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PALMYRA AND ZENOBIA. CHAPTER 5.

CHAPTER V.

ENTABLATURE OF GRAND ENTRANCE PORTICO, TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
ENTABLATURE OF GRAND ENTRANCE PORTICO, TEMPLE OF THE SUN.

THE next morning (May 28th, 1874) we sent our baggage animals and all impedimenta to Karyetein by the direct route, while we turned out of the way with a slender escort, to visit the wonderful hot baths on a distant mountain to the left.

We rode the first hour through high-walled gardens and flat fields to I1awarin, a city famed in local tradition for its seven splendid churches.

We were surprised by the extent of the ruins of this place, and we had not allowed ourselves time to explore it as thoroughly as its importance deserved. I saw three large buildings, and the foundation of a fourth, called churches by the people. The largest and most perfect of these was a rectangular building, thirty paces long by twenty-five broad, and thirty feet high. The internal arrangements of the building consisted of a central hall, and three rooms on each side opening into the hall. The stones in the walls were large, but they seemed to have been rifled from other structures.

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From the numerous foundations of houses, many of them of massive public buildings, there can be no doubt that I1awarin marks the site of au important city; but the fragmentary Greek inscriptions which I found in my hurried search gave no key to the name of the place.

From Hawarîn we rode across a flat plain four hours to Gunthur. All the district showed signs of ancient cultivation, and were the people protected from the Bedawîn and the Turks, the flats would once more wave with golden grain. Little patches were cultivated here and there, but not of sufficient importance to tempt the hereditary robbers. Water, the great desideratum for cultivation, was abundant, though all the fountains and channels were choked up. At the water we found straggling flocks of pin-tailed grouse ; and throughout the desert, wherever we came upon water, however small the quantity, we found grouse and snipe. We always approached little patches of desert marsh with expectation, and it required skill to bring down the brace of snipe which generally rose right and left.

At Gunthur we found, as usual, a few wretched huts on the site of what once had been an important town. The houses were cone-topped, and at a distance looked like cornstacks in a farmyard ; but the illusion was dispelled when we entered the square, which was full of dung, in which a dozen naked children and a score of mangy dogs were disporting.

The huts were built round a court, so as to form a [33] rampart against the Bedawin, but there were breaches which left the place unprotected, and about twelve days after we passed, the Giath and 'Amour Bedawin came through the place, and swept it clean of the results of the late harvest.

At one corner of the court was the foundation of a very solid temple, twenty paces by fourteen, with two or three courses of the huge stones still in their places. A larger, more ornate, and more modern structure lay in ruins in the field a few hundred yards to the north-east. The peasants, who were gathering in their grain, told us that the flats about the village were often covered with water (luring the winter, and that the place was much frequented by wild geese, bustards, and wild boars. Grouse swarmed about the water, and there were some spur-winged plover in a meadow close by.

From Gunthur we started for Solomon's Baths, which we saw on the mountain, under the guidance of a kindly old African, who had lived long in that neighbourhood, a slave under many masters, and who was full of the traditions of the baths, and of Lady Belkis, the wife of Solomon, for whom the baths were erected!

In five minutes we passed a fine spring, slightly tepid and sulphurous. In half an hour we reached the base of a low mountain, and after ascending the mountain diagonally for about half an hour, we came to considerable ruins on its eastern summit. The only inhabitants of the ruins that we saw were a fox, a hare, and a covey of partridges.

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The exact position of the place, which is called Aim Rebāh, is due north of Karyetein, a distance of three and a quarter hours, or about ten miles as the crow flies. Having made a general tour of the neighbourhood in quest of partridges, some of which I secured for dinner, our guide conducted us to the wonderful bath. He first pointed out to us, in the roof of a vault, an opening about a foot in diameter, the. edges of which were soot-stained, and through which issued a hot vapour.

Descending from the roof, which was on a level with the foundations about, we passed through a low entrance into an arched vault eight or ten feet square. The walls and roof of the vault were scribbled over with Greek by the Browns, Joneses, and Robinsons of two thousand years ago. The literature was of the same serious character as that seen in many of our railway and other waiting-rooms at home. From this outer vault there was an opening twenty inches high into another similar vault, and through the opening there came hot puffs of sulphurous vapour. I crept through this hole, but I was instantly driven back by the intense heat. My servant then rushed in boldly, but he rushed out quite as quick, almost suffocated, and covered with perspiration from head to foot. It was a ease of what the Arabs call head in ; tail out."

After this we explored more carefully the inner vault. In the centre of the floor there was an opening about he same size and exactly under that we saw in the roof. Steam came hissing from the hole as from the funnel [35] of a ship, and we could hear a hissing and gurgling sound under the vault, as from water boiling over into the fire out of a great caldron. We threw stones into the furnace, and heard them descending to a great depth, hut a piece of paper thrown in was instantly shot out by the current of the vapour.

Previous to our visit, Omer Bey, a Hungarian officer, had let down a brazen vessel into the orifice by a rope ; but the vessel was snatched from the rope by the Jān, left by King Solomon to keep the water boiling! Our faithful guide lost his good opinion of us when we sug- gested that perhaps the fire had burned it off. Indeed, he ever afterwards looked upon us with that suspicion which is the reward of all who are foolish enough to think differently from their neighbours.

