Syria,6' one of the countries that have been improved b* the most early cultivation, is not unworthy of the preference.** The heat of the climate is tempered by the vicinity of the sea and mountains, by the plenty of wood and water; and the produce of a fertile soil affords the subsistence, and encourages the propagation, of men and animals. From the age of David to that of Heraclius, the country was overspread with ancient and flourishing cities : the inhabitants were numerous and wealthy; U i, after the slow ravage of despotism and superstition, after the recent calamities of the Persian war, Syria could still attract and reward the rapacious tribes of the desert. A plain, of ten days' journey, from Damascus to Aleppo and Antioch, is watered, on the western side, by the winding course of the

Orontes. The hills of Libanus and Anti-Libanus aro planted

from north to south, between the Orontes and the Mediterranean; and the epithet of hollow (Ccelesyria) was applied to a long and fruitful valley, which is confined in the same direction, by the two ridges of snowy mountains." Among the cities, which are enumerated by Greek and Oriental names in the geography and conquest of Syria, we may distinguish Emesa or Hems, Heliopolis or Baalbec, the former as the metropolis of the plain, the latter as the capital of the valley. Under the last of the Caesars, they were strong and populous; the turrets glittered from afar: an ample space was covered

M In the Geography of Abulfeda, the description of Syria, his na tive country, is the most interesting and authentic portion. It was

Imblished in Arabic and Latin, Lipsiae, 1766, in quarto, with the earned notes of Kochler and Reiske, and some extracts of geography and natural history from Ibn 01 Wardii. Among the modern travels. Foeock's Description of the East (of Syria and Mesopotamia, vol. ii. p. 88—209) is a work of superior learning and dignity; but the author too often confounds what he had seen and what lie had read.

68 The praises of Dionysius are just and lively. Kui ?>iv /iiv (Syria) iroAXoi r» Km o\0ini ai>ipes exnvaii,> (m Periegesi, v. 902, in torn. iv. Qeograph. Minor. Hudson.) In another place he styles the country »oXii7rroX(>' aiav, (v. 898.) He proceeds to say,

Tldaa &i Tui Xttrapfi Tc Km tv0oro( tTrXero xwpi>

MijAd re (pepfiificvai Km devipetri Kapxdv 'itjcu/. v. 921, 229.

This poetical geographer lived in the age of Augustus, and his d» icription of the world is illustrated by the Greek commentary o/ Eustathius, who paid the same compliment to Homer and Dionyeiua (Fabric. Bibliot. Graec. 1. iv. c. 2, torn. iii. p. 21, <fec.)

89 The topography of the Libanus and Anti-Libanus is excellent!} described hy the learning and sense of Reland, (Palestin. torn L s 111--826)

with public and private buildings; and the citizens were illustrious by their spirit, or at least by their pride; by their riches, or at least by their luxury. In the days of Paganism, both Einesa and Heliopclis were addicted to the worship of Baal, or the sun; but the decline of their superstition and splendor has been marked by a singular variety of fortune. Not a vestige remains of the temple of Emesa, which was equalled in poetic style to the summits of Mount Libanus,70 while tli6 rains of Baalbec, invisible to the writers of antiquity, excite the curiosity and wonder of the European traveller. The measure of the temple is two hundred feet in length, and one hundred in breadth: the front is adorned with a double portico of eight columns; fourteen may be counted on either side; and each column, forty-five feet in height, is composed of three massy blocks of stone or marble. The proportions and ornaments of the Corinthian order express the architecture of the Greeks: but as Baalbec has never been the seat of a monarch, we are at a loss to conceive how the expense of these magnificent structures could be supplied by private or municipal liberality." From the conquest of Damascus the Sar

** Eniesae fastigia celsa renident.

Nam diffusa solo latus explicat; ac subit auras

Turribus in coelum nitentibus: incola Claris

Cor studiis acuit . . .

Denique flammicomo devoti pectora 9oli

Vitam agitant. Libanus frondosa cacumina turget.

Et tamen his certant celsi fastigia templi.

