Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադարան . ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ . Չորրորդ Հայքի Գրադար

The Near East

CHAPTER X

SYRIA AND PHOENICIA

Written by Strabo circa 7 BC

Syria is bounded on the north by Cilicia and the mountain Amanus; from the sea to the bridge on the Euphrates (that is, from the Issic Bay to the Zeugma in Commagene) is a distance of 1400 stadia, and forms the above-mentioned (northern) boundary; on the east it is bounded by the Euphrates and the Arabian Scenitæ, who live on this side the Euphrates; on the south, by Arabia Felix and Egypt; on the west, by the Egyptian and Syrian Seas as far as Issus.

Beginning from Cilicia and Mount Amanus, we set down as parts of Syria, Commagene, and the Seleucis of Syria, as it is called, then Cœle-Syria, lastly, on the coast, Phœnicia, and in the interior, Judæa. Some writers divide the whole of Syria into Cœlo-Syrians, Syrians, and Phœnicians, and say that there are intermixed with these four other nations, Jews, Idumæans, Gazæans, and Azotii, some of whom are husbandmen, as the Syrians and Cœlo-Syrians, and others merchants, as the Phœnicians. This is the general description [of Syria]. 

In describing it in detail, we say that Commagene is rather a small district. It contains a strong city, Samosata, in which was the seat of the kings. At present it is a (Roman) province. A very fertile but small territory lies around it. Here is now the Zeugma, or bridge, of the Euphrates, and near it is situated Seleuceia, a fortress of Mesopotamia, assigned by Pompey to the Commageneans. Here Tigranes confined in prison for some time and put to death Selene, surnamed Cleopatra, after she was dispossessed of Syria. 

Seleucis is the best of the above-mentioned portions of Syria. It is called and is a Tetrapolis, and derives its name from the four distinguished cities which it contains; for there are more than four cities, but the four largest are Antioch Epidaphne, Seleuceia in Pieria, Apameia, and Laodiceia. They were called Sisters from the concord which existed between them. They were founded by Seleucus Nicator. The largest bore the name of his father, and the strongest his own. Of the others, Apameia had its name from his wife Apama, and Laodiceia from his mother.

In conformity with its character of Tetrapolis, Seleucis, according to Poseidonius, was divided into four satrapies; Cœle-Syria into the same number, but [Commagene, like] Mesopotamia, consisted of one.  Antioch also is a Tetrapolis, consisting (as the name implies) of four portions, each of which has its own, and all of them a common wall.  [Seleucus] Nicator founded the first of these portions, transferring thither settlers from Antigonia, which a short time before Antigonus, son of Philip, had built near it. The second was built by the general body of settlers; the third by Seleucus, the son of Callinicus; the fourth by Antiochus, the son of Epiphanes.

Antioch1 is the metropolis of Syria. A palace was constructed there for the princes of the country. It is not much inferior in riches and magnitude to Seleuceia on the Tigris and Alexandreia in Egypt. [Seleucus] Nicator settled here the descendants of Triptolemus, whom we have mentioned a little before. On this account the people of Antioch regard him as a hero, and celebrate a festival to his honour on Mount Casius near Seleuceia. They say that when he was sent by the Argives in search of Io, who first disappeared at Tyre, he wandered through Cilicia; that some of his Argive companions separated from him and founded Tarsus; that the rest attended him along the sea-coast, and, relinquishing their search, settled with him on the banks of the Orontes; that Gordys the son of Triptolemus, with some of those who had accompanied his father, founded a colony in Gordyæa, and that the descendants of the rest became settlers among the inhabitants of Antioch.

Daphne, a town of moderate size, is situated above Antioch at the distance of 40 stadia. Here is a large forest, with a thick covert of shade and springs of water flowing through it. In the midst of the forest is a sacred grove, which is a sanctuary, and a temple of Apollo and Diana. It is the custom for the inhabitants of Antioch and the neighboring people to assemble here to celebrate public festivals. The forest is 80 stadia in circumference.

The river Orontes flows near the city. Its source is in Cœle-Syria. Having taken its course under-ground, it reappears, traverses the territory of Apameia to Antioch, approaching the latter city, and then descends to the sea at Seleuceia. The name of the river was formerly Typhon, but was changed to Orontes, from the name of the person who constructed the bridge over it.

According to the fable, it was somewhere here that Typhon was struck with lightning, and here also was the scene of the fable of the Arimi, whom we have before mentioned. Typhon was a serpent, it is said, and being struck by lightning, endeavored to make its escape, and sought refuge in the ground; it deeply furrowed the earth, and (as it moved along) formed the bed of the river; having descended under-ground, it caused a spring to break out, and from Typhon the river had its name. 

