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 13 of 26)
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circular sanctuary appears to have been the most
highly finished ; and the triumphal arch without
the southern gate was in the worst taste. The
one was probably the portion of some particu-
larly sacred edifice, and the other a subsequent


work, set up on a sudden for some particular
occasion, and by the direction of some inferior
architect, the only one perhaps on the spot.

So few and so slender are the materials to be
met with either in sacred or profane history, re-
garding the city of Geraza, that little more can
be done than to name such as occur, for the
satisfaction of those who might wish to know
more of a place of such obscure fame in general
records, yet possessing the remains of so much
magnificence within itself. The same kind of
difficulty occurred to those enterprising travellers
who gave to the world their splendid drawings
and plans of Palmyra and Balbeck ; but those
gentlemen possessed the wealth to procure, and
the leisure to examine the works of all such
ancient authors as might be supposed to contain
any thing regarding the history of these cities,
and accordingly there was soon after appended
to their labours as connoisseurs and artists, a cri-
tical enquiry worthy of them as gentlemen and
scholars, and embracing all the learning that
could in any way tend to illustrate the history
of the cities whose superb ruins they had so care-
fully surveyed and described.

As the circumstances under which the re-
mains of Geraza were visited by us were,
however, far less favourable to accurate ex-
amination, so, on my own part, at least, are the



means of illustrating that which is simply de-
scribed too slender to afford hope for much
success in the exercise of them. I shall men-
tion, however, those few particulars which
occur among my notes and extracts previously
made for illustration, and hastily gleaned only
from the Scriptures and Josephus, as almost the
only books within my reach while in the

The similitude of name, and correspondence
of situation, would lead to a conclusion that this
Jerash, £).»»» of the present Arab possessors of
the country, is the same with the Gergashi,
*2^*0 of the Hebrews ; and it is from this, as
Grotius says, that the Gorosa, Togoo-a, of Pto-
lemy is derived. * The Gergashites are often
mentioned in the early wars of the Israelites ;
and the Geshurites, with their city of Geshur,
and their coasts of Jeshuri, (as they are called
in another place t,) are also frequently spoken
of; but whether the same people is meant by
these names, it is not easy to decide. Gergasha
was in the land of Gilead, which was so called,
according to the Jewish historian, from a pillar
being erected in the form of an altar on one of
the mountains there, to commemorate and con-

* Notes on the Treatise " Of the Truth of the Christian
Religion," b. i. s. 16. p. 55. 8vo. London, 1805.
-j Deut. iii. 14.


firm a league by which Jacob promised to love
Laban's daughters, as well as to forgive Laban
himself for his ill treatment of him and his
suspicions of his daughter Rachel. * This same
land of Gilead was part of the kingdom of
Bashan, as Og, the king of Bashan, (always so
called in Scripture,) was also the king of Gilead
and of Gaulanitis. t

It was this kingdom that Moses over-ran after
passing the Jabbok, when he overthrew their
cities and slew all their inhabitants, who yet
exceeded in riches all the men in that part of
the continent, on account of the goodness of
their soil, and the great quantity of their
wealth, t " So the Lord our God,*' says the
sacred writer, "delivered into our hands Og
also, the king of Bashan, and all his people :
and we smote him until none was left to
him remaining. And we took all his cities
at that time ; there was not a city which we

* She-had carried off the household gods of her family in
her elopement, and cunningly outwitted her father in his
search after them,' by putting them under the camel's saddle
on which she rode, and saying that her natural purgations
hindered her from rising up ; by which Laban left off search-
ing any further, not supposing that his daughter, under such
circumstances, would approach to these images. Joseph. Ant.
Jud. 1. i. c. 19. s. 11.

-j- Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. iv. c. 5. s. 3.

% Ibid.

