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 8 of 26)
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p. 259.



Dead Sea, and in the land of Moab ; for it was
not until Israel had smote him, Sihon, king of
the Amorites, with the edge of the sword, that
he possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok,
and dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in
Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.

There was, however, a Jabesh, which could
not have been far from this spot, and, like Ra-
moth, was characterised by the addition of
Gilead, as a distinctive appellation. This place
is first mentioned in the story of the Lamenta-
tions that were made for the destruction of the
tribe of Benjamin, and the difficulties that arose
regarding marriages since they were cut oft'
from among them. When the Israelites came
to bewail this desolation of Benjamin in Mizpeh,
they had made an oath that whoever came not
up to the mourning should be put to death.
On the numbering of the people, it was found
that none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead
were there, and, accordingly, twelve thousand
of the valiantest of the assembly were ordered
by the congregation to go and smite the in-
habitants of this place with the edge of the
sword, and to spare neither men, women, nor
children. * The occasion of their meeting, was
to mourn the loss of a tribe whom they had

* Judges, xxi. throughout.
K 2


themselves cut off from among them, by the
slaughter of twenty-five thousand men, who
drew the sword, and were all men of valour,
leaving only a remnant of six hundred of the
whole of the sons of Benjamin, who fled into
the desert, and abode in the rock of Rimmon
for four months. *

This Jabesh Gilead was afterwards the scene
of a battle between Saul and the Ammonites,
in which the latter were discomfited. Nahash,
the leader of the Ammonites, had come up to
encamp against this place, and on being asked
to make a covenant, urged the strange condi-
tion of his being allowed to thrust out all the
people's right eyes, which the men of Jabesh
requested seven days' respite to consider of,
during which time Saul came to their aid, and
repelled their enemies.

At a future period, these men of Jabesh,
whom he had delivered, had an opportunity to
testify their gratitude. When the Philistine
followed hard upon Saul, and the battle went
sore against him in Mount Gilboa, Saul, and
his armour-bearer, and his three sons, fell upon
their swords, to avoid the disgrace of being
slain by uncircurhcised hands. The Philistines,
when they came on the morrow to strip the
slain, found them, and cut off the head of

* Judges, xx. 47.


Saul, and stripped off his armour, and sent it
into the land of the Philistines round about, to
publish it in the houses of their idols, and among
the people. And they put his armour in the
house of Ashtaroth. And they fastened his body
to the wall of Beth-shan, " And when the in-
habitants of Jabesh Gilead heard of that which
the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant
men arose, and went all night, and took the
body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, from
the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and
burnt them there. And they took their bones
and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and
fasted seven days." *

We learn from this, that Beth-shan, or Scy-
thopolis, was within a night's march from
Jabesh, which fixes its position, within limits
of tolerable accuracy on the west. Its distance,
of six miles from Pella, towards Gerasa, will
equally fix its limits on the east, as Pella is
placed by all the authorities on the river

* 1 Samuel, xxxi. throughout.

Wy> Urbs Gileaditis, uncle saepe "lySj CO* dicitur Jud.
xxi. 9. Jabeschitse per totam noctem facto itinere cadavera
Saulis et riliorum ejus e moenibus urbis Bethsan abstulerunt
et redierunt, 1 Sam. xxxi. 11. bine judica de distantia harum
urbium. Eusebius ad vocem 'ApiauO et 'ld€t$ testatur suo
tempore fuisse vicum prsegrandem hoc nomine trans Jorda-
nem, 6 miliar, distantem Pella versus Gerasam. — Reland,
lib. iii. p. 822.

