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This valley or dale still exhibits a very desolate appearance. The western side is a high chalk-cliff supporting the walls of the city, above which you perceive Jerusalem itself; while the eastern acclivity is formed by the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offence, so called from the idolatry which oppresses the fame of Solomon. These two hills are nearly naked, and of a dull red colour. On their slopes are seen, here and there, a few bleak and parched vines, some groves of wild olive-trees, wastes cover
ed with hyssop, chapels, oratories, and mosques in ruins. At the bottom of the valley you discover a bridge of a single arch, thrown across the channel of the Brook Kedron. The stones in the Jewish cemetery look like a heap of rubbish at the foot of the Mount of Offence, below the Arab village of Siloane, the paltry houses of which are scarcely to be distinguished from the surrounding sepulchres. From the stillness of Jerusalem, whence no smoke arises and no noise proceeds,—from the solitude of these hills where no living creature is to be seen, from the ruinous state of all these tombs, overthrown, broken, and half-open, you would imagine that the last trumpet had already sounded, and that the Valley of Jehoshaphat was about to render up its dead.
Amidst this scene of desolation three monuments arrest the eyes of the intelligent pilgrim,—the tombs of Zachariah, of Absalom, and of the king whose name still distinguishes the valley. The first-mentioned of these is a square mass of rock, hewn down into form, and isolated from the quarry out of which it is cut by a passage of twelve or fifteen feet wide on three of its sides ; the fourth or western front being open towards the valley and to Mount Moriah, the foot of which is only a few yards distant. This huge stone is eight paces in length on each side, and about twenty feet high in the front, and ten feet high at the back; the hill on which it stands having a steep ascent. It has four semi-columns cut out of the same rock on each of its faces, with a pilaster at each angle, all of a mixed Ionic order, and ornamented in bad taste. The architraves, the full moulding, and the deep overhanging cornice which finishes the square, are all perfectly
after the Egyptian manner; and the whole is surmounted by a pyramid, the sloping sides of which rise from the very edges of the square below, and terminate in a finished point.
The body of this monument, we have already stated, is one solid mass of rock, as well as its semicolumns on each face, but the surmounting pyra. mid appears to be of masonry ; its sides, however, are perfectly smooth, like the coated pyramids of Sahara and Dashour, and not graduated by stages like those of Djizeh in Lower Egypt.
Inconsiderable in size, and paltry in its ornaments, this monument, as Mr Buckingham observes, is eminently curious. There is no appearance of an entrance into any part of it; so that it seems, if a tomb, to have been as firmly closed as the Egyptian pyramids, and perhaps from the same respect for the repose of the dead. It is probable, indeed, that the original style and plan of the building are derived from the country of the Pharaohs, while the Grecian columns and pilasters may be the work of a much later period, when the Jews had learned to combine with the massy piles of their more ancient architecture the elegant lightness which distinguished the times of the Seleucidæ.* .
In the immediate vicinity is the Tomb of Jehoshaphat,-a cavern which is more commonly called the Grotto of the Disciples, from an idea that they went frequently thither to be taught by their Divine Master. The front of this excavation has two Do. • ric pillars of small size, but of just proportions. In the interior are three chambers, all of them rude
* Travels in Palestine, vol. i. p. 297.
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and irregular in their form, in one of which were several grave-stones, removed, we may suppose, from the open ground for greater security. Like all the rest, they were flat slabs of an oblong shape, from three to six inches in thickness, and evidently a portion of the limestone-rock which composes the adjoining hills.
Opposite to this, on the east, is the reputed Tomb of Absalom, resembling nearly, in the size, form, and decoration of its square base, that of Zachariah already described, except that it is sculptured with the metopes and triglyphs of the Doric order. This is surmounted by a sharp conical dome, having large mouldings running round its base, and on the summit something like an imitation of flame. There is here again so strange a mixture of style and ornament, that one knows not to what age to attribute the monument as a whole. The square mass below is solid, and the Ionic columns, which are seen on each of its faces, are half-indented in the rock itself. The dome is of masonry, and on the eastern side there is a square aperture in it. Generally speaking, the sight of this monument rather confirms the idea suggested by the Tomb of Zachariah, that the hewn mass of solid rock, the surmounting pyramid and dome of masonry, and the sculptured frieze and Ionic columns wrought on the faces of the square below, were works of different periods ; being probably ancient sepulchres, the primitive character of which had been changed by the subsequent addition of foreign ornaments. There is, besides, every reason to believe that this monument, represented in the next page, really occupies the site of the one which
was set up by him whose name it bears. “Now Absalom, in his lifetime, had 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.”*
Chateaubriand is of opinion that, except the Pool of Bethesda at Jerusalem, we have no remains of the primitive architecture of its inhabitants. This reservoir, a hundred and fifty feet long and forty
* 2 Samuel xviii. 18. Travels in Palestine, vol. i. p. 302.