Q 2


took not from them, threescore cities, all the
region of Argol, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
All these cities were fenced with high walls,
gates, and bars ; beside unwalled towns, a great
many. And we utterly destroyed them, as we
did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly de-
stroying the men, women, and children of every
city. But all the cattle, and the spoil of the
cities, we took for a prey to ourselves." *

This eastern portion of the Jewish con-
quests, and certainly by far the richest and most
beautiful of all the country that they at any
time possessed, was made the lot of the two
tribes of Gad and Reuben, and the half tribe
of Manasseh, who were left at their own re-
quest to secure and enjoy their spoils, and built
cities, and settled their wives and children in
them before they crossed the Jordan with the
rest to enter Canaan, f In the days of Solo-
mon, the son of David, who reigned at Jeru-
salem, one of the captains of his armies, named
Gabaris, ruled over Gilead and Gaulanitis, and
had under him the sixty great and fenced cities
of Ogt, but whether this of Gergashi was then
one of those, there is no positive testimony, that
1 am aware of, either sacred or profane.

* Deut. iii. 3 — 7. t Deut. iii. 18.

% Joseph. Ant. Jud. I. viii. c. 2. s. 3.


After the Roman conquests in the East, this
country became one of their favourite colonies,
and ten principal cities were built on the east
of the Jordan, giving the name of Decapolis to
the whole of that portion of the land over which
they were spread, * As such it is mentioned in
the New Testament t, and Geraza, whose ruins
we have been describing, was then one of the
ten cities giving their joint name to the province;
but it is certain that it was not considered the
principal of these, either in wealth, importance,
or extent.

In an abridged history of the Jews, by a mo-
dern hand, this place is thought to be the same
with the Essa of Josephus, and the learned
Reland's authority is quoted in support of it.
The passage in Josephus is thus : " But Alexan-
der marched again to the city Dios, and took it,
and then made an expedition against Essa,
where was the best part of Zeno's treasures, and
there he encompassed the place with three
walls ; and when he had taken the city by right-
ing, he marched to Golan and Seleucia, and
when he had taken. these cities, he, besides
them, took that valley, which is called the
Valley of Antiochus, as also the Fortress of

* Pliny, Nat.' Hist. 1. v. c. 18.

f Si. Mark* c. vii. v. 31.

Q 3


Gamala." * The paraphrase says, " After hav-
ing recovered many towns, and obtained some
advantages of inferior consequence, he marched
with his army to the seige of Essa or Gerazat,
in which Theodorus had secured, as he thought,
the whole of his treasures. Alexander, however,
took the town by storm, and carried away all
the riches which he found there, without moles
tation." t

It is quite evident, indeed, that Josephus
speaks of Geraza under this name of Essa, from
the parallel passage in his History of the Jewish
Wars, which was written previously to the books
of his Antiquities of the Jewish nation ; but
from whence this name of Essa is derived, I am
not aware. The passage alluded to is thus :
" But Alexander, when he had taken Pella,
marched to Geraza again, out of the covetous
desire he had of Theodorus's possessions, and
when he had built a triple wall about the garri-
son, he took the place by force." ||

Before it could have had time to recover itself
from this severe blow, it was included among
the number of those cities which were destroyed
and burnt by the enraged Jews, in their ven-

* Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. xiii. c. 15. s. 3.
f Vide Joseph. Ant. xiii. 3. ; and Reland, p. 76*7 .
J Hewlett's Hist, of the Jews, 12mo. p. 170.
|| Joseph. Wars of the Jews, 1. i. c. 4. s. 8.


geance on the Syrians, and on the Roman power
generally, for the massacre of a number of their
nation at Caesarea. " Now the people of Caesa-
rea had slain the Jews that were among them
on the very same day and hour when the soldiers
were slain, which, one would think, must have
come to pass by the direction of Providence,
insomuch that in one hour's time above twenty
thousand Jews were killed, and all Csesarea was
emptied of its Jewish inhabitants ; for Florus
caught such as ran away, and sent them in bonds
to the galleys. Upon which stroke that the
Jews received at Csesarea, the whole nation was
greatly enraged ; so they divide! themselves
into several parties, and laid waste the villages
of the Syrians, and their neighbouring cities,
Philadelphia, and Sebonites, and Geraza, and
Pella, and Scythopolis ; and after them Gadara
and Hippos, and falling upon Gaulanitis, some
cities they destroyed there, and some they set
on fire." *