These verses of the Latin version of Rufus Avienus are wanting in the Greek original of Dionysius; and since they are likewise unno ticed by Eustathius, I must, with Fabricius, (Bibliot. Latin, torn. iii. p 153, edit. Ernesti,) and against Saltnasius, (ad Vopiscum, p. 366, 367 in Hist. August.,) ascribe them to the fancy, rather than the MSS., of Avienus.

11 I am much better satisfied with Maundrell's slight octavo, (Jour ney, p. 134—139), than with the pompous folio of Dr. Pocock, (De scription of the East, vol. ii. p. 106—113 ;) but every preceding account is eclipsed by the magnificent description and drawings of MM. Daw kins and Wood, who have transported into England the ruins of Pa' myra and Baalbec.

,a The Orientals explain the prodigy by a never-failing expedient, The edifices of Baalbec were constructed by the fairies or the genii, Hist, de Tiuiour Bee, torn. iii. 1. v. c. 23, p. 311, 312. Voyag* d'Otler, torn. i. p. 83.) With less absurdity, but with equal ignorance Abulfeda and Ibn Chaukel ascribe them to the Sabaeans or Aaditea Non sunt in omni Syria aedificia magnificentiora his, (Tabula Syria p 102.,1

acens proceeded t J ITeliopoli^ and Emesa: but I shall declint the repetition of the sallies and combats which have been al ready shown on a larger scale. In the prosecution of the war their policy was not less effectual than their sword. By short and separate truces they dissolved the union of the enemy; accustomed the Syrians to compare their friendship with their enmity; familiarized the idea of their language, religion, and manners; and exhausted, by clandestine purchase, the magazines and arsenals of the cities which they returned to besiege. They aggravated the ransom of the more wealthy, or the more obstinate; and Chalcis alone was taxed at five thousand ounces of gold, five thousand ounces of silver, two thousand robes of silk, and as many figs and olives as would load five thousand asses. But the terms of truce or capitulation were faithfully observed; and the lieutenant of the caliph, who had promised not to enter the walls of the captive Baalbec, remained tranquil and immovable in his tent till the jarring factions solicited the interposition of a foreign master. The conquest of the plain and valley of Syria was achieved in less than two years. Yet the commander of the faithful reproved the slowness of their progress; and the Saracens, bewailing their fault with tears of rage and repentance, called aloud on their chiefs to lead them forth to fight the battles of the Lord. In a recent action, under the walls of Emesa, an Arabian youth, the cousin of Caled, was heard aloud to exclaim, "Methinks I see the black-eyed girls looking upon me; one of whom, should she appear in this world, all mankind would die for love of her. And I see in the hand of one of them a handkerchief of green silk, and a cap of precious stones, and she beckons me, and calls out, Come hither quickly, for I love thee." With these words, charging the Christians, he made havoc wherever he went, till, observed at length by the governor of Hems, he was struck through with a javelin.

It was incumbent on the Saracens to exert the full powers of their valor and enthusiasm against the forces of the tmpe ror, who was taught, by repeated losses, that the rovers of the desert had undertaken, and would speedily achieve, a regular and permanent conquest. From the provinces of Europe and Asia, fourscore thousand soldiers were transported by sea and land to Antioch and Caesarea: the light troops of the army consisted of sixty thousand Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. Under the banner of Jabalah, the last cf tfceir princes, they marched in the van; and it was a maxim of the Greeks, that for the purpose of cutting diamond, a dia mond was the most effectual. Heraclius withheld his person from the dangers of the field; but his presumption, or perhaps his despondency, suggested a peremptory order, that the fate of the province and the war should be decided by a single battle. The Syrians were attached to the standard of Rome and of the cross: but the noble, the citizen, the peasant, were exasperated by the injustice and cruelty of a lieen fcious host, who oppressed them as subjects, and despised them as strangers and aliens." A report of these mighty preparations was conveyed to the Saracens in their camp of Emesa( and the chiefs, though resolved to fight, assembled a council: the faith of Abu Obeidah would have expected on the s&oie spot the glory of martyrdom; the wisdom of Caled advised an honorable retreat to the skirts of Palestine and Arabia, where they might await the succors of their friends, and the attack of the unbelievers. A speedy messenger soon returned from the throne of Medina, with the blessings of Omar and Ali, the prayers of the widows of the prophet, and a reenforcement of eight thousand Moslems. In their way they overturned a detachment of Greeks, and when they joined at Yermuk the camp of their brethren, they found the pleasing intelligence, that Caled had already defeated and scattered the Christian Arabs of the tribe of Gassan. In the neighborhood of Bosra, the springs of Mount Hermon descend in a torrent to the plain of Decapolis, or ten cities; and the Hieromax, a name which has been corrupted to Yermuk, is lost, after a short course, in the Lake of Tiberias.74 The banks of this obscure stream were illustrated by a long and bloody encounter.* On this momentous occasion, the public voice, and

