. The largest
in the pyramids of Egypt do not exceed eighteen
feet. But here, of those that compose the sloping
wall, which surrounds the temple on the west and
north, three occupy a space of one hundred and
seventy-five feet and a half; viz., the 1st, fifty- eight
feet seven inches ; the 2nd, fifty-eight feet eleven
inches ; and the 3rd, exactly fifty-eight feet long ;
and each of these is twelve feet thick.

" When it is considered," says La Martine, " that
some of these blocks of hewn granite are raised one
above another to the height of twenty or thirty feet
from the ground; that they have been brought from


178 nrixs or ANCIENT cmr*.

distant quarries, and raised to so vast a height to
form the pavement of the temple; the mind is over-
whelmed by such an example of human power. The
science of modern times cannot help us to explain it,
and we cannot be surprised, therefore, that it is
referred to the supernatural/'

** The shades of evening," continues this accom-
plished traveller, " which slowly descended tin-
mountains of Balbec, and obscured, one by one, the
columns and the ruins, imparted an additional air of
mystery to the picturesque and magical effect of
these wonderful works of man and time. We felt
the full insignificance of human nature ; and while
contemplating the mass and eternity of these monu-
ments, wecompared man to the swallows, which build
their nests for a season in the interstices of these
stones, without knowing for whom, or by whom, or
for what purpose, they were collected together. The
power which moved these masses, and accumulated
these blocks, is unknown to us. The dust of the
marble, which we trod under our feet, knows more
than we do, but can tell us nothing ; and in a few
centuries to come, the generations who may, in their
turn, visit the wrecks of our monuments now exist-
ing, will ask, without being able to answer, why
we laboured without being able to build and carve.
The works of man are more durable than his thoughts ;
movement is the law of the human mind ; the defi-
ii it.' is the dream of man's vanity and ignorance ;
God is an object which incessantly recedes from us,
as we endeavour to approach him. We are conti-
nually advancing, but we never arrive. The Deity,
whose divine figure man seems to embody in his
imagination, and to enshrine in his temples, conti-
nually enlarges, and exceeds the narrow boundaries
of our minds, and our edifices ; leaves the temples and
the altars to crumble into dust; and summons man


to seek him where he is most plainly manifested,
viz., in intelligence, in virtue, in nature, and in

We now give place to observations, made by tra-
vellers on the relative merits of the architecture,
employed in these magnificent edifices. " When we
compare the ruins of Balbec," says Mr. Wood, " with
those of many ancient cities, which we visited in
Italy, Greece, and Egypt, and in other parts of
Asia, we cannot help thinking them the remains of
the boldest plan we ever saw attempted in archi-

" The enormity of the scale," says Mr. Bucking-
ham, " and the magnificence of design, seen through-
out the whole ef the architecture, with the boldness
of the drawing, and the exquisite finish of the sculp-
ture, impressed me with an idea of a labour more
thau human. I should conceive that in no country
was to be found so superb a monument of the ini-
mitable perfection of ancient architecture. The
temples and the tombs of Egypt were here equalled
in the enormity of the masses, that composed them ;
and the chamber of the Pyramids rivalled in the
closeness of the masonry ; while the monuments of
Athens itself, in the age of Pericles and Praxiteles,
were at least equalled in the richness and beauty of

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 36)