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

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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 12 of 26)
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of entrance, leading from the portico, were two
recesses, like blank side-doors, crowned with
Corinthian pediments. The ornament of the
architrave, both in these, and in the principal
door itself, was palm-leaves thickly over-lapping
each other by successive layers in a horizontal


direction, and advancing towards the centre,
where their points met.

After the most diligent search, not the vestige
of an inscription could be found here to assist
our conjectures on the age of the building, the
name of its founder, or the god to whose honour
it had been reared.

Along the south-west side of this temple, and
parallel with the direction of its side-wall, the
remains of an extensive colonnade are seen, the
line of which stands at about the distance of
fifty yards from the body of the temple itself;
and, probably, marked the enclosure of the
atrium, or court, which, when perfect, must
have added greatly to the magnificent aspect of
the whole. This colonnade was also of the Co-
rinthian order, and supported its own entabla-
ture, blocks of which, as well as capitals and
shafts, are seen scattered near the line of its
original direction. There are, also, appearances
of a second or inner colonnade, of the same order,
surrounding the temple at an intermediate dis-
tance, or about twenty-five yards from it. This
might either have marked an inner division of
the atrium, or have been the original one ; and
the more distant colonnade, whose circuit around
the temple is not so distinctly marked as this,
might then have belonged to some other work
adjoining it.


The next remarkable edifice beyond this, to
the north-east, after passing some buildings in
the way, which are too much in ruins to be
worth a description, is a second theatre, some-
what smaller than the first, and differing from it
also in some of its details. This theatre falls
nearly in a line with the second or northernmost
street of intersection, and faces exactly to the
N. E. by N. *

It has two divisions of benches, the upper one
containing nine rows, and the lower one seven,
now distinct ; with two others, probably, buried
in the rubbish, which here also covers the arena.
In the upper division, are seven flights of steps,
or cunei, and in the lower one were, probably,
three, as in the first theatre ; but this division
is here too much dilapidated to trace them ac-

The corridor between these, or the diazoma,
is here as much less than the proportion assigned
to that of the Athenian theatre, as in the first
theatre to the south it was greater than that
standard. The diazoma of this northern one is
scarcely wider than the seats themselves, but it
is more richly ornamented. The doors leading
into the body of the theatre from without, are
the same in number and arrangement as those

* See its position at No. 1 1 . of the General Plan


described before ; but the space left by the in-
tervals all around, is filled by a line of beautiful
concave, or hemispherical fan-topped niches,
which produce the finest effect.

The scene of this theatre is entirely open,
and the diameter of the whole arena, from the
lowest range of seats now visible, to the pro-
scenion, or stage, is greater than that of the
southern theatre, though the upper range of
benches here is not quite one hundred paces
in circuit. It would, therefore, be more diffi-
cult to make the voice audible in this theatre,
or, as the modern expression is, "to fill it,"
than at the southern one, where the closed
scene would assist the reverberation of sound,
and where this distance between the audience
and the actors was really less. It occurred to
me as highly probable, that these concave
niches, thus ranged so closely along the cor-
ridor, were not intended merely for ornament,
but were designed also to assist the rever-
beration of sound, which must have needed
some aid.

In the theatre of Bacchus, at Athens, we are
told that Philos not only displayed his taste in
the just symmetry of the architecture, but that
he showed equal judgment in assisting the com-
munication of sounds. The voice, it is said,
being extenuated in an open and spacious place,

VOL. II. p


where the distant walls, though of marble,
could give little or no repercussion to make it
audible, he contrived cells in the thickness of
the corridors, in which he placed brass vessels,
supported by wedges of iron, that they might
not touch the wall. The voice proceeding from
the stage to the corridors, and striking upon the
the concavity of those vessels, was reverberated
with more clearness and force : their number
were in all twenty -eight, and they were called
echea, because they gave an echo to the
sound. *

