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 15 of 26)
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had been subject to Herod, and promised to
give him the royal dignity hereafter, if he
governed his part virtuously. But as for the
other half, he divided it into two parts, and
gave it to two other of Herod's sons, to
Philip and to Antipas ; that Antipas who dis-
puted with Archelaus for the whole kingdom.
Now, to him it was that Perea and Galilee paid

* Joseph. Antiq. b. xix. c. 5. s. 1.


their tribute, which amounted annually to two
hundred talents, while Batanea with Tracho-
nifeis, as well as Auranitis, with a certain part of
what was called the house of Zenodorus, paid
the tribute of one hundred talents to Philip ;
but Idumea, and Judea, and the country of
Samaria, paid tribute to Archelaus, but had
now a fourth part of that tribute taken off by
the order of Caasar, who decreed them that
mitigation because they did not join in this
revolt with the rest of the multitude. There
were also certain of the cities which paid tribute
to Archelaus, Stratos' tower, and Sebaste, with
Joppa and Jerusalem ; for as to Gaza, and
Gadara, and Hippos, they were Grecian
cities, which Caesar separated from his govern-
ment, and added them to the province of
Syria.'* *

These, then, where the boundaries of Herod's
kingdom at the period of his death. The same
historian informs us afterwards, that Claudius,
after the early misfortunes which Agrippa had
undergone, not only confirmed to him the king-
dom which Caius had given to him, but made
an addition to it of all that country over which
Herod, who was his grandfather, had reigned :
that is, Judea and Samaria. " This," says, the

* Joseph. Antiq. b. xvii. c. 11. s. 4:

s 4


Jewish writer, " Claudius restored to him as due
to his family. But for Abila of Lysanias, he
bestowed them upon him, as oat of his own ter-
ritories." *

Notwithstanding that it is usual to place the
district of Abylene far to the northward, be-
tween Syro-Phenicia, and Ccele-Syria, I think It
by no means improbable that it was seated here
near the lake of Tiberias, and much to the south-
ward of the limits generally assigned to it. It
seems agreed, on all hands, that it derived its
name from its capital, Abila ; and, as we have
seen, there is now a large ruined city in this
very neighbourhood, retaining still the name of
Abeel, and having marks of former grandeur,
which could only have belonged to a place of
some consequence, t In the enumeration of the
provinces of which Herod's kingdom was com-
posed, Perea and Galilee are first mentioned, as
being probably the most productive, and for the
sake of naming the sum which they paid to
Archelaus in yearly tribute ; but it is after Ba-
tanea, and Trachonitis, and Auranitis, the most
northern provinces, and before those of Idumea,
and Judea, and Samaria, the most southern ones,
that Abilene is mentioned, as if really lying

* Joseph. Antiq. b. xix. c. 5. s. 1 .

f See also Dr. Seetzen's Letter in L'Ambigu^No. 254,


between these extremes in the order of enume-

The Evangelist St. Luke, in fixing the date
of John the Baptist's coming from the wilderness
beyond Jordan to preach the baptism of repen-
tance for the remission of sins, says that this
happened in the fifteenth year of the reign of
Tiberius Caesar ; Pontius Pilate being governor
of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea, and of
the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the te-
trarch of Abilene. * The learned Grotius, in
his note on this passage, which is quoted by Dr.
Hudson and Whiston, as explanatory of that
expression of Josephus which says that part of
the country only, called the house of Zenodorus,
paid tribute to Philip, observes, "When Jose-
phus says that some part of the house or posses-
sion of Zenodorus, i. e. Abilene, was allotted to
Philip, he thereby declares that the larger part
of it belonged to another ; this other was Lysa-
nias, whom Luke mentions, of the posterity of
that Lysanias who was possessed of the same
country called Abilene, from the city Abila,

* Luke, iii. 1. — Ptolemy also calls this city Abila of Lysa-
nias, as Spanheim observes. Whiston thinks it to have been
originally a part of Canaan. See his notes on the passage in
Josephus, as referred to.