78 I have read somewhere in Tacitus, or Grotius, Subjectos habeni tanquam suos, viles tanquam alienos. Some Greek officers ravished the wife, and murdered the child, of their Syrian landlord; and Manuel smiled at his undutiful complaint.

74 See Reland, Palestin. torn. i. p. 272, 283. torn. ii. p. 773, 775. This learned professor was equal to the task of describing the Holy Land, since he was alike conversant with Greek and Latin, with Efeb.ew and Arabian literature. The Yermuk, or Hieromax. is noticed by Cellarius (Geograph. Antiq. torn. ii. p. 39-2) and DAnville, (Geographie Ancienne, torn. ii. p. 185.) The Arabs, and even Abu! feda himself, do not seem to recognize the scene of their victory.

'Compare Price, p. 79. The army of ihe Romans h swclier vo 400.WI met. oi which 70,000 perished— II.

the modesty of Abu Obeidah, restored the command to the most deserving of the Moslems. Caled assumed his station in the front, his colleague was posted in the rear, that the dis order of the fugitive might be checked by his venerable aspect, and the sight of the yellow banner which Mahomet had displayed before the walls of Chaibar. The last line was occupied by the sister of Derar, with the Arabian women whc had enlisted in this holy war, who were accustomed to wield ihe bow and the lance, and who in a moment of captivity had defended, against the uncircuincised ravishers, their ahastitj and religion." The exhortation of the generals was brief and forcible: "Paradise is before you, the devil and hell fira in your rear." Yet such was the weight of the Roman cavalry, that the right wing of the Arabs was broken and separated from the main body. Thrice did they retreat in disorder, and thrice were they driven back to the charge by the reproaches and blows of the women. In the intervals of action, Abu Obeidah visited the tents of his brethren, prolonged their re pose by repeating at once the prayers of two different hours, bound up their wounds with his own hands, and administered the comfortable reflection, that the infidels partook of their sufferings without partaking of their reward. Four thousand and thirty of the Moslems were buried in the field of battle; and the skill of the Armenian archers enabled se»ren hundred to boast that they had lost r.n eye in that meritonous service. The veterans of the Syrian war acknowledged that it was the hardest and most doubtful of the days which tliey had seen. But it was likewise the most decisive: many thousands of the Greeks and Syrians fell by the swords of the Arabs; many were slaughtered, after the defeat, in the woods and mountains; many, by mistaking the ford, were drowned in the waters of the Yermuk; and however the loss may be magnified," the Christian writers confess and bewail the bloody

T* These women were of the tribe of the Hamyarites, who derived their origin from the ancient Amalekites. Their females w.ire accustomed to ride on horseback, and to fight like the Amazons of o)d, (Ockley, vol. i. p. 67.)

18 We killed of them, says Abu Obeidah to the c;iliph, our hundred uml fif'y thousand, and made prisoners forty thousand, (Ockley toL i. p. 241.) As I cannot doubt his veracity, nor beliuve his coin putatinn, I must suspect that the Arabic historians irwluige them selves in tre practice of comparing speeches and IfUiTS for lliev Wrt^es.

« ForrigeFortsett »