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 20 of 26)
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the west, it has a small space of plain fit for cul-
tivation, from whence the land suddenly rises
into the lofty hills which almost overhang the

The interior presents but few objects of inte-


A Mil' .ft.

A A 6


rest besides the ordinary habitations, which are,
in general, small and mean. There is a mosque,
with a dome and minareh, now frequented, and
another with an octangular tower, in ruins.
The former of these is not far from the gate of
entrance, the latter is nearer to the beach.
There are also two synagogues of the Jews near
the centre of the town, both of them inferior to
that of Jerusalem, though similar in design ;
and one Christian place of worship called the
" House of Peter," near the northern quarter,
close to the water's edge. The last, which has
been thought by some to be the oldest place of
Christian worship now extant in Palestine *, is
a vaulted room about thirty feet by fifteen, and
perhaps fifteen in height ; it stands nearly east
and west, having its door of entrance at the
western front, and its altar immediately opposite,
in a shallow recess. Over the door is one small
window, and on each side four others, all arched
and open. The masonry of the edifice is of an
ordinary kind ; the pavement within is similar
to that used for streets in this country, and the
whole is devoid of sculpture or other ornament,
as far as I could perceive. In a court without
the House of Peter, I observed, however, a block
of stone, on which were the figures of two goats,

* Quarterly Reviewers on Dr. Clarke's Travels,


and two lions, or tigers, coarsely executed ; but
whether this ever belonged to the building itself,
no one could inform me. During my visit to
this church, morning mass was performing by
the Abuna, at whose house we had lodged ; the
congregation consisted of only eleven persons,
young and old, and the furniture and decora-
tions of the altar and the priest were exceed-
ingly scanty and poor.

This edifice is thought by the people here, to
have been the very house which Peter inhabited
at the time of his being called from his boat
to follow Christ. Tt was evidently constructed,
however, for a place of worship, and, probably,
at a period much posterior to the time of the
Apostle whose name it bears, though it might
have been erected on the spot which tradition
had marked as the site of his more humble habi-
tation : from hence, they say too, it was, that
the boat pushed off into the lake, when the
miraculous draught of fishes was drawn.

Besides the public buildings already specified,
are the house of the Aga, on the rising ground
near the northern quarter of the town ; a small,
but good bazar, and two or three coffee-sheds.
The ordinary dwellings of the inhabitants are
such as are commonly seen in eastern villages,
but are marked by a peculiarity which I
witnessed here for the first time j on the terrace


of almost every house, stands a small square
inclosure of reeds, loosely covered with leaves.
These, I learnt, were resorted to by the heads of
families to sleep in during the summer months,
when the heat of the nights is intolerable, from
the low situation of the town, and the unfre-
quency of cooling breezes. At the present
moment, indeed, we had the thermometer at
82° in the shade, an hour after sun-rise, and
calm ; while on the hills it was considerably less
than at noon in the sun.

The whole population of Tabareeah does not
exceed two thousand souls, according to the
opinion of the best informed residents. Of these,
about the half are Jews, many of whom are from
Europe, particularly from Germany, Russia, and
Poland *, and the rest are Mohammedans, ex-
clusive of about twenty Christian families of the
catholic communion. The military force here
seldom exceeds twenty or thirty soldiers under
the command of the Aga, and there are four old
cannon mounted on different parts of the walls.

* In the time of Benjamin of Tudela, this place was in as
great repute among the Jews as at present, and sepulture there
was thought highly honourable. The hot baths of the neigh-
bourhood were noticed by this traveller, and it would seem,
from his account, that at that period there was a small salt lake
called As Cloth Hapisga, lying between the lake of Gennesa-
reth and the sea of Sodom, of which there are no traces at pre-
sent. Bergeron's Collection.


