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sive plains of a fine soil, yielding in nothing to the most prolific parts of Galilee and Samaria. “We continued our way,” says Mr Buckingham,“ to the north-east, through a country the beauty of which so surprised us, that we often asked each other what were our sensations; as if to ascertain the reality of what we saw, and persuade each other, by mutual confessions of our delight, that the picture before us was not an optical illusion. The landscape alone, which varied at every turn, and gave us new beauties from any point of view, was of itself worth all the pains of an excursion to the eastward of the Jordan; and the park-like scenes that sometimes softened the romantic wildness of the general character as a whole, reminded us of similar spots in less neglected lands.”*
The scenery continues of the same fascinating description till the traveller reaches the Nahr el Zerkah, or River Jabbok, the ancient boundary between the Amorites and the Children of Ammon. The banks are thickly clothed with the oleander and plane-tree, the wild-olive and almond, and many flowering shrubs of great variety and elegance. The stream is about thirty feet broad, deeper than the Jordan, and nearly as rapid, rushing downwards over a rocky channel. On the northern side begins the kingdom of Bashan, celebrated for its oaks, its cattle, and the bodily strength of its inhabitants. The opposite plate exhibits a view of the Jabbok, and of the bold Alpine range which fenced the territory of one of the most formidable enemies of Israel; verifying in its fullest extent the description
* Travels in Palestine, vol. ii. p. 104.
of Moses, who says, “ The border of the Children of Ammon was strong."*
The curious reader will find in the Travels of Mr Buckingham some ingenious reasoning employed by him to fix the locality of Bozor, Ramoth, Jabesh, and other towns situated in Gilead, and which were rendered important by the various events recorded in the sacred volume.
About six miles from Djerash towards the north stands the village of Souf, on the brow of a lofty hill, and flanked by a deep ravine. It retains several marks of having been the site of some more ancient and considerable town, presenting large blocks of stone with mouldings and sculpture wrought into the modern buildings. In the neighbourhood are seen the walls of an edifice apparently Roman, as also the ruins of two small towers which may with equal certainty be traced to the age of Saracenic domination. Souf can boast of nearly five hundred inhabitants, all rigid Mohammedans, and remarkable for a surly and suspicious character.
Leaving this rather inhospitable village, the traveller who wishes to visit the remains of Gamala proceeds in a north-westerly direction, descending into a fine valley, and again rising on a gentle ascent, the whole being profusely and beautifully wooded with evergreen oaks below, and pines upon the ridge of the hill above. “Mr Bankes, who had seen the whole of England, the greater part of Italy and France, and almost every province of Spain and Portugal, frequently remarked, that in all his travels he had met with nothing equal to it, excepting
* Numbers xxi. 24. Deut. j. 37.
only in some parts of the latter country,-Entre Minho and Douro,—to which alone he could compare it.”*
Several hamlets, and some obscure indications of ancient buildings, meet the eye in course of the journey to Om Keis. Before reaching this town, the road emerges into a hilly district, bleak, rocky, and ill-cultivated. The view is as monotonous as that from Jerusalem, forming a striking contrast to the rich, verdant, and beautiful scenery which distinguishes Bashan and Gilead.
Gamala, for under that name the ruins of the Roman station are most familiarly known, must have covered a site nearly square ; its greatest length, from east to west, being seventeen hundred short paces, and its breadth about one-fourth less. A considerable portion of it seems to have stood on the summit of a hill, well fortified all round; the traces of towers and other works of defence being still vi. sible even on its steepest parts. The portals of the eastern gate remain, from whence a noble street appears to have run through the whole length of the city, lined by a handsome colonnade of Ionic and Corinthian pillars. The pavement is formed of square blocks of black volcanic stone, and is still so perfect, that the ruts of wheel-carriages are to be seen in it, of different breadths, and about an inch in depth, as at the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.t
The first edifice which presents itself on entering the eastern gate is a theatre, the scene and front of which are entirely destroyed, but the benches and wild majesty of the mountain-scenery on the one hand, with the still calm of the lake on the other, would give an additional charm to the picture.*
* Buckingham, vol. ii. 244.
+ Travels in Palestine, p. 259.
Amid the interesting ruins of Gamala, situated in a barren district, alike unfavourable for agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, it is impossible not to be surprised at the indications of wealth and luxury which must have centred within its walls. The opulence cannot but have been considerable, which erected such splendid temples and colonnades, and supported two large theatres; erecting, at the same time, such massive tombs and splendid sarcophagi for all classes of the population. Its desolation may be traced to the rebellious spirit of the inhabitants, and the sanguinary wars to which it led under successive emperors. Vespasian, whose name is so closely associated with the history of Palestine for good and for evil, directed against it on more than one occasion the fury of the Roman legions, and finally levelled its walls, that they might not again be defended by such desperate insurgents. At a later period, its remote situation withdrew it from the attention of Europeans; and, in truth, its very existence had ceased to be remembered, until its ruins were once more visited by travellers in the course of the present century.
Passing along the eastern border of the lake, and advancing towards its northern extremity, the traveller easily recognises that desert place where the multitude was fed upon the miraculous loaves and fishes. Here, too, was the scene of the remarkable
* Travels in Palestine, vol. ii. p. 261.