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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way, as well as on the upper part of the opposite
hills, this stone formed a deep layer on a basis
of white soil almost like chalk. The whole bed
of the river was one singular mixture of these
black rocks, worn smooth and round by the
passage of the water, but still as porous as
pumice-stone, and equal masses of the white
stone, which was nearly of as hard but smoother


The spring which rose here presented to us a
deep and capacious basin of beautifully trans-
parent water, of the colour of those precious
stones called aqua-marines, and more purely
crystal-like than any fountain I had ever be-
held. It rose in bubbles from the bottom ; but
though deeper than the height of a man, a pin
might have been distinguished at the bottom, or
the inscription of a medal read, so unusually
clear was the whole mass. The odour emitted
in its steam was highly sulphureous, but its taste
was considerably less so. Its heat at the foun-
tain-head was such as to render it painful to the
hand, if immersed beyond a few seconds ; but
a fact, for which we could not account, was,
that at a few yards distant from its source it was
sensibly hotter.

From the fine transparent green of its central
and deepest parts, the shade grew lighter as it
approached the edges, and around the imme-
diate rim of this natural basin, as well as on a
little cataract formed by fallen masses of the
ruined bath, the water had deposited a coating
of the purest white, which gave an additional
beauty to the appearance of the whole. The
quantity of the water, and the force of its stream
was sufficient to turn the largest mill ; and it
made a sensible addition to the waters of the



Hieromax, where it joined that river only a few
yards below.

As we found, that by gradual immersion the
heat of the water could be borne, one of our old
Arabs, Abu-Fatheel, and the Albanian Mo-
hammed stripped and bathed in the upper basin,
but described it as hotter than the hottest cistern
of a modern Turkish bath. As I was lifted off
my horse, while Mr. Bankes had his feet washed,
I was glad to follow his example, and to bathe
my bruised leg therein under the hope of some

Though the Roman edifice that accommo-
dated here both the victim of luxury, and the
less sensual invalid, was now deserted and de-
stroyed, the fountain which furnished its healing
waters to the bath is still visited in search of
restoration to health, by those who suffer an in-
terruption of the enjoyment of that blessing ;
and though among them there are none perhaps
sufficiently wealthy to build temples to Hygeia,
yet none seem to have departed without leaving
some humble offering, either propitiatory or
grateful, as in front of the southern wall are
about a thousand relics of hair, and nails, and
teeth, and rags of every kind and colour, depo-
sited by Arab visitors of the present day.

Josephus, in his account of the building of
Tiberias, at the Lake of Gennesareth, says, that


there were warm baths at a little distance from
it, in a village called Emmaus. * These were
distinct from the hot baths at Tiberias itself,
which are mentioned in another place t ; but
whether the hot spring here on the banks of the
Hieromax was one of those that belonged to
Emmaus, we could not determine, though its
vicinity to Tiberias led us to suppose that it
was. t

There appear, indeed, to have been several
places of this name, and situated in different
parts of Palestine. § In the march of Vespa-
sian's army, after passing from Caesarea to Anti-
patris, and from thence to Lydda and Jamnia,
he came to Emmaus. This was evidently in
their neighbourhood, and to the westward of the
Jordan ; for, after returning again to the same
place from an excursion into Idumea, the army
came down from thence to Neapolis or Sichem,

* Antiq. of the Jews, b. xviii. c. 2. s. 3.

f Jewish Wars, b. ii. c. 21. s. 6.

J 'A^xovq. Ubi thermae sunt, prope Tiberiada. Jos. Ant.
233. — Reland. Paleest. Illust. 1. iii. de urbibus et vicis Palaes-
tinae, p. 560.

