Page images
PDF
EPUB

WARS OF THE NABATHEANS-CITY OF PETRA.

of the Jews, sometimes joining the Syrians, and some times the Egyptians. Antiochus the Great reduced part of the northern tribes to submission, and his son Hyrcanus was occupied several years in chastising their incursions and depredations. About 170 B. C., the Nabatheans were ruled by a prince named Hareth, called Aretas by the Greeks. His dominions extended to the confines of Palestine, and included part of the land of the Ammonites. Having made peace with the Jews, they permitted Judas Maccabæus, and his brother Jonathan, to pass through their territories. But notwithstanding the amity subsisting between them, the Nabatheans could not resist the temptation to pillage even their friends, when an opportunity offered. Accordingly, they fell upon a detachment of the Jews on their march, seized their carriages, and plundered the baggage.

The Idumeans, who had settled in Judea, also displayed their ancient aversion to the Jews, during the wars of the Maccabees. They were severely punished by Judas, who took and sacked their chief city, Hebron-destroyed upwards of forty thousand of their soldiers, and levelled their strongholds with the ground. The subjugation of the Idumeans was completed, about 130 B. C., by John Hyrcanus, the Jewish leader, who reduced them to the necessity of either embracing the Jewish religion, or quitting the country. They chose to adopt the laws of Moses, and in this manner soon became completely incorporated with their neighbors. The name of Idumea gradually fell into disuse, till, in the first century of the Christian era, it became entirely obsolete.

The Nabatheans maintained their independence for a much longer period than the Idumeans. When Alexander, king of Syria, was defeated by Ptolemy Philometer, of Egypt, (146 B. C.,) Zabdiel, a Nabathean prince, afforded protection to the vanquished monarch; but the influence of money afterwards induced him to violate the laws of hospitality, and deliver up the royal fugitive. Josephus mentions another of these princes, named Obodas, who defeated the Jews by drawing them into an ambuscade, where they were cut to pieces, (92 B. C.) The same author informs us that Hareth, or Aretas, the ruler of Arabia Petræa, overthrew Antiochus Dionysius, king of Damascus, and invaded India with an army of fifty thousand men. The repeated inroads of the Arabs into Syria at length provoked the hostilities of the Romans, whose dominions extended as far as the Euphrates. Lucullus, Pompey, Scaurus, Gabinius, and Marcellinus, all proconsuls of Syria in succession, undertook expeditions against them, without gaining any other advantage than the payinent of a tribute, or a temporary cessation of hostilities. Augustus claimed the right of imposing a king upon the Nabatheans; but they elected a sovereign of their own, who assumed the name of Aretas, and maintained peace with the Romans till his death, (A. D. 40.)

In the reign of Trajan, (A. D. 106,) Petræa was made a Roman province, under the name of Palestina Tertia, or Salutaris; but the fluctuating condition of the Roman power in the East was such, that this province could not be kept in a state of absolute dependence. Trajan, however, put an end to the dynasty of the ancient Nabathean kings, and besieged Petra with a numerous army; but, from its strong position and the gallant defence made by the garrison, he found the reduction of the city impossible. In one

215

of the assaults which he headed in person, the emperor narrowly escaped being slain. His horse was wounded, and a soldier was killed by his side; for the Arabs, notwithstanding his disguise, discovered him by his gray hairs and majestic mien. The Romans were compelled to abandon the siege of Petra; and this repulse is ascribed by the historians of the times to the violent tempests of wind and hail, the dreadful flashes of lightning, and the swarms of flies that infested the camp of the besiegers. The repulse of the Romans from Petra appears to be the last military exploit recorded of the Nabatheans.

The city of Petra deserves a particular notice in the history of Arabia and Edom. The time of its foundation is unknown; but it appears to have been coeval with the birth of Eastern commerce, and there is full evidence that it was a flourishing mart of trade seventeen hundred years before the Christian era. It was the point to which all the commerce of Northern Arabia originally tended, and where the first merchants of the earth stored the precious commodities of the East. It formed the great emporium of mercantile exchange between Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. The famous soothsayer Balaam, was a native of this place; and its inhabitants, in his time, were renowned for their learning, their oracular temple, and their skill in augury. During the whole period of which we have given the history, this city appears to have been the seat of wealth and commerce. Strabo, at the commencement of the Christian era, describes it from the account of his friend Athenodorus, the philosopher, who spoke with great admiration of the civilized manners of its inhabitants, of the crowds of Roman and foreign merchants there, and of the excellent government of its kings. The city, he says, was surrounded with precipitous cliffs, but was rich in gardens, and supplied with an abundant spring, which rendered it the most important fortress in the desert. Pliny, somewhat later, describes it, more correctly, as a city nearly two miles in extent, with a river running through the midst of it, and situated in a vale enclosed with steep mountains, by which all natural access to it was cut off.