One may conceive how great the hatred and
animosity existing between the contending
parties must have been, to lead to such tragical
scenes as those which are detailed, in all their
horror, by the pen of the same historian, in the
pages immediately following this from which

* Joseph. Wars of the Jews, 1. ii. c. 18. s. 1.
Q 4


the citation is made ; as well as how soon the
destruction of the proudest monuments might
be effected by a rage too ungovernable to be
awed either by a love of the arts, or even by a
reverence for the temples of the gods themselves ;
more particularly when the actors were mostly
Jews, who would rather assist than hinder the
destruction of heathen altars. Yet it is recorded,
to the honour of the people of Geraza, that their
conduct formed a bright exception to the
general behaviour of those who subsequently
revenged themselves upon the people of the
Jewish nation.

After describing an extraordinary instance of
a man devoting himself and all his family to de-
struction by his own hands, the historian says,
" Besides this number at Scythopolis, the other
cities rose up against the Jews that were among
them : those of Askalon slew two thousand
five hundred, and those of Ptolemais two thou-
sand, and put not a few in bonds ; those of Tyre
also put a great number to death, but kept a great
number in prison ; moreover those of Hippos
and those of Gadara did the like, while they
put to death the boldest of the Jews, but kept
those of whom they were afraid in custody, as
did the rest of the cities of Syria, according as
they every one either hated them, or were afraid
of them : only the Antiochians, the Sidonians


and Apamians spared those that dwelt with
them, and would not endure either to kill any
of the Jews, or to put them in bonds ; and
perhaps they spared them because their own
number was so great that they despised their
attempts ; but I think the greatest part of this
favour was owing to their commiseration of
those whom they saw to make no innovations.
As for the Gerazens, they did no harm to those
that abode with them, and for those who had a
mind to go away, they conducted them as far as
their borders reached. *

When the war had gained a still greater
height, and the Roman general, afterwards
Emperor Vespasian, with his son, Titus, was
preparing for the siege of Jerusalem, the city
of Geraza seems to have received the finishing
stroke of its complete demolition. " And now
Vespasian had fortified all the places round
about Jerusalem, and erected citadels at Jericho
and Adida, and placed garrisons in them both,
partly out of his own Romans, and partly out of
the body of his auxiliaries. He sent also Lucius
Annius to Geraza, and delivered to him a body
of horsemen, and a considerable number of
footmen. So when he had taken the city, which
he did at the first onset, he slew a thousand

* Joseph. Wars of the* Jews, 1. ii. c. 18. s. 5.


of those young men who had not prevented him
by flying away ; but he took their families cap-
tive, and permitted his soldiers to plunder them
of their effects, after which he set fire to their
houses, and went away to the adjoining villages,
while the men of power fled away, and the
weaker part were destroyed ; and what was re-
maining was all burnt down." *

It must, even after this, however, have been
restored, if the inscription on the altar be applied
to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Gibbon
enumerates this city among the line of fortresses
from Bosra to Petra, which formed the frontier
of the Syrian provinces in the Lower Empire,
and the barrier which was opposed to the Saracen
invaders of that country from the East. It was,
probably, the holy zeal of these turbaned con-
querors, if any thing yet remained to offend it
in the works of pagan hands, that overturned the
altars, destroyed the temples, and violated the
tombs and sepulchres oi' this city of idolaters ;
for here they would have found, at every step,
a plea for the use of their destroying engines, in
bringing to the ground the impious representa-
tions forbidden by the Koran of their prophet.
We met with nothing, however, that seemed to
be indicative either of Christians having de-

* Joscj)!). Wars of the Jews, 1. iv. c. 9. s. 1.


fended, or of Moslems having destroyed the
place, at the period spoken of. All was Roman,
as it has been described ; and the impression
made on our minds while traversing its ruins
was, that this people had been both the first
founders, and the last inhabitants, of the city as
it is now seen.

