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RECOLLECTIONS OF THE HOLY CITY.
No prophet bards, thy glittering courts among,
Many and varied have been the scenes of interest and excitement that I have experienced in other lands. I have stood beside the boiling furnace of one of the highest craters that the foot of man can reach, and marked from that stupendous elevation the glorious and wide-extended landscape, as it unfolded to my wildered gaze, when, sketched by the rapid pencil of the morning's dawn, object after object rose to the view. I have climbed one of the greatest monuments that art ever reared, and as my visual organs wandered over the ancient land of Eygpt, the eye of mind took in, in rapid succession, the substance of the present and the shadows of the past. But these scenes have faded, or are remembered as a vision of the night. I have groped amid the dark tombs of centuries long gone by, till to my fevered imagination the dead rose among the living ; yet that too has lost its interest; as well as the excitement with which my fancy peopled the theatre of the Doric Lord, and conjured into shape and form the heroes and philosophers that once roamed through the streets of that vast Grecian necropolis. All these exist but in remembrance ; not so the impressions left by the scenes I have witnessed at Jerusalem, before which all others sink into comparative insignificance; for, although some thousand miles may intervene between me and it, its glories are still phantom-like before me, even amidst the stir and bustle of every-day life. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” The recollections of what it was; the knowledge of what it is; and the expectation of what it shall yet be, are considerations which, added to an acquaintance with its locality, must ever act as a spell upon the minds of those who have seen and felt its beauties, its charms, and its power.
And although we may mourn over the present superstitions practised in this Deicide city, and the blindness of its once favoured inhabitants; yet the feelings it awakens, and the recollections it leaves, force us to exclaim with the disciple,
Lord, it is good for us to be here," and lead us to anticipate the time when
THE TOMB OF ABSALOM.
shall glorious as a gem,
Again descending to Gethsemane, we continued our course through the valley of Jehoshaphat, by those remarkable monuments denominated the Sepulchres of the Patriarchs, which have been described as well as drawn with great accuracy by most writers on Palestine.* They are placed on the eastern side of Kedron, nearly opposite the southern angle of the present wall, and are some of the rarest and most extraordinary specimens of sepulchral architecture in existence. They are hewn out of the solid rock, with temple-like fronts. Some of them are enormous masses separated from the rest of the rock, and left standing like so many monolithic temples—monuments that record as well (if not more so) the labour and ingenuity of their constructors, as the persons to whose memory they have been erected. The names assigned to these tombs are those of Jehoshaphat, James, Zechariah, and Absalom. This latter is the most elegant and tasteful piece of architecture in Judea-indeed I might almost add in the east ; and viewed from the valley beneath, it is one of the most beautiful tombs I have ever seen in any country. It consists of a mass of rock twenty-four feet square, separated from the rest, and standing in a small enclosure that surrounds three of its sides. It has four pilasters with Ionic capitals on each front; the two outer ones being flat, while in the centre are semicircular; the frieze is ornamented with triglyphs. The upper part is composed of several pieces, and surmounted by a small spire terminating in a bunch of leaves. There is a hole in the back immediately beneath the architrave, through which I was enabled to climb into its interior. As the door by which it was entered is concealed, this opening was formed, in all probability, for the
* Written descriptions of the views and monuments in and about Jerusalem need never again be attempted—Roberts's magnificent and most accurate drawings, now publishing, have done more to bring those objects before us than the most graphic pen could possibly hope to attain.
THE TOMB OF ABSALOM.
purpose of rifling the sepulchre of its contents. Within, it presents the usual form of eastern tombs, having niches at the sides for bodies, and on entering I was instantly struck with the remarkable similarity of the chamber to the interior of the temple I have already described, which stands near the sea at Telmessus (see page 335). Indeed the interior of this tomb is so like that building, both in the construction of its domed roof, and the arrangement of its arched sides, that one would be inclined to suppose it was a miniature representation of that edifice.
The general opinion of antiquaries is, that the Grecian architecture exhibited on the exterior of this rock is no test of the date of its construction, and that it was added in later times; a similar workmanship is visible on the other neighbouring tombs.
