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PALMYRA AND ZENOBIA. CHAPTER 9.

CHAPTER IX.

CEILING OF TOMB TOWER.
CEILING OF TOMB TOWER.

LET us pass on to the examination of the famous tombs, the most interesting objects in Palmyra, lest we be supposed to have also caught the column mania.

On my first visit to Palmyra, I arrived equipped for a thorough exploration of the tombs. Sir Richard Burton, who had visited the ruins before me, urged me to take ladders and ropes and grappling-irons, for the ascent of the towers, which he had been unable to examine for lack of such appliances. In accordance with this advice, I made ample preparations. A trusty carpenter was employed to make three thirty-foot ladders; choice poplar trees were carefully split up and fitted with oak rounds from Basilan. Powerful hemp ropes were specially manufactured, and mighty grappling-irons were prepared. I sometimes thought if I could get up the ruin so as to lit on the grappling-irons, I might be able to dispense with them altogether; but then, what is the use of following [74]

THE FATHER OF LADDERS.
THE FATHER OF LADDERS.

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advice by halves? So I did as I was advised, that nothing might be wanting to enable me to reach those lofty resting-places of the dead, which all my predecessors had sighed in vain to ransack.

I had once had some skill in climbing to rooks' nests, but I was not then quite thirteen stone weight. I determined, however, that in this case the right hand should not forget its cunning, and for weeks before our departure for Palmyra I kept running up eighty-foot ladders like a hodman, and climbing the slack rope like a middy. A large grey mule was provided to carry the scalingapparatus to Palmyra.

That mule was a wag. He would rush into the centre of a crowd, with the ladders on his back, stop suddenly, and, with the most comical expression on his countenance, wheel right round, and make a clean sweep of the party. And sometimes he would take a fancy to a cavalier. and go tilting after him, down the plain at full speed, evidently with intent to ram him down.

Remonstrance was unavailing, for a thirty-foot ladder reaches further than a whip; and with his load of ladders he would go point blank at the most wrathful horseman.

A Turkish soldier, who had got a punch in the back, rushed up valiantly to chastise "the father of ladders," as the mule was called; but before he reached the object of his wrath a sweep of the ladders unhorsed him, to the great amusement of all the spectators.

I advise future travellers who go by the old monotonous road, to take a mule laden with ladders, for ours [77] gave us more than he cost in amusement; and the cry, "There is the father of ladders," was the most potent spell to drive away sleep, and save us from breaking our necks.

I shall never forget the consternation with which I first saw the tomb-towers. There they towered up to heaven, more than one hundred feet high, most of them horribly cracked and toppling over; even the stones seemed rotten. And was 1 to throw a grappling-hook over those lofty pinnacles, and commence slack-rope practice up those "bowing walls," which were only waiting for an excuse to fall ?

Around the base of the mountains, on all sides, these huge towers of death lifted their heads aloft, grim and inaccessible. I was iii a dreadful dilemma. If, on the one hand, I attempted to scale the towers, I was certain to break my neck; and if I failed, I was certain to become an object of ridicule to my party, who placed to my credit all the eccentricities and misdemeanours of the " father of ladders," and who had already some misgivings about my sanity.

What was to be done? I thought of pointing out the awkward questions that might be raised by my insurance company in case of an accident on the slack rope, or of explaining the irreparable loss my family and church would sustain should anything untoward happen; but I knew that I could not get the barbarians to comprehend what was meant by a company to insure people against dying, and pay them when they were dead, and I believed [78] that they would look very lightly on what I considered a loss!

I kept my secret, and for three days explored everything that could be explored iii Palmyra interviewed the inhabitants from a missionary point of view, measured columns, stepped distances, explored cellars, bought antiques, copied inscriptions, and wrote copious notes, but never once went near the towers, all the time looking for some Deus ex machiná to extricate me from my difficulty some blood-thirsty razzia by the Bedawin, or some other dreadful thing, which might render the exploration of the towers impossible. Every time my eye caught the ladders, or the towers, my heart sank within me.

When are you going to do the towers?" said one of our party, sarcastically. The question could be put off no longer. Notice was given that forty men, with pickaxes, spades, and baskets, would be employed on the following morning, at six piasters for the day each. The following morning, before the sun had tipped the towers with gold. one hundred men were surging about our tent, drawn by the prospect of earning a shilling each. I began to pick out the strongest looking, and those who had the best tools, and to set them apart from the crowd; but suddenly the whole crowd would move across to join the chosen few. the crowd hit upon a solution. Give us," said they, three or four piasters apiece, and take its all." Eighty After an hour spent in vainly trying to make a selection, were easier taken than forty, and so we lessened the fee, and doubled the number of workmen. [79]

It was the saddest sight I saw at Tadmor, the number of idle, able, hungry men, wanting employment, and willing to work, and the fields lying uncultivated. But did any enterprising man, with capital, attempt to utilize the resources of the place, the Turks would encourage him by taxing every tree he planted, and by holding him responsible for all arrears incurred before he was born while the place was unoccupied.

