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PALMYRA AND ZENOBIA. CHAPTER 10.

SOFFIT IN TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
SOFFIT IN TEMPLE OF THE SUN.

CHAPTER X.

I HAD spent eight hours among the tombs above ground, and one hour with the dead in the darkness. I was much in need of a bath, and one of the finest baths in the world was at hand.

We hurried to the fountain called Ephea, south of the entrance of the city, and plunged in. The water was be distressed by the disagreeable smell of sulphur. It was a part of our plan to explore as far as possible this sub- terranean river, and so, leaving a guard at the entrance, I swam in with a candle. The river turned in somewhat to the right, under Jebel el-Mantar. Sometimes the roof rose fifteen or twenty feet above the water, and sometimes it was so close to the water as scarcely to leave me room to pass. The breadth varied from seven to twelve feet, and in several places where I dived to the bottom I estimated the depth to be from eight to ten feet.

As I proceeded, the water became sensibly warmer and [95] the air more difficult to breathe, and the flame of the candle grew smaller and smaller, and finally went out altogether. I estimate that I had penetrated between four and live hundred feet, and the cave] n still continued broad and deep; but when the light went out, I was left in darkness that might be felt.

There is no resting-place after one leaves the entrance, as the water has scooped out and undermined the perpendicular sides, and the water is not buoyant; but as it is warm, one can stay in it a long time without receiving any harm. I floated out of the darkness, having received no harm except a few bumps, and having spent in the water about an hour and a quarter. I question, however, if it would be possible to penetrate into the cavern much further than I went, owing to the sulphurous atmosphere.

The aqueduct seems to be natural. The sides and roof are composed of a gravelly clay, which seems to be always falling in ; and I saw no traces of man, except at the entrance, where there is some cutting in the rock to let the water out. An altar which stood at the mouth of the cavern gave it the name Fount Ephea. The date of the dedication of the altar was the 20th of October, 162 A.D. The grotto is much used as a bath still, and we seldom visited it without startling from their bath the nymphs of the village; and I am told that the Bedawin are so fond of it that a number of them are drowned in it every year.

A considerable volume of water issues from the cavern and forms a little river. A slight steam rises from the [96] water, and. the stones are stained by the sulphur; but after passing over the sandy bed of the stream for a few hundred yards, the water loses much of its disagreeable taste. It is used chiefly for washing, and for irrigating the gardens; but it is also drunk, and considered wholesome by the natives.

The fountain of Epbca has been erroneously supposed to have been the principal source of the city's water supply. To the left of the entrance to Palmyra there are the ruins of an aqueduct of massive, well-dressed stones, which once brought water to the city proper. 'lids was constructed to contain a volume of water eight feet high by four feet broad. Near the same place there passed into the city an underground aqueduct, which was conducted down the middle of the grand colonnade. It is first tapped, not far from the triumphal arch, at a depth of eight or ten feet below the pavement, and it flows out of the city north of the Great Temple, and is used for all purposes, especially for irrigation.

This water is drawn from a fountain called Abu el-Fawaris, which lies about five miles due west of the Castle of Tadmor. The water is good, but perceptibly impregnated with sulphur; and as all the channels have been choked up for hundreds of years, people busy themselves in conjecturing whence the Palmyrans got their water supply. There is no doubt that the Abu el-Fawaris fountain was their chief source; but the waters of Epbca were also utilized, and the houses had cisterns for rainwater, as we discovered in several places. [97]

The Castle of Palmyra is perhaps the most conspicuous object in the neighbourhood, and well deserves a visit, not on its own account, but on account of the unparalleled view which it commands. We rode up the mountain to near the top, and when it became too steep for our horses, we left them with a guard and proceeded on foot. A deep ditch surrounds the castle, and partridges were sunning themselves about its edges.

We climbed up into the castle by the rough face of an almost perpendicular rock; but we saw the remains of a broken bridge across the ditch, which once gave easy access to the castle, and there are still marks of horses having been stabled within it.

The castle stands on the highest peak, on the highest summit, impregnable to any force in the desert; but the present structure is built of small stones quarried out of the ditch and rifled from the ruins, and is doubtless late effort of the Moslems.

The castle is still entire, and the rooms, which were arched and cemented, are all in a good state of preservation. From its battlements we had an uninterrupted view on all sides. The Dawara range1 of mountains, on which we stood, stretched away north-east to the Euphrates, and beyond as far as the Tigris : and near the eastern base of the mountains we. saw the village of Araks with about fifteen huts and a Turkish garrison.