Provisions are not abundant, and therefore are
generally dear ; and fish, when occasionally taken
by a line From the shore, are sold to the Aga, or
to some of the rich Jews, at an exorbitant price.
The origin of this city under its Roman name,
mounts no higher than the age of Herod ; and
Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities, touches thus
slightly on its foundation. " Now Herod the
tetrarch, who was in great favour with Tiberius,
built a city of the same name with him, and
called it Tiberias, He built it in the best
part of Galilee, at the lake of Gennesareth ;
there are warm baths at a little distance
from it in a village named Emmaus. * The part
of Galilee in which it lies, as bordering the lake,
possesses great advantages, though they are not
now used to the extent that they were in the
days of this city's foundation. The word Em-
maus, which is the Greek pronunciation of the
Hebrew word Hammah, is said to signify a warm
bath, and may have some affinity with the Arabic
Hamman, and with the appellation of Hame,
given to the bath and hot springs at the mouth
of the Hieromax. t As such, it would be a name
equally appropriated to all the numerous warm

* Ant. Jud. b.xviii. c. 2. and 3.

f There was also a Beth-mans, probably one of the baths,
only four furlongs from Tiberias. Life of Josenhus, s. 12.


springs and ruined baths on the borders of this
lake, and we know indeed that it was a name
which, perhaps, from its applicability to local ,
features, was given to many different places in
Palestine. *

There is another circumstance mentioned by
Josephus, which is worthy of notice. He says,
that after having built this city in honour of
Tiberius, Herod was obliged to use force in
compelling people of condition to dwell in it,
and to allure strangers and poor people thereto,
by building them houses at his own expence,
and giving them land also ; for he was sensible,
says the historian, that to make this place a ha-
bitation, was to transgress the Jewish ancient
laws, because many sepulchres were to be here
taken aw r ay in order to make room for the city
Tiberias j whereas our laws pronounce that such
inhabitants are unclean for seven days, t From

* The Hebrew names, Chama, Chamath, and Chamin,
which the Greek and Vulgate write Emmaus, Amatha, Ha-
mata, Amath, and Amathus, always signify such places as
had these hot waters ; and of them we find several in Palestine,
whose waters were famed for curing a variety of diseases, some
by bathing, others by drinking. The superstitious Jews were
such admirers of some of them, as to imagine that their virtue
was miraculous, though Josephus owns it to be natural. Anc.
Un. Hist.v. ii. b. i. c. 7. p. 434.

f Ant. Jud. 1. xviii. c. 2. s. 3.


the first moment of my seeing the sepulchres on
the rising ground to the northward of the pre-
sent town, my impression was, as there men-
tioned, that they were of a very ancient kind,
and, at least, of equal antiquity with the first
foundation of the Herodian city itself. They
were no doubt, therefore, a portion of the
extensive burying-ground from which many
sepulchres were to be taken away, in order
to make room for the city, as Josephus here

This was a city with which this historian must
have been well acquainted, for in many of the
most striking incidents of his life, as* written by
himself, Tiberias is mentioned as the scene, and
the lake and its shores, was almost as much the
theatre of the Jewish wars as any other part of
Judea. In one place, he mentions his having
himself taken the city four times. * By the per-
suasion of John of Gischala, whom he had given
leave to make use of the hot baths of Tiberias
for the recovery of his health, the inhabitants
were induced to revolt from their fidelity to Jo-
sephus ; and he, after fruitless efforts to regain
their good will, effected a narrow escape by ship
to Taricheao t The stratagem by which he after-
wards got the whole of the senate of Tiberias

* Lite of Josephus, s. 15. f Ibid, s. 18.


into his power, and forced Clitus, the author of
the sedition, to cut oft' one of his own hands, may
be numbered amongst the most ingenious of the
whole war, fertile as it was in contriving to de-
ceive * ; and his commentator thinks it the
finest that ever was invented and executed by
any warrior whatever, f

In the further details of this historian's active
part in the events of these times, we gather that
there was %pfoseucha t or open place of public
prayer, within the city of Tiberias, though such
proseuchas, as his commentator observes, were
usually without the cities, as the synagogues or
houses of prayer were within them, t Of tins,
however, we could find no unequivocal traces
within the modern town, or among the ruins to
the southward of it, though in each there were
many open spaces that might have been conjec-
tured to mark the place of it. In the account
of the same affair, which is given more at large
in his entertaining history, the place where Jo-
sephus harangued the people of Tiberias, who
had revolted, is called the stadium ; but of this
it was as difficult to fix the place at present, as
it was to discover that of the proseucha.