§ Vide Reland. 1. ii. c. 6. " de intervallis locorum in sacro
codice notatis, situ Emmauntis, Bethaniae, aliisque." p. 425 ad
430 ; and again in 1. iii. de urbibus et vicis Pataestinse, — " Tria
loca sunt nomine Emmauntis nota in Palaestina ; 1. Urbs hcec,
Nicopolis dicta postea. 2. Vicus in Evangelio Lucse raemora-
tus. 3. Locus vicinus Tiberiadi, qui a thermis nomen videtur
traxisse." p. 758.


and from thence to Jericho. * This may pro-
bably be the same with that Emmaus, which
Titus assigned to the eight hundred of his vete-
rans, whom he dismissed honourably from the
army, and gave this place to them for their
habitation, when he ordered all the rest of Judea
to be exposed to sale, t It is there said to be
distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs, or
little more than six miles, which is too near
for the Emmaus by the Lake of Tiberias, t
There was still another city of this name, which
was the place of the government of Julius Afri-
canus, in the beginning of the third century, and
which he then procured to be rebuilt, after which
rebuilding, it was called Nicopolis, or the City
of Victory. § The village of Emmaus, men-
tioned by St. Luke, is evidently the same with
that assigned to the soldiers of Titus, since both
of them are stated to be at the same distance of
threescore furlongs from Jerusalem, and might

* Jewish Wars, b. iv. c. 8. s. 1 .

-j Ibid. b. vii. c. 7. s. 6.

% Emmaus, Ippocoiis ; timeiis consilium, vcl matris augentis
consilium, seu populus abjectus. D. nomen castelli distantis
ab Jerusalem stadiis 60. Luc. xxiv. 13. Onomasticum Sa-
crum, p. 115.

§ Emmaus notabilem victoria Maccabsei, et facto Ser-

vatoris quo se discipulis duobus aperuit, eo ipse die, quo a mor-
tuis resurrexerat. (Luc. xxiv. 13.) Postea, hoc oppidum dicta
Nicopolis. Cluverius, 1. v. c. 20.


have been theEmmaus at which Vespasian's army
halted, but could not be that which was cele-
brated for its baths near the Lake of Tiberias.
There were no remains near the bath described,
which indicated a ruined town, nor could we
trace any resemblance of names, or hear of any
traditions to assist our decision on this point.

We recrossed the Hieromax before sunset, and
returned to the camp, when I was again obliged
to be lifted from my horse and borne to the
tent, where our reception was as kind as we
could have desired.

We were forcibly struck here with some fea-
tures of difference between the Arabs of this
tribe and those which we had lately passed
through, and with some peculiarities in the ac-
companiments of their camp, that seemed to us
deserving of notice. Among their animals was
neither a horse, a camel, a sheep, nor a goat, all
of which are seen in the smallest party of Be-
douins ; while there was a fine herd of bullocks,
and about twenty young calves, neither of which
we had yet seen in either of the tribes with
whom we had sought shelter or refreshment on
our way. Dogs were numerous here ; but these
are common to all classes, whether they live in
tents or in villages.

The Arabs themselves were remarkable for a
flatness of feature that approached to the


African, though their colour was not so dark as
that of our own guides, whose features were of
a long and prominent cast. Among their
women we saw several with positively crisped
hair, and noticed a black slave-girl of about ten
years of age. The boys, however, were still
more remarkable, as their faces were in some
instances sufficiently Chinese to have deceived
me, if they had been introduced to me as such :
they had the olive complexion, the lengthened
eye-brow, the sunken and half-closed eye, sepa-
rated by a broad distance, and the nose almost
flat between them ; lips not remarkably full,
but projecting upper teeth ; and, in short, a
cast of countenance altogether different from
any thing we had before seen in the country.

We endeavoured to learn the name of this
tribe, but could only find that it was called
Beni Sheikh Mohammed, from the name of its
chief; and that they continued always on the
banks of the Hieromax, or near the Hami,
which is the name equally given to the river,
and to the hot springs near it. #

The source of this river was described to us
as being three days' journey off, in the direction

* Hami ^U-> signifies warm, particularly as applied to
water, in the modern Arabic ; and its connection might, no
doubt, be traced with Hamniam and Emmaus, two words of
the same import in the Arabic and Hebrew tongues.

VOL. II. x


of JBosra, and they called the place Shelall ; but
whether implying thereby a cataract or rapids,
as that word does on the Nile, we could not
clearly understand.

After an humble but excellent supper of
bread and oil for our guides, and a bowl of
curdled sour milk for ourselves, we lay down to
repose. Our party was thrice disturbed, how-
ever, during the night by the barking of the
dogs, the encroachment of the buffaloes on our
tent, and by the young calves within it.

