Gertrude Lowthian Bell.

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"God forbid! " replied Fattuh modestly. "And now," he


proceeded, "let me bring your Excellency an omelet, for I
am sure that you must be hungry." But I understood this
exaggerated solicitude to be no more than a covert slur upon
the culinary powers of Mr. X.'s servant, who had provided
us with an abundant lunch during Fattuh's absence, and not
even so voracious a consul as I could face a second meal.
Fattuh retired in some displeasure to inform the muleteers
that they would journey to Baghdad and Kerbela and there
rejoin us, please God.

We explored the village of Hit before nightfall, and a more
malodorous little dirty spot I hope I may never see. "Why,"
says the poet, concerning some unknown wayfarer, "did he
not halt that night at Hit?" and it is strange that Ibn Khur-
dadhbeH, who quotes the question, should have been at a
loss for the answer. Possibly he had no personal knowledge
of Hit. On the top of the hill there is a round minaret, similar
in construction to the minaret of Ma'mureh, but I saw no
other feature of interest. The sun was setting as we came
down to the palm-groves by the river. The fires under the
troughs of molten bitumen sent up their black smoke columns
between the trees (Fig. 60) ; half-naked Arabs fed the flames
with the same bitumen, and the Euphrates bore along the
product of their labours as it had done for the Babylonians
before them. So it must have looked, this strange factory
under the palm-trees, for the last 5,000 years, and all the
generations of Hit have not altered by a shade the processes
taught them by their first forefathers.


The only modern record of the road along the left bank
of the Euphrates from Rakkah to Deir is the rather meagre
account given by Sachau ; Moritz travelled down the left
bank from Deir to Buseirah, but I know of no published
description of the road from Buseirah to 'Anah. It has not




MG. 63. — 'AIX ZA'zU.


therefore been possible hitherto to attempt to place in any
continuous sequence the sites given by ancient authorities.
Of these the fullest list is that of the Parthian stations fur-
nished by Isidorus of Charax (Geographi GrcBci Minor esy
ed. by Miiller, Vol. I. p. 244). It begins with the fixed point
of Nicephorium (Rakkah) and ends with another fixed point,
that of Anatho ('Anah). Between these two lies Nabagath
on the Aburas. The Aburas may safely be assumed to
indicate the Khabiir, and Nabagath is therefore Circesium-
Buseirah. The following comparative table shows my sug-
gestions for the remaining stations, combined with those
which have already been made by Ritter and others. The
times given are the rate of travel of my caravan ; between
Rakkah and Deir I had the advantage of comparing them
with Sachau's time-table. No two caravans travel over any
given distance at exactly the same pace, but the general
average works out without any grave discrepancy. I have
often tried to reckon the speed at which my caravan travels
and have come to the conclusion that it is very little under
three miles an hour, say about two and seven-eighths miles
an hour. Isidorus computes his distances by the schoenus.
According to Moritz i schoenus = 5'5 kilometres. From
Buseirah to 'Anah I travelled over Isidorus's road at the
rate of i schoenus in i hr. 7 min., which would bring the
schoenus down to 5' 166 kilometres. The section from
Rakkah to Buseirah is not so easy to calculate because
Isidorus has in two places omitted to give the exact distance
between the stations, but my rate of travel was not far
different here from that noted in the other sections. So much
for the average. The individual distances do not tally so
exactly, and in attempting to determine the sites, the evidence
that can be gathered from the country itself seems to me io
weigh heavier in the scale than the measurements given
by Isidorus, especially as his inexactitude is proved by the
fact that the sum of the distances he allows from station to
station do not coincide with the total distances, from the
Zeugma (Birejik) to Seleucia, and from Phaliga to Seleucia,
as he states them. In both cases the sum of the small


distances comes to a larger figure than that which he allows
for the totals —

Zeugma to Seleucia . . . .171 sch.
total of distances between stations 174 sch., without the two
omitted by him.

Phaliga to Seleucia . . . .100 sch.
total of distances between stations 120 sch. without one
omitted by him.