* Life of Joscphus, s. 3. 33. 34.

\ Whiston's Notes. Wars of the Jews, 1. ii, c. 22. s. 10.

J Whiston's Notes on Josephus.


We learn from the details of the war, that
Tarichea was within a night's march of Tibe-
rias *, and that it was of consideration enough
to possess a hippodromos. t Pliny fixes this city
on the south of the laket; so that, under all
these considerations, it probably stood near the
present village of Sumuk ; but we could obtain
no account of that place, though so near to it,
that would at all elucidate the question without
our visiting the spot itself. §

The importance of Tiberias in the succeeding
wars of the Saracens and Christians may be seen
from the contests for its possession, described
in the history of the Crusades ; and after its fre-
quent reductions and subsequent repairs, all that
remains of it now may be considered as purely
Mohammedan, at least all that is included within
the modern walls ; the sepulchres on the north,
and the ruins on the south, being unquestion-
ably of an earlier date.

After our ramble through the town, we set
out on an excursion to the hot baths to the
southward of it, our host promising to procure

* Joseph. Wars of the Jews, b. ii. c. 21. s. 6.
t Ibid. b. ii. c. 21. s. 3.
X Pliny Nat. Hist. b. v. c. 15.

§ Tiberiada et Tarichseas, distare stadiis 30. Roland, lib.
iii. ile urbibus et vicis Palsestinse, p. 1038.


for us, if possible, during our absence, a dish
offish from the lake, on condition that we would
turn in on our way back and partake of it, to
which we assented. Leaving the town at the
western gate, we pursued our course southerly
along its wall, and came in half an hour to an
old dome-topped building, called Setty Skene.
We were about to enter into the outer court of
this, where we saw an Arabic inscription on a
tablet in the wall ; but some Moslems, who
were employed in interring a corpse 'on a high
burying-ground near, perceiving that our guide
was a Nazarene, hailed us aloud to let no Chris-
tian enter these hallowed precincts. We accord-
ingly gave them an evasive answer, and passed
on ; learning, however, from this incident, that
the place was even now reverenced, and was
probably the tomb of some sheikh or saint of the
Mohammedan faith.

From hence, pursuing our course still south-
erly, we came to some scattered ruins of the old
city of Tiberias, among which we observed
many foundations of buildings, some fragments
of others still standing, and both grey and red
granite columns, some portions of the latter
being at least four feet in diameter ; but among
the whole we saw neither ornamented capitals
nor sculptured stones of any kind, though the


city is known to have been a considerable



In our way, we passed an old tree standing
amid these ruins, and observed its branches to
be hung with rags of every hue and colour, no
doubt the offerings of those who either expected
or had received benefit from the springs in the
road to which it lay. Throughout the cliffs of
the overhanging mountain, on the west, are rude
grottoes at different heights ; and opposite to
the tree are two arched caves, one of them having
a square door of entrance beneath the arch, and
both of them being apparently executed with
care. We had not time to examine them, though
we conceived them to have been, most probably,
ancient sepulchres.

In less than an hour after our leaving the
town, we arrived at the baths. The present
building, erected over the springs here, is small
and mean, and is altogether the work of Mo-
hammedans. It is within a few yards of the
edge of the lake, and contains a bath for males
and a bath for females, each with their separate
apartment annexed. Over the door of the
former is an Arabic inscription ; ascending to
this door by a few steps, it leads to an outer
room, with an open window, a hearth for pre-

* Tiberias metropolis et terminus Decapoleos regionis,
urbiumque ejus maxima, nomen ab Imp. Rom. Tiberio traxit ;
et ab ipsa vicinum mare Tiberiadis. Cluverius, 1, v. c. 21 . p. 369.


paring coffee, and a small closet for the use of
the attendant. Within this is the bath itself, a
square room of about eighteen or twenty feet,
covered with a low dome, and having benches
in recesses on each side. The cistern for contain-
ing the hot water is in the centre of this room,
and is sunk below the pavement ; it is a square
of eight or nine feet only, and the spring rises to
supply it through a small head of some animal ;
but this is so badly executed, that it is difficult
to decide for what it was intended. My thermo-
meter rose here instantly to 130°, which was its
utmost limit ; but the heat of the water was
certainly greater. It was painful to the hand
as it issued from the spout, and could only be
borne gradually by those who bathed in the