On the west the sea, into which the Orontes discharges itself, is situated below Antioch in Seleuceia, which is distant from the mouth of the river 40, and from Antioch 120 stadia. The ascent by the river to Antioch is performed in one day. To the east of Antioch are the Euphrates, Bambyce, Berœa, and Heracleia, small towns formerly under the government of Dionysius, the son of Heracleon. Heracleia is distant 20 stadia from the temple of Diana Cyrrhestis.

Then follows the district of Cyrrhestica, which extends as far as that of Antioch. On the north near it are Mount Amanus and Commagene. Cyrrhestica extends as far as these places, and touches them. Here is situated a city, Gindarus, the acropolis of Cyrrhestica, and a convenient resort for robbers, and near it a place called Heracleium. It was near these places that Pacorus, the eldest of the sons of the Parthian king, who had invaded Syria, was defeated by Ventidius, and killed.

Pagræ, in the district of Antioch, is close to Gindarus. It is a strong fortress situated on the pass over the Amanus, which leads from the gates of the Amanus into Syria. Below Pagræ lies the plain of Antioch, through which flow the rivers Arceuthus, Orontes, and Labotas. In this plain is also the trench of Meleagrus, and the river Œnoparas, on the banks of which Ptolemy Philometor, after having defeated Alexander Balas, died of his wounds. 

Above these places is a hill called Trapezon from its form, and upon it Ventidius engaged Phranicates the Parthian general. After these places, near the sea, are Seleuceia and Pieria, a mountain continuous with the Amanus and Rhosus, situated between Issus and Seleuceia. Seleuceia formerly had the name of Hydatopotami (rivers of water). It is a considerable fortress, and may defy all attacks; wherefore Pompey, having excluded from it Tigranes, declared it a free city. To the south of Antioch is Apameia, situated in the interior, and to the south of Seleuceia, the mountains Casius and Anti-Casius. Still further on from Seleuceia are the mouths of the Orontes, then the Nymphæum, a kind of sacred cave, next Casium, then follows Poseidium a small city, and Heracleia. 

Then follows Laodiceia2, situated on the sea; it is a very well-built city, with a good harbor; the territory, besides its fertility in other respects, abounds with wine, of which the greatest part is exported to Alexandreia. The whole mountain overhanging the city is planted almost to its summit with vines. The summit of the mountain is at a great distance from Laodiceia, sloping gently and by degrees upwards from the city; but it rises perpendicularly over Apameia. Laodiceia suffered severely when Dolabella took refuge there. Being besieged by Cassius, he defended it until his death, but he involved in his own ruin the destruction of many parts of the city. 

In the district of Apameia is a city well-fortified in almost every part. For it consists of a well-fortified hill, situated in a hollow plain, and almost surrounded by the Orontes, which, passing by a large lake in the neighbourhood, flows through wide-spread marshes and meadows of vast extent, affording pasture for cattle and horses. The city is thus securely situated, and received the name Cherrhonesus (or the peninsula) from the nature of its position. It is well supplied from a very large fertile tract of country, through which the Orontes flows with numerous windings. Seleucus Nicator, and succeeding kings, kept there five hundred elephants, and the greater part of their army.

It was formerly called Pella by the first Macedonians, because most of the soldiers of the Macedonian army had settled there; for Pella, the native place of Philip and Alexander, was held to be the metropolis of the Macedonians. Here also the soldiers were mustered, and the breed of horses kept up. There were in the royal stud more than thirty thousand brood mares and three hundred stallions. Here were employed colt-breakers, instructors in the method of fighting in heavy armor, and all who were paid to teach the arts of war.

The power Trypho, surnamed Diodotus, acquired is a proof of the influence of this place; for when he aimed at the empire of Syria, he made Apameia the center of his operations. He was born at Casiana, a strong fortress in the Apameian district, and educated in Apameia; he was a favorite of the king and the persons about the court. When he attempted to effect a revolution in the state, he obtained his supplies from Apameia and from the neighbouring cities, Larisa, Casiana, Megara, Apollonia, and others like them, all of which were reckoned to belong to the district of Apameia. He was proclaimed king of this country, and maintained his sovereignty for a long time. Cæcilius Bassus, at the head of two legions, caused Apameia to revolt, and was besieged by two large Roman armies, but his resistance was so vigorous and long that he only surrendered voluntarily and on his own conditions. For the country supplied his army with provisions, and a great many of the chiefs of the neighboring tribes were his allies, who possessed strongholds, among which was Lysias, situated above the lake, near Apameia, Arethusa, belonging to Sampsiceramus and Iamblichus his son, chiefs of the tribe of the Emeseni. At no great distance were Heliopolis and Chalcis, which were subject to Ptolemy, son of Mennæus, who possessed the Massyas and the mountainous country of the Ituræans. Among the auxiliaries of Bassus was Alchædamnus, king of the Rhambæi, a tribe of the Nomades on this side of the Euphrates. He was a friend of the Romans, but, considering himself as having been unjustly treated by their governors, he retired to Mesopotamia, and then became a tributary of Bassus. Poseidonius the Stoic was a native of this place, a man of the most extensive learning among the philosophers of our times.

