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 16 of 26)
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that lake and the Dead Sea ; while the city of
Gamala and the region of Gamalitica were to
the north of Perea. t From the details of what
followed this easy capture of Gadara, there is
every reason to believe, too, that it was seated
among some of the valleys to the south of

* Wars of the Jews, b. iii. c. 3. s. S.

+ " Gamala Syria?, Incola Gamaleus. Joseph. 1. iv. Ant. J ud.
Urbs fait Gaulanitidis e regione urbis Tarichaeae sita, unde
regio Gamalitica nomen habet ad septentrionem Peraeae sita, el
a forma cameli quam reprsesentebat dicta. De Bello. 1. iv.
c. i." — Reland, Palaestina Illustrata, 1. iii. p. /84.


Geraza, which lead out directly to the plain of
the Jordan, as will be best seen by the extract
of these particulars.

On the flight of the murderers of Dolesus
from Gadara, they were pursued by a troop of
five hundred horsemen, and three hundred
footmen of the Romans, under Placidus, who
followed the fugitives just upon their backs, as
it is said, until they ran for refuge into a certain
walled village near, called Bethennabris. Here
a battle ensued between the Romans and the
people of this town, and the fugitives of Gadara,
whose cause they espoused, combined, and the
latter were cut up with great slaughter. After this
contest, when such as were yet left alive of them
sought to re-enter the walls of Bethennabris,
the guards prevented them, and shut the gates ;
when Placidus made an assault upon them, and
righting courageously till it was dark, he got
possession of the people on the wall, and of
them that were in the city, when the useless
multitude were destroyed ; but those that were
more potent ran away, and the soldiers plun-
dered the houses, and set the village on fire.
As for those that ran out of the village, they
stirred up such as were in the country, and
exaggerating their own calamities, and telling
them that the whole army of the Romans were
upon them, they put them into great fear on


every side : so they got in great numbers toge-
ther, and fled to Jericho, for they knew no
other place that could afford them any hope of
escaping, it being a city that had a strong wall,
and a great multitude of inhabitants. But
Placidus, relying much upon his horsemen, and
his former good success, followed them, and slew
all that he overtook, as far as Jordan; and
when he had driven the whole multitude to the
river-side, where they were stopped by a current
(for it had been augmented lately by rains, and
was not fordablej he put his soldiers in array
over against them, so the necessity the others
were in, provoked them to hazard a battle, be-
cause there was no place whither they could
flee. They then extended themselves a very
great way along the banks of the river, and
sustained the darts that were thrown at them,
as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat
many of them, and pushed them into the cur-
rent. At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen
thousand of them were slain, while the number
of those that were unwillingly forced to leap
into the Jordan was prodigious. There were,
besides, two thousand and two hundred taken
prisoners. A mighty prey was taken also, con-
sisting of asses, and sheep, and camels, and
oxen. Now this destruction that fell upon the
Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in


itself so did it still appear greater than it really
was ; and this, because not only the whole
country through which they fled, was filled with
slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over,
by reason of the dead bodies that were in it,
but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full
of dead bodies, that were carried down into it
by the river." *

The distance, therefore, from Gadara to the
Jordan, and from that part of it near the Lake
Asphaltitis, must have been small, and the
flight from the city to that river easy, all of
which, added to the prominent fact of its being
the capital of Perea, whose northern limit was
Pella, would in no respect accord with the si-
tuation of the ruins here. We know, how-
ever, that Gamala was situated near the Lake
of* Tiberias, and on the other side of it, as
opposed to Tarichaea t, which was near to Tibe-

* Wars of the Jews, 1. iv. c. 7. s. 5. 6.

f Pliny places this city on the southern side of the lake, in
his enumeration of the features of this part of the country.
"The River Jordan," he says, " springeth from the fountain
Paneade, which giveth the surname to the city Caesarea ; a
pleasant river it is, and winds much, until its sweet waters are
lost in the bitter ones of the Lake of Sodom or Asphaltitis.
The lake of Gennesarah formed by it in the way, is sixteen
miles long and six broad. On the east side of this lake, are
the towns of Julias and Hippos ; on the south Tarichaea ; and
on the ivest Tiberias, with its healthful baths of hot water."
Nat. Hist. 1. v. c. 15.

