James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

. (page 11 of 26)
Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

naumachia and the triumphal arch would still
proclaim the splendour of their favoured abode ;
while the general landscape of mountain, slope,
and valley, presented on all sides a picture of the
grand and the sublime in its outline forms, and
of the rich and beautiful in the varied shades
of its fertile clothing.

The circular colonnade, the diameter of which


is one hundred and twenty paces, or about two
hundred and forty feet, appears to have marked
the boundaries of an hippodromus, or of a cha-
riot-course. A circumference of less than eight
hundred feet would scarcely be considered suf-
ficient for such a place, but the hippodromus
at Alexandria, which I have seen, is scarcely
larger ; though that city, in the time of its glory,
was inferior only to Rome itself in magnificence.
The opinion that this was a course, was sug-
gested by the sight of the lower part of the shaft
of a pillar, still erect, occupying its original
place, exactly facing the line of the great street,
and standing at ten paces, or twenty feet
within the general line of the circle towards the
centre, allowing, therefore, that breadth for the
passage of the chariots. There are vestiges of a
former pavement near this post, which is also
correspondent with that at Alexandria, where
the granite column, supposed to mark the goal,
is seated on a rock that has been levelled away
like a pavement, in which the ruts of the chariot-
wheels are still discernible. There are now re-
maining erect, fifty-six columns of this circle ;
the others have fallen, and lie at intervals as
marked in the plan. *

The order of the architecture is Ionic, but re-

* No. 6. in the General Plan.


sembling more the Attic than the Asiatic Ionian
in its details, though less beautiful and less
chaste than either. The columns are without
pedestals, and their shafts, which are about two
feet in diameter, are not fluted. They are not
of one block, but composed in general of three
or four pieces ; and from the surfaces of each of
these pieces project, at stated intervals, but not
in perpendicular lines, little knobs left in the
stone, as if to support the ropes of a scaffolding,
or of awnings or curtains between the pillars.
These projections are visible only from a very
short distance, so that they do not at all intrude
upon the general effect of the architecture. The
volutes of the capitals are gracefully turned ;
and the cymatrum, which is thought to have
been intended to represent the front locks of
women pending on the forehead, as the volutes
were the side curls of the Ephesian ladies, is also
well executed. The echinus, or egg-like band,
the astragal or beaded one, and the fillet, which
were all common to both Roman and Grecian
Ionic capitals, possessed nothing peculiar here.
The colonnade supported only an entablature,
which we had no opportunity of measuring, but
it appeared to us to be deficient in the depth
requisite for grandeur of appearance ; for, not-
withstanding the elegance of the Ionic order, it
partakes, on the whole, more of the majestic


gravity of the Doric, than of the rich exube-
rance of the Corinthian. The columns appeared
to be nearer the standard of eight diameters,
than the modern one of nine. The height of
the capital was rather above than below the
ancient measure of two-thirds of the diameter.
But the entablature, which it is thought should
be equal to one-fourth of the whole height,
where grandeur as well as elegance is required,
was certainly less than that proportion. In the
entablatures of Asiatic Ionics, it is said, that
denticulated cornices were always used, the
dentil being supposed to represent a beautiful
row of teeth. This, from its never being omitted,
was considered as much a part of the Ionic order,
as the metopes and triglyphs of the frieze were
a part of the Doric ; and both of them were held
to be as characteristic of their respective orders
as the capitals themselves. But in most of the
remains of Ionic buildings at Athens, these
dentils are omitted ; and this appeared to us to
have been the case also in the Ionic buildings at

The intercolumniation was araeostyle ; the
intervals between each pillar being fully equal
to four diameters throughout. The only breaks
in the circle, where the entablature was discon-
tinued, were at the space opening to the great
street on the north, and at a similar space front-


ing the facade of the peripteral temple and the
city-gate on the south. The whole wore a light
and elegant appearance, yet, from its size and
form, produced at the same time a very grand
and noble effect. As it was the first object that
arrested the attention on entering the city, so
was it conspicuously seen from almost every part
of it; besides which, it was the prominent ob-
ject that presented itself to the spectator when
viewing these ruins from afar, in every direction
of approach to them.