and by others Chalcidene, from the city of Chal-
cis, when the government of the East was under
Antonius, and this after Ptolemy, the son of
Menneus ; from which Lysanias, this country
came to be commonly called the country of Ly-
sanias ; and as, after the death of the former
Lysanias, it was called the Tetrarchy of Zeno-
dorus, so, after the death of Zenodorus, or when
the time for which he hired it was ended, when
another Lysanias, of the same name with the for-
mer, was possessed of the same country, it began
to be called the Tetrarchy of Lysanias." *

It is clear, therefore, that the names of Zeno-
dorus and Lysanias were names which this terri-
tory derived from those of its rulers at different
periods ; while that of Abilene, from its capital
of Abila, was its more general and permanent
one ; and since this is positively said to have
been bestowed on Agrippa by Claudius, as out
of his own territories, one of the borders of his
kingdom, upon which Gamala is said to have
lain, must have been here near to this very spot.
If objection be taken to its then forming an iso-
lated spot, surrounded by districts under the
government of Agrippa, and more particularly
to its being mentioned at the same time with the

* Grotius on Luke, iii. 1.


country that lay at Mount Libanus, it may be
replied, that there were many similar instances
of isolated districts and towns, either indepen-
dent, or subject to other governors, or enjoying
peculiar privileges, as may be seen in the con-
stant enumeration of such by Josephus ; and
even here, in the instance before us, where Gaza,
and Gadara, and Hippos, places wide apart from
each other, one to the east of Jordan, and one
in the very south of Palestine, bordering on the
desert of Idumea, were separated by Caesar from
the government of Archelaus, and added to the
province of Syria.

Thus much may suffice for the general position
of this place. Let us examine now more closely
its minuter local features, as furnished us by the
same animated and accurate pen. He says,
" Now, Agrippa had united Sogana and Seleucia
by leagues to himself, at the very beginning of
the revolt from the Romans ; yet did not Gamala
accede to them, but relied upon the difficulty
of the place, which was greater than that of
Iotapata, for it was situated upon a rough ridge
of a high mountain, with a kind of neck in the
middle ; where it begins to ascend, it lengthens
itself, and declines as much downward before
as behind, insomuch that it is like a camel in
figure, from whenc it is so named, although the
people of the country do not pronounce it accu-


rately * : both on the side and the face there are
abrupt parts divided from the rest, and ending
in vast deep valleys ; yet are the parts behind,
where they are joined to the mountain, somewhat
easier of ascent than the other ; but then the
people belonging to the place have cut an oblique
ditch here, and made that hard to be ascended
also. On its acclivity, which is straight, houses
are built, and those very thick and close to one
another. The city also hangs so strangely, that
it looks as if it would fall down upon itself^ so
sharp is it at the top. It is exposed to the
south ; and its southern mount, which reaches to
an immense height, was in the nature of a citadel
to the city ; and above that was a precipice, not
walled about, but extending itself to an immense
depth. There was also a spring of water within
the wall, at the utmost limits of the city." f

It is impossible, that any one but an actual
observer of the place at the moment he wrote,
or one to whom all its features were familiar
from long residence on it, could give so accurate
a description of this spot as is here done by the
Jewish warrior and historian. The rough ridge

* (Iat*-, Jemel, or, as it is pronounced in Egypt, and in
some parts of Syria, Gemel or Gamal-hard, is still the Arabic
name for a camel, called ',Us», Jammaz, in the dictionaries.

+ Joseph, Wars of the Jews, b. iv. c. 1. s. I.


of the high mountain on which the city is seated,
the neck in the middle by which it is connected
to the land behind, the easy ascent to the city
from this part, and the abrupt parts on the side
and face of the hill ending in vast deep valleys
below, are all features too prominently marked
to be mistaken, and remain as permanently con-
spicuous now, as they were in the days of its glory.*
From the small size of the space which
occupies the level on the summit of the hill,
about half a mile in length by a quarter broad,
and which is covered with colonnaded streets,
temples, theatres, palaces, and great public
buildings, surrounded with a wall and gates,
there is great reason to believe that this was the
citadel. It stands, as the Jewish writer describes
it, on the south, to which it is exposed ; and,
as he says, this southern mount, which reaches
to an immense height, might well stand in the
nature of a citadel to the city. The precipice

