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 19 of 26)
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sought him to depart from them, for they were
taken with great fear ; and he went up into the
ship and returned back again.*' t St. Mark
also adds, that the man thus freed from the
legion of devils, departed and began to publish
in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done
for him, and all men did marvel. " And when
Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the
other side, much people gathered unto him, and
he was nigh unto the sea," &c. t The country
of the Decapolis is known to have been on the
east of this lake, and that of the Gadarenes,
which appears, from the testimony of both these
writers, to have been the scene of the miracles
in question, must have been on the east also, to
be over against Galilee, as St. Luke describes
it ; so that the fixing on the spot near Genne-
sareth could have been suggested by no other
consideration, than that it was the steepest place
on the West side of the lake leading immediately
down into the sea, and that it was more conve-
nient to possess holy ground on this side than
the oilier, where the dominion of the Bedouins
renders religious visits difficult, if not impossible.

* St. Matthew calls it the country of the Gergesenes,
viii. 28.

f St. Luke, viii. .'37. % St. Mark, v. 20,21.


The waters of this lake lie in a deep basin,
surrounded on all sides with lofty hills, except-
ing only the narrow entrance and outlets of the
Jordan at each extreme ; for which reason, long-
continued tempests from any one quarter are
unknown here ; and this lake, like the Dead
Sea, with which it communicates, is, for the
same reason, never violently agitated for any
length of time. The same, local features, how-
ever, render it occasionally subject to whirl-
winds, squalls, and sudden gusts from the hollow
of the mountains, which, as in every other
similar basin, are of momentary duration, and
the most furious gust is instantly succeeded by
a calm.*

From the supposed site of Gennesareth, we
continued our way along the edge of the lake
in nearly an eastern direction, and in about half
an hour, reached a place called Tahhbahh,
where only one Arab family resides, at a corn-
mill near the water. There are several hot
springs here, of the same nature as those at El
Hami, below Oom Kais, but still more copious.

* " And they launched forth. But as they sailed, Jesus fell
asleep, and there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and
they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they
came to him and awoke him, and said, Master, Master, we
perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging
of the water, and there was a calm." — St. Luke, viii. 23.

Z 2


Around them are remains of four large baths,
each supplied by its own separate spring, and
each having an aqueduct for carrying off its su-
perfluous waters into the lake, from the edge of
which they are distant about three hundred

The most perfect of these baths is an open
octangular basin of excellent masonry, stuccoed
on the inside, being one hundred and five paces
in circumference, and about twenty-five feet in
depth. We descended to it by a narrow flight
of ten stone steps, which lead to a platform
about twelve feet square, and elevated consider-
ably above the bottom of the bath, so that the
bathers might go from thence into deeper water
below. This large basin is now nearly filled with
tall reeds, growing up from the bottom ; but its
aqueduct, which is still perfect, and arched near
the end, carries down a full and rapid stream
to turn the mill erected at its further end. On
the sides of this aqueduct are seen incrustations
similar to those described on the aqueduct of
Tyre, leading from the cisterns of Solomon at
Ras-el-ayn, and occasioned, no doubt, by the
same cause. The whole of the work, both of
the baths and its aqueduct, appears to be
Roman ; and it is executed with the care and
solidity which generally marks the architectural
labours of that people. At a short distance


beyond this, to the eastward, is a small circular
building called Hemmam-el-Aioobe, or the Bath
of Job, but it is apparently of the same age as
those near it.

It was almost noon when we reached Tal-
hhewn, a station of Arabs, where we alighted to
refresh : this place is said to have been formerly
called Caphernaoom, but at present it is known
only by the name of Tal-hhewn, or Tal-hhewm,
as it is differently pronounced. It is seated
close upon the edge of the lake, having the town
of Tiberias to bear exactly S. S. W. by compass,
distant apparently from nine to twelve miles in
a straight line ; the vale of Jericho, wide open,
bearing S. by W. from twelve to fifteen miles
from its upper edge ; an ancient castle, called
El-Hussan, in the mountains S. E. by S., from
eight to ten miles ; and the entrance of the Jor-
dan, from the northward, E. N. E., from four to
five miles.