To this circumstance may be referred that rebuke of our Lord to the Pharisees, regarding their garnishing the sepulchres of the prophets. The tradition is, that this pillar, of which we have an account in the Book of Samuel, was erected by Absalom. “Now Absalom in his life-time had taken and reared
up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale; for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance ; and he called the pillar after his own name; and it is called unto this day Absalom's Place." (2 Sam. xviii. 18.) Josephus also informs us, that “ Absalom had erected for himself a stone marble pillar in the king's dale, two furlongs distant from Jerusalem, which he named Absalom's hand, saying, that if his children were killed, his name would remain by that pillar.”* I see no reason to doubt the tradition regarding this monument, although the historian has stated it to be at a greater distance from the city than we now find it; but this is an error into which he often falls. In confirmation of its supposed origin I may add, that it has ever been a place of detestation not only to the Hebrews, but to both Christians and Mohammadans; and each of these sects when passing it by, throw a stone at it to this day; so that the interior is partially filled up and a large cairn has formed round its base. The
Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, book vii. chap. 10, sec. 3. † I have already remarked upon this practice of erecting stone heaps in such places, practised among the Welsh and Irish; and a similar rite exists in Greece by way of auathema.
TOMBS IN THE VALLEY OF SILOAM.
tomb of Zechariah is somewhat similar in form, but crowned by an enormous pyramid of stone many tons weight. No entrance has as yet been effected into this, though it is reported that one is known to the Jews. Shortly before our visit, some arching had given way at the back of the enclosure that surrounds it, but this our time did not permit us to examine. Future explorers would no doubt be richly rewarded by a careful inspection of this, as well as all the other monuments in this cemetery.
The style of the whole of these four sepulchres, but especially the two that I have more particularly noticed, is very peculiar, and is totally different from other tombs in this neighbourhood. An inspection of them would lead us to believe that, at the time of their erection, the Hebrews had not quite forgotten the lessons on architecture which their forefathers had learned in Egypt. Around these mausolea, upon the sides of the rocks and the slopes of Mount Olivet, there are hundreds of plain, flat gravestones belonging to the Jews. All these have Hebrew inscriptions, some of which a distinguished Hebrew scholar resident in the city informed me were dated a short time subsequent to the Christian era.
Proceeding onward through this valley, we found the whole face of the precipitous rock upon its western face, excavated into one vast and almost continuous catacomb, consisting of chambers of various sizes. Some of these were simple square apartments formed to contain a single corpse, and closed by a stone door, fitted into a groove round the entrance, so accurate that a seal might have been applied at the joining to make sure the sepulchre ; and the first of them that I visited at once explained to me the form of the tomb of the Arimathean nobleman. There are other tombs in this cemetery formed upon a larger scale, and probably intended for family mausolea, having crypts and niches which are capable of containing from ten to twenty bodies. These sepulchral grots are continued down the valley of Siloam, beyond the southern limit of the present city, to the village of Siloam, having galleries, stairs, and small terraces, cut out of the rock, leading from one to the other. On
my first visit to this place I was induced to continue my search till on poking my head into one of these crypts, I was startled not a little by the wild, unearthly scream of an old Arab crone who inhabited its interior. The noise she made became
THE FOUNTAIN OF SILOAM.
the signal for a general outcry ; the dwellers in the different caves, aroused by her cries, peeped out to know the cause-looking like so many beavers popping their heads out of their holes to reconnoitre an enemy. The children ran shouting in all directions; curses and imprecations fell fast and heavy on the Giaour and the Nazarene ; and the whole Troglodite population of this cemetery of the living, became as much alarmed as if I had got into the hareem of the Basha. As may be anticipated, I made a hasty retreat amidst the general uproar; and took good care never to venture again so far upon a tomb-hunting expedition into Siloam.
All these sepulchres are now inhabited ; and they, with some mud-built huts at the bottom of the valley, constitute the village of Siloam, which contains upwards of 1,500 Arabs; a vicious, quarrelsome, and dishonest set of people, and noted as such for centuries past. They were the principal ringleaders in the late rebellion at Jerusalem ; and I never visited the neighbourhood that I did not see them quarrelling among themselves. They look more like the gipsy race, both in habits and appearance, than any other I know of; and their livelihood is principally obtained by plunder, and the cultivation of the lower parts of the neighbouring valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat.
The Fountain of Siloam, sometimes called the “Upper Pool of Siloam,” is situated in an indentation formed in the side of the hill, beneath the south-eastern angle of the city wall, and nearly opposite the place where the Tyropæon valley separates the eastern sides of Mounts Sion and Moriah. It is entered by an arched vault, from which a flight of steps leads down to a low vaulted passage cut in the solid rock, and which leads in a north-west direction beneath the site of the ancient temple. The oft-repeated and, I might say, the hacknied quotation of
“ Siloa's brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God,"
has never, I think, been properly understood, because both this fountain and that called the pool of the same name, are placed at a distance from the site of the temple. The following fact may illustrate and explain this quotation.
During the rebellion that I have already alluded to, the Arabs