Imatges de pÓgina

except the remarkable ridge of Usdum,* which is a solid mass of rock salt. The existence of this immense mass of fossil salt sufficiently accounts for the excessive saltness of the sea. This remarkable mountain does not appear to be directly mentioned either by the sacred writers or Josephus. The earliest direct notice of it is by Fulcher, who visited it A. D. 1100. He describes the mountain accurately, and conceives it to be the source of the saltness of the sea. Since his time neither the mountain nor the region. around it has been explored until the present century. One of the most singular features of the Dead Sea is, the depression of its level below that of the Mediterranean. This depression has been variously estimated. Messrs. Moore and Beke, who were the first to notice it, found it, by means of the boiling point of water, to be five hundred English feet. Schubert, by barometrical measurements, estimates it at nearly six hundred Paris feet, and Berton makes it amount to more than thirteen hundred. But there is so much uncertainty connected with these partial measurements, that the question can never be decided with exactness until the intervening country shall have been surveyed, and the relative level of the two seas trignometrically ascertained.

The conformation of the Dead Sea is intimately connected with the destruction of the "cities of the plain." It has generally been supposed that the sea did not exist prior to that catastrophe: and since the researches of Burckhardt it has been a favorite hypothesis that the Jordan before that event flowed through the whole length. of the Wady el-Arabah, and emptied into the gulf of Akabah. But this could not have been the case, from the fact, that the whole valley of the Jordan and the level of the Dead Sea are so much depressed below the gulf, also the waters of the Arabah and of the high western desert far south of Akabah all flow northward into the Dead Sea. These circumstances tend to prove that a lake existed in this valley, into which the Jordan and other streams poured their waters, long before the destruction of Sodom; and, that the general configuration of this region is coeval with the present condition of the surface of the earth, and not the result of any local catastrophe. Still it is probable that the Dead Sea now covers a greater extent of surface than it anciently did. The cities destroyed must have been situated south of the sea as it then existed, for Lot fled to Zoar, which was near to Sodom, and travelers have placed the site of Zoar at the foot of the mountains, by the southern

end of the present sea. In the fertile plain which Lot chose for

The form Usdum, Dr. Robinson considers to be a traditional reminiscence of the name Sodom.

himself, where Sodom was situated, there were "slime pits," that is, wells of bitumen, or asphaltum: for the Hebrew word (n) is the same as that used in describing the building of the walls of Babylon, which were cemented with pitch. These pits are no longer to be seen, and the probable conjecture is, that they disappeared in the destruction of the "cities of the plain." The southern part of the sea is of a peculiar form, and it is only in this part that masses of asphaltum are now found. In view of all these circumstances, it is very evident that what was anciently a fertile plain is now in part occupied by the southern bay of the sea, and that by some convulsion of nature connected with the miraculous destruction of the cities, either the plain was sunk, or the bottom of the sea was raised, so as to cause the water to spread over a greater extent of surface. In either case, the wells of bitumen would be covered by the sea, and the substance being hardened by contact with the water, would occasionally rise and float on the surface.

The country is subject to earthquakes, and also exhibits traces of volcanic action. Either of these causes might be supposed to have raised the bottom of the ancient lake and caused its present appearance. But as the account of the destruction of the cities, given by the sacred writer, implies the agency of fire, we may reasonably suppose that both of these causes were at work. "For volcanic action and earthquakes go hand in hand; and the accompanying electric discharges usually cause lightnings to play and thunders to roll. In this way we have all the phenomena which the most literal interpretation of the sacred records can demand." It may furthermore be conjectured, that before the catastrophe the bitumen had spread over the plain,* and even extended under the soil in the vicinity of the cities. The kindling of this mass, either by volcanic action or by lightning from heaven, would cause a conflagration sufficient to destroy both the cities and the surface of the plain, and then the sea rushing in would give it its present appearance. The barrenness of that portion of the plain not covered with water is probably caused by the great quantity of fossil salt, which is often an attendant of volcanic action.

After returning from their first visit to the Dead Sea, Dr. Robinson and his companions made an excursion to the south of Judea, to Gaza and Hebron; and thence to Wady Mûsa. Our travelers approached the valley from the east. It is at first shut in by sandstone cliffs forty or fifty feet high, and here is the commencement of

This is by no means improbable, and it corresponds to the phenomena connected with the celebrated Pitch Lake in the island of Trinidad.

VOL. II.-2

this wonderful Necropolis. Proceeding further on, the valley contracts, and the cliffs become higher, presenting on each side a street of tombs. In some parts the cliffs rise from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet in height. Dr. Robinson states that he gave particular attention to this point, because travelers have generally so greatly exaggerated them. The character of this wonderful spot, and the impression it makes upon the beholder, are utterly indescribable. All is on a scale of savage, yet grand and magnificent sublimity. Just where the Sîk terminates in the western precipice, the beautiful façade of the Khuzneh burst upon his view in all the freshness and beauty of its first chiseling. Nothing of architectural effect in Rome or Thebes, or even Athens, can compare with the first impression of this. And yet it will not bear criticism as to its architecture, for it is not all in a pure style, and if seen in another land, without the accompaniments with which it is here surrounded, it would perhaps excite but little admiration. But its position, its wonderful state of preservation, the scenery around, and the associations connected with this wonderful region, all tend to heighten the effect and deepen the impression which it makes on the mind. Dr. Robinson thus narrates his own feelings on viewing this splendid edifice :

"I was perfectly fascinated with this splendid work of ancient art in this wild spot, and the idea of it was uppermost in my mind during the day and all the night. In the morning I returned, and beheld it again with increased admiration. There it stands, as it hath stood for ages, in beauty and loneliness; the generations which admired and rejoiced over it of old have passed away; the wild Arab, as he wanders by, regards it with stupid indifference or scorn, and none are left but strangers, from far distant lands, to do it reverence. Its roseate tints, as I bade it farewell, were lighted up and gilded by the mellow beams of the morning sun; and I turned away from it, at length, with an impression which will be effaced only at death."—Vol. ii, p. 519.