West of the bath, in the ravine, there is a large reservoir, the roof of which is supported on five rows of arches resting on buttresses of solid masonry. All traces of water are gone, but the cement on the walls remains white and firm, and is scrawled over with thousands of hieroglyphics, which are mostly the wasm, or tribemarks, of the Bedaw&3238;n.

Judging from the foundations of the ruins, the houses appear to have been very small, and they were doubtless used as lodging-houses for invalids and others visiting the baths, for the only attraction to such a barren knoll was its heated vapour. Abu Rehab must have been once an important sanitarium, and the bath has still a very high reputation for its healing powers. It is considered [36] infallible in rheumatic complaints, and in the case of barrenness, and is much resorted to in the present day. Men are said to be carried to the bath confirmed invalids, and after spending a night in the vault, return home on their own feet.

In descending the mountain from the baths we started several very small whitish hares, and saw many holes of foxes and jackals. The ground was strewed with rock crystals, which glanced like diamonds in the sunlight. A low range of hills screened Karyetein from our view, but we had steered our course by a peak which we knew was in a line with the village. In the bright atmosphere the distance seemed as nothing, yet it was a most weary ride across a level plain, which was all seamed with footpaths, some of which had been trod by Abraham and his emigrants.

We passed several abandoned Bedawi encampments, but we saw no living thing in a ride of over three hours, except a few hares and bustards, and an occasional eagle hastening overhead to its prey. On reaching Karyetein, however, we learned that we must have passed under the very noses of the plundering Bedawîn, who were hovering about our path in the mountains.

My teacher, whom I had sent on with the baggage in the morning, had announced our approach in Karyetein, and a most cordial welcome was given us. The civil and military chiefs of the place turned out in their best to do us honour, and the people were profuse in their thanks for the school which we had come to establish among them.

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The supposition that Karyetein is the Hazar-enan of Scripture (Num. xxxiv. 9, 10) is probably correct, but the identification of the place with the Greek town Koradea is a mistake. Two Greek inscriptions (one on a long stone, now over the gateway of a Moslem house, and the other on the pedestal of a column in the sheikh's court) give the name of the place as Nazala.

The discovery of this name gave rise to a fresh examination of the Peutinger Itinerary, when it was found that the name reprinted " Nehala " was " Nazala " in the original. The name "Karyetein " is dual, and simply means "two towns," and one can see both the old and the new town. About a mile south-west of the present town, near the foot of a low mountain, there is a splendid fountain called " Ras el-'Ain." Around this fountain was built the old town, IIazarenan (" the enclosure of fountains "). Close by the fountain—or fountains, for there are a number of them—there is a large artificial mound, on which are the massive foundations of a temple. The building was twenty-one paces long and sixteen broad, and some of the stones of the foundation were eight feet in length. Oa one of the largest stones there is a well-cut trident. A short distance northcast of the mound there is the base of a square building about forty-eight paces each way. The lower story of this building was vaulted, and the stones remain in their places, as they were too heavy to be removed to the new town, which is chiefly built of mud. It is not improbable that the inhabitants of the Fountain Village moved to a distance [38] from the fountain to enjoy a quiet life, such fountains being the scene of constant strife.

At the fountain were flocks of grouse, and a few snipe, and I got a very small bittern, which, through the zeal of my companion, is now in the museum of the Protestant Syrian College, Beyrout. The ground was full of pottery, and, among other relics of antiquity, I picked up on the Tell two fine flint knives. We need not, however, rush into theories about the stone, bronze, and iron ages, for a famous sheikh of the Bedawin, to whom I showed my treasures, assured me that such knives were still used by his people.

Karyetein contains about three hundred houses, and one-fifth of the inhabitants are Christians, chiefly Syrian Jacobites. The schoolmaster, for whom all had been petitioning and importuning, had arrived, and only one man in the place (the Christian priest) opposed the opening of the school.

In all places where a missionary opens a school in Syria he opens at least two; sometimes indeed all the sects open schools in self-defence. The opposing priest under pressure of circumstances, and in a fine spirit of enterprise, opened a school himself; but as the work was not quite in his line, besides being hard, our teacher had all the pupils to himself in a few days, and Moslems and Christians learned to read the story of Christ's love and passion, sitting side by side. I hoped also to induce the Bedawin to send their children to this school in the centre of the desert, but several blood feuds had first to be settled before such a thing was possible.

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The people of Karyetein are a fine-looking race of men, —especially the princelings of the ruling family. They hunt and hawk, and are as good horsemen as the Bedawin, and better shots. They resemble the Bedawin, but have much more bone and sinew. Their independence has been developed thoroughly by resisting the encroachments of the Turks and the Bedawin ; but of late a Turkish garrison has been placed among them, and their acquiescence has been secured by giving them appointments of command and trust.

The civil and military chiefs are very great people in Karyetein, and we had to attend carefully to all the punctilios of receiving and returning visits. Long negotiations in the matter of guide and guards had to be conducted with as much diplomacy as might have sufficed for the cession of a duchy. It was at last arranged that we were to have an equal number of civil and military guards—that is, regular soldiers ; and irregular mounted police.

The guide was a difficult question to decide; for each of the authorities had one to recommend,—the only one" who knew the path to 'Ain el-Wu'ul, —and as it was understood that the protege was to share his fee with his patron, our dragoman was placed in a delicate situation.




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