The tract called Parapotamia, belonging to the Arab chiefs, and Chalcidica, extending from the Massyas, border upon the district of Apameia on the east; and nearly all the country further to the south of Apameia belongs to the Scenitæ, who resemble the Nomades of Mesopotamia. In proportion as the nations approach the Syrians they become more civilized, while the Arabians and Scenitæ are less so. Their governments are better constituted [as that of Arethusa under Sampsiceramus, that of Themella under Gambarus, and other states of this kind]. 

Such is the nature of the interior parts of the district of Seleuceia. The remainder of the navigation along the coast from Laodiceia is such as I shall now describe. Near Laodiceia are the small cities, Poseidium, Heracleium, and Gabala. Then follows the maritime tract of the Aradii, where are Paltus, Balanæa, and Carnus, the arsenal of Aradus, which has a small harbor; then Enydra, and Marathus, an ancient city of the Phœnicians in ruins. The Aradii divided the territory by lot. Then follows the district Simyra. Continuous with these places is Orthosia, then the river Eleutherus, which some make the boundary of Seleucis towards Phœnicia and Cœle-Syria.

Aradus is in front of a rocky coast without harbors, and situated nearly between its arsenal and Marathus. It is distant from the land 20 stadia. It is a rock, surrounded by the sea, of about seven stadia in circuit, and covered with dwellings. The population even at present is so large that the houses have many stories. It was colonized, it is said, by fugitives from Sidon. The inhabitants are supplied with water partly from cisterns containing rain water, and partly from the opposite coast. In war time they obtain water a little in front of the city, from the channel (between the island and the mainland), in which there is an abundant spring. The water is obtained by letting down from a boat, which serves for the purpose, and inverting over the spring (at the bottom of the sea), a wide-mouthed funnel of lead, the end of which is contracted to a moderate-sized opening; round this is fastened a (long) leathern pipe, which we may call the neck, and which receives the water, forced up from the spring through the funnel. The water first forced up is sea water, but the boatmen wait for the flow of pure and potable water, which is received into vessels ready for the purpose, in as large a quantity as may be required, and carry it to the city. 

The Aradii were anciently governed by their own kings in the same manner as all the other Phœnician cities. Afterwards the Persians, Macedonians, and now the Romans have changed the government to its present state. The Aradii, together with the other Phœnicians, consented to become allies of the Syrian kings; but upon the dissension of the two brothers, Callinicus Seleucus and Antiochus Hierax, as he was called, they espoused the party of Callinicus; they entered into a treaty, by which they were allowed to receive persons who quitted the king’s dominions, and took refuge among them, and were not obliged to deliver them up against their will. They were not, however, to suffer them to embark and quit the island without the king’s permission. From this they derived great advantages; for those who took refuge there were not ordinary people, but persons who had held the highest trusts, and apprehended the worst consequences (when they fled). They regarded those who received them with hospitality as their benefactors; they acknowledged their preservers, and remembered with gratitude the kindness which they had received, particularly after their return to their own country. It was thus that the Aradii acquired possession of a large part of the opposite continent, most of which they possess even at present, and were otherwise successful. To this good fortune they added prudence and industry in the conduct of their maritime affairs; when they saw their neighbors, the Cilicians, engaged in piratical adventures, they never on any occasion took part with them in such (a disgraceful) occupation. 

After Orthosia and the river Eleutherus is Tripolis3, which has its designation from the fact of its consisting of three cities, Tyre, Sidon, and Aradus. Contiguous to Tripolis is Theoprosopon, where the mountain Libanus terminates. Between them lies a small place called Trieres.