Nothing could be more fitted for the recep-
tion of such echea than these beautiful little
niches, distributed at stated intervals, along the
diazoma here ; and their form, from being so
highly ornamental, may be even considered as
an improvement on the original cells of Philos,
No marks of the fixture of such vessels as were
used by that architect were to be seen here ;
but it is expressly said that those at Athens
were supported by iron wedges, that they might
not touch the wall, which might have been the
case here also, so that no mark would be left by
them ; and as for the vessels themselves, as well
as the wedges by which they were supported,
both brass and iron, of which they were formed,

* Selection from Gent. Mag. vol. i. p. 201.


were metals of too much value to remain long
in buildings abandoned to ruin.

The great characteristic difference between
this theatre and the southern one is its open
scene, which is formed by a portico or double
range of Corinthian columns, each supporting
their own entablature only. This open front
has an air of greater grandeur than the closed
one ; though one would conceive that it was
not so well fitted for the representation of
plays, at least, in our manner of managing the
changes of scenery. It might, on the other
hand, be better adapted for the representation
of particular pieces, such as those exhibiting
pompous processions, triumphs, &c. to which it
might have been more expressly devoted, as we
have our opera-houses for music and spectacle,
and our theatres for the drama.

It is said of the theatre of Bacchus, at
Athens, that outwardly there was a portico,
consisting of a double gallery, divided by rows
of pillars, called the portico of Eumenicus.
The floor of this portico was elevated some dis-
tance from the ground ; so that from the street
they ascended to it by steps. It was of an
oblong square figure, embellished with green
palisadoes, to please the eyes of those who
walked in it. H ere it was that their repetitions,
or rehearsals, were made and proposed for the

p 2


theatre, as the music and symphony was in the
Odeon. * This I understand to have been
beyond the scene, though it is not clear, from
the description of the theatre of Bacchus,
whether this portico was not all that stood
immediately in front of that particular edifice ;
for, in speaking of the arrangement of its parts,
it is said, the '.' scene, properly speaking, was
the columns and ornaments in architecture,
raised from the foundation, and upon the sides
of the proscenion, for its beauty and decora-
tion," without farther describing of what par-
ticular kind this scene in the theatre of Athens
was, whether open or closed. It is probable,
therefore, that this double portico here answered
the same purpose of a walk, or a place for the
recitation of such pieces as were to be repre-
sented afterwards within, on the regular stage.

We thought, upon the whole, that the finish
of the ornaments of this theatre were superior
to those of the southern one, and that it was
also in a better state of preservation. The arched
side-doors, for the entrance of the actors and
musicians from the private apartments of the
theatre beneath the benches within, were the
same here as in the southern one ; but from the
arena being covered with masses of fallen stone,

* Select, from Gent. Mag. vol. ii. p. 201,


and grass turf grown around and upon them, we
could learn nothing from it regarding the ar-
rangement of the orchestra, the logeon, or
thyrnele, called by the Romans pulpitum, or even
of the proscenion, or stage, any more than we
did from the other theatre ; for in both of them
these interesting divisions were buried under a
mass of broken fragments and accumulated

The northern theatre of Geraza falls nearly
into the line of the second street of intersection,
as has been already mentioned. This street,
like the first, crossed the principal one at right
angles, and was lined also, on each side, with a
colonnade supporting an entablature. Here,
however, the order is Ionic, though the size of
the pillars and their intercolumniation is the
same. There are few of these now standing,
but the line of their direction can be distinctly
traced on each side. The point of intersection
here is marked, as the former one, by a sort of
square ; but the four pedestals being now raised
to the height of walls, support a flattened dome of
a circular form, and the inside of the building is
made circular also, though the outside is square.
A kind of open porch is thus formed, with a
free passage on each of the four sides ; and here,
either in showery, or in hot summer weather, the
loungers and gossipers of the city might meet,

p 3


and, sheltered equally from the rain and the
sun, be as loquacious and communicative as they
pleased, without interrupting the public passage.
It is well known how fond the Greeks were of
these assemblies in porches ; and the Romans, if
they at all imitated these their distinguished
models in this particular, in their own country
of Italy, would find in Asia something, both in
the climate and in the manners of the people, to
encourage and familiarize them with such a