The description which Josephus has left us of
this lake is like all the other pictures drawn by
him, admirably faithful in the detail of local fea-
tures. "Now this lake of Gennesareth is so
called from the country adjoining to it. Its
breadth is forty furlongs, and its length one
hundred and forty ; its waters are sweet, and
very agreeable for drinking, for they are finer



than the thick waters of other fens ; the lake is
also pure, and on every side ends directly at the
shores, and at the sand ; and it is also of a tempe-
rate nature when you draw it up, and of a more
gentle nature than river or fountain water, and
yet always cooler than one could expect in so
diffuse a place as this is. Now, when this water
is kept in the open air, it is as cold as that snow
which the country people are accustomed to
make by night in summer. There are several
kinds of fish in it, different both to the taste and
the sight from those elsewhere." *

All these features are drawn with an accuracy
that could only have been attained by one resi-
dent in the country ; the size is still nearly the
same, the borders of the lake still end at the
beach, or the sands, at the feet of the mountains
which environ it. Its waters are still as sweet
and temperate as ever, and the lake abounds
with great numbers of fish of various sizes and

In more early times, the sea of Galilee, or
lake of Gennesareth, was called the sea of Chin;
nereth, from a city of that name seated on it,
belonging to the children of Naphtalit, and the

* Joscplius, Wars of the Jews, I. iii. c. 10. s. 7.
f Judges, xix. 35.


edge of this sea on the other side Jordan, east-
ward, was made the western boundary of the
portion of Gad, who occupied all the cities of
Gilead, and half the land of the children of Am-
nion. * Gennesareth is most probably the ori-
ginal name of this sea of Chinnereth, gradually
corrupted ; Galilee was the name given to the
lake from its situation on the eastern borders of
that division of Palestine ; and Tiberias, which
is its most modern name, must have been be-
stowed on it after the building of that city by
Herod. This last, both the town and the lake
still retain, under the Arabic form of Tabareeah ;
and the present inhabitants, like the earliest
ones, call their water a sea, and reckon it, and
the Dead Sea to the south of them, to be the
two largest known, except the great ocean.
Diodorus Siculus, in his account of the marvel-
lous properties of the Lake Asphaltes, fails not
to remark the great singularity of the bitterness
of its waters ; though there are, as he says,
great rivers whose waters are exceedingly sweet,
which empty themselves into it t ; and this may
be strictly said of the Zerkah, the Hieromax, and
the Jordan, the two last of which empty them-
selves first into the lake of Tiberias, and then-' go

* Joshua, xiii. 24. to 27.

f Diod. Sic. 1. ii. c. 4., and 1. xix. c. 6.

Z i



by the southern channel of the Jordan, through
the valley of Jericho, into the Dead Sea. *

The appearance of the lake, as seen from this
point of view at Capernaum, is still grand ; its
greatest length runs nearly north and south,
from twelve to fifteen miles, and its breadth
seems to be, in general, from six to nine miles, t
The barren aspect of the mountains on each side,
and the total absence of wood, give, however, a
cast of dullness to the picture ; and this is in-
creased to melancholy by the dead calm of its
waters, and the silence which reigns throughout
its whole extent, where not a boat or vessel of
any kind is to be found.

There were fleets of some force on the lake
of Tiberias during the wars of the Jews with the
Romans, and very bloody battles were fought
between them. The ships were, no doubt, as
large as the common vessels then in use on the

* It is for this reason that the Dead Sea is called in Scrip-
ture, the Salt Sea, at the south end of Jordan. — Josh.xviii. 19. ;
Deut. xv. 5.

f Abulfeda, in describing the lake of Tiberias, says, *ix<>\

<5jL» l^s^lx* JLe ^y^] 1^5 Jo "'The length of it is
twelve miles, and the breadth of it is six miles." He farther de-
scribes its situation, jj£\ ; in the deep valley. This name
of El Ghoor, is given to the whole of the valley, or low country,
from the Dead Sea through the plain of Jordan, all the way up
to the Gebcl-cl-Thelj, the Shenir of the Scriptures, north of
this hike of Tiberias.


shores of the Mediterranean Sea ; and, as has
been observed by Whiston, those that sailed on
this sea of Galilee are always called by Josephus
N)jej and ITXoia, and %xokp^, i. e. plainly, ships ;
and this, he adds, should not be rendered boats,
as it is often done. *