One old man, whom we were going to reject, held out his withered arms, and jumping off the ground, with a force that might have shaken out his few remaining teeth, shouted, Let me go; let me earn three piasters; I can work as well as any of them."

The plucky old man got his three piasters, and was one of the most useful of the party.

We started for the invasion of the tombs, a motley but formidable band. Six men were told off to the ladders, two to the ropes, and the remainder, in companies of eight, were placed under the charge of our military guards. We were a noisy multitude, as we swarmed clown through the ruins to disturb the bones of the haughty Palmyrans; and it was my last hope, that should the towers prove unscalable we might somehow take them by screaming, as the French took the Bastille.

We first proceeded to Abu Sahil, the most ancient cemetery, south of the entrance to Tadmor. Here were groups of towers, and the plain all round was full of mounds, which were supposed to mark the position of large excavated cave-tombs. According to local tradi [80] tion, a camel passing over one of these had once suddenly disappeared, having fallen through the roof into the tomb.

TOMB TOWER.
TOMB TOWER.

Immense treasures, especially in works of art, were alleged to have been found in that tomb. [81]

Our ten companies of eight were told off, under their military leaders, to drive shafts into the most promising mounds, and prizes were offered on a graduated scale to the first, second, third, etc., companies who should strike fresh tombs. The digging detachments commenced with a will, and we left them under the generalship of one European, supported by eight Turkish soldiers, and started for the towers. We began quietly with the smallest towers, and proceeded steadily to the largest. and in less than three hours of hard work, we had thoroughly explored them all. I stood on the top of every tower, and we had only twice recourse to the ladders; and even then I think we might have dispensed with then). The ropes were used for measuring, and the grappling-irons were not used at all.

I can now assure all those who sighed to explore the upper stories of the tomb-towers, and whose imaginations revelled in their undisturbed treasure, that the highest recesses had been ransacked before I scaled them, and that nothing remained but a few mutilated mummies and a great number of bones and skulls.

We brought away a number of skulls. choosing those that seemed most unlike each other, and one mummy very carefully wrapped up in many folds of cloth, of a texture and colour much resembling what is used in Palmyra at the present day. The bodies had all been embalmed, and all the skulls were full of olive stones broken.

We saw many pieces of broken statuary. but it was as a [82] rule so stiff and conventional that we could not much blame the barbarian iconoclasts. The pieces were generally of a woman reclining on a couch, raised on her elbow, attended by a fawn, and receiving a cup from the hand of a slave who stood at the foot of the couch. So common was this type, with slight variations, that one would suppose the Tadmor belles never did anything but recline on couches, with a stereotyped simper on their faces, and receive sherbet from deferential slaves.

The towers were all of the same type, some of them being large and others small; some of them well finished, and others of undressed stones. I give two pictures of the most perfect of these monuments, and they may be used to correct Wood and Dawkins' plan of the same monuments, which are drawn somewhat out of proportion.

Great liberties have been taken by tourists with this monument. It is said to have been erected by Gichos, though the man had his name written up Iamlichos, twice, both in Greek and Palmyrene as plain as a signboard, so that he that runneth might read. The date(1), also, (1) Wood and Dawkins gave the date of this monument as 314 of the Seleucidae era, corresponding to the second year of the Christian era; and, as far as I am aware, all who have written on Palmyra, except Waddington. have followed their reading. The inscription is written above the door, as well as on the table beneath the niche on the facade. Wood and Dawkins declare that inasmuch as the shape of the letters contradicted "a rule established by antiquaries," they "were careful in examining the date, which is very legible in both inscriptions." I have twice examined the date, and I have it in photograph, and it corresponds to 82 of the Christian era, not 2, as Wood and Dawkins assert. [83] is given eighty years too early, and theories in archaeology, and on the ante-Roman refinement of the Palmyrans, have been founded on the mistake. The mausoleum is a marvel inside of beautiful carving and rich colours; but as it has often been described, we shall pass to another, and taller one, which has attracted less the attention of tourists, and which I explored very thoroughly.