There is here only an old man and a little boy
to hold the horses and make coffee for the visi-
tors ; and those who bathe strip in the inner
room and wash themselves in the cistern, without
being furnished with cloths, carpets, cushions,
or any of the usual comforts of a Turkish bath.
The whole establishment, indeed, is of the
poorest kind, and the sight of the interior is
rather disgusting than inviting.

Ammianus Marcellinus, in his brief descrip-
tion of Palestine, after remarking the number of
fine cities it contains, and observing that the


whole region did not possess a navigable river,
mentions, however, that there were a number
of places within it which were celebrated for
their natural hot springs, whose waters were
considered favourable to the cure of many mala-
dies, and of which this of Tiberias was then
probably one of the most celebrated. *

At this bath, we met with a soldier whom
they called Mohammed Mamlouk, and I learnt
that he w r as a German by birth, having become
a Mamlouk and Mohammedan when a boy. He
was now the hasnadar or treasurer to the Agha
of Tabareeah, and was so completely a Turk as
to profess that he would not willingly return to
his native country, even if he could do so under
the most favourable circumstances. He spoke
the Turkish and Arabic languages equally well ;
and it was in the latter that we conversed, as he
had entirely forgotten his native tongue, though
not more than thirty-five years of age.

Besides the spring which supplies the present
baths, there are several others near it, all rising
close to the edge of the lake, and all equally
hot, finely transparent and slightly sulphureous,
resembling exactly the spring at £1-Hame.
There are also extensive ruins around, which are
most probably the remains of Roman edifices,

* Ammianus Marcellinus, 1. xiv. c. 8.


though that which has been taken for the re-
mains of a theatre appears rather to have been
the choir of an early Christian church. Among
them all, there is nothing, however, either inter-
esting or definite. We quitted this spot to re-
turn to the town, and in our way by the bath
saw a party of Jewish women just coming out
from the female apartment. Their conversation
was in German ; and, on enquiry, they said that
they had come from Vienna with their husbands,
to end their days in the land of their fathers.
In our way back from hence we were met by a
party of Moslems, who conceiving me, from my
dress and white turban, to be of their faith, gave
us the usual salute, which I returned without
scruple ; but our guide was so shocked at the
interchange of forbidden salutations between a
Christian and a Mohammedan, that he expressed
his confidence in its ending in some unlucky
accident to us. To avert this, however, from
his own head, he took a large stone from the
road, and after spitting on it, turned that part
towards the north, repeating a short Arabic
prayer at the same time. Besides the present
incident, I had observed on several other occa-
sions that, in this country, set forms of expres-
sions are regarded as appropriate to men of
different faiths, and even different ranks in life,
and that therefore nothing is more necessary for


a traveller than to acquaint himself with those
minute shades of difference ; as they serve, like
the watch-word of an army, to distinguish friends
from foes, and any errors therein might produce
the most alarming consequences.

Our route of return was along the beach of
the lake, leaving the tree of relics and Setty
Skene on our left. Vestiges of ancient buildings
still continued to be seen, close to the water's
edge ; but nothing of architectural beauty or of
grandeur presented itself to our notice.

On our way we met a Jewish funeral, attended
by a party of about fifty persons, all males. A
group of half a dozen walked before, but with-
out any apparent regard to order, and all seemed
engaged in humming indistinctly hymns, or
prayers, or lamentations ; for they might have
been either, as far as we could distinguish by
the tone and the manner of their utterance. The
corpse followed, wrapped in linen, without a
coffin, and slung on cords between two poles
borne on men's shoulders, with its feet foremost.
A funeral service was said over it at the grave,
and it was sunk into its mother earth in peace.