\ more


rias *, and consequently opposite to us from
hence, so that no mistake can occur in this par-

Gadara is thought to have been here by Mr.
Seetzen, from the vicinity of the hot baths on
the banks of the Hieromax to the north of it. I
do not remember that such hot-baths are spoken
of by any author as near to that city, they are
certainly not mentioned by Josephus, yet he
does not fail to remark those of Emmaus, which
were near to Gamala. " Vespasian," he says,
'* removed from Emmaus, where he had last
pitched his camp, before the city Tiberias, (for
Emmaus, if it be interpreted, may be rendered
* a warm bath,' f° r therein is a spring of warm
water useful for healing), and came to Gamala." t

Finally, this traveller conceives the village of
Phik, which is on the east side of the Lake of
Tiberias, nearly about the centre of its length,
and also on a high mountain, to be the Gamala
of .antiquity, from the correspondence of its
situation with that given of Gamala by Josephus ;
but unfortunately, his letter on this subject con-

A more modern authority erroneously places it on the east :
— " Tarichaea ad orientate maris Galilseae litus posita ; olim
i'uit urbs munitissima, a Vespasiano tamen expugnata." Clu-
verius, 1. v. c. xxi. p. 369.

* Wars of the Jews, 1. iii. p. 10.

f Ibid. b. iv. c. 1. s. 3.


tains only the suggestion, without the comparison
or coincidences in detail. Mr. Paulus, however,
according to this same writer, places Gamala on
the south side of the Hieromax or Shereeat-al-
Mandoor, as it is really found to be here at
Oom Kais.

Pliny, indeed, makes express mention of
Gadara among the cities of the Decapolis, and
says, it is situated upon the river Hieromax*
running even before it *, which is noticed also
by D' Anvil le, who, at the same time that he
places it near the Hieromax or the Yermuk,
calls it also the capital of Perea from Josephus,
and says, that its present name is Kedar. t

* The region of Decapolis joined to Judea on the Syrian
side, and derived its name from the number of cities in it :
these were not enumerated alike by all, but most men spoke
of the cities of Damascus and Opotos watered by the river
Chrysorrhoa. Also Philadelphia, renowned for the fruitful
territory about it. Moreover, Scythopolis, taking name of
the Scythians there planted ; and before time, Nysa, so named
of Prince, or Father Bacchus, by reason that his nurse was
there buried. Also Gadara, situate upon the river Hieromax
running even before it, besides the above-named Hippos Dios,
(on the eastern side of the Lake of Tiberias.) Likewise Pella
enriched with the good fountains ; and last of all, Galaza,
(Geraza,) and Canatha. — Pliny, Nat. Hist. 1. v. c. 18. Booth's

f Cette extr^mite du lac Tiberias recoit une riviere dont le
nom est Hieromax, ou comme on dit actuellement Yermuk.
Elle pase sous Gadara, ville considerable, et meme qualifie'e de
capitale de la Per£e par Joseph. Son nom sur le lieu est
Kedar. Geog. Anc. p. 138. folio. Paris, 1/69.


This Gadara, which was the capital of Perea,
and so near to Jericho and the Dead Sea, could
not, however, be the same Gadara as that by
which the Hieromax passed, unless that stream
rises much farther south than our maps represent
it. We could learn nothing certain regarding
the course or direction of this stream, nor was
Kedar a name known to those of whom we en-
quired. We found no inscription during our
short stay there to assist our judgment on this
point j but after the coincidences already
pointed out between the situation of the ancient
city and that of the present ruins, little doubt
can remain of their being those of Gamala as
here assumed. *

There were throughout this country, however,
so many places of the same name, as may be
seen in those of Rama, Cana, Bethel, and
Emmaus, of the Hebrews, and afterwards in
those of Herodium, Cesarea, Julias, and others,
in Roman times, that nothing is more probable

* Gamala is reckoned among the cities of Samaria by
Cluverius ; but the note on it preserves its local features,
though it does not give its position accurately. " Gamala in
monte sita erat, caineli figuram referenti, cujus capiti arx,
gibbo reliquee urbs inhserebat. Expugnata est ab Alexandro
Judseorum Rege ; ac deinde quoque a V^espasiano. Ab ea
urbe circumjacens, regio dicta est Gamalitica, ponitur vero
urbs ilia trans Jordanem ab orientali Maris GaHlseae, latere
paullum remota. Introduet. Geog. 1. v. c. xxi. p. 368.