The street leading from the northern end of
this circular hippodromus through the whole
length of the town, is lined on each side with a
colonnade of the Corinthian order, supporting
also an entablature. The pillars rested on the
edge of a raised causeway, which was ascended
to on each side by steps, whether two or three
in number we could not easily determine ; and
the width of the street measured about thirty
feet, as well as it could be paced over the
masses of fallen ruins which blocked up every
part of the way. The columns stand on pedes-
tals, the square part of the base being not more
than one-fourth of a diameter in height ; and
above the torus are two cylindric convex mould-
ings, with a concave one between them, but
without astragals. This is known to have been
the pedestal most frequently used by the Romans


in the Corinthian buildings ; though it is thought,
by those most conversant in the history of archi-
tecture, that the chastest and purest specimens
of all the orders are without pedestals.

The shafts of all these pillars were plain, and
they were mostly composed of three or four
pieces. We remarked in them this peculiarity,
which was visible also in the shafts of the Ionic
columns at the Hippodromus, that they began to
swell in diameter at about one-third of their
height upward from the base, and continued to in-
crease that diameter sensibly to the eye until near
their centre, when they diminished in a somewhat
greater proportion from thence to the setting
on of the capital. The sculpture of the foliage
on these capitals appeared to us to be good,
though the material of which all the edifices
here are constructed being a firm yellow sand-
stone, is not so favourable for the work of the
chisel as marble would have been, nor does it
seemingly admit of any polish, The entablature
supported by this colonnade is that which is
common to the order, being formed, as is thought,
from the mixture of the Doric and Ionic, of
which the dentil, echinus, and astragal of the
last, are the most prominent features of the
cornice ; though in the time of Vitruvius it is
certain thatr there was no entablature strictly
proper to the order, for he says that both Doric

VOL. II. o


and Ionic entablatures were supported by Co-
rinthian columns, and that it was the columns
alone, without reference to their entablatures,
which constituted this order. * The diameter
of the shafts of these pillars is not more than
three feet in the largest part, and the highest
appears to the eye to be in a just proportion to

Following this principal street towards the
north, the columns on the right are found to be
mostly fallen ; but there are fewer of those on
the left that are displaced. After passing the
first thirteen still erect, with the intervals
marked on the plan, there are seen on each side
four large columns of nearly double the diame-
ter of the others. These did not belong to the
front of any particular building, as far as we
could trace ; but, like the smaller ones, support
only their entablatures, and thus form two
tetrastyles in the midst of the general line of
the respective avenues, and exactly facing each
other. As these columns, from their greater
diameter, where necessarily higher in the same
proportion than the others, there was an inter-
ruption of the line of the smaller entablature,
the end of which now abutted against the shaft
of the larger pillar. For the support of this,

* Lib. iv. c. 1,


there was a bracket left to project from that
shaft, cut out of the same block of stone, in
the way that the brackets for statues are seen
to project from the columns at Palmyra, and on
this the termination of the smaller entablature
rested. The tetrastyle was then crowned with
its own entablature, differing in nothing but its
size from the smaller one ; and the last column
of it having, like the first, a bracket projecting
from its shaft. The entablature of the smaller
pillars rested on this, and the colonnade then
proceeded onward of its former size. The whole
had a great resemblance to some of the Palmy-
rene edifices, where the introduction of larger
columns in different numbers, from tetrastyle to
decastyle, is frequently seen in the same line
with a colonnade of smaller ones.

Beyond these, to the north, and on the
eastern side of the street, are the remains of
some large building, which possessed an exten-
sive facade towards the avenue ; but as the only
remains of this edifice now to be seen are
broken columns and demolished walls, it was
not easy for us to pronounce on the peculiar
use to which it had been appropriated.