K 3


Jabbok *, though it is much farther to the east-
ward in the map of Cellarius, than in that of
D'Anville. In both of these, the distance of
Pella from Gerasa corresponds pretty accurately
with the thirty-five Roman miles assigned to it ;
but, in Cellarius, the places are nearly east and
west of each other, and in D'Anville nearly
north and south, though the same authorities for
their respective positions were open to both.
If to this agreement in point of relative dis-
tances, be added the resemblance of local
feature in the present ruins of Jejaz, being
seated on a hill or mountain, like that of the
ancient Jabeshf, it will not be a forced pre-
sumption to consider it as at least probable that
the ruins here may be those of the ancient
town, and the present name only a corruption
of the original one. J

The early writers, being rather historians than

* Pres du Jabok etoit une ville de consideration, sous le
nom de Pella, que les Grecs de Syrie qui l'habitoient, lui avoit
donne, a cause de sa situation environnee d'eaux, comme la
ville Macedonienne de ce nom. — D'Anville, Geog. An. Pereea
et Arabia.

•{■ Jabis Galaad .... Nunc est vicus trans Jordanem in
sexto miliario civitatis Pella?, super montem euntibus Gerasa.
Hieron. — Reland, 1. ii. p. 493.

£ Jabes Galaad "ly^"^^ siccitas, vel confusio acervi

testimonii. Noraen civitatis. Judic. xxi. 8. 1 Sam. xi. 1. —
Onoinasticuni Sacrum, p. 159.


geographers, afford, in some instances, such
scanty materials for fixing the position of places
spoken of by them, that great accuracy cannot
be expected to be attained at this period. The
resemblance of names, the correspondence of
local features, and the existence of ruins on any
particular spot, may be therefore considered as
of as much weight in determining questions of
this nature, as the estimate of distances, which
from being given in figures, are always liable to
corruption. But when all these circumstances
nearly agree, the evidence may be received as
the most conclusive now within our reach.

We continued our w r ay from between the
ruins of Deer-el Ramza and Jejaz, still towards
the north-east, admiring, as before, the beauty
of the country on all sides. The prospects
around us made us credit all that has been said
of the ancient populousness of this district; and
while we felt the difficulty, in many instances,
of identifying ancient positions with the perfect
correspondence of all the requisite data, we con-
ceived it highly probable that one place might
be sometimes taken for another, in a kingdom
of so confined an extent, yet so thickly spread
over with populous towns and villages, and in
which are said to have existed threescore cities. *

* " The son of Geber, in Ranioth Gilead : to him pertained
the towns of Jair, the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, to

K 4


At sunset we reached the camp of the Be-
douins, whom we had joined on our way, and
were received there with their accustomed hos-
pitality. It was carried so far in the present
instance, as even to occasion a contention among
the Arabs themselves, as to which of them
should furnish the necessary corn for our horses.
A lamb was killed for us, and all the members
of the camp assembled around our evening party
in the Sheikh's tent, to entertain us, and to as-
sure us of our welcome among them. Our con-
versation was sufficiently varied ; but though
our destination for Damascus was spoken of, our
intention to halt at Jerash was studiously con-
cealed, and at midnight we lay down to sleep.

him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan,
threescore great cities, with walls and brazen bars." 1 Kings,
iv. 13.

'Of f>£JLA7,A

' r. ;■'..

( 137 )



January 31st. We quitted our station at an
early hour, and, after leaving the camp, passed
again through a rich and beautiful country.
It was about an hour after our first setting out
that we came to another torrent, in a deep ra-
vine, the stream of which was called Nahr-el-
Zebeen. The ford at which we crossed it was
scarcely more than ten yards wide, and here
the banks were covered with rushes, planes, and
oleanders. It appeared to us to be only a more
northern portion of Zerkah or the Jabbok, which
we had already passed over once ; but this the
Arabs contradicted, though they said that, like
Zerkah, it mingled its waters with those of the
Jordan, and ran together with them into the
Dead Sea.

In ascending from the valley of this stream,
and going up its steep northern bank, we were
shown what appeared to us to be a tower, with
a wall and portions of ruined edifices near.
This place was called Zebeen, and gave its name


to the torrent below. It was said to have been
an old Christian settlement ; but, as we were
not permitted to turn aside to see it, we could
not determine with accuracy either its age or

We were here interrupted and thrown into a
momentary alarm, by the pursuit of two horse-
men, who came galloping over the brow of the
hill behind us, commanding us with a loud voice,
and in an authoritative tone, to halt and give an
account of ourselves. Though we considered
ourselves to be in a strange and almost an ene-
my's country, we were not, however, in a con-
dition to yield to the menaces of so small a force.
We therefore replied to their challenge in a tone
equally haughty with their own, and refused to
satisfy them either from whence we had come
or whither we were going ; so that they soon
desisted from their pursuit and left us.