It was past noon when we quitted the ruins
of Geraza, going out at the northern gate, and
ascending the hill beyond it. The rain had con-
tinued so incessantly, and had now set in with
such violence, that it became difficult to walk,
from the weight of our loose garments. In
ascending the steep northern heights, we passed
again through the necropolis, meeting with some
few grottoes, and innumerable sarcophagi of
stone, chiefly sculptured with shields and
wreaths. Our way became so fatiguing, that
we often halted to draw breath, and threw our-
selves, with pleasure, on the wet ground, to
catch a moment's repose. Our thirst too was
so extreme, from long continued exertion, that
we often stooped to lap up a little dirty water
with our tongues, from the bottom of a broken
sarcophagus, or from the little hollows which
time had worn in the natural rock.

At length, after the most fatiguing journey
on foot that I remember ever to have per-
formed, we reached the village of Soof, and


entering into the public room where we had
taken up our quarters, it was a luxury of the
highest kind to strip myself completely naked,
and to stretch my limbs on one straw mat,
while they were covered only by another. My
companion was better provided in this respect,
as his Albanian interpreter furnished him with
sufficient dry covering for the moment ; but we
were so far made equal by fatigue, that we both
sunk alike into a sweet and sound sleep, though
breathing an atmosphere overcharged with the
smoke of green wood, and the steam from our
wet clothes, and stunned by the vociferations of
the disputing villagers, who had all collected
round the tire to shelter themselves from the rain.
When we awoke, the first piece of intelli-
gence brought to us was, that Mr. Bankes*
horse, which he had bought only a few days
since at Jerusalem, had died suddenly in the
stable. One of the most bigotted Moslems of
the party, who had already suspected us to be
Christians, or Jews, or magicians, insisted on
this event being a signal proof of God's dis-
pleasure against us ; and to this a very general
assent was given. The suspicions on which this
construction of our misfortune was grounded,
had, indeed, gained strength among all. While
the Albanian was employed in drying Mr.
Bankes' clothes at the Hre, around which the


general circle was assembled, these peasants re-
garded the shirt and drawers, which were of
fine calico, as proofs of some difference between
our real character, and that which we endea-
voured to impose on them by our outward
appearance. The consequences of so trifling
a deviation from prescribed usage were, how-
ever, in this instance, nearly fatal to us. The
cry of complaint, and even of opprobrium,
became so general against us, as unknown wan-
derers, that we knew not where it would end ;
while Mr. Bankes not knowing the language of
the country, and not having yet acquired a
facility of conforming himself to Mohammedan
attitudes, and the forms of salutation, and man-
ner of address, among them, rendered it im-
possible for him to pass as an Arab, and not
loner even as a Turk : so that we were driven
to subterfuge and evasion, for only an uncertain
safety at best.

In the course of the conversation which
passed among the people themselves, on the
ruins of Jerash, we learned that about five or six
years since, a person was known to have visited
them, and was said to have spent several days
there in writing and examining every part of
them. They described him as a Muggrebin, and
said that he spoke only western Arabic ; but
added, that he wore a beard, prayed, and was


observant of the dictates of Islam. From the
date, and other circumstances, it is likely
enough that this was Dr. Seetzen, the first dis-
coverer of the ruins of the city, who has since
died in Arabia. Mr. Buckhardt, the only Euro-
pean known to have visited this spot since
Dr. Seetzen, journeyed so completely as an
Arab of the country, that it is not at all to be
wondered at, that he should have passed here
without exciting notice. His visit, however,
enabled him to copy an inscription there, which
we did not see, as well as two others at this
village itself, of which we dared not to make
any enquiry, for fear of increasing the suspi-
cions already existing against us. These in-
scriptions were given by Mr. Buckhardt to
Mr. Bankes, as well as to myself, and as they
may be interesting they are inserted with the

The whole of the company were unanimously
of opinion, that immense treasures were buried
beneath the ruins of Jerash ; and they were as
firmly persuaded that the excavation of them
was the sole object of our visit, of whatsoever
religion we might be. They assured us, how-
ever, that a guardian genius, or demon, under
the form of an immense bird, held the whole in
too great security for it to be taken away by
mortals, unless some magic arts were used to

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charm him into consent. This bird, they said,
appeared among the ruins on every eighth day ;
and there were even some of the party who
positively insisted on having seen him there
with their own eyes ; gravely adding, that its
form was different from that of all other known
animals, and its size enormous beyond de-

Such were the tales of the evening, to which
we listened in silence. They were not totally
devoid of instruction, inasmuch as they offered
a striking proof of how strongly the love of the
marvellous prevails among the uninformed part
of mankind.