Immediately at the termination of the wall of
this building, is a small square, formed by the
intersection of the principal street, by another
crossing it at right angles, from east to west.

o 2


It was just before reaching this, or between it
and the large pillars just described, and con-
sequently opposite to the front of the dilapi-
dated building, that a broken column was found
lying on the ground, with the fragment of a
Greek inscription on the shaft. The characters
were almost obliterated ; but, after considerable
labour, and many doubts as to the form of par-
ticular letters in the course of it, I was enabled
to make a copy of as much of it as could be
traced. No one line, I conceive, was made out
perfectly : though I believe that there were not
originally any greater number of lines in the
whole than those transcribed.

The square spoken of as being just beyond
where this inscription was met with, and formed
by the intersection of the principal street, had
four large pedestals, disposed at each of the
angles of it, and their fronts placed in right
lines with the fronts of the colonnades leading
along the street itself. In each face of these
pedestals were small, concave, and fan-topped
niches, probably for statues, as the ancients
are known to have appropriated such niches to
their reception. There were fragments of small
Corinthian shafts and capitals near them, lying
on the ground, so that there might have been
also larger statues on the pedestals themselves,
inclosed perhaps within peristyles, as is some-


times seen in the statues of rural gods in
modern pleasure-grounds, and as was occa-
sionally used by the ancients in their gardens.

The cross-street, running here from east to
west, led up from the brow of the eastern hill,
overlooking the valley below, and was con-
tinued from thence to the city-wall, in the
opposite direction. It crossed the principal
street exactly at right angles, was of the same
general character and dimensions, and was
lined also with a Corinthian colonnade, support-
ing an entablature on each side. There were,
upon the whole, about thirty of the columns
still erect, but the places of all those that had
fallen could be easily traced ; and indeed most
of their pedestals occupied their original posi-
tions. There did not appear to us to be any
edifices worthy of remark in this street, so that
we did not follow it through all its parts, but
were content to catch its general features, as
given in the plan,

Pursuing the direction of the principal street
to the northward, the next edifice met with,
beyond the square of intersection, is a large
Corinthian one on the left, receding several
paces backward from the line of the street itself,
and having a noble portico, of which three
columns are still standing in front. From the
remains of this edifice, it appears rather to have

o 3


been a palace, or a public building of a civil
nature, than a temple ; which may be said also
of the one before mentioned, on the other side
of the square. Opposite to this palace, we
observed a range of octagonal pedestals, of
great height and diameter, which were not
designed, as far as we could judge, for the sup-
port of pillars, but must either have borne
statues on them in front of this building, or
have answered some other purpose of ornament
or utility which we could not devise.

Next in order beyond this, going still to the
north, is a small semicircular portion of what
we now perceived to be a very spacious build-
ing, extending both to the north and to the
south of this as a centre, and having, opposite
to it, on the western side of the street, another
very large building in a ruined condition. The
portico which stood in front of this semicircle,
which must have been always open to the great
street, was formed of four noble Corinthian
columns, of six spans, or four feet, in diameter ;
three of them being still erect, and the fourth
fallen. The ornaments of the order, in the
frieze, cornice, pediments, &c. of this little
sanctuary, were lavished here in all the exube-
rance of decoration. From some fragments of
Egyptian rose-granite, and a pretty large piece
of a shaft of that costly material, found among


the rubbish, it was evident that pillars of it had
been used here. There were still standing
some small columns, of about eighteen inches
in diameter, of a fine yellow marble, which
retained its polish, and other pillars of this
stone had fallen.

From the frieze of this semicircular sanct-
uary, we copied a short and imperfect inscrip-
tion ; and we observed that the niches above
this, which were crowned with rich pediments
and probably designed for statues, were stuc-
coed on the inside, and painted with successive
lines of small pyramidal figures, in green and
yellow, both of which colours were still remark-
ably fresh. *

It was just in front of this semicircular
sanctuary, (for the superior richness of its
ornament, and the costliness of the materials
used in its decoration naturally induced us to
call it so,) that the inscribed altar lay broken
and reversed as we had at first seen it, but
from which a copy was afterwards with some
difficulty obtained.