To the south-east of this square of intersection
is a very extensive building, to which it is diffi-
cult to give a name, though in the Plan it is
called a bath, from its resembling such an esta-
blishment more than any other. * The whole
area which it occupies is upwards of four
hundred paces in circumference. Its general
form is that of a square, whose four sides face
nearly in the direction of the city-walls, or
towards the cardinal points of the heavens. Its
eastern front, which stands on the brow of the
western hill, and looks from thence down into
the valley, is one hundred and twenty paces in
length. It has three divisions, each of which
are marked by a lofty and spacious arch of a
vaulted roofed passage leading into it. Its east-

* No. 15. of the General Plan.

rOKirs'TII l.\ TK v| ri.K it ( KM V/ \









« *



tern front is of the same dimensions with its
western one, and looks towards the city. All
along, and before this, are strewed innumerable
fragments of fallen Corinthian columns, the re-
mains of porticoes or colonnades that had once
stood here. Of these, no more was now to be
traced than one continued line of pedestals,
near the front of the building, and a side-avenue,
formed by two such lines leading down to the
central arched entrance, this leading, like those
towards the western, by a vaulted passage into
the interior. The northern and southern front
had each of them two smaller wings of a square
form, projecting from the general line, each
about twenty paces in length and breadth.
These were covered with flat-domed tops, of a
circular form, exactly like the roof of the square
of intersection at the second street already de-
scribed ; and these were also about the same
size, though they were but the small wings of a
very large pile. These wings were open on three
sides by arched passages, the fourth being that
side by which they were connected to the great
building. These passages were seven paces long
by ten broad, and the whole length and breadth
of the wing was just twenty paces each way. In
the northern one we remarked a horse-shoe arch,
which was the first we had seen among the ruins,
and it was here used to support a solid wall

p 4


above a cell. The whole of the pile was well
built ; and its western front, when perfect, must
have been magnificent. Its interior was subdi-
vided in such a way, as that it could not well be
taken for a temple ; nor did we conceive it to
be a place of habitation, such as a palace or great
public dwelling ; so that we called it in this
uncertainty a bath, without, however, having
unequivocal proof of it being so.

The remainder of the street, which continues
from the last point of intersection to the northern
gate, is lined on each side with an Ionic colon-
nade, supporting its own entablature ; and this
extends in that direction for about three hundred
paces, when on approaching near to the northern
gate, some of the original pavement of the street
in flat stones is still very distinctly seen. *

On the left, or to the west of this, and reced-
ing some distance from the street, is the wall of
a large and solid edifice, which from its plain-
ness, strength, and situation, we thought to be
a military guard-house t, more particularly as
just to the west of this are two towers of defence
still remaining erect in the city-wall, although
the wall itself is in that part much demolished,
as if it had been destroyed by engines.

* No. 30. of the General Plan, towards the north-
f No. 12. of ditto.


On the right, or to the east of the city -gate,
which is a strong and simple structure, devoid
of ornament, is a piece of solid wall ; and close
below it, is the narrow pass of the valley which
divided the eastern from the western portion of
the town. This must have been also a place of
importance to defend, as the ground leading
down toward it from without, would give an
advancing enemy great command of position
above them in a siege.

In this valley, at the northern end, is a large
Corinthian temple, which is so completely in
ruins as to have only a portion of its walls, an
arched door-way, and one of its interior columns
standing. * It was, however, an edifice upon
which more than usual care had been bestowed,
and the finish of its sculpture was quite equal to
any we had seen. There were many concave
fan-topped niches within, as could be seen from
their fragments scattered on the ground.
Though the edifice was Corinthian, it was sur-
rounded by an Ionic colonnade, supporting the
entablature, proper to its order. The dimensions
of the building itself was fifty-six paces each
way, its form being a perfect square ; but the
area of the whole pile, including its surrounding
colonnade, was much greater.