It was past midnight before the assembly
broke up, when our Arab guides were as happy
to be relieved from their presence as we our-
selves were ; for these villagers of Soof seemed
to hate the Bedouins only one degree less than
they did the infidels and necromancers whom
they had made their companions.

( 240 )


from soof to oom kais.

February 2d. The rain fell violently at day-
break ; but as the sun rose its force abated ;
and from the alarming suspicions and suggestions
of the people here regarding us, we determined
on quitting Soof at all events.

We accordingly mounted ; and Mr. Bankes
being now without a horse, from the death of
his own on the preceding evening, the Arabs
dismounted by turns to accommodate him with
the constant use of one of theirs. We continued
our road from Soof in a N. W. direction, de-
scending into a fine valley, and again rising on a
gentle ascent, the whole being profusely and
beautifully wooded with evergreen oaks below,
and pines upon the ridge of the hills above, as
well as a variety of the lesser trees.

This forest, for it fully deserved the name,
continued for about four or five miles, when we
opened on a more park -like scenery, the ground
showing here and there a rich green turf, and
the woods becoming less crowded than before.
The soil of the road on which we travelled was


clayey, with a fine yellow gravel on the surface ;
and the track was broad and beaten.

As we descended to a lower level, the pines
disappeared, and on the side of one of the hills,
close to the road on our right, we observed a
grotto, carefully hewn down in front, with an
arched door of entrance, and a small court and
cistern before it. On alighting to examine it,
we found it to be an excavated tomb, now con-
taining three stone sarcophagi, of the usual form
and size. Were it not for the actual presence
of these, we should have thought it to have been
a cell of residence for some solitary living being,
rather than a place of sepulture for the dead, as
we knew of no ancient site in the immediate
vicinity of the place, nor could we find any
traces of other tombs near. Although this
solitude had been chosen, and wild bushes had
so overgrown its front as almost to conceal it
from the view, this sepulchre had been violated
as well as all the rest, and its cistern was choked,
its court partly filled up, and its sarcophagi un-
covered and empty.

We continued our route from hence, still in a
N. W. direction, while the mountains of Nablous
were pointed out to us in the distance on our
left. We reached at length a beautiful dell,
wooded round on all sides, where we found a
small encampment of Bedouins striking their





tents, and removing from the more open part of
the vale to seek shelter beneath the trees, as the
rain still continued.

Alighting here to take a pipe and coffee, we
met with two pilgrims who had recently returned
from Mecca, and the salutations of peace passed
between us as children of the same faith. Mo-
hammed, the Albanian soldier who accompanied
Mr. Bankes, had been himself at Mecca during
Mohammed Ali Pasha's campaign in the Hed-
jaz, besides which, he possessed a sort of certi-
ficate of his having visited the great mosque of
Solomon, which stands on the site of the Jewish
temple in Jerusalem ; and, at the same time that
he talked loudly of Arasat, and the Caaba, he
showed this, as a paper from the sheriff of
Mecca. The ignorance of the pilgrims, who
were returning to Sham, prevented them from
detecting the imposition, and they were satisfied
with seeing on it the double-bladed sword of the
prophet, by which the infidels were to be cut off
from the earth. I had myself learnt so much
also of Mecca, and its pilgrimage, as to be pre-
pared to answer almost any questions that could
have been proposed to me by them, and there-
fore all went well with us. The Bedouins, how-
ever, as usual, never troubled themselves either
about the prophet or his injunctions, and seemed
r 2


almost as indifferent to the conversation as if it
were in a foreign tongue.

In the mean time a large fire was kindled,
warm cakes were baked for us, coffee burnt,
pounded, and prepared, our pipes lighted, and,
in short, every office performed for our comfort

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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 13 of 26)