There are two mountains, which form Cœle-Syria, as it is called, lying nearly parallel to each other; the commencement of the ascent of both these mountains, Libanus and Antilibanus, is a little way from the sea; Libanus rises above the sea near Tripolis and Theoprosopon, and Antilibanus, above the sea near Sidon4. They terminate somewhere near the Arabian mountains, which are above the district of Damascus and the Trachones as they are there called, where they form fruitful hills. A hollow plain lies between them, the breadth of which towards the sea is 200 stadia, and the length from the sea to the interior is about twice that number of stadia. Rivers flow through it, the largest of which is the Jordan, which water a country fertile and productive of all things. It contains also a lake, which produces the aromatic rush and reed. In it are also marshes. The name of the lake is Gennesaritis. It produces also balsamum.  Among the rivers is the Chrysorrhoas, which commences from the city and territory of Damascus, and is almost entirely drained by water-courses; for it supplies with water a large tract of country, with a very deep soil. The Lycus and the Jordan are navigated upwards chiefly by the Aradii, with vessels of burden.

Of the plains, the first reckoning from the sea is called Macras and Macra-pedium. Here Poseidonius says there was seen a serpent lying dead, which was nearly a plethrum in length, and of such a bulk and thickness that men on horseback standing on each side of its body could not see one another; the jaws when opened could take in a man on horseback, and the scales of the skin were larger than a shield.

Next to the plain of Macras is that of Massyas, which also contains some mountainous parts, among which is Chalcis, the acropolis, as it were, of the Massyas. The commencement of this plain is at Laodiceia, near Libanus. The Ituræans and Arabians, all of whom are freebooters, occupy the whole of the mountainous tracts. The husbandmen live in the plains, and when harassed by the freebooters, they require protection of various kinds. The robbers have strongholds from which they issue forth; those, for example, who occupy Libanus have high up on the mountain the fortresses Sinna, Borrhama, and some others like them; lower down, Botrys and Gigartus, caves also near the sea, and the castle on the promontory Theoprosopon. Pompey destroyed these fastnesses, from whence the robbers overran Byblus5, and Berytus situated next to it, and which lie between Sidon and Theoprosopon. Byblus, the royal seat of Cinyrus, is sacred to Adonis. Pompey delivered this place from the tyranny of Cinyrus, by striking off his head. It is situated upon an eminence at a little distance from the sea.

After Byblus is the river Adonis, and the mountain Climax, and Palæ-Byblus, then the river Lycus, and Berytus. This latter place was razed by Tryphon, but now the Romans have restored it, and two legions were stationed there by Agrippa, who also added to it a large portion of the territory of Massyas, as far as the sources of the Orontes. These sources are near Libanus, the Paradeisus, and the Egyptian Fort near the district of Apameia. These places lie near the sea.

Above the Massyas is the Royal Valley, as it is called, and the territory of Damascus, so highly extolled. Damascus is a considerable city, and in the time of the Persian empire was nearly the most distinguished place in that country.

Above Damascus are the two (hills) called Trachones; then, towards the parts occupied by Arabians and Ituræans promiscuously, are mountains of difficult access, in which were caves extending to a great depth. One of these caves was capable of containing four thousand robbers, when the territory of Damascus was subject to incursions from various quarters. The Barbarians used to rob the merchants most generally on the side of Arabia Felix, but this happens less frequently since the destruction of the bands of the robbers under Zenodorus, by the good government of the Romans, and in consequence of the security afforded by the soldiers stationed and maintained in Syria.

The whole country above Seleucis, extending towards Egypt and Arabia, is called Cœle-Syria, but peculiarly the tract bounded by Libanus and Antilibanus, of the remainder one part is the coast extending from Orthosia as far as Pelusium, and is called Phœnicia, a narrow strip of land along the sea; the other, situated above Phœnicia in the interior between Gaza and Antilibanus, and extending to the Arabians, called Judæa. Having described Cœle-Syria properly so called, we pass on to Phœnicia, of which we have already described the part extending from Orthosia to Berytus. Next to Berytus6 is Sidon, at the distance of 400 stadia. Between these places is the river Tamyras, and the grove of Asclepius and Leontopolis.

Next to Sidon is Tyre7, the largest and most ancient city of the Phœnicians. This city is the rival of Sidon in magnitude, fame, and antiquity, as recorded in many fables. For although poets have celebrated Sidon more than Tyre (Homer, however, does not even mention Tyre), yet the colonies sent into Africa and Spain, as far as, and beyond the Pillars, extol much more the glory of Tyre. Both however were formerly, and are at present, distinguished and illustrious cities, but which of the two should be called the capital of Phœnicia is a subject of dispute among the inhabitants. Sidon is situated upon a fine naturally-formed harbor on the mainland.