* No. 13. of the General Plan. t


There is here a beautiful carpet of green turf;
and bare and rugged rocks rise abruptly into
broken cliffs, on the edge of the eastern hill ;
while, to render the combination of objects ad-
ditionally picturesque, the spring, which waters
all the valley, rises close by the temple. It was
from among these rocks, that Mr. Bankes,
stooping down behind them, contrived to take
one of his drawings of the ruins of Geraza* in
which most of the prominent edifices of the
city are included.

Around this fountain, are several finely clus-
tered trees and shrubs, and at the head of the
spring are foundations, hewn and sculptured
stones, and other vestiges of altars, perhaps
erected to the deity of the stream, whose statue
it was usual among the ancients to place near
its source. * Nothing could be defined here,
however, with the accuracy of a plan. It was,
indeed, a spot of all others the most liable to be
intruded on, and violated by all who had occa-
sion ever to pass this way ; so that it was rather
a matter of surprise to us, that even a block of
stone remained, than that it was so ruined.

From this fountain-head, the water goes off'
in two separate streams. One of these runs

* The position of this beautiful spot is given at No. 14. of
the General Plan.


westward to the deep gutter of the valley, where
it falls into the channel worn by the rains, and
joins the temporary brook which these rains
form there in the present season, but which is
dry in the summer. The other stream is carried
by a sunken and stuccoed channel for about a
hundred yards to the southward, when it turns
off sharply to the west, andgoes by a raised, or
arched aqueduct over the other portion of its
own stream, now on a much lower level, until,
gaining the brow of the western hill, it continues
running along by it to fill the channels of the
naumachia without the city walls.

The bridge now in ruins *, which crossed the
stream of the valley, is just behind the Corin-
thian temple distinguished by a semicircular
end, and the great palace opposite to it ; and
near to this bridge is the arched aqueduct before
spoken of. t

To the eastward of this aqueduct, is another
large building, which, from its great extent and
indefinite nature, we called, as we had done a
former one, a public bath. J The area which it
occupies, is upwards of four hundred paces ;
and its plan, though not exactly like that of the
other, has yet a striking general resemblance,

* No. 1 6. of the General Plan,
t No. 17. of ditto.
% No. 18. of ditto.


as well in the subdivisions of its interior, as in
the multitude of columns scattered about near
it. There are altogether five principal divisions
in this edifice, each of them of about an equal
size, and the whole forming two sides of a
square, as if it was intended to enclose a central
court. These divisions are very lofty ; the ma-
sonry of the building is solid and well-finished ;
and the arches, which are used for recesses and
supporters in the walls, are chiefly of the horse-
si toe form. The vaulted roof of the central
division, as seen from a distance, appeared to be
slightly pointed ; but on a nearer inspection,
this appearance seemed rather to have been
occasioned by the falling in of the sides of the
roof, than to have been originally given to it, as
an arch of the pointed form.

Around, and in front of this large pile, to-
wards the stream, are a multitude of pillars of
different kinds ; some of them have square
shafts with Corinthian capitals on them, others
are spirally fluted columns, without base or
capital, and others again are circular shafts
fluted in perpendicular lines in the usual way,
with Corinthian capitals. These were the more
remarkable, as they were the only fluted columns
of any kind that we had met with throughout
the ruins of the city, excepting a few fallen frag-
ments near the palace in the centre of the


principal street. In our first visit, Mr. Bankes
saw near this bath a cylindrical stone, with an
inscription on it, which he could not stop to
copy. It lay amidst other fallen fragments, and
he remembered to have seen in one of the lines,
the letters LEG. or legio ; so that it might
have had some relation to a military subject.
After a long and careful search, however, this
stone could not afterwards be found, which, in-
deed, was hardly to be expected, amidst such a
multitude of others.