Kasr eth-Thunî yeh is thirty-three and a half feet square at the base, and twenty-five feet eight inches square above the basement. Its height is one hundred and eleven feet, and it comprises six stories, reached by stone stairs now much broken down. It has also underground an immense vault, full of bones of wild animals and men, with pieces of mummy cloths, etc. Opposite the door, down the centre of the building, there is a long hall with a very beautiful panelled stone ceiling. In each side of the hall are four recesses in the wall, about the length and breadth of a large coffin. Shelves were placed in these recesses, leaving room for dead bodies to be run in between them. The upper stories were like the first, except that they were not so ornate, and contained more recesses in the sides, some of them as many as eight. My companion, Mr. Cotesworth, found by actual counting that there were places for four hundred and eighty bodies in this one tower. Any one with a steady head, who can jump across a chasm six or seven feet wide and one hundred feet deep, need not fear to reach the top of this monument, and he will be well rewarded for his pains. [84]

TOMB TOWER.
TOMB TOWER.

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From the top of the tower he will get his best idea of the ruins and dimensions of Palmyra. In moister regions ivy and moss soon wrap ruins about so closely that they cannot be seen; but here every polished shaft lies where it fell, as clean as it left the hands of the workman, so that he will have a bird's-eye view of all the ruins, in their desolate grandeur; and even where the sand has covered the streets and foundations of houses, he will be able to trace the exact position which they occupied. Ile will be able, also, to trace the outer wall of Zenobia's Tadmor, and to conjecture the points at which the final struggle with Rome took place.

Having thoroughly done the towers, we returned to the diggers, and found that they had toiled with about the same success as ourselves. In nearly every place the barbarians and wild beasts had preceded us. The mummies had been torn from their cerements, and their bones scattered through the vaults. Skulls, mutilated statuary, consisting chiefly of reclining females with pine cones in their hands, coins, and clay tablets, with Palmyrene inscriptions, were our rewards.

One little terra-cotta scarab which I picked up with other tessarae in a tomb-vault proved to be of more than ordinary interest. It resembled the Palmyra tablets in colour and form, and I was not at once aware of the importance of my find, but in looking over my collection in the tent, I saw that one of the little objects was Egyptian, and at a later period I became convinced that 1 had actually discovered a scarab of the [87] renowned Tirhakah. Tirhakah is twice mentioned in the Bible.1

PALMYRENE FIGURE.
PALMYRENE FIGURE.

Hezekiah and his people were hard pressed by Sennacherib, but the boastful As-syrian heard that Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia, had come to fight against him, and he returned to Nineveh, where he was slain by his own sons. These references in the Bible are of the most casual character, and I could hardly bring myself to believe that I had actually found at Palmyra a record of the mysterious Egyptian monarch who had flourished more than twenty-five hundred years before.

SEAL OF TIRHAKA.
SEAL OF TIRHAKA.

Being fully alive to the improbability of any relic of the great Tirhakah being found in a Palmyra tomb, and knowing how ready some at home would be to I blundered, I did not proclaim my find publicly—; but I sent the scarab to the British Museum by my friend, the Rev. Greville Chester, and the late Dr. Birch read the inscription as follows:—

. . . of Amen, Tirhakah, lie has given thee eternal life."

12 Kings xix. 9, and Isaiah xxxvii. 9.
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On May 4th, 1880, Dr. Birch read a paper on hakah before the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and referring to the scarab, said: As the little object has mach the same appearance as the other (Palmyra) objects, it is difficult to conceive how it came there, or if it is an indication that the conquests of Tirhakah extended as far as Palmyra."1

Tirhakah, who was a very powerful monarch, seems to have begun his reign about 688 B.C.

There is a very touching reference to his prosperity in an Egyptian inscription. At a very early age he left Ethiopia and proceeded northward, and he seems to have made his way to the throne while still a youth. His followed him north, and when she overtook him. she mother, who had remained behind in Ethiopia for a time, extended his conquests to distant lands. Strabo says he penetrated as far as the Pillars of Hercules. A statue at Boulak mentions among his conquests. the Bedawin, found him King of Upper and Lower Egypt. He the Hittites, Aradus, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, and Mesopotamia. The Temple of Thebes and the Vane of Mount Barkal and other Egyptian monuments attest the splendour of Tirhakah's reign.

One slab, discovered by us in an underground tomb, contained two figures, two feet three inches high, both holding up one bunch of grapes between them. It had also Palmyrene inscriptions2 between the heads of the

1 Transactions, Vol. VII. p. 208.
2 The inscription between the heads of the figures reads thus [89] statues and beneath their feet, and the drapery, like that of all the other figures, was of many folds and creases. On the lower corner of a somewhat similar slab I saw in very minute Greek the name of the establishment that supplied the ornament.