The letters on this altar were better shaped,
and more distinctly engraved, than those which
were seen on the inscribed pillar ; but in both

* See the position of this building, in No. 7. of the
General Plan.

O 4


of them the characters might be said to have
been badly executed, and without regard to
uniformity of size or shape, as may be seen in
the copies of them in which these particulars
are as accurately preserved as circumstances
would admit of at the time of their being trans-

There are appearances of one continued line
of building from the semicircular sanctuary to
the palace, which is near the centre of the
city, or at least of the western portion of it.
The front of this is still entire, and leaves no
doubt that the edifice was a place of residence,
and not a temple. A small and exceedingly
narrow staircase, in which even two children
could not pass each other, leads from one side
of the front entrance below, to one of the win-
dows above, and seems to have been contrived
for some secret purpose, as it is impossible that
frequent or public use could have been made
of it. Though the front is nearly perfect, the
whole of the interior of this building is rased to
the ground. *

Behind this, to the westward, on more ele-
vated ground, is a large ruined building, which
we did not minutely examine, but just remarked

* No. 9. in the General Plan.


its position and its size, which are noted in the
Plan. *

Opposite to this palace, immediately in front
of it, on the eastern side of the street, is the
long-extended fa9ade of a Corinthian temple,
with a semi-circular termination to the eastward.
The fagade is that of a spacious and grand edi-
fice, and the workmanship, seen in the interior
range of columns still erect, proves also that the
execution of the details was equal to the design
of the whole.

The most imposing edifice among all these
ruins, both for size, grandeur, and commanding
situation, is a large Corinthian temple, to the
W. N. W. of the palace last described ; and not
far from the western boundary of the city wall, t
The impression which the noble aspect of this
building made on us, as we beheld it from every
quarter of the city, was such, that we both con-
stantly called it the " Temple of Jupiter," in
our conversation, and in our notes. This was
done without our ever suggesting the propriety
of the title to each other, without our having
sought for any reason to justify its adoption, or
at all arguing the claim in our minds ; but as
if the proud pre-eminence which it seemed to
possess over all the other buildings, could not

* No. 9. in the General Plan,
t No. 10. of ditto.


be otherwise expressed than by its dedication to
the greatest of all the gods ; and since this high
title was thus so unconsciously, and simulta-
neously given to it by us both, we suffered it to
remain unaltered, as at least an appropriate one
to distinguish it from the rest.

This edifice is built in the form of an oblong
square, and is seventy paces, or about one hun-
dred and forty feet in extreme length ; and
thirty-five paces, or seventy feet, in extreme
breadth. Its front is open to the S. E. by E.,
and there is here a noble portico of twelve
columns, disposed in three rows, six in the front
row, four in the central one, and two only in
the inner one ; the intervals being left on the
centre on each side oi' the door of entrance, and
the end or side columns being thus in a line
with each other. There was a low wall carried
out on each side of this portico, to the distance
of thirty feet in front, and as the pillars stand
on an elevated platform, it is probable that the
interval here was occupied by a flight of steps
leading up to the temple, but of these there are
now no remains. This edifice appears also to have
been a peripteral one, or to have been surround-
ed by a colonnade on all sides, including the
portico in front. The bases of the pillars are
still seen in their places, and shafts and capitals
lie scattered all around. These are all of the