4th. I passed a very restless night from the
agonizing pain which I suffered in my foot, now
swoln to an enormous size about the ankle ; and
this so incapacitated me from proceeding on my
intended route to Damascus alone, that it was
decided by all our party as indispensable, that I
should accompany it to Nazareth, for the benefit
of some medical application in the convent, and
for repose.

We accordingly prepared to depart at sunrise,
and I being lifted on my horse, we set out and
continued at a slow pace on our journey. We
now ascended the north-west angle of the hills
on which Oom Kais stands, and continued over
the brow of others to the westward, having from
their summit the view of a fine valley ploughed
for cultivation, on the south-west edge of the
lake of Tiberias.

The sky was dark and cloudy, and the wind,


though from the southward, colder than any we
had yet felt in Palestine ; so that we were glad
to descend from the bare summits of these bleak
hills, to enjoy a warmer air and shelter below.

Reaching their feet, we crossed the double
stream of the Hieromax, and observed here, on
looking back, that the dark masses of rock, over
which it wound its course, resembled a stream
of cooled lava, when contrasted with the lighter
soil by which it was edged on both sides. The
stones of its bed here were equally porous with
those we had seen above ; the ground also
showed small patches of sulphur in many places,
and we were of opinion that the hot springs we
had visited yesterday, the lakes of Caesarea and
Tiberias, the stone already described, the sul-
phureous and infertile nature of the plain of
Jericho in many parts, and the whole pheno-
mena observed of the Dead Sea, were sufficient
indications of a volcanic effect, perhaps on the
whole range of the long valley from near the
sources of the Jordan to beyond the point of its
issue in the Great Asphaltic Lake.

We continued our way from hence across a
fine plain of, at least, three miles in breadth,
covered with a light red soil, and apparently
highly fertile ; and directing our course due
west, we reached, in about three hours from the
time of our setting out, the stream of the Jor-

x l 2


dan. It was here about one hundred and
twenty feet broad, barely fordable by the horses,
and having a current of about two knots per
hour ; resembling in all these particulars that
portion of the Hieromax, which we had crossed
yesterday to visit the hot springs and the Roman
bath ; the double arm of that stream forded this
morning being much inferior.

Near the place of our recrossing the Jordan,
which appeared to be about two or three miles
from the point of its outlet from the Tiberian
Lake, we observed some old ruins on an elevated
mound, which appeared to us like a castle or
some post of military defence. Our guides
called it Jissera-el-Shereeah *, and said that
beneath it was once a bridge for crossing the
river, some remains of which were still to be
seen. We were extremely desirous of turning
aside to examine this spot, which stood on the
eastern bank ; but the Arabs were in such a
state of constant alarm, that we could not pre-
vail on them to halt for a moment.

After fording the Jordan, we began almost
immediately to ascend another line of bare and
stoney hills, leaving a village in ruins on our
left, about half-way up it. On the summit, we

* <X*Jy£< "lb j***~>-i literally, the bridge of the Shereeah. This
last word, which signifies " any place where beasts drink," is
the name by which the Jordan is mostly called by all the Arabs
who encamp near it.


found the cold excessive, and the whole atmos-
phere was now so darkened with the mist
brought by the strong southern wind which
blew, that we could barely trace the winding
course of the river in the plain below. We
could see nothing of its boundaries to the south,
and could but just distinguish the place of the
lake behind us, and a fine ploughed plain in a
hollow on our right.

On descending over the western side of these
hills, we had the Mount of Tabor immediately
before us, and a waving ground, partly barren
and partly cultivated, between us and its foot,
extending perhaps from six to nine miles in
length. In our way across this tract, we passed
the village of Sereen, consisting of about thirty
or forty dwellings, and near it saw half a dozen
Bedouins' tents pitched. Further on, we passed
a second village, somewhat larger, called Cafr
Sabt, near which we were accosted by some sus-
picious characters on horseback, but passed on
without further molestation.

At length we approached Mount Tabor, the
eastern foot of which was highly cultivated, and
its steep sides were richly clothed with woods,
while on its summit some portions of the ruined
buildings there were visible from below*

Leaving the mountain itself on our left, we
passed through a narrow ravine, well clothed with

x 3


oak and olive trees, and joined here a party of sol-
diers, going from Damascus to some place on the
coast. From this valley, where several coveys of
partridges were sprung, and where the wooded
scenery was an agreeable relief to the barrenness
of that which we had passed over in our morning
ride, we entered on the great plain of Esdraelon.