Tal-hhewn, though now only a station of Be-
douins, appears to have been the site of some
considerable settlement, as ruined buildings,
hewn stones, broken pottery, &c. are scattered
around here over a wide space, t The founda-
tions of a large and magnificent edifice are still
to be traced here, though there remains not suf-
ficient of the building itself, to decide whether
it was a temple or a palace. It appears to have
had its greatest length from north to south, and
thus presented a narrow front towards the lake.
The northern end of the building is sixty-five
paces in length ; and, as the foundation of the
eastern wall appears to extend from hence down
close to the sea, it must have been nearly four
times that measurement, or two hundred paces
in extent. Within this space are seen large
blocks of sculptured stone, in friezes, cornices,

* Whiston's Josephus, Life, sec. 32. in a note.

+ Tal is, in Hebrew, " a ruinous heap." See Parkhurst,
in voce Jl/D > ana - m m °dern Arabic it has mostly that
signification, though sometimes applied to small hillocks


mouldings, &c, and among them two masses
which looked like pannels of some sculptured
wall. I conceived them at first to have been
stone doors, but they were too thick for that
purpose, and had no appearance of pivots for
hinges ; nor could they have been sarcophagi,
as they were both perfectly solid.

The sculpture seems to have been originally
fine, but is now much defaced by time. The block
was nine spans long, four and a half spans wide,
and two spans thick in its present state, and lay
on its edge against other hewn stones.

Among the singularities we noticed here,
were double pedestals, double shafts, and double
capitals, attached to each other in one solid
mass, having been perhaps thus used at the
angles of colonnades. There were at least
twenty pedestals of columns within this area
occupying their original places, besides many
others overturned and removed, and all the
capitals we saw were of the Corinthian order
and of a large size.

Near to this edifice, and close upon the edge
of the lake, are the walls of a solid building,
evidently constructed with fragments of the ad-
jacent ruins, as there are seen in it shafts of
pillars worked into the masonry, as well as pieces
of sculptured stones intermingled with plain
ones. This small building is vaulted within,


though the Arabs have raised a flat terrace on
its roof, and a poor family, with their cattle, now
use the whole for their dwelling.

To the north-east of this spot, about two hun-
dred yards, are the remains of a small domestic
bath, the square, cistern, and channels for sup-
plying it with water, being still perfect ; and
close by is a portion of the dwelling to which it
was probably attached, with a narrow winding
stair-case on one of its sides. The blocks of
the great edifice are exceedingly large ; and
these, as well as the materials of the smaller
buildings, and the fragments scattered around in
every direction, are chiefly of the black porous
stone, which abounds throughout the western
shores of the lake. Some masses of coarse
white marble are seen, however, in the centre
of the large ruin, and some subterraneous work
appears to have been constructed there of that
substance. The whole has an air of great anti-
quity, both from its outward appearance and its
almost complete destruction, but the style of the
architecture is evidently Roman.

The name of Capharnaoom, which is said to
have been the one borne by this city anciently,
is unquestionably meant for the Capernaum of
the Scriptures. * That this was a place of some

* Capernaum idem est quod vicus Naum, i. e. QirO ~)Q2>
Caj&arhachum. Reland. 1. iii. de urbibus et vicis Paleestinae,
1>. 682.


wealth and consequence, may be inferred from
the address to it by Christ, when he began to
upbraid the cities, wherein most of his mighty
works were done, because they repented not.
" Woe unto thee, Chorazin ! Woe unto thee,
Bethsaida ! And thou, Capernaum, which art
exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to
hell !" * It was also seated on the shores of the
lake of Tiberias : for, after the feeding of the
five thousand on a mountain near that place,
Jesus entered into a ship, and went over the sea
toward Capernaum t; and the multitude having
lost him, after his walking on the sea to over-
take the boat in which his disciples were, they
also took shipping and came to Capernaum
seeking him. t This, in name and position,
corresponds with the Caphar Nahum ot the
present day. The other name of Tal-hewn may
be thought to have some affinity with that of
Dalmanutha, a name given in the Gospel, seem-
ingly to Capernaum itself, or the country about
it at least ; as St. Mark, in his Gospel, after de-
scribing the feeding of the four thousand, says,
" And straitway he entered into a ship with his
disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanu-
tha." § As has been before remarked, it is a

* St. Matthew, xi. 20. to 23. and St. Luke x. 13. to 15.
f St. John, vi. 17. $ Ibid. vi. 24.