As regards the second section, Kiepert believed that a
copyist's error of 10 sch. too much had been made in
Isidorus's table between Izannesopolis and Aeipolis (the
modern Hit), but even this correction will not bring the
totals together (Ritter, Vol. XI. p. 738). The road from the
Zeugma to Nicephorium does not follow the river, and I am
therefore unable to control the statements of Isidorus above
Rakkah ; nor do I know the section between Hit and Seleucia.
I need scarcely say that my table is of the most tentative
character; it begins with the ninth station of Isidorus,

The first remarkable site which I saw on the river below
Rakkah was the large area surrounded by a ditch, half-an-^
hour above my camping-ground. Isidorus's tenth station
from Zeugma is Galabatha. Ritter (Vol. XL p. 687) observes
that it must be above Abu Sa'id, and the area enclosed by
the ditch fulfils that condition. The eleventh station is
Khubana which I put at Abu Sa'id, where there are frag-
ments of columns and other evidences of antiquity. The
twelfth station is Thillada Mirrhada; I have placed it at
Khmeidah (squared stones, brick walls, a broken sarco-
phagus), but the claims of Abu 'Atik are considerable, the
extent of the ruin field at the latter place being much larger
than at Khmeidah. But Abu 'Atik is 7 hrs. 5 min. from
Abu Sa'id, and the caravan time between Khmeidah and Abu
Sa'id (6 hrs. 5 min.) is already rather long for the 4 sch.
allowed by Isidorus. The thirteenth station is Basilia with
Semiramidis Fossa. Ritter long ago pointed to the prob-
ability of its having been situated at Zelebiyeh (Vol. XI,


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p. 687). Semiramidis Fossa was no doubt a canal;
Chesney saw traces of an ancient canal below Zelebiyeh.
The distance from Thillada to Basilia is not given by
Isidorus. Ritter would allow 5 sch. and Herzfeld 7 sch.
{Memnon, 1907, p. 92); according to my reckoning both
these distances are too long. I marched from Khmeidah
to Zelebiyeh in 3 hrs. 40 min., which implies a distance of
not more than 3 sch. For the fourteenth station, Allan,
Umm Rejeibah is the only possible site I saw. It is true
that I reached it in 3 hrs. from Zelebiyeh, whereas Isidorus
puts it 4 sch. from Basilia, but I cut straight across the hills,
and if I had followed the river {i. e. from the mouth of the
canal, Semiramidis Fossa) the time needed would have been
considerably longer. The fifteenth station, Biunan, was
conjectured by Ritter to lie opposite Deir. I saw no traces
of ruins upon the left bank, though Sachau speaks of the
remains of two bridges (Reise, p. 262), and I should be more
inclined to look for Biunan at a nameless site mentioned by
Moritz {op. cit., p. 36). The difference is not in any case
of importance, for the site seen by Moritz is immediately
below Deir. He would have it to be Phaliga, which is
doubtless Pliny's Phaliscum, but that suggestion is difficult to
reconcile with Isidorus's 14 sch. from Basilia to Phaliga,
which brings Phaliga much nearer to Circesium. Moreover,
Isidorus states that Nabagath is near Phaliga — so near that
he does not trouble to give any other indication of the
distance between the two stations — and as Nabagath on the
Aburas cannot be other than Buseirah, Phaliga too must be
close to the Khabur mouth. I did not see the site mentioned
by Moritz because I neglected to follow the river closely
immediately below Deir; if it be, as I suppose, Biunan, I
cannot attempt to identify the site of Phaliga. The seven-
teenth station, Nabagath, is, as has been said, Circesium-
Karkisiya-Buseirah. The eighteenth, Asikha, I would
identify with the Zeitha of Ptolemy and Ammianus Mar-
cellinus, and with the mounds I saw at Jemmah. For the
nineteenth station. Dura, I know no other site than the very
striking tell of Abu'l Hassan, the biggest mound upon