than that there might be several smaller places
called Gadara, independent of the city of that
name, which was the metropolis of Perea, and
the place whose site is thought by Dr. Seetzen
to have been here at Gamala. * Express mention
is made, indeed, of one Gadara, which is called
a village of Gilead, where Alexander Janneus
fell into an ambush, in a battle with the Ara-
bians, where, in the places that were rugged and
difficult to be travelled over, he was thrown
down into a deep valley by the multitude of
the camels at Gadara, a village of Gilead, and
hardly escaped with his life, t

But, more generally, the name of Gadara
is given to a district, no doubt, from the
name of its capital, and a part of this district, at
least, did certainly extend to the borders of the
Lake of Tiberias. Though its capital might not
have changed, either in name or situation, the
borders of the district over which it was the
head might frequently alter, and it might be
common, at some periods, to include in this dis-
trict of Gadara, or country of the Gadarenes,
parts that were remote enough from the city,

* Reland, in his learned and laborious Illustrations of Pales-
tine, has collected several of these with very slight variations
of name. See lib. iii. de Urbibus et Vicis Paleestinse, p. 773.
to 778.

f Antiquities of the Jews, b. xiii. c. 13. s. 3.


which is alone contended for as being seated
farther south, if, as already asserted, it was the
capital of Perea, since that had Pella for its
northern boundary, and was near the Jordan and
the Lake Asphaltitis, and consequently remote
from the Lake of Tiberias* * Josephus, in his
Life, says, " When Justus had by his persua^
sions prevailed on the people of Tiberias to take
arms, nay, and had forced a great many to do
so against their will, he went out and set the
villages that belonged to Gadara and Hippos on
fire, which villages were situated on the borders
of Tiberias and of the region of Scythopolis." t
This latter region extended all along the plain
of Jordan to the south, and would reach, indeed,
to the western limits of Perea, and of Gadara as
seated there. In the Jewish wars, when Gabi-
nius had committed the care of the temple to
Hyrcanus, but ordained the other political go-
vernment to be by an aristocracy, " he parted
the whole nation into five conventions, assigning

* Gadara Peraeae. Ita hanc urbem nuncupo ut dislinguam
ab alia quae idem nomen gessit, et vicina fuit Nicopoli atque
Diospoli, de qua niox. Fuit autem haec urbs sita ad flumen
Hieramacen, teste Plinio, 1. v. c. 16., jutn-poTro^ij Peraeae, teste
Josepho, 1. v. de Bello, c. iii., ad ortum sita lacus Tiberiadis
remota a Tiberiade intervallo GO stadiorum, uti idem testatur
in historia vitae suae, p. 1025. Reland. Palaest. Illust. 1. iii.
p. 773.

f Life of Josephus, sect. ix»


one portion to Jerusalem, another to Gadara,
that another should belong to Amathus, a fourth
to Jericho, and to the fifth division was allotted
Sepphoris, a city of Galilee." *

All of these authorities bespeak a city of some
consequence, and a district of some extent, and
as such, the country comprised under the name
of Gadarene, might well have reached from the
region of Scythopolis to the borders of Tiberias.
The eastern shores of the lake are often so
called in the writings of the New Testament :
a very striking instance may be quoted, after
the stilling of the tempest on the sea of Galilee,
where it is said, " And they came over into the
other side of the sea, into the country of the
Gadarenes," which, says the succeeding Evan-
gelist, " is over against Galilee."

The account given of the habitation of the
demoniac, from whom the legion of devils was

* Wars of the Jews, b. i. c. 8. s. 5.

Cellarius says, " Gadara ad ostium fluvii inferius quod et
Chammat Tiberiadis cis fluvium, idem aut conjunctum oppidum
est." And again, " Gadara cum vicina Gergesa, et orientem
versus Pella." Geog. Ant. c. xxi. p. 97. 8vo.