§ St. Mark, viii. 10.


matter of some difficulty to fix on the site of
many of the towns of this lake with any preci-
sion, more particularly Chorazin, Bethsaida,
Gennesareth, and Capernaum. The city of
Tiberias was unequivocally on the west, where
the present town of Tabareeah stands ; and we
have the testimony of Pliny, that Julias * and
Hippos were on the east, and Tarichaea on the
southern shores of the lake t ; so that the others
were probably toward the north, and Capernaum
or Dalmanutha, here at the ruins called Caphar
Nahoam and Tal-hewn, which agrees w r ith all
the authorities for its position, t

While I was occupied in taking a hasty survey
of these remains, and our guides were enjoying

* From Josephus, it appears, that Bethsaida and Julias
were the same ; for he says, in recounting the works of Herod,
" He also advanced the village Bethsaida, situate at the Lake
of Gennesareth, to the dignity of a city, both by the number
of inhabitants it contained, and its other grandeur, and called
it by the name of Julias, the same name with Caesar's daughter."
Ant. of the Jews, 1. xviii. c. 2. s. 1.

f Pliny, Nat. Hist. 1. v. c. 15.

| Capernaum ad mare Galileeum, Decapoleos urbs primaria
opibus et splendore, prae caeteris illustris, ad dextram sita erat
in litore, secundo Jordane descendentibus, ubi is lacui se
miscet. Ut vero Capernaum dextrum litus obsidebat, ita
Chorazin tenebat laevum. Quae urbes, quod ipse Servator iis
prsedixerat, hodie in minis jacent. Cluverius, 1. v. c. 21. p. 369.
— Of the signification of the name, it is said, " Quod Agrum
Poenitentiae, vel Villum Consolationis, aut Propitiationem
Poenitentis denotat."


their noon-meal with the Bedouins settled amid
these ruins, a small party of travellers arrived
from the northward, and halted here for the same
purpose as ourselves. On my return to the spot
where they were all assembled, I found them
warmly engaged in conversation on the news
from Damascus, and the dangers of the road.
These men, it appeared, were residents of
Tiberias who had set out from their own homes
two days before to go to Damascus, in order to
make some purchases, for which they had taken
a sufficient sum of money Vith them. They were
originally six in number and all armed, and they
had travelled in safety as far as the Bir-yusef. *
During their halt there, however, they were at-
tacked by a party of superior numbers, among
whom, they said, were several soldiers, but, as
they believed, no Bedouins. The result was,
that they were stripped both of their money and
arms, and some of those who were well-dressed,
had their clothes taken from them, but no lives
were lost, though two of the party who at first
made resistance, were so severely beaten, that
they were obliged to leave them behind on the

»j jo, the Well of Joseph. This is is so called
from its being supposed to be the well in which Joseph was
hidden by his brethren, when they sold him to the Ishmaelites,
Gen. xxvii. And it is singular enough, that the word L i~> »j,
Yusef, signifies in Arabic, groaning or complaining.


road. These men conjured us by every thing
sacred not to proceed any farther, but to return
with them to Tiberias, as we were certain of
being plundered at best, and perhaps murdered
also, if we happened to fall into the hands of
more sanguinary enemies.

I would have ventured on the journey still,
from a sense of duty rather than inclination, if
I could have found my way alone ; but that
was difficult, and our guides refused to advance
a step further for the present, so that no alter-
native remained but to return by the way we
came. We accordingly quitted Tal-hewn about
an hour after noon, and followed the western
shore of the lake on our way back. Our con-
versation on the road was entirely on the affair
which had thus arrested our progress, and our
new companions certainly felt terrified beyond
description at the accident that had befallen

No new observations occurred to me on the
route of return, except that we observed several
shoals of fish in the lake from the heights above,
and storks and diving-birds in large flocks on
the shore. As we re-entered Tiberias from the
northward, we had a commanding view of the
interior of the town, from the rising ground on
which its north-west angle stands ; and though
that interior presents nothing of grandeur or


beauty, the Moorish appearance of the walls and
circular towers that enclosed it, gave the whole
an interesting air. In passing, I had an oppor-
tunity of noticing also, that the small village of
Sumuk, on the site of the ancient Tarichaea,
bears from Tiberias nearly south by compass,
distant four or five miles, though it is not visible
from the town itself, from the intervention of a
point of land over which we now saw it ; and
that a village on the opposite shore, called
Ghearbi-el-Summara bears S. E. by S. about the
same distance.

