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PALMYRA AND ZENOBIA. CHAPTER 7.

CHAPTER VII.

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BASSO RELIEVO ON PILASTER, TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
BASSO RELIEVO ON PILASTER, TEMPLE OF THE SUN.

WE enjoyed a quiet day at A'in el-Wu'ul, much to our own satisfaction and that of our animals; and on the 1st of June, 1874, at four o'clock in the morning, we started on the last stage of our journey to Palmyra. The morning air was fresh and balmy, the peaks were tipped with amethyst, and purple shadows shot with gold lay heavy about the mountains, and as we streamed down front the plateau, we felt buoyant as the wavy atmosphere that danced and floated around us.

Five hares were started in the descent, and each be came the subject of a fresh chase and general fusillade, and on the level plain one hare was actually run down and caught by a soldier on a one-eyed horse. That man was a mighty hunter, and his one-eyed horse was worthy of his rider. On our return through Karyetein, the sheikh's son presented me with a Persian greyhound. In the morning, a fox was seen creeping up the hill to the mountain, and instantly all our cavaliers started in pur suit with a desert veil.

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The fox took in the situation and did his best, and he had nearly a mile of start. The hunters, from being an irregular crowd, soon found their places in the tail of the dust-comet that streamed up the hill. The head of the comet was the one-eyed horse, and there thundered in his track horses twice his size and ten times his value. In twenty minutes the greyhound had reached the fox, but did not know what to do with him. The question was soon settled by the rider of the cyclopean horse, who rushed in, seized reynard, and brought him back alive and in triumph, at his saddle-how.

At five o'clock the Castle of Palmyra rose into view, and we felt delightfully independent of Gipsy, the guide. We had a weary ride before us, in which distance was felt, not seen. The way was monotony itself, for we had got almost back into the ordinary route of the tourist. In some places the ground was wavy, and then our column dipped and emerged like a boat among bil lows. At other places it was dead flat, and then we marched on, and on, and on for ever, leaving in our track a trail of dust. The mountain range on our right rose again from the break at the fountain, and stretched on in an unbroken ridge to opposite Palmyra, when it suddenly turned toward the city and shut in the plain.

Across the plain to the left, the edge of a highland, or step, like a mountain ridge, shut in the plain on the north ; and this ridge also ran straight to Palmyra, and then turned off at right angles towards the Euphrates. Sometimes the monotony of our march was broken by a [56] spurt after a hare, or a shot at a sand-grouse, and in crossing a seil, or the dry bed of a mountain torrent, I got two large grey birds, with big yellow eyes, called by the Bedawin darraji, perhaps a species of rock curlew.

We passed hundreds of places where Arabs had en camped, marked by stones left in circles, and by bones and ashes and graves. At one of these encampments 1 found beads of old Damascus manufacture, and a flint knife that had been recently used. The plain was a tawny brown, and the abundant grass and herbage of spring had been reduced to powder. A few spots were only found the el-kali plant growing in greater abun- green in the distance, but when we came up to them. we dance and perfection than elsewhere.

The plain, which runs between mountains, like the myra, varies in breadth from four to ten miles, and level bed of a narrow sea, from near Karyetein to Pal consists of good soil, which might be cultivated.

On my first return trip from Palmyra, I found it carpeted with grass and flowers to the fetlocks of the horses. One nowhere meets the desert sands of tradi tion till almost at the entrance to Palmyra.

About two hours from Palmyra, we were aroused out of a slumberous state by one of our soldiers firing off his rifle, and rushing about in an excited manner. We galloped up to him, and found that he had wounded a large lizard, thirty-nine inches long. It was horribly ugly as it writhed on the ground. It had a stuffed look, like [57]

TRIUMPHAL ARCH, WITH CASTLE IN THE DISTANCE.
TRIUMPHAL ARCH, WITH CASTLE IN THE DISTANCE.

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[59] a Turkish officer, tightly belted, and bulging out on each side of the ligatures. The skin of this extraordinary monster is now in the museum of the Syrian Protestant College, Beyrout.

PALMYRA RUINS.
PALMYRA RUINS.

As we approached closer to Palmyra, the ruins on the hilltops came safely out of the mirage, and assumed their permanent forms. Every hour new structures rose into view, and through the pass, to which we were hurrying, we could see the tops of the colonnades within. Perhaps there is no view of Palmyra which gives so much excite ment as this. After the bare monotonous desert, we [60] come gradually on a scene of enchantment, and though we have come expressly to see the scene, it breaks upon us as a surprise; not all at once, but increasing at every step castle, and tower and temple, and serried lines of Corinthian capitals, seen in part, and in such a way as .to suggest more, lead up with the most dramatic effect to the most splendid dénouement. The thrill of expectancy and delight is a rich reward for all our fatigue.

In the middle of the pass, with a path on either side, there is a rocky eminence, which was built over with tomb towers. Some of the towers are almost entire, and of others there only remain the foundations. On the right rises Jebel el-Mantar (" the Mountain of the lookout,") with the old wall running up its narrow ridge to the top, and its base sentinelled about with huge square towers. This mountain terminates suddenly in the plain. and the wall runs down its south-eastern side ; and after passing through Abu Sahil, the vaulted cemetery, it draws a wide circuit round the southern side of the city.

On the left from the edge of the pass rises a chain of mountains, which screens Tadmor from the west, and runs away in the Dawara range towards the Euphrates. The wall took the course of the highest summits of this range, and after enclosing the castle, turned sharp in a southeasterly direction, and curved round the city till it met the wall coming up from the south-west. This wall, which can be easily traced, is no doubt that of the city in its palmiest (lays, and should always be kept in mind when estimating the greatness of the Palmyra of Zenobia.

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On the north-east side the outer wall is about nine hundred yards beyond the modern Roman wall. Travellers generally express their disappointment at the smallness of Palmyra; but they form their estimate of its magni- tude by the small oblong space enclosed within the Justinian wall, less than three miles long. While the city had no special claim to celebrity on account of its size, in that respect even it was not insignificant, as the old walls which we have pointed out were from tell to thirteen miles in circumference, and the enclosed space was closely packed with human habitations, many of them of the most splendid description.

THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN.

As we swept through the pass, Tadmor lay beneath us; and its ruins, which seemed graceful and fantastic as frostwork on glass, stretched out for more than a mile before us, and ended in the massive Temple of the Sun.

On the left, the yellow mountains towered over it ; and [62] on the right, green gardens of palm and olive surged around it. On the outer side, these gardens are girt by the desert, which stretches away to the horizon, smooth as the sea, and the yellow sands, which shimmer golden in the sunlight, are flecked by the silver sheen of exten- sive salt lakes.

FRAGMENT OF A TEMPLE.
FRAGMENT OF A TEMPLE.




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