With the decline and fall of the Roman power in the East, the name of Petra, for a time, almost vanishes from the page of history. About the period of the crusades, however, it was held in such esteem by the sultans of Egypt, on account of its great strength, that they made it the depository of their choicest treasures. During the whole of these religious wars, Petra formed an object of earnest contention between the Christians and the Mussulmans, who regarded it as the key to Palestine. After the cessation of the crusades, it was known only as the seat of a Latin bishop, and its once crowded market ceased to be the emporium of nations. Gradually it faded from notice, became forgotten, and was a lost city to the rest of the world. The obscurity of a thousand years covered its ruins, and the very place where it stood became a subject of controversy.

The country is now wandered over by a kind of miserable outcasts, who gain a precarious livelihood by the feeding of sheep and goats in their scanty pasturegrounds, and the hunting of wild goats. They still pretend to exercise a lordship over the soil, by requiring of travellers the payment of such sums as they can extort, for the privilege of passing through their territory. But they are the least intelligent and most wretched of all the tribes of Arabia.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small]

CHAPTER CVII. Antiquities of Idumea - Description of Petra. Ar length, Petra, after being for a series of ages as completely hidden from the knowledge of the rest of the world, in its solitude, as the Island of Atlantis or the fabled Paradise of Irem, was suddenly and unexpect edly brought to light. For this discovery we are indebted to the traveller Burckhardt, who visited Petra in 1812. Since that time, other travellers have resorted to the spot, and by their picturesque and accurate drawings, have done, for the temple and catacombs of Petra, what the splendid illustrations of Wood and Dawkins performed for the ruins of Palmyra. The first emotion in the minds of all these visitors was that of astonishment at the utter desolation which now reigns over those once celebrated regions. It is scarcely possible to imagine how a wilderness so dreary and desolate could ever have been adorned with walled cities, or inhabited for ages by a powerful and opulent people. The aspect of the surrounding country is singularly wild and fantastic. On one side stretches an immense desert of shifting sand, the surface of which is covered with black flints, and broken by hillocks into innumerable undulations. On the other side are rugged and insulated precipices, among which rises Mount Hor with its dark summits; near it lies the ancient Petra, in a plain or hollow of unequal surface, enclosed on all sides with a vast amphitheatre of rocks.

The entrance to this celebrated metropolis is from the east, through a deep ravine; and it is not easy to conceive any thing more awful or sublime than the sight here presented. Its width, in general, is not more than sufficient for the passage of two horsemen abreast, and through the bottom winds the stream that once watered the city. On the sides of the ravine rise perpendicular walls of rock, from four hundred to seven hundred feet high, which often overhang to such a degree as almost to touch each other at the top, leaving scarcely more light than in a cavern. The sides of this romantic chasm, from which several small

streams of water issue, are clothed with the tamarisk, the wild fig, the oleander, and other trees, which sometimes hang down from the cliffs and crevices in beautiful festoons. Near the entrance of the pass, a bold arch of masonry is seen springing over the yawning abyss, at a great height, and apparently inaccessible. For nearly two miles, the sides of the chasm continue to increase in height as the path descends. The solitude is disturbed by the incessant screaming of eagles. Farther onward, a stronger light begins to break through the sombre perspective, until, at length, the ruins of the city burst on the view of the astonished traveller, in their full grandeur, shut in on every side by barren, craggy precipices.

Safety and protection appear to have been the only objects that could induce a wealthy people to make choice of so remarkable a site for a capital. The whole face of the cliffs and all the sides of the mountains are covered with an endless variety of excavated tombs, private dwellings, and public buildings, presenting altogether a spectacle without a parallel in any part of the world. The rocks are tinted with the most extraordinary hue. They are generally of a dark color, with veins of white, blue, purple, and orange, in rainbow streaks. Their summits present an aspect of Nature in her most savage and romantic form, while their bases are worked out in all the symmetry and regularity of art, with colonnades, and pediments, and ranges of corridors adhering to the perpendicular surface. The inner and wider extremity of the circuitous defile by which the city is approached is sculptured and excavated in a singular manner; and these works become more frequent on both sides, unti at last it has the appearance of a continued street of tombs.