this part of the river. Miiller has suggested that the
mound may represent Ptolemy's Thelda (in his edition of
Ptolemy's Geography, p. 1003). Ammianus Marcellinus
also mentions "a deserted town on the river" called Dura.
The army of Julian reached it in two days' march from
Zeitha, at which place the emperor had made an oration
to his soldiers after sacrificing at Gordian's tomb. Now
two days' march from Zeitha-Jemmah would bring the
army to Werdi-Irzi, which is no doubt the place called by
Xenophon Corsote and described by him as "a large deserted
city." It is perhaps worthy of observation that, in spite
of its being deserted, Cyrus provisioned his army at Corsote
and that Julian's army found at Dura, though it too was
deserted, "quantities of wild deer, so that the soldiers and
sailors had plenty of food." My own impression on the
spot was that Ammianus Marcellinus's Dura must be Irzi.
The tower tombs were certainly erected before the middle
of the fourth century, therefore they were in existence when
Julian passed ; moreover, they were far more numerous and
conspicuous than they are at present, since almost all of them
have now fallen into ruin. It is difficult to see how Irzi
could have failed to attract the attention of Ammianus Mar-
cellinus, and Dura is the one place mentioned by him between
Zeitha and 'Anah. But the Dura of Isidorus, the nineteenth
station, has to be placed at Abu'l Hassan, not at Irzi, since
his twentieth station, Merrhan, necessarily falls at Irzi, and
I can only conjecture that, as in Julian's time both places
were ruined and deserted, Ammianus Marcellinus made a
confusion between them, or was wrongly informed, and trans-
ferred the name of Dura (Abu'l Hassan) to Merrhan (Irzi).
For the twenty-first station, Giddan, I can offer no sugges-
tion. Jabariyeh will scarcely fit, as it is but 13 hrs. 15 min.
from 'Anah, and Giddan was 17 sch. from Anatho, but
it must be admitted that all the distances between the stations
from Merrhan to 'Anah seem to be too long according to my
caravan time. The twenty-second station, Belesibiblada, was
placed by Chesney at Kal'at Bulak, and I saw no better site
for it, though I took only 9 hrs. and 25 min. to reach it from


Irzi, and the distance given by Isidorus is 12 sch.
Ritter would place at Kal'at Bulak Ptolemy's Bonakhe. I
do not see any way of identifying with certainty the island
station, the twenty-third, which was 4 sch. from 'Anah. There
are many islands in the stream above 'Anah. One of them,
Karabileh, is reported to have ruins upon it ; it was about
four hours' journey from ancient 'Anah, and may therefore
be identical with the twenty-third station, which is placed at a
distance of 4 sch. from Anatho. Anatho, the twenty-fourth
station, Isidorus expressly states to be on an island; it was
therefore the successor to the Assyrian fortress which I believe
to have existed on the island of Lubbad. Xenophon does
not mention it; nor does Ptolemy, unless his Bethanna may
be taken for 'Anah as Ritter believed (Vol. XI. p. 716). Rawa
may possibly be the Phathusa of Zosimos, but I would rather
place Phathusa on the left bank, opposite and below the
island of Lubbad, where there are many mounds and ruins.
I did not follow the river below 'Anah very closely, but the
ruins I saw near Hadithah help to justify the presumption
that Olabus was situated there. Chesney washed to identify
Izannesopolis with the ruins of a castle between Baghdadi
and Hit. I did not go to the spot, and my caravan time
between Hadithah and Hit is therefore rather misleading,
for if I had followed the river so as to visit the kasr, the
journey would have taken more than the seventeen and a half
hours which I have recorded. Isidorus's 16 sch. from
Izannesopolis to Aeipolis can scarcely be correct, and Kie-
pert's emendation (6 instead of 16) may well be accepted.



March i8 — March 30

History in retrospect suffers an atmospheric distortion.
We look upon a past civilization and see it, not as it was,
but charged with the signijficance of that through which we
gaze, as down the centuries shadow overlies shadow, some
dim, some luminous, and some so strongly coloured that all
the age behind is tinged with a borrowed hue. So it is that
the great revolutions, "predestined unto us and we pre-
destined," take on a double power; not only do they turn the
current of human action, but to the later comer they seem to
modify that which was irrevocably fixed and past. We lend
to the dwellers of an earlier day something of our own know-
ledge ; we watch them labouring towards the ineluctable hour,
and credit them with a prescience of change not given to man.
At no time does this sense of inevitable doom hang more
darkly than over the years that preceded the rise of Islam ;
yet no generation had less data for prophecy than the genera-
tion of Mohammad. The Greek and the Persian disputed the
possession of western Asia in profitless and exhausting war-
fare, both harassed from time to time by the predatory expedi-
tions of the nomads on their frontiers, both content to enter
into alliance with this tribe or with that, and to set up an Arab
satrap over the desert marshes. Thus it happened that the
Beni Ghassan served the emperor of the Byzantines, and the
Beni Lakhm fought in the ranks of the Sassanian armies.
But neither to Justin II nor to Chosroes the Great came the
news that in Mecca a child was born of the Kureish who was
to found a military state as formidable as any that the world
had seen, and nothing could have exceeded the fantastic
improbability of such intelligence.
I 2 115


