Page images
PDF
EPUB

8

were never able to take Bostra out of the hands of the Saracens. Its governor at one time attempted to betray the city to king Baldwin III., but it was saved by the loyalty of his wife, who in his absence gave over the keys to Nûr ed-Dîn. It remained nominally the seat of a bishop down to the thirteenth century. In the days of the historian and geographer Abulfeda, Bostra, or Busrah as it was then called, was still a populous town and the capital of the Haurân, having large markets and rich gardens and fields.

8 Gul. Tyr. Hist. in Gesta Dei per Francos, p. 893. 9 Abulfed., Tab. Syr., ed. Reisk, p. 99. This author writes the name

بسري but the biographer of Saladin writes it ; بصرا and بصري

See Bohadin, · Vita Salad.,' ed. Schultens, p. 148; and also Index

[ocr errors]

Geog. 8. v. Bosra. The present name of the place is
See Bib. Res., Appendix, vol. iii. p. 153.

[blocks in formation]

VOL. II.

I

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

BUSRAH TO SULKHAD, KUREIYEH, HEBRAN, AND SUWEIDEH.

Adventure with Bedawîn - Approach to Sůlkhad by Roman road

Description of Sůlkhad, the ancient SALCAH — The castle - Probable age of the building - Topography of the “Hills of Bashan ” — Great numbers of deserted towns — Ancient vineyards — Identification and history of Salcah — Extensive ruins of Kureiyeh - Identified with the ancient KERIOTH Remote antiquity of its houses — Literal fulfilment of prophecy — Ruins of Hebrân — Inaccuracy and corrections of Burckhardt's map.

GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF THE JEBEL HAURÂN.— The cities of Argob and Bashan — Ancient sites.

February 7th.-- DARK threatening clouds still shrouded the mountains, and swept over the broad plain, as we went out at an early hour to take a final glance at the ruins of Busrah. The rain however had ceased, and as the wind had shifted northward we anticipated a change of weather and a bright day. We were not disappointed, for a fresh northern breeze cleared the whole sky ere an hour had passed. I proceeded to an elevated spot near the triumphal arch, from which I took my last view of the ruins - of Busrah, fixing in my mind every prominent building, as well as the grouping of the whole. I have often had singular pleasure in after years in calling up to memory some striking scene thus visited and attentively surveyed. I have been delighted by picturing the whole of some city or landscape before my mind's eye, as viewed from a well-remembered spot; and thus looking in succession on each prominent edifice, or each striking feature, to which my attention had been called of yore by historic association or architectural or natural beauty. The field of Waterloo is as fresh in my memory now as when I looked over it from the side of the Belgic Lion, more than four years ago; and the panorama of Venice is almost as distinct and as fully pictured in my mind this night as when I looked down on that faded gem of the sea from the graceful tower of St. Mark’s. I know not if this be a common feeling with travellers, or if others are wont to derive from it the same pleasure ; with me it makes travel a perennial source of enjoyment.

When I returned, I found my companions, with the horses and servants, all ready, so we mounted at once and rode off amid the salâms and good wishes of the sheikh and a crowd of retainers who had gathered round us. A liberal bakhshish had almost overcome Muslem fanaticism. The marching orders for the day were, first to Súlkhad

;

us.

and then back to Kureiyeh. The latter place being only some two hours distant, we resolved to send the servants and baggage direct, and I gave to them our letter of introduction to the Druze chief: by this separation our party was considerably weakened, and at a time too when numbers might be of advantage; but still, in case of an encounter with Bedawîn, we considered the luggage and mules would prove as much of an encumbrance and temptation as the servants might be of advantage. There still remained five of us well mounted and well armed; so that no ordinary band of Arabs would venture to attack

We were informed that the whole district through which our route lay, though thickly studded with towns and villages, was altogether uninhabited. The people of Busrah stated that of late it had been much frequented by small bands of Bedawy marauders, watching an opportunity to descend upon some border village, or carry off some unguarded flock.

At 8.40 we left the sheikh's house and were conducted along the main street eastward over vast heaps of rubbish and stones: I here observed several buildings with porticos of small columns which I had not previously seen. The whole eastern part of the city appears to have been thickly dotted with public buildings; and the finest of the private residences were also situated here. At the spot where we left the ruins the ancient wall is completely prostrate. A few hundred yards from the city we observed a reservoir on our left, still larger than that referred to above. Our path was along the Roman road, which runs in a perfectly straight line (S. 77° E.) to Sůlkhad, having a gentle ascent from the gate of Busrah. Our servants turned to the left at the reservoir, taking the direct road to Kureiyeh,

which bears N. 84 E. The soil here is exceedingly rich, and the fences of the large rectangular fields can be traced over the whole country.

We rode on at a steady pace up the easy slope. The rain of the previous day had been just sufficient to make the soft mouldy soil firm beneath our horses' feet; and we consequently preferred the smooth fields to the hard pavement of the ancient road. The ruined village of Burd, conspicuously situated on the summit of a swell, now attracted our attention; and as its buildings appeared large and ornamental, we determined to gallop over to it. As we approached nearer however we were able to distinguish a number of figures moving back and forth among the half-ruined houses. Mahmûd thought that some shepherd with his flock had taken refuge there from the late rains ; but it soon became evident that they were men, and not sheep or goats, who now climbed to the terraced roofs apparently to watch our approach. We all of course pronounced them Bedawîn, as we had been told the whole country was uninhabited. That Bedawîn should be in such a place at such an hour seemed strange, and the natural conclusion was that they were bound on no peaceful errand. For us either to escape now or pass unnoticed was impossible, except indeed we should wheel about and gallop back to Busrah, and this did not suit our purposes. Mahmûd at once called a halt, and said he wished to give us a few hints about Arab warfare, as we would now or during the day most probably have an encounter with them. His first advice was that we should never attempt to run under any circumstances; “as,” he said, “ their horses are fleet, and a flying foe always gives them fresh courage. Whatever their number be," he

« PreviousContinue »