Imatges de pÓgina



Several things have conspired to work out this result. The mole being overthrown, the harbor became utterly unsafe. Not a single ship could ride securely in it. This destroyed her commerce. The aqueducts broken, there was no longer an adequate supply of water; and this gone, the surrounding country relapsed into its natural state of a barren desert, and the sand, constantly accumulating from the sea, buried up every green thing. Thus solitary in itself, it early became infested with robbers, so that no one could live here in safety, and thus it continues to this hour; nor is there much reason to hope that it will again become an important city, for it has not a single natural advantage.

But it is time to seek our tent at Towahîn ez Zerka, an hour to the northeast of us. Let us follow the line of these lofty canals—two in one—by which we shall obtain a better idea of the ancient suburbs, and likewise observe the great size of the aqueducts, which were carried along parallel to the shore for about two miles. They served as a defense against the sands of the sea, and the whole space on the east of them seems to have been occupied with buildings. We can see into the covered canals in many places ; and the stories of the natives, that a man could of them on horseback from the city to the mills of Zerka, do not seem to be incredible fables. They are in such preservation that it would not cost a large sum to clear them of the sand, and again bring the water to the harbor. It is not true, however, as some travelers assert, that ships frequently put in here to obtain water from these aqueducts, for they have been broken for many centuries. Boats often call in summer to load with stones from the ruins, and much of the recent building in Jaffa and Acre is constructed out of them. I once spent a day here while my boat was thus being freighted for Jaffa, and this is the only trade carried on with this ancient capital of Palestine. Shepherds, who water their flocks from the well near the southern gate, visit it by day, and robbers, by night, lie in wait to plunder any unprotected traveler who may chance to pass, which, however, is of rare occurrence. Comparatively few now follow

pass inside

this desolate coast, and none venture alone, if they can in any way avoid it.

Here are the mills, and, by the advice of the miller I dare say, our tent is pitched in a very good position for defense. There is no disguising the fact that we must pass the night surrounded by robbers, and for once it will be necessary to keep a strict guard. We have time enough before sunset to examine this extraordinary locality. It appears that the River Zerka, whose various branches we crossed in the morning, had here broken through the low rocky ridge which runs parallel to the shore, and in some remote age this opening was shut up by this powerful wall, thus raising the water twenty-five feet high. This wall is two hundred and thirty paces long, and twenty feet thick, and the road still passes along its top-the grandest mill-dam I have ever seen. The water falls directly from the top on the wheels below. There are some eight or ten mills now in motion, and many are in ruins, and at least twenty might be ranged side by side below the wall. It is this dam that causes the marsh of Zoar, the whole of which would be effectually drained by simply breaking it down, and many thousand acres of the richest land would thus be regained to cultivation.

This Zerka is undoubtedly the Crocodile River of the ancients, and you will be surprised to hear that there are now living crocodiles in the marsh at our side; but such is the fact. These millers say they have seen them often, and the government agent, a respectable Christian, assures me that they recently killed one eighteen spans long, and as thick as his body. I suspect that, long ages ago, some Egyptians, accustomed to worship this ugly creature, settled here, and brought their gods with them. Once here, they would not easily be exterminated, for no better place could be desired by them than this vast jungle and impracticable swamp. I was delighted, on my first visit many years since, to find these creatures still on hand to confirm the assertions of Greek and Roman geographers. The historians of the Crusades speak of this marsh, which they call a lake, and also



say that there were crocodiles in it in their day. If the locality would admit, I should identify this Zerka with the Shihor Libnath of Joshua xix. 26, for Shihor is one of the names of the Nile--the very home of the crocodile; but the river in question was given to Asher, and is probably the Naaman (the Belus of ancient geographers), and the marshes at its source are as suitable for this ugly beast as these of Zoar.

[graphic][merged small]

By taking the interior route on the east and south of Carmel, we have missed a long stretch of the coast. Is there any thing of interest on the shore from Haifa to Cæsarea?