Though the rains had fallen twice since my
first passing it, not a blade of verdure was seen
throughout its wide extent j and its dull brown
surface, here and there interspersed with rising
ridges of grey rocks, and bounded on both sides
with bare and stoney hills, seemed to us the
very reverse of beautiful ; so much had the
magnificent scenery of the country east of the
Jordan destroyed our relish for less grand and
less picturesque views.

We continued along the northern edge of this
plain of Esdraelon for about an hour, until we
reached a small village, called by its inhabitants
Belled-Eksall. It stood on one of those low
ridges of rock which are seen here and there
throughout the plain, and the sight of a large
sarcophagus, on its highest part, induced us to
turn aside for a moment to examine it more
closely. We found ourselves amid sepulchres
similar to those we had seen on the morning of
yesterday, but more perfect. Besides the sar-
cophagus which had first attracted our notice,
and which was of rude execution and unusually


large hi all its dimensions, we saw subterrannean
vaults, descended to by circular openings, like
the mouths of wells, and apparently capacious
below, none of which we could stay to enter.
The most marked feature of the place, however,
was the many graves cut down into the rock,
exactly in the way in which our modern graves
are dug in the earth. These were covered with
rude blocks of stone, sufficiently large to over-
lap the edge of the grave on all sides, and of a
height or thickness equal to the depth of the
grave itself, varying from two to four feet.
There were in all, perhaps, twenty of these
covered sepulchres still perfect ; and, in one,
whose closing-block had been so moved aside as
to leave an opening through which the interior
of the grave could be seen, a human skull
remained perfect, possessing no visible peculia-
rity of form, but being apparently of the same
size as those of the present race.

These were unquestionably the works of a
very early age, and might, perhaps, have been
the sepulchres of those heroes who fell in the
great battle between Barak and Sisera, which
ended in the defeat of the latter, upon this cele-
brated plain, of which Mount Tabor and the
river Kishon form such prominent features * ;

* Judges, iv. 13, 14.

x 4


or of those Jews, of whom ten thousand were
slain in a battle with Gabinius, near to Mount
Tabor, during the Roman wars here. *

This village of Eksall is probably that of Xa-
loth, which is made one of the boundaries of
the Lower Galilee, and whose name it still very
nearly retains. In his description of Galilee,
Samaria, and Judea, the Jewish historian says,
" As for that Galilee which is called the Lower,
it extends, in length, from Tiberias to Zabulon,
and, of the maritime places, Ptolemais is its
neighbour : its breadth is from the village called
Xaloth, which lies in the Great Plain, as far as
Bersabe, from which beginning also is taken the
breadth of the Upper Galilee, as far as the viU
lage Baca, which divides the land of the Tyrians
from it ; its length is also from Meroth to Thel-
lah, a village near to Jordan.!

The situation of this village of Eksall, on the
edge of the great plain of Esdraelon, corresponds
very accurately with that given to Xaloth, and
its name may be traced, with but little variation
beyond that which is common to names passing
from one language to another ; while the sepul-
chres here described sufficiently indicate it to be
a place of great antiquity. {

* Jewish Wars, b. i. c. 8. s. 7.

-j- Wars of the Jews, b. iii. c. 3. s. 1.

J Keland de Palaestiaae nominibus, situ, terniinis, partitipne,


From this village of Eksall, which is about an
hour's distance from the foot of Tabor north-
westerly, we began to ascend the rugged hills
which form the eastern boundary of Esdraelon
on our right ; and from the steepness of the
ascent, and the rocky nature of the path, it
took us a full hour to gain the summit : all our
party alighting from their horses except myself,
who could not place my wounded foot on the

When we had reached the top of the hill,
which we computed to be about seven hundred
feet above the level of the plain below, we found
ourselves on the brink of an extensive hollow,
like a shallow bason, or the crater of a volcano,
in shape, and the town of Nazareth before us
in this hollow, to the north -east, seated on the
southern side of a steep hill, and hemmed in on
all sides by rising ground. Our descent from
hence was gentle ; and in half an hour, after
passing through cultivated land and some green
turf for pasture, we entered the town, which
now appeared to us large, respectable, opulent,
and well peopled, after the many smaller
villages we had recently passed through on our

8tc. 1.1. c.55. p. 367.; and lib.iii. de urbibuset vicisPalaestins,
in voce HaXw&, p. 1062.