About midway in this passage is a spot abrupt and precipitous, where the area of the natural chasm spreads a little, and sweeps into an irregular circle. Here is to be seen the most singular of all these architectural monuments: the natives call it the Castle of Pharaoh, though it more resembles a sepulchre than the residence of a prince. The front rises in several stories to the height of sixty or seventy feet, orna

RUINS OF THE CITY OF PETRA.

217

with heaps of hewn stones, foundations of buildings,
fragments of pillars, and vestiges of paved streets
the sad memorials of departed greatness.
The immense number of these stupendous ruins
corroborates the accounts given, both by sacred and
profane writers, of the kings of Petra - their courtly
grandeur, and their ancient and long-continued royalty.
Great must have been the wealth of a city that could
dedicate such monuments to the memory of its rulers.
Its magnificence can be explained only by the im-
mense trade of which it seems to have been the com-
mon centre from the very dawn of civilization. The
fashion of many of these edifices denotes, pretty
nearly, the age to which they belong. Their relics
exhibit a mixture of Grecian and Roman architecture,
although the ground is strewn with others of a more
ancient date. On one of the tombs is a Latin inscrip-
tion, with the name of a magistrate who died in the
city, being governor of Palestina Tertia, in the second
century after Christ.

mented with columns, rich friezes, pediments, and large figures of horses and men. On the summit is a large vase, supposed by the Arabs to be full of coins; hence they give to this mysterious urn the name of the Treasury of Pharaoh. Its height and position seem to have baffled every approach of avarice or curiosity. From above it is rendered inaccessible by the bold projection of the rough rocks, and from below, by the smoothness of the polished surface. The interior of this mausoleum or castle consists of a large, square chamber, with walls and ceiling perfectly smooth. The surprising effect of the exterior is heightened by the situation and singular character of the approach to it. Half seen, at first, through the dim and narrow opening, columns, statues, and cornices, gradually appear, as if fresh from the chisel, without the tint, and weather-stains of age, and executed in stone of a pale rose color. This splendid architectural elevation has been so contrived, that a statue with expanded wings just fills the centre of the aperture in front, which, being closed below by the ledges of the rock folding over These magnificent remains can now be regarded each other, gives to the figure the appearance of being only as the grave of Idumea, in which its former suspended in the air at a considerable height No wealth and splendor lie interred. The state of desopart of this stupendous temple is built, properly speak- lation into which it has fallen is not only the work of ing; the whole is hewn from the solid rock; and its time, but the fulfilment of prophecy, which foretold minutest embellishments, wherever the hand of man that "wisdom and understanding should perish out of has not effaced them, are so perfect, that it may be Mount Seir; that Edom should be a wilderness, and doubted whether any work of the ancients, except in its cities a perpetual waste, the abode of every unEgypt, has survived with so little injury from the lapse clean beast." The prediction of Isaiah is literally verified "Thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortress thereof: the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it, and it shall be a habitation for dragons and a court for owls."

of time.

The ruins of the city itself open on the view with singular effect, after winding two or three miles through the dark ravine. Tombs present themselves, not only in every avenue within it, and on every precipice that surrounds it, but even intermixed with the public and domestic edifices; so that Petra has been truly denominated one vast necropolis. It contains above two hundred and fifty sepulchres, which are occasionally excavated in tiers, one above the other, and in places where the cliff is so perpendicular that all access to the uppermost seems impossible. There are, besides, numerous mausoleums of colossal dimensions, and in a state of wonderful preservation. Toward the middle of the valley are two large truncated pyramids, and a theatre, cut out of the solid rock, with complete rows of benches, capable of containing above three thousand spectators. The. ground is covered

[ocr errors]

These ghastly vestiges of ancient wealth and splendor are not confined to Petra and the immediate vicinity. In various parts of the country are immense ruins, testifying its former magnificence. But for these, which, in their present state of desolation, bespeak the glory of former ages, the traveller could scarcely believe that a region absolutely divested of inhabitants, blasted by the scorching sun, and chiefly tenanted by scorpions, could once have been covered with waving fields of corn, rich vineyards, pastures teeming with cattle, and cities filled with people, busy in the arts and cares of husbandry, commerce, and manufactures! How strange, how fearful are the mutations of human fortune!

