Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

MAZARS OF NUSAIRIYEH_BANIAS.

343

refuge with them. I was struck with the prevalence, all over those mountains, of names of men, and mountains, and castles, and villages, which were identical with those once common in Palestine.

As Christian missions are now established among them, we may hope, ere long, to be better acquainted with the origin, history, manners, customs, and religion of this remarkable people. I have seen a few books which pretended to give an account of their faith, but the Nusairîyeh themselves would not acknowledge them. They are not to be trusted, and, besides, they throw very little light on the matter. They have countless sacred tombs called Mazars, to which they resort on various occasions, but their ceremonies there are always performed in secret. Should any of their number divulge their mysteries, he would be assassinated without remorse, mercy, or delay. This is certain; and this horrible fact may have given rise to the stories about the assassins, for it was on these mountains that those somewhat fabulous monsters are said to have resided.

But enough of the Nusairîyeh for the present. 'Ainfit and Z'aora, on the mountain south of Banias, are the only other settlements of this people in this region.

What noble oak glades spread over these hills before us! Indeed, this whole scenery is more park-like than any I have seen in Syria.

Or will see. The peasants of Banias, however, are cutting away these magnificent trees, and in a few years this part of the grand platform of old Panium will be stripped quite naked. You will observe that we have been riding over the ruins of the ancient city for some time, and there is its modern representative, half buried beneath shapeless ruins, which are quite overgrown with bushes, briers, and creepers. We must wade through this rattling river, and find our way to that fine old terebinth, where our tents are waiting our arrival. I, at least, am quite ready for them, and for what our good cook will spread before us.

Curiosity is an overmatch with me just now for fatigue, and even hunger. I must look upon the birth-place of the Jordan, and have a draught of its water before night closes

upon us.

That is soon done. Follow the path to that cliff, and you may have the whole fountain to yourself.

Well, have you seen and tasted ?
Is it not magnificent ? the fountain, I mean.

But let us address ourselves to dinner. The new-born river will sing to us. Hark how its merry laugh floats out on the evening air, and swells up the sides of the echoing hills! Our ride to-day has been perfectly delightful through and to scenes and sites of most romantic interest. There can be no doubt, I suppose, but that this is the source of the greater Jordan, mentioned by Josephus, and this mass of rubbish below the cave, through which the fountain pours its hundred streams, is the debris of the temple of Panium.

Those Greek inscriptions on the face of the cliff confirm the fact. But we are now on ground much more sacred than mere classic association can render any place. Our blessed Lord has been here, has drank of this same fountain, and looked upon this lovely scene. With His usual compassion, he taught the people and healed their diseases. Eusebius says that the woman cured of an issue of blood' belonged to this city, and he thus writes on this subject: They say that her house is shown in the city, and the wonderful monuments of our Saviour's benefit to her are still standing. At the gate of her house, on an elevated stone, stands a brazen image of a woman on her bended knees, with her hand stretched out before her, like one entreating. Opposite to this there is another image of a man erect, of the same ma. terial, decently clad in a mantle, and stretching out his hand to the woman. This, they say, is a statue of Christ, and it has remained even until our times, so that we ourselves saw it when staying in that city. Who knows but that these statues are still buried under this rubbish, and may some day be brought to light. Theophanes, however, says

that Julian the Apostate broke them to pieces. It would be like him, if he ever happened to see them.

· Euseb., book vi., chap. xviii.

i Luke viii. 43.

[graphic][subsumed]

+

MIRACLES AT BANIAS SPRINGS OF THE JORDAN. 347

The same author thus discourses about the cave and the fountain: “At Cæsarea Philippi, which is called Panias by the Phoenicians, they say there are springs that are shown there at the foot of the mountain called Panias, from which the Jordan rises, and that on a certain festival day there was usually a victim thrown into these, and that this, by the power of the demon, in some wonderful manner entirely disappeared. The thing was a famous wonder to all that were there to see it. Astyrius (a pious Roman of senatorial rank) happening to be once present at these rites, and seeing the multitude astonished at the affair, pitied their delusion. Then, raising his eyes to heaven, he implored the God over all through Christ to refute the seducing demon, and to restrain the delusion of the people. As soon as he prayed, it is said that the victim floated on the stream, and that thus this miracle vanished, no wonder ever more occurring in this place." The latter remark is probably true, whatever we may think of the rest of the story. These passages, how- . ever, are curious, as showing what the traditions concerning this place were at the close of the third century, when Eusebius, visited it. Josephus thus describes this locality in Ant., b. xv. ch. x. v. 3: he calls it Panium: “This is a very fine cave in a mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and full of still water. Over it hangs a vast mountain, and under the cavern arise the springs of the River Jordan. Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still farther by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar." There is a close resemblance between these stories of this fountain and that of Josephus in his Wars of the Jews, book i. ch. xxi. v. 3: “And when Caesar had farther bestowed on him (Herod) another additional country, he built there also a temple of white marble, hard by the fountains of the Jordan. The place is called Panium, where is the top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself, within which there is a horrible precipice that descends abruptly to a vast depth. It contains a

« AnteriorContinua »