Our reception at the convent was full of kind-
ness and respectful attention, though the supe-
rior himself was ahsent on a visit to Acre. I
was lifted from my horse, and borne up stairs
by the servants ; and after passing an hour with
the friars in mutual enquiry, had a medical ap-
plication prepared for my wound, and gladly
retired to my chamber for repose,

11th. For the whole of the last week I had
been confined to the convent, the state of my
foot rendering it impossible for me to proceed
on my journey ; and my time, during this inter-
val, was chiefly employed in arranging the notes
of our journey from Geraza to this place, and in
prosecuting my studies of the vulgar Arabic
from aids furnished me by the Padre Curator of
the convent.

Mr. Bankes quitted us this morning, on an
excursion to Acre, Mount Carmel, and Cesarea,
and I was therefore left quite alone. As a first
exercise, however, I ventured to mount my horse
to-day, and took a short ride to the Mountain
of the Precipitation, as it is called, from a belief
that it is the one from which the enraged Naze-
reens sought to precipitate our Saviour.

The road towards it lies over a tolerably level
space for nearly a mile, in a southern direction,
and it then becomes necessary to dismount and
go on foot over a very rugged road, descending


into a deep ravine, between two hills. After a
quarter of an hour's scramble we turned up on
the right, and ascending the southern point of
the hill, we came first to an altar in a recess
hewn out of the rock. This was held sacred, as
being the spot were Jesus dined with his disci-
ples. There are, close by this, two large circular
cisterns for preserving rain-water, each well
stuccoed on the inside ; and, besides these, there
are several portions of buildings, all said to be
the remains of a religious establishment founded
there by Santa H elena.

Immediately over this spot, and on the edge
of a precipice about thirty feet in height, are
two large flat stones, set up on their edges close
to the brink. In the centre, and scattered over
different parts of one of them, are several round
marks, like the deep imprint of fingers in wax,
and these are insisted on to be the marks of
Christ's grasp when he clung to the stone, and
thereby escaped being thrown headlong down.

This is among one of the most bungling of
the absurd traditions which prevail in this land
of miracles. St. Luke represents the Jews as
thrusting Jesus out of the synagogue in which
he taught, and leading him to the brow of the
hill whereon their city was built, that they might
cast him down headlong ; but he, passing


through the midst of them, went his way. * No-
thing is more inconsistent, therefore, than to fix
on this spot, as it is nearly two miles distant
from the synagogue which they still shew in the
present town, is almost inaccessible from the
steep and rocky nature of the road, and is de-
cidedly not on a hill on which Nazareth could
ever have been built ; nor is the statement of
Christ's clinging to a stone for safety, more in
harmony with the sentence which describes his

But this variance with the very scriptures on
which they profess to found all their faith, might
easily pass among a people who seldom read
them, were it not that the ten great marks reck-
oned up in different parts of the stone as the
impression of the ten fingers of the Messiah, are
so disposed that they could not have been made
at once by any possible position of the human
hand, and are too clumsily executed and ar-
ranged to deceive even the most superficial

The view from this precipice commands the
whole breadth of the plain of Esdraelon to the
south, and while it shows the range of Carmel in
the distance toward the sea-shore, it looks over

* St. Luke, iv. 28. to 30.


also upon Hermon, at the foot of which is the
village of Nain, where Jesus raised the widow's
son. Mount Tabor and the sepulchres of Eksall
are not visible from hence, being shut in by the
eastern hills ; but a number of small settlements
are seen scattered over the plain.

On our return, I felt refreshed by the air and
occupation of the ride ; but I found my foot still
too tender to be used without extreme caution,
and suffered even from the slight exercise of
this excursion.

I was determined, however, to prosecute my
journey with all possible speed, and began, ac-
cordingly, to prepare for my departure to-mor-
row. From the best information which I could
collect, the road by Tiberias to Damascus was
recommended as the safest and shortest, and this,
therefore, I proposed to pursue, taking only the
precaution to provide myself with a person ac-
quainted with the bye-paths and high -ways, and
leaving the rest to fortune.

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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 17 of 26)