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

PHOENICIA, or, more properly, Phanice, was the ancient name of that country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, lying between Syria on the north and Judea on the south. Sometimes this name was given to all the maritime territory of Syria and Judea. There is little agreement among ancient geographers as to the limits of Phoenicia Proper. According to Ptolemy, it extended beyond Mount Carmel to the south. This province was considerably extended after the Christian era, when, being regarded as a part of Syria, it included Damascus and Palmyra. But it is only of Phoenicia in its restricted sense that we are called upon to speak in this part of our history. This country was a narrow strip of territory, lying between the Lebanon chain of mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The length of this little state was about one hundred and twenty miles, and its width less than twenty. Its extent was about one fourth that of the state of Massachusetts; but such was the activity of its commerce, that, in the height of its prosperity, it was thick set with towns and villages, and seemed to be almost one continued city. The soil of this territory is good, and the climate agreeable and salubrious. It is plentifully watered by small rivers, which, running down from the mountains, sometimes overflow their banks and inundate the country.

It is generally allowed that the Phoenicians were Canaanites by descent. A division of the posterity of Canaan, the youngest son of Ham, is supposed to have left the Arabian shore of the Red Sea, and settled in the country afterwards known as Canaan, Palestine, Phoenice, &c. Their language seems to have

been the same with that of Abraham and the patriarch, and this continued to be the case for a long time afterward. They were divided into a number of small, independent communities. Every town, with a small surrounding district, and some dependent villages, appears to have been a sovereign state, acknowledging the control of no superior, but being in alliance with its neighbors for common objects. The meleks, or kings, of these small principalities, were little more than chief magistrates or patriarchal chiefs, with very limited powers. Indeed, it is doubtful whether they had any independent civil power; for a king, in that quarter of the world, appears to have been regarded merely as the military commander of the army in time of war, and the agent of the public transactions with other states. The real power of these small states evidently remained in the body of the adult male population, and practically in the elder portion of it, as appears from the deference paid to seniority in those times.

The Phoenicians were the Canaanites of the seacoast. The oldest city in this quarter was Sidon, or Zidon. According to Josephus, this city was founded by Sidon, the eldest son of Canaan, who is called in Phoenician history a king. But of the actions of his reign we have no account, nor are we better acquainted with the history of his immediate successors; for though the Sidonians are mentioned in the books of Moses, Joshua, and the Judges, we find no express mention of their kings till the time of the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks of ambassadors sent, by the king of Sidon, to propose to Zedekiah a league against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Tyre and Aradus were the cities next in antiquity to Sidon.

The history of the Phoenicians, in its earliest stages, is so closely connected with that of the other nations of Canaan, that it is impossible to separate them. At all times it is involved in much obscurity. The Phonicians, if not the inventors of alphabetical writing,

SANCHONIATHON ON PHOENICIA.

possessed this art at a very early period, and are said to have kept their ancient historical records very faithfully. But these writings have all perished, and we are compelled to resort chiefly to the Greek historians, for our knowledge of the Phoenicians. They boasted of an excessive antiquity, and carried back their reckonings no less than thirty thousand years.

The first distinct knowledge which we can obtain of these people is in connection with their foreign trade. They seem to have been from their infancy a commercial nation. Their narrow line of coast, indented with excellent bays and harbors, was covered with lofty and wooded mountains, which jut out into the sea, and form bold promontories. Several islands are scattered along the coast; and these, as well as the harbors of the main land, afforded excellent sites for commercial establishments. More than a thousand years before the Christian era, we find the Phoenicians already engaged in active trade with foreign nations. In the time of King David, there appears to have been a considerable emigration of Edomites to Phoenicia. Commercial countries seem, in all ages, to have been places of asylum for fugitives expelled from their homes by war, privation, and other calamities. Holland, Great Britain, and the United States, are examples of this in modern times, and Phoenicia affords an instance in the very earliest periods of history.