Cluverius enumerates it among the cities of the Decapolis,
and the commentator Bunoni, in a note on this enumeration,
says, " Gadara monte imposita, paullo longius a Mari Galilseae
remota erat." But testifies also to its strength, by adding,
" inexpugnabilis prope habita." Int. Geog. 1. v. c. 23. p. 374.



cast out here, struck us very forcibly, while we
were ourselves wandering among rugged moun-
' tains, and surrounded by tombs, still used as
dwellings by individuals and whole families of
those residing here. * A finer subject for a
masterly expression of the passions of madness
in all their violence, contrasted with the serenity
of virtue and benevolence in him who went
about doing good, could hardly be chosen for
the pencil of an artist ; and a faithful delinea-
tion of the rugged and wild majesty of the
mountain-scenery here on the one hand, with
the still calm of the waters of the lake on the
other, would give an additional charm to the

Before we quitted the summit of the moun-
tain on which all the principal ruins were, we

* " And when he was come out of the ship, immediately
there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
who had his dwelling among the tombs ; and no man could
bind him, no, not with chains : because that he had been often
bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked
asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces : neither
could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was
in the mountains and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself
with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and wor-
shipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have
I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God ? I
adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not." St. Mark,
v. 2—7.


went over to the edge of the precipice, for so-
this steep descent may be called, on the north-
west angle of the hill. There were here, several
ancient cisterns for the preservation of rain-
water, which must have been exceedingly neces-
sary in a place where there was only one spring
to supply the wants of the whole population;
and, indeed, it is said, that during the siege, one
of the principal fears of the besieged was, that
their water would fail them.

Of the subterraneous caverns through which
the historian relates that some of the inhabitants
escaped during the siege of the city, we could
learn nothing, unless the remarkable passage
ending in one of the tombs that we first examined,
and there described as being unfathomable by a
stone thrown in as far as possible without re-
turning any sound, be considered as one of them.
Passages of this nature are, however, so liable to
be filled up at their mouths by rubbish, that
traces of them are not to be expected at a period
so remote as this from the time of the destruc-
tion of the city.

On a modern burying-ground of the villagers,
near this north-west angle of the hill, where we
remarked the ancient cisterns for the preservar
tion of the rain-water, we observed a fantastic
building of the Mohammedans, in the walls of
u 2


which the grey and black stones gatiiered from
the ruins had been arranged in regular layers,
so as to shew, by their succession, broad stripes
of black and white, quite in the taste of the
modern Egyptians, among whom, saints* tombs,
mosques, &c. are so decorated with red and
yellow horizontal lines, or like the great enclo-
sure of Adjerood, near Suez, as well as the lower
part of several buildings in that town.

On quitting these interesting ruins of a small
colonial city, situated in a barren district, as
unfavourable for agriculture and manufactures
as for commerce, we could not but be forcibly
struck with the luxury that must have prevailed
here, and the wealth that must have existed, not
merely to build such splendid temples and colon-
nades, but to support two large theatres for the
entertainment of the living, and to construct
such massy tombs and extensive sarcophagi,
apparently for all classes of its dead, since the
number of the latter, if considered to belong to
the rich only, was disproportionately great, when
compared with the size and probable population
of the place.

On returning to the small village of Oom Kais,
which lies scattered chiefly between the necropolis
and the eastern wall of the ruined city, we found
a meal of cakes and oil prepared for us, by a


white-bearded sheikh, and a crowd gathered
around us, as usual, to enquire after the treasure
we had been taking up out of the earth. We
were treated here, however, with great kindness
and civility, and furnished with food without
demand of payment, the people being a mixture
of shepherds and cultivators ; some inhabiting
the ancient Roman tombs, some living in rude
dwellings formed by a circle of broken sarcophagi
and other large stones on the spot; some dwelling
in conical huts of reed, plastered on the outside
with mud, like the Abyssinians, and other inha-
bitants of rainy climates, and others again re-
posing beneath tents woven from the hair and
wool of their own flocks. The whole population
oi' this settlement does not exceed two hundred,
and these are all Mohammedans, their sheikh
acknowledging the Pasha of Sham for his

Before we departed, we were taken to see
one of the ancient Roman tombs, now used as
a carpenter's shop, the occupier of it being em-
ployed in constructing a rude plough, and in
fixing the irons to one of those long Syrian
goads, which serve to spur the animal with one
end, and clear the plough of clods with the
other. On examining the size and weight of
this iron at the foot, MaundrelPs conjecture

u ■>


struck me as a very judicious one, that it might
have been with such a weapon that Shamgar
made the prodigious slaughter related of him. *