I had determined to journey back behind this great dividing
line, to search through regions now desolate for evidences of a
past that has left little historic record, calling upon the shades
to take form again upon the very ground whereon, substantial,
they had played their part. So on a brilliant morning Fattuh
and I saw the caravan start out in the direction of Baghdad,
not without inner heart-searchings as to where and how we
should meet it again, and having loaded three donkeys with
all that was left to us of worldly goods, we turned our faces
towards the wilderness. I looked back upon the ancient
mound of Hit, the palm-groves, and the dense smoke of the
pitch fires rising into the clear air, and as I looked our zaptieh
came out to join us — a welcome sight, for the JMudir might
well have repented at the eleventh hour. Now no one rides
into the desert, however uncertain the adventure, without a
keen sense of exhilaration. The bright morning sun, the
wide clean levels, the knowledge that the problems of exist-
ence are reduced on a sudden to their simplest expression,
your own wit and endurance being the sole determining factors
— all these things brace and quicken the spirit. The spell of
the waste seized us as we passed beyond the sulphur marshes ;
Hussein Onbashi held his head higher, and we gave each
other the salaam anew, as if we had stepped out into another
world that called for a fresh greeting.

"At Hit," said he, and his words went far to explain
the lightness of his heart, "I have left three wives in the

"Mashallah!" said Fattuh, "you must be deaf with the
gir-gir-gir of them."

"Eh billah ! " assented Hussein, "I shut my ears. Three
wives, two sons and six daughters, of whom but two married.
Twenty children I have had, and seven wives ; three of these
died and one left me and returned to her own people. But I
shall take another bride this year, please God."

"We Christians," observed Fattuh, "find one enough."

"You may be right," answered Hussein politely j "yet I
would take a new wife every year if I had the means."

" We will find you a bride in Kebeisah," said I.


Hussein weighed this suggestion.

"The maidens of Kebeisah are fair but wilful. There is
one among them, her name is Shemsah— wallah, a picture ! a
picture she is ! — she has had seven iiusbands."

"And the maidens of Hit ? " I asked. " How are they ? "

"Not so fair, but they are the better wives. That is why
I choose to remain in Hit," explained Hussein. "The bim-
bashi would have sent me to Baghdad, but I said, ' No, let
me stay here ; the maidens of Hit do not expect much.' Your
Excellency may laugh, but a poor man must think of these

We rode on through the aromatic scrub until the black
masses of the Kebeisah palm-groves resolved into tall trunks
and feathery fronds. ^ The sun stood high as we passed under
the village gate and down the dusty street that led to the
Mudir's compound. We tied our mares to some miangers in
his courtyard and were ourselves ushered into his reception-
room, there to drink coffee and set forth our purpose. The
leading citizens of Kebeisah dropped in one by one, and the
talk was of the desert and of the dwellers therein. The men
of Kebeisah are not 'Arab, Bedouin ; they hold their mud-
walled village and their 50,000 palm-trees against the tribes,
but they know the laws of the desert as well as the nomads
themselves, and carry on an uneasy commerce with them in
dates and other commodities, with which even the wilderness
cannot dispense, the accredited methods of the merchant
alternating with those of the raider and the avenger of raids.
There was no lack of guides to take me to Khubbaz, for the
ruin is the first stage upon the post-road to Damascus, and
half the male population was acquainted with that perilous

"It is the road of death," said Hussein Onbashi, stufling
tobacco into the cup of his narghileh.

"Eh billah !" said one who laid the glowing charcoal atop.

^ Yakut mentions Kebeisah as the oasis four miles from Hit upon the
desert road. There are, he says, a number of villages there, the inhabit-
ants of which live in the extreme of poverty and misery, by reason of the
aridity of the surrounding waste.


"Eight days' ride, and the government, look you, pays no
more than fifteen mejidehs from Hit and back again."

An old man, wrapped in a brown cloak edged with gold,
took up the tale.

"The government reckons fifteen mejidehs to be the price
of a man's life. Wallah! if the water-skins leak between
water and water, or if the camel fall lame, the rider perishes."

"By the truth, it is the road of death," repeated Hussein.
"Twice last year the Deleim robbed the mail and killed the
bearer of it."

I had by this time spread out Kiepert.