The best answer is to pass it in review; and it is about as profitable, and far more pleasant, to traverse this nine hours in imagination than to ride them on horseback. By way of introduction, listen to some remarks on the general character of the Syrian sea-board. From Carmel and northward there are numerous headlands, with bays on the north of them more or less deep, by which the line of the coast falls back to the east, as it were, by successive steps. Carmel itself, with the Bay of Acre, is not only the first, but one of the most striking. North of Acre is the Ladder of Tyre, which consists of three such capes: el Mushеîrifeh, en Nakûrah, and el Bŭyăd. Between Tyre and Sidon is the low headland of Sarafend, and from Sidon to Beirût are three rocky Nakûrahs, with the retreating coves of Rumeîleh, Neby Yûnus, and Damûr. Then comes the projecting cape Ras Beirût, with its Bay of St. George falling back to the deeper cove of Jûn. The next salient point is the Theoprosopon of the ancients, north of Bŭtrûn, beyond which, by successive steps, at Cape Enfeh and the mina of Tripoli, the coast enters far eastward into the plain of Akkar. With lesser indentations at Ruad and Balinas, we come to the long low promontory of Ladakîyeh. Finally, stretching across the open sea at the so-called Bay of Antioch, we pass Ras el Khanzîr, and enter the Bay of Scandaroon. Such is the configuration of the northern half of this coast; but from Carmel southward it runs in a direct line a little west of south, in long unvaried reaches, far as the eye can see, and farther too, past Athleet, past Tantûra, Cæsarea, Jaffa, Askelon, Gaza, and quite on round to Egypt.

After this rapid survey we will begin again at the point of Carmel. It is three hours thence to Athleet, with no important villages or ruins intervening. Athleet, however, presents the greatest historic and architectural puzzle found at the head of this sea. I can not identify it with any ancient site whatever. Neither the Bible, nor Josephus, nor any profane historian or geographer mentions it, nor does its name appear in any of the old Itineraries; and yet the remains of antiquity at it are more numerous, more striking, and in better preservation than at any other city of Phoenicia. The exterior wall, built of great stones, and protected by a ditch cut through the solid rock where necessary, inclosed a large quadrangular space reaching quite across the headland on which the city stood. Most of this wall has been carried away to build those of Acre during the long centuries of the past. The Acropolis was the extremity of the cape, cut off from the outer city by a wall prodig. iously strong, whose heavy stones are beveled after the purest Phænician style. Large sections of it remain entire, and just as they were first put up. There is no patch-work, no broken columns or other fragments, as in the oldest Greek



and Roman structures in Syria. It is pure unmixed Phoenician. Just within this wall stands a portion of a gigantic building, whose character it is difficult to comprehend. It was erected on vaults of very great strength, and the frag. ment of the east wall towers up at least eighty feet high. There it stands in its loneliness, unbroken by a hundred earthquakes, the first object that strikes the eye of the traveler either up or down the coast. Near the top on the interior, so high that it strains the neck to look at them, are the flying buttresses (finished off below with the heads of men and beasts) from which sprung the arches of the great dome. It must have been superb_sublime. Now who erected this magnificent temple, and when? The only history we have of Athleet begins with the Crusaders, who call it Castellum Perigrinorum (Pilgrims' Castle), because they used to land there when Acre was in the hands of the Saracens. But they built none of these edifices. There are also other remarkable indications of extreme antiquity about Athleet. This low rocky ridge on which we are encamped, and which occasions this marsh of Zoar, begins a little to the north of Athleet, and in front of the city it rises to a considerable elevation, and is there cut up in a singular manner by old quarries. Directly east of the city a broad road was hewn through the ridge, which is still the common highway for the surrounding country, and well-worn tracks of chariot-wheels are still to be seen along this remarkable passage. Mr. Van de Velde supposes that these were for rail-road cars, and makes some farther guesses on the subject, which must have required a good deal of nerve to pen and publish.

Now the question returns, What is Athleet, either by this or any other name? I have no answer. The Hebrew writers may have had no occasion to mention it, because that part of the coast was not in their possession. The Roman and Greek writers and travelers generally passed round on the east of Cæsarea, as I believe, and did not visit it. Strabo says, “ After Acre is the tower of Strato, having a station for ships. Between them is Mount Carmel, and names of cities, but nothing besides: the city of Sycame

« AnteriorContinua »