On our return to the town, we found an early
dinner of fish prepared for us, and thought it
excellent ; a person had been employed all the
morning with his line expressly for the purpose
of procuring them, and we very gladly rewarded
b b 2


his industry by a suitable present. We were
joined at our meal by a man from Ispahan, who
had been settled here for some time as a mer-
chant, and as he understood a little Hindoostanee,
having been in several parts of India, we con-
versed together in that language, which to me
was a very unexpected event in a town of Pales-

It was past noon when we quitted Tabareeah,
and in our way through the streets toward the
gate, we met a Frank doctor in his European
dress, who had come from Acre to bleed a rich
Jew. The figure and costume of the man was
in itself highly ridiculous, and this effect was in-
creased by his being so intoxicated at this early
hour of the day, that he reeled from side to side,
in constant danger of falling off his horse. Besides
a musket, a sword, and a powder-pouch, he
wore, slung around his neck, a small canteen for
spirits, which accounted for the state in which
we saw him. In his way through the town, he
was followed by a crowd of children, and laughed
at by the women and the men ; so that the
Frank character was likely to gain nothing by
such a disreputable exhibition.

For our return to Nazareth, we took a shorter
route than that by which we came, according to
the advice of our guide, though the distance
seemed to me at least equal. Ascending the


hill to the north-west, we passed several flocks
of ghazelles, from six to eight in number in each
of them, and after reaching the summit of the
mountains there, enjoyed again a commanding
view of the lake below. We found the heat,
even here, oppressive, though it was tempered
by a light air from the north-west. The surface
of the water was still, however, like a mirror,
and a dead calm reigned in the hollow basin
beneath us. The lofty summit of Libanus,
covered with an unbroken sheet of snow, was
still a conspicuous object in the picture, and is
seen, indeed, from almost every point of view
below, excepting only near the northern edge
of the lake. From this edge a series of hills rise
one over the other, until the highest point of the
third or fourth range forms the foundation of
the base of the Gebel-el-Thelj ; and, from obser-
vations which I had an opportunity of making,
when seeing the summit of that mountain from
the water-line of the sea's level, I should con-
ceive it to be at least from ten to twelve thou-
sand feet in elevation above that point, though
perhaps not even half that height from its own

About two hours after our leaving Tabareeah,

we passed a rocky spot, with heaps of stones

scattered around^ called " Khamsi Khabshaat,"

or the place of the "five loaves," from a belief

b b 3


that the five thousand were here fed with five
loaves and two small fishes. *

By all the Evangelists, the scene of this
miracle is said to have been a desert place, and
by all of* them it is stated that there was much
grass there, on which the people were made to
sit down in companies and in ranks. As Jesus
is also represented by all of them to have de-
parted by ship into this desert place, it seems
probable that it was on the east of the lake.
St. Luke, indeed, calls it a desert place, belong-
ing to the city of Bethsaidat, whose site is
given by Pliny, under the name of Julias, on the
east. I St. John, after describing the works of
Jesus at the pool of Bethesda at Jerusalem, and
his discourse with the Jews in the temple there,
says, "After these things, Jesus went over the
sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias § ;"
an expression which could only imply his passing
from this to the opposite shore on the east. And
in describing the return of the boat back again,
after the people had been fed, St. Matthew says,
"And when they were gone over, they came into
the land of Gennesaret || ;" which land of Gen-
nesaret we distinctly know to have been on the
west. St. Mark says, after describing the mira-

* St. Mark, vi. 38. f St. Luke, ix. 10.

% Pliny. Nat. Hist. b. v. c. 15. § St. John, vi. 1.

|| St. Matt, xiv.31.


culous feeding, and the gathering up of the frag-
ments, "And straightway he constrained his
disciples to get into the ship, and go to the other
side, before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away
the people * ;" but adds " And when they had
passed over, (on their return back,) they came
unto the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the
shore." f St. Luke mentions nothing of the
return ; but St. John says, " And when the even
was now come, his disciples went down unto the
sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the
sea, toward Capernaum/' t

From most of these testimonies it would ap-
pear, therefore, that the scene of the feeding
was on the east side of the sea, seeing that Gen-
nesaret and Capernaum were on the west and
the nor tli. This supposition is strengthened by

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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 20 of 26)