From this tomb we went to a still more perfect
one, which was entirely cleared out, and now
used as a private dwelling. Though the females
of the family were within, we were allowed to
enter, and descended by a flight of three steps,
there being either a cistern or a deep sepulchre
on the right of this descent. The portals and
architrave were here perfectly exposed, the or-
naments of the latter were a wreath and open
flowers ; the door also was divided by a studded
bar, and pannelled, and the ring of the knocker
remained, though the knocker itself had been
broken off. The door, which was of the same
size and thickness as those described, traversed
easily on its hinges, and we were permitted to
open and close it at pleasure. On examining it
closely, all that has before been said on the
mode of fixing and of fastening it, was confirmed,
as we could here see every part of the construc-
tion more perfectly.

The tomb was about eight feet in height, on
the inside, as there was a descent of a steep step

* And alter him was Shamgar, the son of Anath, which
slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad : and
he also delive/ed Israel. — Judges, iii. 31.


from the stone threshold to the floor. Its size
was about twelve paces square, but as no light
was received into it except by the door, we
could not see . whether there was an inner
chamber, as in some of the others. A perfect
sarcophagus still remained within, ana* this was
now used by the family as a chest for corn, and
other provisions, so that this violated sepulchre
of the dead had thus become a secure, a cool,
and a convenient retreat to the living of a dif-
ferent race.

u 4>

( 296 )



We left the village of Oom Kais about four
o'clock, and descended by a winding path down
the steep hill on whose summit it stood. In
about half an hour we reached its foot, and see-
ing some Bedouin tents near, our guides deter-
mined on halting here for the night.

We had arranged amongst ourselves, to reach,
if possible, the small village of Sumuk, in the
southern bight of the lake, and after sleeping
there, to proceed to Tiberias, on its western
edge, in the morning ; but we now learned that
there was an affair of blood between the people
of that neighbourhood and our guides ; and
that, therefore, they could not enter either the
one or the other. They professed their willing-
ness to go to Nazareth, but no further ; and
Mr. Bankes, not having seen that neighbourhood,
or the coast to the northward of Jaffa, agreed to
go directly thither with them.


It was to me as painful a circumstance to lose
such an agreeable companion, as it was disad-
vantageous to abandon so safe a protection as
our party had hitherto afforded to us all ; but
I felt the call of duty as imperious, and deter-
mined to proceed alone to Sumuk, and from
thence, on the following morning, through
Tiberias, straight to Damascus, as the nearest
road to Aleppo.

In the midst of the dispute, while we were
yet endeavouring to prevail on the Arabs to
continue on our original route, and before we
had entered this Bedouin camp below, my horse
fell, in crossing a ravine, and crushed my right
leg and foot between the saddle and the rugged
rock of the valley. As the horse rose nimbly,
it was without difficulty that I was extricated
from this situation, and placed again on my
seat, the pain being violent but not excruciat-
ing at first, and, as I then thought, by no means

We continued towards the tents, which were
pitched on the banks of the Nahr-el-Hami ; but
as the sun was yet a full hour high, we deter-
mined, instead of alighting, to cross the river
and visit the hot springs on the other side, which
were close by.

We accordingly forded the Hieromax with
some difficully, as its stream was here broader,


deeper, and more rapid than the Jordan at the
time and place of our first crossing that river
above Jericho. Reaching safely the opposite
bank, we found a black soil, with some little
cultivation ; and a few yards up from the
stream, on the north-western side, we came
to the ruins of a Roman building, enveloped
in the steam of the springs on which it stood.

On approaching nearer, we found the edifice
to be an ancient bath ; the great hall, the cis-
terns, the private chambers, the recesses, and
narrow stairs of which still remained, with seve-
ral arches on the north, that either inclosed a
court for horses, or belonged to some outer
building attached to the establishment.

The whole of this edifice was constructed of
the black stone, of which we had lately seen so
much, and which appeared to us to be volcanic j
and we could now perceive, that in the cliff's
above, through which the Hieromax made its

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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 16 of 26)