As I had already experienced how far the
hospitality of the Christian priest extended, I
felt disposed to seek another shelter for the
night, and accordingly the guide, who had
brought us from Nazareth, offered to take me to
the house of his brother, who was settled here
as a baker, and with whom he himself had passed
the preceding evening. I very gladly accepted
his offer, and separating from our pillaged com-
panions at the gate, we proceeded straight to
his dwelling. This man being a communicant
of the Catholic church, was one of the Abuna's
flock : and, whether from desire to contrast his
behaviour with that of his pastor, which was
already known to him, or from the impulse of
pure good-nature, the reception and treatment
we met with at his porch were of the warmest



and most hospitable kind. Our horses were fed,
an excellent supper prepared, a party of friends
collected, tales of humour and adventure rela-
ted, our pipes filled from his own sack, and
coffee served to us by his wife, unveiled and
dressed in the most alluring manner. At every
pause, the brother of our guide was reproached
for net having brought us on the preceding
evening to the house, and the only reply he
made was, that he knew the Abuna to be more
able, and naturally supposed that he would be
equally willing, to entertain us.

We continued to sit together until a late hour,
it being past midnight before the party of visi-
tors had dispersed, and even after that, the
Abuna and his son came, professedly to inquire
the cause of our return, but, as it afterwards
appeared, to beg that we would not make an
evil report of them to the convent at Nazareth.

A good bed, with coverlid, cushions, &c.
being prepared for me on a raised bench in the
room, the rest of the party, consisting of the
husband, his brother, the wife, and a male rela-
tion of her's, stretched themselves out side by
side on mats on the floor, and we thus all slept
as openly as a family of children.

( 355 )



t ' ebruary 14th. As it was now necessary
that we should return to Nazareth to seek some
more safe occasion of pursuing our journey, I
rose early to make an excursion through the
town before we set out, and visiting in the
course of my rambles every part of it, was
enabled, from what I saw, added to the infor-
mation collected during my stay there on the
two preceding evenings, to make the following

The present town of Tabareeah *, as it is now
called, is in the form of an irregular crescent,
and is inclosed toward the land by a wall flanked
with circular towers. It lies nearly north and
south along the western edge of the lake, and
has its eastern front opposed to the water, on

* Spelt in Arabic, £>J-&> but in its original Greek form,
TiCsptaj, to which this interpretation is given, "Bona visio, vel
umbilicus, aut confractio." Urbs Galilseae . ad mare sita, quod
ab ipse civitate appellatur Mare Tiberiadis. Joh. vi. 1. Hanc
civitatem olim Cenereth appellatam. Herodes tetrarcha in
honorem Tiberii Caesaris condidit, et Tiberiadem vocavit. —
Onomasticum Sacrum, p. 315.

A A 2


the brink of which it stands, as some of the
houses there are almost washed by the sea. Its
southern wall approaches close to the beach ;
but the north-western angle of the northern wall,
being seated on a rising ground, recedes some
little distance from the water, and thus gives an
irregular form to the inclosure. The whole
does not appear a mile in circuit, and cannot
contain more than five hundred separate dwell-
ings, from the manner in which they are placed.
There are two gates visible from without, one
near the southern, and the other in the western
wall, the latter of which is in one of the round
towers, and is the only one now open ; there
are appearances also of the town having been
surrounded by a ditch, but this is now filled up
by cultivable soil.

To the northward of the town, is the road we
passed over on our journey the day before ; to
the southward, the ruins of the ancient city, and
a hot bath still frequented, as well as the bury-
ing-ground of the Mohammedans and the Jews ;
on the east, the broad expanse of the lake
stretches over to the opposite shore ; and on

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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 19 of 26)