* D'Anville, in speaking of Gaulon, the capital of the terri-
tory of Gaulanitis, says, " Gamala n'en 6toit pas loin, presque
inaccessible par son assiette sur des rochers bordees des preci-
pices, et dont on connoit la situation, en ce quelle n'etoit
separe'e que par l'extremite' du Lac de Tiberiade, d'un lieu
assez considerable que les salaisons qu'on y faisoit du poisson,
peche" dans le lac appeller Tarishsea. Geog. Anc. p. 188. folio,
Paris, 1769. Its present Arabic name ofj^^,, Sumuk,
signifies also a fish, and is doubtless a corrupted translation of
is original one.


above, (or to the southward, for this expression
could not have been meant to apply to altitude,
as this was already the highest part of the moun-
tain) was not walled about, but extended itself
to an immense depth, as he himself describes it ;
and we were assured, that there was a spring of
water within the wall, as he affirms, and that
this was the only one now known on the whole
hill, though, from our occupation in examining
the buildings, we had not time to go and see it.

The city, which is said to have hung so
strangely, that it looked as if it would fall down
upon itself, so sharp was it at the top, was no
doubt spread out on the northern side of the hill,
since it was the southern mount that was in
the nature of a citadel to it. Along the brow
of the steep descent on the north, and facing
the valley of the Hieromax, and the hot springs,
as well as the town and lake of Tiberias, are seen
the remains of private dwellings, which must, as
described, have appeared from below to have
stood literally one upon another ; and from the
great distance at which this city could be seen,
it must have seemed to hang so strangely as to
threaten its own fall.

The preservation of the edifices within the
citadel, and the almost complete destruction of
those that were spread around its foot on the
side of the hill below, may easily be understood.


This upper city, like the western division at
Geraza, was reserved for the temples, theatres,
palaces, and other public edifices, and all the
pomp of architecture appears to have been con-
centred in this small space, where not a private
dwelling seems to have been suffered to intrude.
There are appearances in some parts of this
space, as if the rock had been artificially levelled
for the purpose of erecting the buildings there
on a more uniform plan ; and it is from the
circumstance of their level site and massy con-
struction, that they have continued to brave the
ravages of violence and time, while almost every
trace of the lower city has disappeared.

Inasmuch as the situation and construction
of the buildings within the citadel were favour-
able to their preservation, so were those of the
private dwellings calculated to hasten their
destruction from the moment of their being
abandoned. We know, from the description
of the siege, that the greater part of these
dwellings, indeed, were demolished ; and the
details of this are so particularly explanatory
of the speedy way in which buildings similarly
situated would contribute to their own destruc-
tion, that it is worth while to insert the passage.

'* Now when the banks were finished, which
was done on the sudden, both by the multitude


of hands, and by their being accustomed to such
work, they brought the machines ; but Chares
and Joseph, who were the most potent men in
the city, set their armed men in order, though
already in a fright, because they did not sup-
pose that the city could hold out long,
since they had not a sufficient quantity either
of water, or of other necessaries. However,
these their leaders encouraged them, and
brought them out upon the wall, and for a
while, indeed, they drove away those that
were bringing the machines ; but when those
machines threw darts and stones at them, they
retired into the city ; then did the Romans
bring battering rams to three several places,
and made the wall shake, [and fall]. They
then poured in over the parts of the wall
that were thrown down, with a mighty sound of
trumpets and noise of armour, and with a shout
of the soldiers, and broke in by force upon
those that were in the city ; but these men fell
upon the Romans for some time, at their first
entrance, and prevented their going farther,
and with great courage beat them back ; and
the Romans were so overpowered by the greater
multitude of the people, who beat them on
every side, that they were obliged to run into
the upper parts of the city. Whereupon the