same size and order as those of the portico, and
leave but little doubt of their belonging origi-
nally to the exterior colonnade of this building.
The whole number of the columns of the portico
are still standing, and these being eight spans,
or nearly six feet in diameter, and about fifty
feet in height, have an air of great grandeur
and majesty, and present the most happy com-
bination of strength and beauty. The pedestals
of the columns are the same as those,, described
in the avenue of the principal street below. The
shafts are plain, and swell slightly towards their
centres. The capitals are well executed, and
the union of the separate parts of which the
shafts are composed, presents the most admira-
ble specimen of ancient masonry ; for even at
this late period, the lines of their union are often
difficult to be traced. These pieces were united
by a large square bar of metal, going down their
centre, and forming a sort of common axis to
them alL The separate blocks were marked
with Greek letters on the inside, near these
square holes for the reception of the metal bar,
as I myself observed on the blocks of a fallen
shaft near the north-east angle of the building,
and these marks were, no doubt, for the guid-
ance of the workmen, in fitting every piece into
its proper place. Whether, therefore, regarding
the strength of those noble columns, the chaste


beauty of their proportions in the details of all
their parts, the admirable execution of the ma-
sonry and the sculpture, or the majestic and
imposing aspect of the whole, we could not but
admire the taste and skill of the ancients in this
sublime art of architecture.

It must not be concealed, however, that on
entering the building, a feeling of disappoint-
ment was experienced at finding it so little cor-
respondent with the magnificence of all that is
seen from without. An observation of a writer,
who treats of the temples of the ancients, oc-
curred to me very forcibly here, though, when I
first met with this remark, it did not appear to
me quite correct, from its inapplicability to the
temples of the Egyptians, which were then the
only ones that I had seen. This writer says,
" I am sufficiently apprised of what strikes the
imagination, and raises it to such romantic
heights whilst we attend to the descriptions of
ancient temples ; it was the prodigious number
of columns they were enriched with, that en-
chants us. How can we avoid believing an
edifice to be extremely vast, that is supported
by a hundred, or a hundred and fifty pillars.
We have seen Gothic churches, with not above
forty or fifty, wide enough to lose ourselves in.
How vast then, we say, must the temples have
been which had twice or thrice that number ?


The mistake of the fancy arises from this, — that
it places within the body of the temple, or in the
cella, that which really stood without it. It should
be noted, in general, that this cella was the least
object of the old architects' care ; they never
began to think about it before they had dis-
tributed and adorned the exterior, because that
was to be the proof of genius, taste, and magni-
ficence. The grand was not then estimated by
the number of square feet contained in the area
which the wall enclosed, but from their out-
works of an hundred and twenty columns, as
those of Hadrian's Pantheon ; or of thirty-six
only, as those of the temple of Theseus. From
the ruins of Athens, it even appears that the
richness and extent of the outworks were some-
times the very cause of contracting the cella
within a narrower space than might have been
otherwise allotted it."

The interior of this temple of Jupiter, at
Geraza, which proudly promised so much from
without, from its spacious atrium, its noble
vestibulum, and its surrounding porticoes and
colonnades, was found to consist simply of one
square cella, without any of the subdivisions of
basilica, adytum, penetrale, or sacrarium.
Around the side-walls, and about half-way up
their height, were six oblong recesses, without
ornament. In the end-wall was a much larger


one, arched at the top, which, rising from the
level of the pavement, and occupying the centre
of the end- wall, was, probably, the tribunal, or
the place in which stood the statue of the deity
to whom the temple was dedicated. On each
side of this large recess, was a small arched door-
way, and above these two small recesses, as in
the side-walls ; while above the supposed tribu-
nal, was a shallow semi-circular recess, occupy-
ing the centre of the wall, There was no
appearance of either a pediment or a roof to the
building, nor were there sufficient fragments on
the inside to induce us to suppose that it had
fallen in. Whether, therefore, it was originally
an hypaethrum, or an open temple, it was not
easy to decide. It may be remarked, however,
that the rough state of many parts of the interior
seemed to indicate that the building had never
been completely finished.

The exterior of the cella walls was of smooth
and good masonry, and had neither niches nor
pilasters throughout its height. In the front
wall, however, on each side of the principal door

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 26)