1 On some maps the mountain range north of Tadmor is called Jebel Amur. As it approaches the Euphrates it is called Jebel Bisshari; beyond the Euphrates it is called Jebel Abdularis; and as it stretches toward Mossul it has the name Jebel Sinjar. Dawara was the name by which the range was known to my guides at Palmyra. [98]

CASTLE END OF THE GREAT COLONNADE.
CASTLE END OF THE GREAT COLONNADE.

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We could distinctly trace the old walls of Tadmor extending down the mountain, from outside the castle, in a south-eastern direction and curving round the city. Away beyond, east and south, was the flat, yellow desert, patched and seamed with glistening salt. Far to the south, past the shoulder of .Jebel el-Mantar, stood a solitary tower, called Kasr el-Hazun; and on the horizon beyond, there appeared a low range of mountains, known as Jebel el-'Aleib. To the west, over a wavy highland of limestone hills, we could distinctly discern through the blue mists the lofty outline of Lebanon and the snows of the Cedar mountain.

What a watch-tower from which an enemy might be descried while he was yet several days' journey from the place! Beneath us, the city, half surrounded by its gardens, lay calm as a city of the dead, and supremely lovely even iii desolation. As we stand on the battlements we see at a glance the appropriateness of its name. Tadmor in Syriac means "wonderful," and in Arabic. "ruin." The Syriac and Arabic name still clings to the wonderful ruin," while the Roman name Palmyra is absolutely unknown to the natives.

The name Tadmor has been supposed to mean in Hebrew "city of palm-trees," and it has been taken for granted that Palmyra is the Greek translation of the word; but the word Tadmor is not Hebrew, and the word Palmyra is not Greek. The meaning of the word [101] should be sought for in the language of the people who frequented those fountains before the time of Solomon, for though he built Tadmor in the wilderness, he did not change its name.

The great king of Israel, having extended his kingdom by conquest to the north and east, " built Tadmor in the wilderness, and the store cities of Hamath." He found the important station Tadmor, iii the desert, supplied with water, and forming the link between East and West, and he enlarged and fortified, and doubtless garrisoned it, the better to consolidate his empire and draw the wealth of the Indies into his little kingdom. Doubtless Tadmor was then, as now, an open and unsafe resting-place for the bearers of the commodities he so much desired; and he made it not only a strong outpost, but a secure haven.

As we have seen, the Bible1 and local tradition unite in declaring that "Solomon built Tadmor the wilderness"; but who built the Tadmor of Odainathus and Zenobia? Who polished and poised those columns now strewed on the plain before us? for not a vestige remains of the Tadmor of Solomon. As being the most remote, Tadmor was probably one of the first places wrested from the feeble successors of Solomon, and for [102] a thousand years it disappears front history, having become, in all probability, "a wonderful ruin" in the eyes of the savage hordes that encamped about its fountains. Palmyra, however, as the convenient half-way, house between the commercial cities of Phoenicia and of the Seleucidaen the Mediterranean, and the eastern realms about and beyond the Persian Gulf, rose into a wealthy and independent state. Secure in her surrounding desert, like sea-girt England, Palmyra, as the channel of East India merchandise, grew in wealth, but not in strength; and about half a century before the Christian era, she came on the stage of Roman history for the first time, when Mark Atony attempted to plunder her merchant princes.

1Once and only once (2 Chron. viii. 4) is Tadmor mentioned in the Bible. The Tadmor in 2 Kings ix. 13 is Tamar in the Hebrew text, and is said to be "in the land," and is now identified as a ruin at Kurnub in the land of Juda. Every peasant talks familiarly of King Solomon, and yet there is not a Bible in the place, nor would the inhabitants accept a copy.

For the next three hundred years, Tadmor continued to grow in wealth and power, and in the cultivation of all the arts of war and peace. Tadmor flourished, like Switzerland, a free republic, surrounded by mighty and despotic empires. Her architects and sculptors adorned her with edifices which excite the wonder of the world, and she became the congenial home of the greatest philosopher of his age, Longinus, the author of the "Treatise on the Sublime, "and the prime minister of Zenobia.

Odainathus, one of her senators, rose to the proud position of holding the balance of power between Rome and Parthia, and of avenging the Roman arms, and wearing the Roman purple; and his widow, Zenobia, victorious over the Roman legions, reigned, Queen of the East, from the Nile to the Euphrates. [103]

From the time of Mark Antony to the time of Aurelian the city had so grown in strength that the latter was unable to take it with his victorious armies, though only defended by the remnants of Zenobia's dispirited troops; and Tadmor did not surrender till Zenobia, who had escaped to raise fresh succour, was brought back a prisoner from the banks of the Euphrates.