people turned about, and fell upon their
enemies, who had attacked them, and thrust
them down to the lower parts ; and as they
were distressed by the narrowness and diffi-
culty of the place, slew them ; and as these
Romans could neither beat those back that
were above them, nor escape the force of their
own men that were forcing their way forward,
they were compelled to fly into their enemies*
houses, which were low ; but these houses being
thus full of soldiers, whose weight they could
not bear, fell down suddenly ; and when one
house fell, it shook down a great many of those
that were under it, as did those to such as were
under them. By this means a vast number of
the Romans perished ; for they were so terribly
distressed, that although they saw the houses
subsiding, they were compelled to leap on the
tops of them ; so that a great many were ground
to powder by these ruins, and a great many of
those that got from under them, lost some of
their limbs, but still a great number were suffo-
cated by the dust that arose from those ruins.
The people of Gamala supposed this to be an
assistance afforded them by God ; and without
regarding what damage they suffered them-
selves, they pressed forward, and thrust the
enemy upon the tops of their houses, and when
they stumbled in the sharp and narrow streets,



and were perpetually tumbling down, they threw
their stones or darts at them, and slew them.
Now the very ruins afforded them stones enow ;
and for iron weapons, the dead men of the
enemy's side afforded them what they wanted ;
for drawing the swords of those that were dead,
they made use of them to dispatch such as
were only half-dead ; nay, there were a great
number, who, upon their falling down from the
tops of the houses, stabbed themselves, and died
after that manner ; nor indeed, was it easy for
those that were beaten back to fly away ; for
they were so unacquainted with the ways, and
the dust was so thick, that they wandered about
without knowing one another, and fell down
dead among the crowd." #

It is plain, too, that the upper part, or the
citadel, on the summit, had its own wall of en-
closure as part, no doubt, of its original defence,
besides the wall that had been built around the
lower city by Josephus himself, just previous
only to the siege, and thrown up on a sudden.
It was thus resorted to as a last refuge by the
soldiers and citizens, when the young Titus, who
was just returned with his father, Vespasian,
from the expedition against Mount Tabor, en-
tered the city silently by night, with two hun-

* Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 1. iv. e. 1. s. 4.


dred chosen horsemen, and some footmen, to
revenge the destruction of the Romans who had
been slain in his absence. " Now, as the watch
perceived that he was coming, they made a
noise, and betook themselves to their arms ; and
as that his entrance was presently known to
those that were in the city, some of them caught
hold of their children and their wives, and drew
them after them, and fled away to the citadel,
with lamentations and cries, while others of them
went to meet Titus, and were killed perpetually;
but so many of them as were hindered from
running up to the citadel, not knowing what in
the world to do, fell among the Roman guards,
while the groans of those that were killed, were
prodigiously great every where, and the blood
ran down over all the lower parts of the city,
from the upper, But then Vespasian himself
came to his assistance against those that had fled
to the citadel, and brought his whole army with
him : now this upper part of the city was every
way rocky, and difficult of ascent, and elevated
to a vast altitude, and very full of people on all
sides,, and encompassed with precipices, whereby
the Jews cut off those that came up to them,
and did much mischief to others by their darts,
and the large stones which they rolled down
upon them, while they were themselves so high
that the enemies' darts could hardly reach them.

t 2


However, there arose such a divine storm
against them as was instrumental to their
destruction ; this carried the Roman darts upon
them, and made those which they threw return
back, and drove them obliquely away from them :
nor could the Jews indeed stand upon their pre-
cipices, by reason of the violence of the wind,
having nothing that was stable to stand upon ;
nor could they see those that were ascending up
to them ; so the Romans got up and surrounded
them, and some they slew before they could
defend themselves, and others as they were de-
livering up themselves ; and the remembrance
of those that were slain at their former entrance
into the city increased their rage against them
now ; a great number also of those that were
surrounded on every side, and despaired of
escaping, threw their children and their wives,
and themselves also, down the precipices, into
the valley beneath, which, near the citadel, had
been dug hollow to a vast depth ; but so it hap-
pened, that the anger of the Romans appeared
not to be so extravagant, as was the madness
of those that were now taken, while the Romans
slew but four thousand, whereas the number of
those that had thrown themselves down was
found to be five thousand : nor did any one
escape, except two women, who were the daugh-
ters of Philip, and Philip himself was the son


of a certain eminent man called Jacimiis, who
had been general of King Agrippa's army, and
these did therefore escape, because they lay
concealed from the rage of the Romans when
the city was taken ; for otherwise they spared
not so much as their infants, of which many
were flung down by them from the citadel/' *

But enough has been said to show that the
local features of the present spot are exactly
those which are given of Gamala ; and the de-
scription of the ruins still remaining there, will
best testify whether it was a place of conse-
quence or not ; and whether it was not well
fitted for the obstinate defence which it offered
to the arms of the all-conquering Romans.!