In continuing our way to the north-east, we
still went through a beautifully fertile country ;
and, after passing three or four ruined buildings
of considerable size on the road, we came
about ten o'clock into a charming valley, from
whence we obtained the first sight of the ruins
of Jerash.

We approached the remains of this city on
the southern side, and saw, at first, a triumphal


gateway, nearly entire. * The architecture of
this was not of the most chaste kind, though the
masonry was good. It bore a striking resem-
blance to the work seen in the ruined city of
Antinoe, in Upper Egypt, on the eastern bank
of the Nile. On each side of the large central
arch of this gateway, which was wide enough
for chariots, there was a smaller one for foot-
passengers, and over each of these was an open
square window. The front of the whole bore
four columns, which were placed one on each
side of the smaller arched passages, and one in
each of the intervals between these and the large
central one. These columns were of a small
diameter, and constructed of many separate
pieces of stone ; their pedestals were of a square
form, but tall and slender; on each of these
was placed a design of leaves, resembling very
nearly a Corinthian capital without the volutes ;
on this again arose the shaft, which was plain,
and composed of many small pieces, but as all
the columns were broken near their tops, the
crowning capitals were not seen. The pedi-
ment and frieze were also destroyed, but
enough of the whole remained to give an accu-
rate idea of the original design, and to prove
that the order of the architecture was Corin-

* No. 1 . in the General Plan.



After passing through this first gateway, we
came upon the fragments of its own ruins
within ; but seeing no vestiges of walls connect-
ed with the ijate itself on either side, we con-
eluded that this was an isolated triumphal arch,
placed here for the passage of some hero, on his
way to the entrance of the city.

Just within this gateway, on the left, we next
observed a fine naumachia, for the exhibition of
sea-fights. * This was of an oblong shape, with
its southern end straight, and its northern end
of a semicircular form. It was constructed of
fine masonry, smooth within, but having the
rustic projections without, and being finished on
the top with a large moulding, wrought in the
stone. The channels for filling this naumachia
with water were still visible, and the walls within
were from six to eight feet deep, though level
with the soil without ; but as this space was now
used as a field on which corn was actually
growing, it is probable that the soil had accu-
mulated progressively there, and that the origi-
nal depth was much greater.

Passing onward amid heaps of ruined frag-
ments, we came next to a second gateway,
exactly similar in design to the triumphal one
without, but connected here on both sides with

* No. 2. in the General Plan.


the wall of the city, to which it formed the
entrance. *

Leaving the triumphal arch and naumachia,
we entered into the city through this its southern
gate ; and, on turning to the left, and passing
by a raised platform of masonry, which sup-
ported the front of a peripteral templet, we
came into a large and beautiful circular colon-
nade, of the Ionic order, surmounted by an
architrave, t Above the temple, on our left,
was an open theatre, facing to the north § ;
but of this, as well as of the temple itself, we
could catch but a momentary glance before we
were obliged to return to the straight path.

We could now perceive a long avenue of
columns, leading in a straight line for a consi-
derable distance beyond the circular colonnade,
and appearing to mark the direction of some
principal street that led through the whole length
of the city. On entering this street, we per-
ceived that the columns were all of the Corinthian
order, the range on each side of the street being
ascended to by a flight of steps. The propor-
tions of the pillars seemed chaste ; they were
without pedestals, and their plain shafts swelled
in diameter from the base towards the centre,
and then tapered away towards the capital.

* No. 3. in the General Plan. f No. 4. in ditto.

J No. 5. in ditto. § No. 6. in ditto.


Passing onward through this street, and
climbing over huge masses of fallen columns
and masonry, we noticed four columns on each
side of the way, of much greater height and
larger diameter than the rest, but, like all the
others, supporting only an entablature, and pro-
bably standing before the front of some principal
edifice now destroyed.