Tyre is wholly an island, built nearly in the same manner as Aradus. It is joined to the continent by a mound, which Alexander raised, when he was besieging it. It has two harbors, one close, the other open, which is called the Egyptian harbor. The houses here, it is said, consist of many stories, of more even than at Rome; on the occurrence, therefore, of an earthquake, the city was nearly demolished. It sustained great injury when it was taken by siege by Alexander, but it rose above these misfortunes, and recovered itself both by the skill of the people in the art of navigation, in which the Phœnicians in general have always excelled all nations, and by (the export of) purple-dyed manufactures, the Tyrian purple being in the highest estimation. The shell-fish from which it is procured is caught near the coast, and the Tyrians have in great abundance other requisites for dyeing. The great number of dyeing works renders the city unpleasant as a place of residence, but the superior skill of the people in the practice of this art is the source of its wealth. Their independence was secured to them at a small expense to themselves, not only by the kings of Syria, but also by the Romans, who confirmed what the former had conceded. They pay extravagant honors to Hercules. The great number and magnitude of their colonies and cities are proofs of their maritime skill and power. Such then are the Tyrians.

The Sidonians are said by historians to excel in various kinds of art, as the words of Homer also imply. Besides, they cultivate science and study astronomy and arithmetic, to which they were led by the application of numbers (in accounts) and night sailing, each of which (branches of knowledge) concerns the merchant and seaman; in the same manner the Egyptians were led to the invention of geometry by the mensuration of ground, which was required in consequence of the Nile confounding, by its overflow, the respective boundaries of the country. It is thought that geometry was introduced into Greece from Egypt, and astronomy and arithmetic from Phœnicia. At present the best opportunities are afforded in these cities of acquiring a knowledge of these, and of all other branches of philosophy.

If we are to believe Poseidonius, the ancient opinion about atoms originated with Mochus, a native of Sidon, who lived before the Trojan times. Let us, however, dismiss subjects relating to antiquity. In my time there were distinguished philosophers, natives of Sidon, as Boethus, with whom I studied the philosophy of Aristotle, and Diodotus his brother. Antipater was of Tyre, and a little before my time Apollonius, who published a table of the philosophers of the school of Zeno, and of their writings.

Tyre is distant from Sidon not more than 200 stadia. Between the two is situated a small town, called Ornithopolis, (the city of birds); next a river which empties itself near Tyre into the sea. Next after Tyre is Palæ-tyrus (ancient Tyre), at the distance of 30 stadia. 

Then follows Ptolemaïs, a large city, formerly called Ace. It was the place of rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egypt. Between Ace and Tyre is a sandy beach, the sand of which is used in making glass. The sand, it is said, is not fused there, but carried to Sidon to undergo that process. Some say that the Sidonians have, in their own country, the vitrifiable sand; according to others, the sand of every place can be fused. I heard at Alexandria from the glass-workers, that there is in Egypt a kind of vitrifiable earth, without which expensive works in glass of various colors could not be executed, but in other countries other mixtures are required; and at Rome, it is reported, there have been many inventions both for producing various colors, and for facilitating the manufacture, as for example in glass wares, where a glass bowl may be purchased for a copper coin, and glass is ordinarily used for drinking.

A phenomenon of the rarest kind is said to have occurred on the shore between Tyre and Ptolemaïs. The people of Ptolemaïs had engaged in battle with Sarpedon the general, and after a signal defeat were left in this place, when a wave from the sea, like the rising tide, overwhelmed the fugitives; some were carried out to sea and drowned, others perished in hollow places; then again the ebb succeeding, uncovered and displayed to sight the bodies lying in confusion among dead fish.

A similar phenomenon took place at Mount Casium in Egypt. The ground, to a considerable distance, after a violent and single shock fell in parts, at once exchanging places; the elevated parts opposed the access of the sea, and parts which had subsided admitted it. Another shock occurred, and the place recovered its ancient position, except that there was an alteration (in the surface of the ground) in some places, and none in others. Perhaps such occurrences are connected with periodical returns the nature of which is unknown to us. This is said to be the case with the rise of the waters of the Nile, which exhibits a variety in its effects, but observes (in general) a certain order, which we do not comprehend.

Next to Ace is the Tower of Strato, with a station for vessels. Between these places is Mount Carmel, and cities of which nothing but the names remain, as Sycaminopolis, Bucolopolis, Crocodeilopolis, and others of this kind; next is a large forest. 

Then Joppa, where the coast of Egypt, which at first stretches towards the east, makes a remarkable bend towards the north. In this place, according to some writers, Andromeda was exposed to the sea-monster. It is sufficiently elevated; it is said to command a view of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jews, who, when they descended to the sea, used this place as a naval arsenal. But the arsenals of robbers are the haunts of robbers. Carmel, and the forest, belonged to the Jews. The district was so populous that the neighboring village Iamneia, and the settlements around, could furnish forty thousand soldiers. Thence to Casium, near Pelusium, are little more than 1000 stadia, and 1300 to Pelusium itself.