"Inform me," said I, "concerning the water."

"Oh lady," said the old man, "I rode with the mail for
twenty years. An hour and a half from Kebeisah there is
water at 'Ain Za'zu', and in four hours more there is water
in the tank of Khubbaz after the winter, but this year there
is none, by reason of the lack of rain. Twelve hours from
Khubbaz you shall reach Kasr 'Amej, which is another
fortress like Khubbaz, but more ruined; and there is no
water there. But eighteen hours farther you find water in
the Wadi Hauran, at Muheiwir."

"Is there not a castle there?" I asked. Kiepert calls it
the castle of 'Aiwir.

"There is nought but rijm," said he. (Rijm are the heaps
of stones which the Arabs pile together for landmarks.) "And
after nine hours more there is water at Ga'rah, and then no
more till Dumeir, nine hours from Damascus."

If this account is exact, there must be four days of waterless
desert on the road of death.

The springs in Kebeisah are strongly charged with sulphur,
but half-way between the town and the shrine of Sheikh
Khudr, that lifts a conical spire out of the wilderness, there
is a well less bitter, to which come the fair and wilful maidens
night and morning, bearing on their heads jars of plaited
willow, pitched without and within (Fig. 62). We did not fill
our water-skins there when we set out next day for Kasr
Khubbaz, but rode on to 'Ain Za'zu', where the water is
drinkable, though far from sweet (Fig. 63). There are

i'id. 64. — KASK KHUHBAZ ANlJ RUlNs OF THl': TANK.

fk;. 66. — KASK Kini;i:\/., tiif cai f\v \^■.




two other sulphurous springs, one a little to the north and
one to the south, round each of which, as at 'Ain Za'zu',
the inhabitants of Kebeisah sow clover, the sole fodder
of the oasis in rainless years like the spring of 1909; so
said Fawwaz, the owner of the two camels on which we
had placed our small packs. Fawwaz rode one of them
and his nephew, Sfaga, the other, and they hung the drip-
ping water-skins under the loads. We followed the course
of a shallow valley westwards, and before we left it sighted
a train of donkeys making to the north with an escort on
foot — Arabs of the Deleim. They looked harmless enough,
but I afterwards found that they had caused Fawwaz
great uneasiness ; indeed they kept him watchful all through
the night, fearing that they might raid us while we slept. I
was too busy observing the wide landscape to dwell on such
matters. The desolate world stretched before us, lifting itself
by shallow steps into long, bare ridges, on which the Arab
rijm were visible for miles away. The first of these steps — it
was not more than fifty feet high — was called the Jebel
Muzahir, and when we had gained its summit we saw the
castle of Khubbaz lying out upon the plain. To the north the
ground falls away into a wadi, a shallow depression like all
desert valleys, in which are traces of a large masonry tank
that caught the trickle of the winter springs and held their
water behind a massive dam (Fig. 64). The tank is now half
full of soil and the dam leaks, so that as soon as the rains have
ceased the water store vanishes. It had left behind it a scanty
crop of grass and flowers, which seemed luxuriant to us in
that dry season ; we turned the mares and camels loose in
what Fattuh called enthusiastically the rabi'ah (the herbage
of spring), and pitched my light tent in the valley bottom,
where my men could find shelter among the rocks against the
chills of night. I left all these arrangements to Fattuh, and
with Hussein and Fawwaz to hold the metre tape, measured
and photographed the fort till the sun touched the western

The walls of Khubbaz are built of stones, either unworked
or very roughly squared, set in a thick bed of coarse mortar.



In form the fort is a hollow square with round bastions at the
angles, and except on the side facing towards Kebeisah, where
the centre of the wall is occupied by a gate, there is also a
round bastion midway between the angle towers (Fig. 65).
All these bastions are much ruined and I may be wrong
in representing them as if unequal size. Before the door
there has been a vaulted porch, among the ruins of which
lies a large block of stone which looks as if it had served


as lintel to the outer door; I could see no moulding or
inscription upon it (Fig. 66). The existing inner door is
arched, the arch being set forward in a curious fashion.
It opened into a vaulted entrance passage which communi-
cated with an open court in the centre of the building. The
court was surrounded by barrel-vaulted chambers, some of
which showed traces of repair or reconstruction, though the
old and the new work are now alike ruined.^ All the vaults

^ The central division wall in the long south chamber is a later

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