Beyond this we came to a square, formed by
the first intersection of this principal street by
one crossing it at right angles, and like it too
apparently once lined on both sides by an avenue
of columns. At this point of intersection were
four square masses of smooth masonry, in the
nature of very large pedestals. These had in
each of their fronts a niche for a statue, which
was concave at the back, arched at the top,
and crowned there by a beautiful fan or shell
neatly sculptured. On the top of these large
square pedestals, appeared to have once stood
small Corinthian columns, the shafts and capitals
of which now lay scattered below, so that they
might have been bases of peristyles.

Continuing still onward, and passing the frag-
ment of a solid wall on our left, which had
formed part of the front of some large edifice,
we came to a portion of a temple of a semicir-
cular form, with four columns in front, facing
the principal street, and falling in a line with it.


The spring of its half-dome was still remaining,
as well as several yellow marble columns, and a
fragment of a column of red granite. The whole
seemed to have been executed with peculiar
care, and we though the sculpture of its friezes,
cornices, pediments, capitals, &c, which were
all of the Corinthian order, as rich and chaste
as the works of the first ages. Around the frieze
of the interior was an inscription, of which we
could not be allowed time to take an accurate

On a broken altar, near to the ruin, we ob-
served another inscription, which we were not
suffered to examine minutely, although we could
make out the name of Marcus Aurelius very
distinctly at the beginning of it. Beyond this
again, we had temples, colonnades, theatres,
arched buildings with domes, detached groups
of Ionic and Corinthian columns, bridges,
aqueducts, and portions of large buildings scat-
tered here and there in our way*, none of which
we could examine with any degree of attention,
from the restraint under which our guides had
placed us.

After passing in this hurried way, through
the greater part of the town, and arriving nearly
at the further extreme from that at which we

* Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11. 13. 15. 18. of the General Plan.


had entered it, we turned down to water our
horses at a stream in the valley * ; and assembled
our party, so as to preserve the appearance of
really being passengers merely halting by the
way, on our road to Damascus.

While the guides and our servants were
taking some refreshment, Mr. Bankes and I
ascended to a convenient spot where we could
both conceal ourselves from the sight of pas-
sengers below ; and while Mr. Bankes was em-
ployed in taking a hasty sketch of the whole
view as it appeared from hence, I caught the
opportunity of throwing together the recollec-
tions of our route from Jerusalem thus far, as
not a moment had yet offered itself from the
time of our leaving that city, in which it would
have been safe to have written, or to have ex-
cited curiosity by the appearance of such
unusual things as pen and paper.

Having done this, Mr. Bankes made a second
excursion with the guides, and I remained to
keep the impatience of the rest in play, to
answer questions from passengers, and to pro-
long our stay to the last possible moment.

After this momentary glance over these in-
teresting and magnificent ruins, we were obliged
to hurry off in a state of mind not easily

* No. 14. of the General Plan.


described ; delighted and surprised by what we
had come so. dangerous a journey to behold, and
tormented by regret at the necessity of catch-
ing a mere sight of them, and of quitting the
spot, as we then thought, most probably for

Having passed the northern wall of the city,
which appeared to us to be at least a mile apart
from its southern gate of entrance *, the whole
space between being covered with the ruins of
splendid buildings, we ascended a steep hill,
and, in about a quarter of an hour, came to the
Necropolis. We saw here some few grottoes
only, but in the course of our way, we remarked
nearly a hundred sarcophagi of stone, all of
them now above ground. Most of these were
ornamented on the sides with sculptured
shields ; they were of oblong forms, straight
at the sides and ends, made of a grey lime-stone,
and about the size of the human form in the
hollow space, and from two to three inches in
thickness. We saw only one cover perfect,
which was pent-roofed, and had the section of
a globe at each corner in the Roman style.
Many of these sarcophagi were broken, and
some reversed ; but all appeared to have been
dragged up from the earth by force, as they lay

* Both marked No. 3. in the General Plan.


in heaps sometimes one on another. They were
probably thought to contain hidden treasures,
and were thus ransacked by the Saracens.