The Edomites communicated to the Phoenicians a knowledge of the Red Sea, and of the shores of Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. This information enabled them to extend their commerce both in the south and the west. All their thoughts were now occupied in advancing their trade. They affected no empire but that of the sea, and seem to have had no national object but the peaceable enjoyment of their commerce. They traded with all the known parts of the world that were within the reach of their ships. They visited the shores of the Black Sea, and established commercial factories there. They carried on a very profitable trade with Spain, from which country they obtained abundance of silver. Their ships even ventured through the Herculean Straits into the Atlantic, and sailed northward as far as the British Isles, called by the Greeks Cassiterides. In the south, they formed settlements on the coasts of the Red Sea, and their fleets sailed to India, and even visited the Island of Ceylon. When we reflect that all these things were done before the discovery of the mariner's compass, we must entertain a high estimation of the courage and commercial enterprise of these people.

CHAPTER CIX.

1497 to 332 B. C.

219

called Thoth, Hermes, and Mercury, who was believed to be the inventor of letters. Sanchoniathon's books were translated from the Phoenician language into Greek by Philo Biblius, a famous grammarian, who lived in the first century after Christ. He begins his history of Phoenicia with the creation of the first pair of mortals, from whom, in process of time, were born certain giants, who settled on the mountains of Phonicia, and gave them their own names of Cassius, Libanus, Antilibanus, and Berothis. In our account of cosmogonies, in the introductory part of this work, we have related some of the fables accompanying this portion of Sanchoniathon's history, and which need not be repeated here. The whole narrative seems to be little more than a history of the origin of Phonician idolatry.

The Greek account differs from that of Sanchoniathon. According to this authority, Agenor was the first king of Phoenicia. He was an Egyptian, and the son of Neptune. He emigrated into Phoenicia, where he settled 1497 B. C., and became the father of a numerous family. His two daughters, Isæa and Melia, married their cousins Ægyptus and Danaus. Cilix, his son, removed to Cilicia, and gave his name to that country. Phoenix, another son, succeeded his father in the kingdom, which from that time was called after him, Phonice. Eusebius informs us that he was the first discoverer of the famous scarlet color, which afterwards became known as the Tyrian dye. The next king of Sidon was Phalis, whose reign was contemporary with the Trojan war. He was an ally of the Greeks, and used his utmost endeavors, though in vain, to draw Sarpedon, king of the Lycians, over to their side. He is mentioned by Homer, and honored with the title of "most illustrious." But little reliance, however, can be placed on any of these Greek accounts, as they are mixed up with so many fables, that it is hardly possible to distinguish historical matters from those that are purely mythological.

The Hebrew Scriptures mention Sidon and Tyre, together with the Phoenician tribes of the Arkites, the Hivites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, &c., whose territories appear to have extended along the coast northward from the city and territory of Sidon. The ancient Phoenician city of Arca probably took its name from the Arkites. It stood nearly midway between Tripoli and Tortosa, about five miles from the sea, among the lower ranges of Mount Lebanon. The Arvadites are said by Josephus to have occupied the little island of Arvadus, called Arvad and Arphad in the Scriptures. The inhabitants of this island are mentioned by Ezekiel, along with the Sidonians, as taking an active part in the maritime commerce of Tyre. The Arkites, Hivites, Arvadites, and Zemarites, are scarcely mentioned, historically, in the Scriptures.

It is not till the period of the expedition of Xerxes

Sanchoniathon - Agenor - The Persian Con- against Greece, (480 B. C.,) that we find any mention in

quest ·Revolutions of Sidon.

THE first history of Phoenicia was written by Sanchoniathon, whom we have already mentioned as a native of this country, and who wrote a cosmogony or history of the creation. His Phoenician history was compiled from materials communicated to him by a priest named Hierombalus. He is said also to have been assisted in his work by the registers of the Phoenician cities, which he found preserved in the temples, and to have carefully investigated the writings of Taut, otherwise

the Greek historians of a Phoenician king, who appears to be a real historical personage. Herodotus informs us that Tetramnestes, king of Sidon, assisted the Persian invader with a fleet of three hundred ships, and that this king was one of the chief commanders in the Persian navy. After this, we find mention of Tennes, king of Sidon, in whose reign the dominion of the Persians appears to have been established in Phoenicia. But this yoke being found intolerably oppressive, the inhabitants rose in rebellion, and, with the assistance of Nectanebus, king of Egypt, expelled the Persians

« PreviousContinue »