In the interval is Gadaris, which the Jews have appropriated to themselves, then Azotus and Ascalon. From Iamneia to Azotus and Ascalon are about 200 stadia. The country of the Ascalonitæ produces excellent onions; the town is small. Antiochus the philosopher, who lived a little before our time, was a native of this place. Philodemus the Epicurean was a native of Gadara, as also Meleagrus, Menippus the satirist, and Theodorus the rhetorician, my contemporary.

Next and near Ascalon is the harbor of the Gazæi. The city is situated inland at the distance of seven stadia. It was once famous, but was razed by Alexander, and remains uninhabited. There is said to be a passage thence across, of 1260 stadia, to the city Aila (Aelana), situated on the innermost recess of the Arabian Gulf. This recess has two branches, one, in the direction of Arabia and Gaza, is called Ailanites, from the city upon it; the other is in the direction of Egypt, towards Heroopolis, to which from Pelusium is the shortest road (between the two seas). Travelling is performed on camels, through a desert and sandy country, in the course of which snakes are found in great numbers.

Next to Gaza is Raphia, where a battle was fought between Ptolemy the Fourth and Antiochus the Great. Then Rhinocolura, so called from the colonists, whose noses had been mutilated. Some Ethiopian invaded Egypt, and, instead of putting the malefactors to death, cut off their noses, and settled them at Rhinocolura, supposing that they would not venture to return to their own country, on account of the disgraceful condition of their faces.

The whole country from Gaza is barren and sandy, and still more so is that district next to it, which contains the lake Sirbonis, lying above it in a direction almost parallel to the sea, and leaving a narrow pass between, as far as what is called the Ecregma. The length of the pass is about 200, and the greatest breadth 50 stadia. The Ecregma is filled up with earth. Then follows another continuous tract of the same kind to Casium, and thence to Pelusium.

The Casium is a sandy hill without water, and forms a promontory: the body of Pompey the Great is buried there, and on it is a temple of Jupiter Casius. Near this place Pompey the Great was betrayed by the Egyptians, and put to death. Next is the road to Pelusium, on which is situated Gerrha; and the rampart, as it is called, of Chabrias, and the pits near Pelusium, formed by the overflowing of the Nile in places naturally hollow and marshy. Such is the nature of Phœnicia. Artemidorus says, that from Orthosia to Pelusium is 3650 stadia, including the winding of the bays, and from Melænæ or Melania in Cilicia to Celenderis, on the confines of Cilicia and Syria, are 1900 stadia; thence to the Orontes 520 stadia, and from Orontes to Orthosia 1130 stadia.

The western extremities of Judæa towards Casius are occupied by Idumæans, and by the lake [Sirbonis]. The Idumæans are Nabatæans. When driven from their country by sedition, they passed over to the Jews, and adopted their customs. The greater part of the country along the coast to Jerusalem is occupied by the Lake Sirbonis, and by the tract contiguous to it; for Jerusalem is near the sea, which, as we have said, may be seen from the arsenal of Joppa. These districts (of Jerusalem and Joppa) lie towards the north; they are inhabited generally, and each place in particular, by mixed tribes of Egyptians, Arabians, and Phœnicians. Of this description are the inhabitants of Galilee, of the plain of Jericho, and of the territories of Philadelphia and Samaria, surnamed Sebaste by Herod; but although there is such a mixture of inhabitants, the report most credited, [one] among many things believed respecting the temple [and the inhabitants] of Jerusalem, is, that the Egyptians were the ancestors of the present Jews. 

An Egyptian priest named Moses, who possessed a portion of the country called Lower [Egypt], being dissatisfied with the established institutions there, left it and came to Judæa with a large body of people who worshipped the Divinity. He declared and taught that the Egyptians and Africans entertained erroneous sentiments, in representing the Divinity under the likeness of wild beasts and cattle of the field; that the Greeks also were in error in making images of their gods after the human form. For God [said he] may be this one thing which encompasses us all, land and sea, which we call heaven, or the universe, or the nature of things. Who then of any understanding would venture to form an image of this Deity, resembling anything with which we are conversant? on the contrary, we ought not to carve any images, but to set apart some sacred ground and a shrine worthy of the Deity, and to worship Him without any similitude. He taught that those who made fortunate dreams were to be permitted to sleep in the temple, where they might dream both for themselves and others; that those who practiced temperance and justice, and none else, might expect good, or some gift or sign from the God, from time to time.

By such doctrine Moses persuaded a large body of right-minded persons to accompany him to the place where Jerusalem now stands. He easily obtained possession of it, as the spot was not such as to excite jealousy, nor for which there could be any fierce contention; for it is rocky, and, although well supplied with water, it is surrounded by a barren and waterless territory. The space within [the city] is 60 stadia [in circumference], with rock underneath the surface.