In our way up this steep hill, we found near
the Necropolis, the remains of a small temple
with columns, which we could not turn out of
our road to examine ; and still further on, we
noticed the walls and dwellings of a village
which were well built, and apparently the
works of a distant age.

We turned round here to enjoy a last look on
the splendid ruins we had left so abruptly, and
so unwillingly too, and were charmed beyond
description with the magnificent scene which it
presented. The city standing itself on a rising
ground, seemed from this point of view to be
seated in the hollow of a grand and deep
valley, encircled on all sides by lofty mountains
now covered with verdure, and having part of
its own plain below in actual cultivation. Near
to where we stood was the ruined village already
spoken of, and on the summit of the southern
hill which bounded the view in that quarter,
stood the modern village of Aioode, having a
central tower and walls, and forming the retreat
of the husbandmen who till the grounds in the
valley beneath. The circular colonnade, the
avenues of Corinthian pillars forming the grand

l 2


street, the southern gate of entrance, the
naumachia, and the triumphal arch beyond it,
the theatres, the temples, the aqueducts, the
baths, and all the assemblage of noble buildings
which presented their vestiges to the view from
hence, seemed to indicate a city built only
for luxury, for splendour, and for pleasure ;
although it was a mere colonial town in a
foreign province, distant from the capital of the
great empire to which it belonged, and scarcely
known either in sacred or profane history.

It would be in vain to attempt a picture of
the impressions which followed such a sight.
We were considered by our guides to be in dan-
ger, and self-preservation pushed us on* while
the change of scenery and the occupation of
the mind on the necessary cares of the way,
served to bring it back to its original state of

We continued, from the summit of this north-
ern mountain, to descend gradually, and passed
again through an interesting and well-wooded
country, arriving in about an hour and a half at
the village of Soof, where our halt was fixed for
the night.

We were received here in a sort of public
room by the Sheikh of the village, but instantly
perceived the marked difference between the


hospitality of the Bedouins and the cultivators ;
for here not a stick of firewood was to be had
without payment for it before-hand.

As the sun was not yet set, we left our guides
to manage with the villagers for our supplies,
and walked out for half an hour, though obliged
to do even this with extreme caution, as all eyes
were upon us.

The village of Soof stands on the brow of a
steep hill, on the S. W. of a deep ravine. It
possesses several marks of having been the site
of some more ancient and considerable town,
having large blocks of stone, with mouldings,
sculpture, &c. worked into the modern buildings;
and on the opposite hill, on the other side of
the ravine, are seen the walls of an edifice appa-
rently of the Roman age. There are also
remains of two small square towers, apparently
of Saracenic work, the masonry being good,
and there being loop-holes for arrows in the

The town of Soof contains from forty to fifty
dwellings, and nearly five hundred inhabitants,
including those of all ages and both sexes. The
Sheikh of it is responsible to the Pasha of Da-
mascus, and pays him tribute. The men are
not only rigid but bigoted Mohammedans, and
of a surly and forbidding temper, as far as we
had yet seen of them. Their grounds around

l 3


are cultivated with corn, and both the olive and
the vine nourish in abundance, furnishing them
with oil from the former, and grapes and dried
raisins from the latter, wine being unknown
among them.

Some women having noticed our writing,
during the secrecy of our walk, circulated a
report of the fact, and insisted on knowing what
we were about. We were fortunate in being
able to persuade them that we were Turks, and
repeating the formula, " B'ism illah, er Rahman
er Rahheem," assured them that we were merely
employed in writing a prayer on the appearance
of the new moon, after the manner of the

When we returned from our ramble, we found
a large party assembled in the public room, and
we exchanged with them the salute of Islam.
We were not long seated, before close enquiries
began to be pressed upon us, and we felt every
hour more uneasy at their tendency. We sought
our safety, however, in reserve ; and as the
party was numerous, we contrived, amidst the
mixture of prayers, and wrangling, and dispute,
and imprecation, to keep ourselves undiscovered.

February 1st. The day broke in heavy rains,
and our Bedouin guides refused to proceed, as
the horses were already wearied, and shelter
could not always be commanded on the road.

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 8 of 26)