The golden age of Tadmor's prosperity seems to have been from her first contact with the power of Rome, until she was finally crushed by that power; and her splendid edifices were the result of that wave of civilization which was put in motion by the Macedonian conqueror, and continued by the Romans. Like most of the splendid ruins of Syria, those of Palmyra date from the early centuries of our era. From the early part of the second century the relations between Rome and Palmyra became most intimate. Palmyra ministered to Roman luxury, and Rome became pledged for the safety and stability of the merchant city.

In all ages the wealth of India has flowed in a direct line to the centre of the world's power. The centre of the world's power had become fixed on the Seven Hills, and Pliny tells us that the city of Rome alone took annually one million sestertii of Indian merchandise. It is interesting to trace the routes across the desert along which, as by a magnet. Rome drew the riches of the East. One line passed through Gaza and Petra to Forath. A second, starting from Akka on the Mediterranean, ran across Galilee, north of Nazareth, crossed [104] the Jordan below the lake of Gennesaret, and struck direct for the head of the Persian Gulf, past Bosra and Sulkhad. The Roman road is still in many places uninjured, awaiting the European engineers to lay down the rails on the shortest, safest, and cheapest overland route to India.

The northern routes from Antioch through Aleppo and Karrhae, or more northern still through Carchemish, Edessa, and Nisbis, were closed to commerce by centuries of turbulence. It was at Palmyra that the East and West joined hands in the mutual benefits of commerce. The Tadmorenes, like the English in our day, were the chief carriers and retailers of Indian merchandise, and Appian, the Roman historian, speaks of them with the same contempt as the first Napoleon spoke of the "nation of shopkeepers." "They are merchants," said he, disdainfully, "who seek among the Persians the products of India and Arabia, and carry them to the Romans."

The Tadmorenes took a different view of the dignity of commerce, and many of the statues that sentinelled the long colonnades were placed there in honour of the successful leaders of caravans. Thus J. A. Zebeida was adjudged a statue in April 147 A.D., by the merchants who accompanied him with the caravan from Volgesia. Markos had a statue for organizing the caravan of which Zabdeathus was the conductor. Thaimarson was honoured with a place in the grand colonnade, on account of his having led a caravan from Karak for [105] the liquidation of an ancient debt of three hundred dinars. And a statue was erected in the grand colonnade, in 257 a.d., by the senate and people in honour of Salmalath, for having conducted a caravan at his own expense. In several instances, also, we find tribes erecting statues to those whom they considered had merited well of them so that the Bedawin seem to have thrown in their lot with the merchants.

In those days, the Palmyrans held the monopoly of the overland route to India; and so long as they maintained a strict neutrality between Rome and Persia, they grew in wealth and in general luxury; and we learn from many of the inscriptions that the citizens lavished their wealth in beautifying their city. The inscriptions give us the best answer to the question, which has puzzled so many, "Who built the Tadmor of Zenobia?"

It has been generally supposed that Hadrian adorned Palmyra, but from the inscriptions we learn that the beautifying of the place was rather the work of the people and senate of the luxurious little republic.

The rule seems to have been that when wealthy citizens erected temples and colonnades in honour of the gods, and performed other public-spirited acts, their fellow-citizens honoured them with statues. Thus, from an inscription, we learn that one man erected six columns, with their architraves, and painted them, in honour of Shems and Alath (the Sun and a female deity worshipped by the Arabs), and his fellow-citizens erected [106] a statue to him in March 129 A.D. Another citizen erected seven columns, with all their ornaments and brazen balustrades, and he was "statued" in March 179 A.D. And from the inscription, to which we have already referred, on the portico of the "Temple of the King's Mother," we learn that "the temple, with all its ornaments, was built by one Mala, called Agrippa, at his own expense." A statue was erected to Mala for his services during the visit of the "god Hadrian"; but he seems to have been a general benefactor, for it is recorded in the same inscription that "he gave oil to the inhabitants, the soldiers, and to strangers."

The small temples and the colonnades appear, from the inscriptions, to have been the gifts of private individuals; but such a work as the great Temple of the Sun must have proceeded from the senate and the republic. It is not unlikely that private donations may also have been used, and we find an inscription recording the dedication of a statue by the senate and people to Ogga, who honoured himself by giving to the senate the sum of ten thousand drachmas."1

It would thus seem that the Tadmorenes could honour the gods, adorn the city, and have their vanity gratified by a statue, for an outlay of from 400 to 500. By the side of this statue stood another to Ogga, and the inscription significantly declared that "it was erected by the senate and people for love."

1The Attic drachma was worth 934., and the Aginetan, 1s. 1d. [107]

The people of Tadmor, as the inscriptions declare, honoured and rewarded citizens who rendered distinguished service to the community, and in the bestowal of their favours they marked with special distinction their townsman Odainathus and his wife Zenobia.

PALMYRENE FIGURE.
PALMYRENE FIGURE.

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