To the south-west of this extensive pile about
a hundred paces, were appearances of a colon-
nade of the Corinthian order, which continued
to border the eastern edge of the stream here,
following the direction of its waters to the south-
ward. At the termination of this, was also the
ruins of a bridge of five arches, which crossed
the stream from east to west ; and from its
western end, a flight of steps led up to the co-
lonnades of the first, or southern street of inter-
section, with the columns of which its sides fell
in a line. *

* The written description here is not in perfect harmony
with the plan. The last was laid down from a set of bearings
taken with a good compass ; the first was composed also on
the spot. The error is in the points of bearing only ; but
which of these two is more correct, my recollection does not
allow me to decide ; so that I have suffered both the autho-
rities to remain unaltered.


From hence the channel leading from the
first aqueduct runs along, the side of the western
hill, preserving its original level, and going
ultimately into the channels for filling the
naumachia. To the south-east of this bridge,
about a hundred yards down the valley, is seen
another smaller aqueduct, in ruins. It is by the
first, or northernmost one, that the water is car-
ried from the fountain-head of the spring in the
valley, to the naumachia. About fifty yards
from the southern aqueduct, next to the bridge,
are the city- walls crossing the valley ; and there
is at this spot also a piece of an aqueduct still
remaining, as well as a portion of another one
about three hundred yards to the south-east of
it, and without the town. At the first southern
aqueduct from the principal bridge, the stream
divides ; one part of it continuing south along
the valley, in a channel on the side of the
western hill ; and the other, without crossing
the main stream by the aqueduct, bending to
the south east, and continuing to run upon the
same level, in a channel on the side of the
eastern hill. The bed of this last is even now
full and perfect, and its waters are probably
used for the irrigation of some part of the
valley farther to the southward.

The eastern hill, the slope of which is of
steeper ascent than the western one, is covered


with the ruins of private dwellings, among which
only a few small columns are seen. The city
walls are more perfect here, however, than on
the west ; and a great portion of them at the
north-east angle is indeed quite in its original
state. In the north-west angle, and not far
from the northern gate of the city, where the
military guard-house stands, are two towers,
which are also tolerably perfect ; but all other
parts of the walls are considerably demolished,
and more so even than is likely to have been
effected only by the common operations of war.
As it was usual, however, among the ancients, to
complete the demolition of the walls and forti-
fications of such towns as they conquered, par-
ticularly when they were given up to plunder,
this might have been the case here. The walls
were originally well-built of hewn stone and
smooth masonry, and among their fallen frag-
ments were seen many sculptured stones. These
were chiefly remarked in the western wall,
where there might have been smaller gates, and
where there seems to have been a line of towers
like those now standing, continued all along;
but the positions of them were not sufficiently
distinct to admit of their being marked as cer-
tain in the plan.

So complete is the general desolation of this
once proud city, that Bedouin Arabs now en-


camp in the valley for the sake of the spring
there, as they would do near the wells of their
native deserts. Such portions of the soil as are
cultivated among the ruins, both in the valley
within the walls, and in the naumachia without
them, are ploughed by men who claim no pro-
perty in the land ; and the same spot is thus
occupied by different persons in every succeeding
year, as time and chance may happen to direct.
It is remarkable, that the Doric order is not
seen in any edifice or column throughout the
whole of the ruins here. The Ionic prevails
near each gate of entrance, as if to prepare the
way for the richer Corinthian, which occupies
all the centre. Without the northern gate is a
small ruined building, with columns ; and with-
out the southern one, near the lower end of the
naumachia, and the triumphal arch, is a similar
one. There was an extensive necropolis on the
north, and another on the south of the city,
without the walls ; with two theatres in opposite
quarters of the town, and near the gates within ;
so that great uniformity was observed in the ar-
rangement of the buildings. The central semi-

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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 12 of 26)