Instead of arms, he taught that their defense was in their sacred things and the Divinity, for whom he was desirous of finding a settled place, promising to the people to deliver such a kind of worship and religion as should not burthen those who adopted it with great expense, nor molest them with [so-called] divine possessions, nor other absurd practices. Moses thus obtained their good opinion, and established no ordinary kind of government. All the nations around willingly united themselves to him, allured by his discourses and promises.

His successors continued for some time to observe the same conduct, doing justly, and worshipping God with sincerity. Afterwards superstitious persons were appointed to the priesthood, and then tyrants. From superstition arose abstinence from flesh, from the eating of which it is now the custom to refrain, circumcision, excision, and other practices which the people observe. The tyrannical government produced robbery; for the rebels plundered both their own and the neighboring countries. Those also who shared in the government seized upon the property of others, and ravaged a large part of Syria and of Phœnicia. Respect, however, was paid to the Acropolis; it was not abhorred as the seat of tyranny, but honored and venerated as a temple.

This is according to nature, and common both to Greeks and barbarians. For, as members of a civil community, they live according to a common law; otherwise it would be impossible for the mass to execute any one thing in concert (in which consists a civil state), or to live in a social state at all. Law is two-fold, divine and human. The ancients regarded and respected divine, in preference to human, law; in those times, therefore, the number of persons was very great who consulted oracles, and, being desirous of obtaining the advice of Jupiter, hurried to Dodona, “to hear the answer of Jove from the lofty oak,” thus using Zeus as their counsellor, and also to Delphi, “seeking to learn whether the child which had been exposed (to die) was still living;” while the child itself “was gone to the temple of Apollo, with the hope of discovering its parents.” And Minos among the Cretans, “the king who in the ninth year enjoyed converse with Great Jupiter,” every nine years, as Plato says, ascended to the cave of Jupiter, received ordinances from him, and conveyed them to men. Lycurgus, his imitator, acted in a similar manner; for he was often accustomed, as it seemed, to leave his own country to inquire of the Pythian goddess what ordinances he was to promulgate to the Lacedæmonians.

What truth there may be in these things I cannot say; they have at least been regarded and believed as true by mankind. Hence prophets received so much honour as to be thought worthy even of thrones, because they were supposed to communicate ordinances and precepts from the gods, both during their lifetime and after their death; as for example Teiresias, “to whom alone Proserpine gave wisdom and understanding after death: the others flit about as shadows.” 

Such were Amphiaraus, Trophonius, Orpheus, and Musæus: in former times there was Zamolxis, a Pythagorean, who was accounted a god among the Getæ; and in our time, Decæneus, the diviner of Byrebistas. Among the Bosporani, there was Achaïcarus; among the Indians, were the Gymnosophists; among the Persians, the Magi and Necyomanteis, and besides these the Lecanomanteis and Hydromanteis; among the Assyrians, were the Chaldæans; and among the Romans, the Tyrrhenian diviners of dreams.  Such was Moses and his successors; their beginning was good, but they degenerated.

When Judæa openly became subject to a tyrannical government, the first person who exchanged the title of priest for that of king was Alexander. His sons were Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. While they were disputing the succession to the kingdom, Pompey came upon them by surprise, deprived them of their power, and destroyed their fortresses, first taking Jerusalem itself by storm. It was a stronghold, situated on a rock, well-fortified and well supplied with water within, but externally entirely parched with drought. A ditch was cut in the rock, 60 feet in depth, and in width 250 feet. On the wall of the temple were built towers, constructed of the materials procured when the ditch was excavated. The city was taken, it is said, by waiting for the day of fast, on which the Jews were in the habit of abstaining from all work. Pompey [availing himself of this], filled up the ditch, and threw bridges over it. He gave orders to raze all the walls, and he destroyed, as far as was in his power, the haunts of the robbers and the treasure-holds of the tyrants. Two of these forts, Thrax and Taurus, were situated in the passes leading to Jericho. Others were Alexandrium, Hyrcanium, Machærus, Lysias, and those about Philadelphia, and Scythopolis near Galilee.

Jericho is a plain encompassed by a mountainous district, which slopes towards it somewhat in the manner of a theatre. Here is the Phœnicon (or palm plantation), which contains various other trees of the cultivated kind, and producing excellent fruit; but its chief production is the palm tree. It is 100 stadia in length; the whole is watered with streams, and filled with dwellings. Here also is a palace and the garden of the balsamum. The latter is a shrub with an aromatic smell, resembling the cytisus and the terminthus. Incisions are made in the bark, and vessels are placed beneath to receive the sap, which is like oily milk. After it is collected in vessels, it becomes solid. It is an excellent remedy for headache, incipient suffusion of the eyes, and dimness of sight. It bears therefore a high price, especially as it is produced in no other place. This is the case also with the Phœnicon, which alone contains the caryotes palm, if we except the Babylonian plain, and the country above it towards the east: a large revenue is derived from the palms and balsamum; xylobalsamum is also used as a perfume.