Mr. Seetzen has fixed on this as the site of
Gadara, principally, as he says, on account of
the hot-springs being near it. His account of
this place omits all mention of the theatres,
temples, avenues of columns, and curious tombs
there, as well as of the striking local features
of the mountain itself ; so that one would almost

* Joseph. Wars of the Jews, l.iv. c. 1 . s. 10.

f Cellarius, in enumerating the cities of Batanea, and par-
ticularly those along the lake of Gennesareth, says, "Ejus ad
Lacum Genesareth oppida erant Bethsaida, postea Julias
appellata ; Gamala, valide munita ac regio ra/xaXmx*) circa
earn ; et alia Julias, sed Betharamphtha prius dicta prope
superius Jordanis ostium." — Geog. Ant. c. xxi. p. 97. 8vo.

T 3


infer that lie had never visited it in person, but
that he speaks positively as to the place of Oom
Kais, which, it is true, is not immediately on
the ruins themselves, so that he might have been
at the one without seeing the other.

We are indebted to the pages of the same
historian from whom we have already borrowed
so largely, for the account of the capture of
Gadara, by Vespasian, during the same war as
that in which Gamala fell. He says, " Vespa-
*sian marched against Gadara, the metropolis of
Perea, which was a place of great strength, and
entered that city on the fourth day of the month
Dystrus (Adar) ; for the men of power had sent
an embassage to him without the knowledge of
the seditious, to treat about a surrender, which
they did out of the desire they had of peace,
and for saving their effects, because many of
the citizens were rich. This embassy the oppo-
site party knew nothing of, but discovered it as
Vespasian was approaching near the city. How-
ever, they despaired of keeping possession of
the city, as being inferior in number to their
enemies, which were within the city, and seeing
the Romans very near to the city, so they re-
solved to fly, but thought it dishonourable to do
it without shedding some blood, and revenging
themselves on the authors of this surrender ; so
they seized upon Dolesus (a person not only


the first in rank and family in that city, but one
that seemed the occasion of sending such an
embassy) and slew him, and treated his dead
body after a barbarous manner, so very violent
was their anger at him ; and then ran out of the
city. And as now the Roman army was just
upon them, the people of Gadara admitted
Vespasian with joyful acclamations, and received
from him the security of his right hand, as also
a garrison of horsemen and footmen, to guard
them against the excursions of the runagates ;
for as to their wall, they had pulled it down
before the Romans desired them so to do, that
they might thereby give them assurance that they
were lovers of peace, and that if they had a mind,
they could not now make war against them." *

This city we see, therefore, was taken with-
out a battle ; and though it is said to have been
strong, yet if it had possessed such remarkable
features as those seen here at Gamala, so accu-
rate a writer as Josephus is, and more particu-
larly one so happy in the descriptions of places,
could not well have passed them over. We
know, however, from his account, this leading
fact, that Gadara was the metropolis of Perea.
This same writer, in his concise, but picturesque

* Wars of t lie Jews, b. iv. c. 7. s. 3.
T 4


descriptions of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, and
his comparison of the former of these with Perea,
says, " Now the length of Perea is from Ma-
cherus to Pella, and its breadth from Philadel-
phia to Jordan ; its northern parts are bounded
by Pella, as we have already said, as well as its
western from Jordan ; the land of Moab is its
southern border, and its eastern limits reach to
Arabia and Silbronitis, and besides, to Philadel-
phene and Gerasa." #

It is certain, therefore, that this Gadara must
have been far to the southward of the lake of
Tiberias, since it was the metropolis of Perea,
whose most northern limit was Pella, which was
itself considerably to the south of this, and near
the brook of Jabbok, or nearly mid-way between

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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 15 of 26)