The name el-Khuzneh, which the Arabs give this edifice, signifies the treasure. They suppose that this treasure is contained in the urn crowning the summit of its ornamental front more than a hundred feet above the ground. This bears the marks of many musket balls, which they have fired at it in hopes of breaking it, and thus securing the imaginary treasure. Dr. Robinson is of the opinion that this structure was a temple, and not a sepulchre, as has generally been supposed. After passing along the valley, the cliffs on both sides being pierced with innumerable tombs, presenting a

* Mr. Legh estimates their height to be from two to five hundred feet; Irby and Mangles, from four to seven hundred; our countryman, Mr. Stephens, says from five hundred to one thousand.

great variety of appearance, on the left, the traveler arrives at a theatre, hewn out of the rock, with thirty-three rows of seats rising one above another in the side of the cliff, sufficient to contain nearly four thousand persons. Further down, on the rising ground, our travelers discovered a large tract of ruins covering an area of not less than two miles in circumference, affording room enough for forty or fifty thousand inhabitants. It is a little remarkable, considering the extent of these ruins, that they should have been passed over so slightly by former travelers; and it can only be accounted for by supposing that all their attention was occupied with the surpassing interest of the surrounding sepulchres. The rock, in which all these monuments are sculptured, is a soft sandstone, and it presents not a dull, reddish appearance, but an endless variety of bright and living hues, from the deepest crimson to the softest pink, and sometimes verging into orange and yellow. These varying shades impart to the surface of the rock a succession of brilliant and changing tints, which add greatly to the imposing effect of the sculptured monuments.

A question which occupied much of the attention of our travelers, while on the spot, was, "How far these excavations are to be regarded as sepulchres? and, whether any of them were probably intended as abodes for the living?" It has been generally considered that a great portion of the ancient city was composed of such dwellings, hewn "in the clefts of the rocks." But the probability is, that most of these excavations were intended for tombs. Afterward they may have been used for dwellings, just as the tombs of Thebes and those in the village of Siloam are employed at the present day. Some of the larger and more splendid of the edifices were doubtless intended for temples of the gods.

On returning to Jerusalem they found it shut up on account of the plague, and all intercourse with the country forbidden. After remaining encamped without the walls for a few days, Dr. Robinson took his final leave of the Holy City. He thus describes his emotions on this occasion:


"If my feelings were strongly excited on first entering the Holy City, they were now hardly less so on leaving it for the last time. As we had formerly approached repeating continually the salutation of the psalmist, Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces,' so now we could not but add, 'For our brethren and companions' sake we will now say, Peace be within thee!' Her palaces are indeed long since leveled to the ground, and the haughty muslim now for ages treads her glory in the dust. Yet as we waited and looked again from this high ground upon the city and the surrounding objects, I could not but exclaim, 'Beautiful for situation, the joy of the

whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. One long, last look, and then turning away, I bade those sacred hills farewell for ever."-Vol. iii, p. 75.

Journeying from Jerusalem to Mount Tabor, our travelers visited Mount Gerizim, where the ancient Samaritans worshiped. At the base of the mountain, in a deep valley, lies the city of Nabulus, ancient Shechem. Here still exists a small community of Samaritans, a feeble remnant of that ancient people, who, amid the changes of centuries and all the adverse influences of foreign domination, still remain on the soil of their fathers. Their community numbers only about two hundred and fifty souls. They keep Saturday as their sabbath with great strictness, allowing no labor or trading, not even lighting a fire or cooking, but resting from their employments the whole day. Four times a year they go up to Mount Gerizim to worship. These seasons are the feast of the passover, the day of pentecost, the feast of the tabernacles, and the great day of atonement. The priest of this little community showed our travelers the celebrated manuscript copy of their Pentateuch, which they say is more than three thousand four hundred and sixty years old; referring it to Abishua, the son of Phinehas. It is very much worn and tattered by use, and patched in some places with shreds of parchment, but the writing appears to be in the modern hand, and the vellum itself is not very ancient. The priest also had the first volume of the London Polyglot, and he acknowledged the correctness of the Samaritan Pentateuch contained in it. The possession of the Pentateuch by them appears to have been known at an early period by scholars: but J. Scaliger, in the sixteenth century, was the first to point out the importance of obtaining copies of it. The first brought to Europe were procured by Della Valle, the traveler. One was on parchment, having the Hebrew text in Samaritan character; the other, on paper, was the Samaritan version. Both of these are in the Paris Polyglot, also with some corrections in the London. An interesting correspondence was carried on for some time between the different Samaritan communities and such scholars as Scaliger, Ludolph, and De Sacy. These letters have been collected and published by De Sacy. From the earliest of them, it appears that two centuries ago they had small communities at Cairo, Gaza, and Damascus, as well as Nabulus. But it appears that now the one at Nabulus is the last remnant of this remarkable people who, for more than two thousand years, have remained upon this, the holy spot of their religion. But though they have so long survived the

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