BAALATGA AND 'ALLIASHA.
BAALATGA AND 'ALLIASHA.

Crossing the Abu Sahil Cemetery, I noticed a hole made by a fox or a jackal, at the base of one of the mounds. I threw a stone into the hole, and heard it rolling down a considerable distance. The spirit of adventure was roused, and squeezing myself

"Images of Baalatga and 'Alliasha, children of Buna, son of Jashubi." The inscription below the figures reverses and amplifies the other : " In the month of Kanun [November], year 400 [94 a.d.]. These two likenesses are those of 'Alliasha and Baalatga, children of Buna, son of Jashubi, son of Belsazar, son of Hiram  Baba]." The last word corresponds to our Vale, or Requiescat in pace. The tablet, which was too heavy for us to carry, was brought to Damascus by the Russian consul, to whom I am indebted for the photograph from which the engraving is taken. The engraved slab is now in St. Petersburg.
[90] through the hole with some difficulty, and sliding down gently, I suddenly dropped seven or eight feet, into a pitch (lark dungeon. I thought I had fallen a much greater distance; indeed, in the unknown darkness, I thought, in my descent, I was never going to reach the bottom. Having recovered from the shock of the fall, I lighted a piece of magnesian wire, and found myself amply rewarded for my abrupt tumble, by the marvellous scene that met my view.

By the bright light I saw that I was in a low-browed vault, surrounded by the mouldering remains of one hundred and fifteen Palmyrans. The vault was sixty feet long by twenty-seven wide, and seven or eight feet high. There were nine recesses for bodies on either side, and five at the lower end. The recesses, in length and general dimensions, resembled the loculi in the tomb-towers which we had already explored; but they were cemented down the sides, and each had five shelves of hard-baked pottery fitted and cemented into them.

On these shelves the embalmed corpses of the Palmyrans were laid, the bodies having been rammed in head foremost, with their feet out. As I looked around this silent and awful resting-place of the dead, I could not help thinking that Isaiah may have had in view such a charnel-house when he described the commotion that would be caused by the arrival of the Chaldean monarch: "Hell [sheol] from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee" (Isa. xiv. 9).

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My magnesian wire soon burned to the end, but before it was exhausted I had time to make the accompanying ground plan of the vault, on a piece of cigarette paper which I happened to have in my pocket.

MORTUARY VAULT.
MORTUARY VAULT.

When the bright light went out, the darkness became palpable. I struck my few remaining matches, one after another, but they only served to disclose the denseness of the gloom. I was in a veritable trap of death. The hole through which 1 had descended was several feet beyond my reach. I had been a considerable time in the pit, but the minutes seemed hours, and it was clear that none of my party knew anything of my position. In the still darkness, I heard the beating of my own heart distinctly.

After a few minutes of bewilderment, it became apparent that I must depend on my own efforts to effect my [92] escape from the awful charnel-house. I began at once to draw the pottery shelves from under the skeletons, to form a step by which to reach the hole at the top. It was not pleasant, in the darkness, to grope among the bony skeletons, sometimes putting my hands on a skull, and sometimes on the fleshless toes of a foot.

I tried to set up the longest tiles on their ends, laying others across, and propping up the structure with shinbones and other fragments of skeletons: but the erection came down when I tried to mount it, and I found that it would be necessary to build up a solid mass of the tile shelves. The tiles were about an inch thick, and I knew that there were one hundred and fifteen, but some of them were so well cemented into their places that I could neither draw them out nor break them.

It soon became a struggle for life, and in the darkness I lost a good deal of time in finding the exact spot on which to place the tiles when I had succeeded in drawing them from under the fleshless skeletons.

In the midst of my operations, I heard footsteps overhead. I made all the noise I could, singing the Druze war-song, which carries a great burden of sound. I heard voices, and believed I was heard; but the sound of voices and of the footfalls died away.

I resumed my labours with a feeling of consternation. I do not think I was much troubled with superstitious feelings, but 1 worked so hard that the perspiration dropped from my face.

Suddenly, to my great joy, many voices and more [93] numerous footsteps returned. Some of the Palmyrans who had heard me underground declared with alarm that the dead were being disturbed, and that they were shouting for the "Sheikh Ibn el-Hamdan "; and some of my people, who had missed me, hearing the report, and recognizing a bit of my desert Druze song, came hurrying off to find me.

A rope with a grappling-iron was let down the hole. I put my foot on the hook, using it as a stirrup, and holding by the rope, I was, after a little trouble, drawn out once more into the light of day. I had been absent scarcely an hour, though the time of my detention in the darkness seemed an age.

PALMYRENE FIGURE.
PALMYRENE FIGURE.

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