The Lake Sirbonis is of great extent. Some say that it is 1000 stadia in circumference. It stretches along the coast, to the distance of a little more than 200 stadia. It is deep, and the water is exceedingly heavy, so that no person can dive into it; if any one wades into it up to the waist, and attempts to move forward, he is immediately lifted out of the water. It abounds with asphaltus, which rises, not however at any regular seasons, in bubbles, like boiling water, from the middle of the deepest part. The surface is convex, and presents the appearance of a hillock. Together with the asphaltus, there ascends a great quantity of sooty vapor, not perceptible to the eye, which tarnishes copper, silver, and everything bright—even gold. The neighboring people know by the tarnishing of their vessels that the asphaltus is beginning to rise, and they prepare to collect it by means of rafts composed of reeds. The asphaltus is a clod of earth, liquefied by heat; the air forces it to the surface, where it spreads itself. It is again changed into so firm and solid a mass by cold water, such as the water of the lake, that it requires cutting or chopping (for use). It floats upon the water, which, as I have described, does not admit of diving or immersion, but lifts up the person who goes into it. Those who go on rafts for the asphaltus cut it in pieces, and take away as much as they are able to carry.

Such are the phenomena. But Posidonius says, that the people being addicted to magic, and practising incantations, (by these means) consolidate the asphaltus, pouring upon it urine and other fetid fluids, and then cut it into pieces. (Incantations cannot be the cause), but perhaps urine may have some peculiar power (in effecting the consolidation) in the same manner that chrysocolla is formed in the bladders of persons who labor under the disease of the stone, and in the urine of children.

It is natural for these phenomena to take place in the middle of the lake, because the source of the fire is in the center, and the greater part of the asphaltus comes from thence. The bubbling up, however, of the asphaltus is irregular, because the motion of fire, like that of many other vapors, has no order perceptible to observers. There are also phenomena of this kind at Apollonia in Epirus.

Many other proofs are produced to show that this country is full of fire. Near Moasada are to be seen rugged rocks, bearing the marks of fire; fissures in many places; a soil like ashes; pitch falling in drops from the rocks; rivers boiling up, and emitting a fetid odor to a great distance; dwellings in every direction overthrown; whence we are inclined to believe the common tradition of the natives, that thirteen cities once existed there, the capital of which was Sodom, but that a circuit of about 60 stadia around it escaped uninjured; shocks of earthquakes, however, eruptions of flames and hot springs, containing asphaltus and sulphur, caused the lake to burst its bounds, and the rocks took fire; some of the cities were swallowed up, others were abandoned by such of the inhabitants as were able to make their escape. But Eratosthenes asserts, on the contrary, that the country was once a lake, and that the greater part of it was uncovered by the water discharging itself through a breach, as was the case in Thessaly. 

In the Gadaris, also, there is a lake of noxious water. If beasts drink it, they lose their hair, hoofs, and horns. At the place called Taricheæ, the lake supplies the best fish for curing. On its banks grow trees which bear a fruit like the apple. The Egyptians use the asphaltus for embalming the bodies of the dead.

Pompey curtailed the territory which had been forcibly appropriated by the Jews, and assigned to Hyrcanus the priesthood. Sometime afterwards, Herod, of the same family, and a native of the country, having surreptitiously obtained the priesthood, distinguished himself so much above his predecessors, particularly in his intercourse, both civil and political, with the Romans, that he received the title and authority of king, first from Antony, and afterwards from Augustus Cæsar. He put to death some of his sons, on the pretext of their having conspired against him; other sons he left at his death, to succeed him, and assigned to each, portions of his kingdom. Cæsar bestowed upon the sons also of Herod marks of honor, on his sister Salome, and on her daughter Berenice. The sons were unfortunate, and were publicly accused. One of them died in exile among the Galatæ Allobroges, whose country was assigned for his abode. The others, by great interest and solicitation, but with difficulty, obtained leave to return to their own country, each with his tetrarchy restored to him.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Antakya in modern Turkey.
  2. Latakia in modern Syria.
  3. Tripoli in modern Lebanon.
  4. Saida in modern Lebanon.
  5. Byblos in modern Lebanon.
  6. Beirut.
  7. Sur in modern Lebanon.