Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, by John Lewis Burckhardt

Preface of the Editor.

IT is hoped that little apology is necessary for the publication of a volume of Travels in Asia, by a Society, whose sole professed object is the promotion of discoveries in the African continent.

The Association having had the good fortune to obtain the services of a person of Mr. Burckhardt’s education and talents, resolved to spare neither time nor expense in enabling him to acquire the language and manners of an Arabian Musulman in such a degree of perfection, as should render the detection of his real character in the interior of Africa extremely difficult.

It was thought that a residence at Aleppo would afford him the most convenient means of study, while his intercourse with the natives of that city, together with his occasional tours in Syria, would supply him with a view of Arabian life and manners in every degree, from the Bedouin camp to the populous city. While thus preparing himself for the ultimate object of his mission, he was careful to direct his journeys through those parts of Syria which had been the least frequented by European travellers, and thus he had the opportunity of making some important additions to our knowledge of one of those countries of which the geography is not less interesting by its connection with ancient history, than it is imperfect, in consequence of the impediments which modern barbarism has opposed to scientific researches. After consuming near three years in Syria, Mr. Burckhardt, on his arrival in Egypt, found himself prevented from pursuing the execution of his instructions, by a suspension of the usual commercial intercourse with the interior of Africa, and was thus, during the ensuing five years, placed under the necessity of employing his time in Egypt and the adjacent countries in the same manner as he had done in Syria. After the journeys in Egypt, Nubia, Arabia, and Mount Sinai, which have been briefly described in the Memoir prefixed to the former volume of his travels, his death at Cairo, at the moment when he was preparing for immediate departure to Fezzan, left the Association in possession of a large collection of manuscripts concerning the countries visited by their traveller in these preparatory journeys, but of nothing more than oral information as to those to which he had been particularly sent. As his journals in Nubia, and in the regions adjacent to the Astaboras, although relating only to an incidental part of his mission to Africa, were descriptive of countries coming strictly within the scope of the African Association, these, together with all his collected information on the interior of Africa, were selected for earliest publication. The present volume contains his observations in Syria and Arabia Petræa; to which has been added his tour in the Peninsula of Mount Sinai, although the latest of all his travels in date, because it is immediately connected, by its subject, with his journey through the adjacent districts of the Holy Land. There still remain manuscripts sufficient to fill two volumes; one of these will consist of his travels in Arabia, which were confined to the Hedjaz, or Holy Land of the Musulmans, the part least accessible to Christians; the fourth volume will contain very copious remarks on the Arabs on the Desert, and particularly the Wahabys.

The two principal maps annexed to the present volume have been constructed under the continued inspection of the Editor, by Mr. John Walker, junior, by whom they have been delineated and engraved.

In the course of this process, it has been found, that our traveller’s bearings by the compass are not always to be relied on. Those which were obviously incorrect, and useless for geographical purposes, have been omitted in the Journal; some instances of the same kind, which did not occur to the Editor until the sheets were printed, are noticed in the Errata, and if a few still remain, the reader is intreated not to consider them as proofs of negligence in the formation of the maps, which have been carefully constructed from Burckhardt’s materials, occasionally assisted and corrected by other extant authorities. One cannot easily decide, whether the errors in our traveller’s bearings are chiefly to be attributed to the variable nature of the instrument, or to the circumstances of haste and concealment under which he was often obliged to take his observations, though it is sufficiently evident that be fell into the error, not uncommon with unexperienced travellers, of multiplying bearings to an excessive degree, instead of verifying a smaller number, and measuring intermediate angles with a pocket sextant. However his mistakes may have arisen, the consequence has been, that some parts of the general map illustrative of his journeys in Syria and the Holy Land have been constructed less from his bearings than from his distances in time, combined with those of other travellers, and checked by some known points on the coast. Hence also a smaller scale has been chosen for that map than may be formed from the same materials when a few points in the interior are determined by celestial observations. In the mean time it is hoped, that the present sketch will be sufficient to enable the reader to pursue the narrative without much difficulty, especially as the part of Syria which the traveller examined with more minuteness than any other, the Haouran, is illustrated by a map upon a larger scale, which has been composed from two delineations made by him in his two journeys in that province.

It appears unnecessary to the Editor to enter into any lengthened discussion in justification of the ancient names which he has inserted in the maps; he thinks it sufficient to refer to the copious exposition of the evidences of Sacred Geography contained in the celebrated work of Reland. Much is still wanting to complete this most interesting geographical comparison; and as a great part of the country visited by Burckhardt has since his time been explored by a gentleman better qualified to illustrate its antiquities by his learning; who travelled under more favourable circumstances, and who was particularly diligent in collecting those most faithful of all geographical evidences, ancient inscriptions, it may be left to Mr. W. Bankes, to illustrate more fully the ancient geography of the Decapolis and adjoining districts, and to remove some of the difficulties arising from the ambiguity of the ancient authorities.

It will be found, perhaps, that our traveller is incorrect in supposing, that the ruins at Omkeis are those of Gamala, for the situation of Omkeis, the strength of its position, and the extent of the ruins, all favour the opinion that it was Gadara, the chief city of Peræa, the strongest place in this part of the country, and the situation of which, on a mountain over against Tiberias and Scythopolis,1 corresponds precisely with that of Omkeis. But it will probably be admitted, that our traveller has rightly placed several other cities, such as Scythopolis, Hippus, Abila,2 Gerasa, Amathus; and he has greatly improved our knowledge of Sacred Geography, by ascertaining many of the Hebrew sites in the once populous but now deserted region, formerly known by the names of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the country of the Amorites.

The principal geographical discoveries of our traveller, are the nature of the country between the Dead Sea and the gulf of Ælana, now Akaba; - the extent, conformation, and detailed topography of the Haouran; - the site of Apameia on the Orontes, one of the most important cities of Syria under the Macedonian Greeks; - the site of Petra, which, under the Romans, gave the name of Arabia Petræa to the surrounding territory; - and the general structure of the peninsula of Mount Sinai; together with many new facts in its geography, one of the most important of which is the extent and form of the Ælanitic gulf, hitherto so imperfectly known as either to be omitted in the maps, or marked with a bifurcation at the extremity, which is now found not to exist.

M. Seetzen, in the years 1805 and 1806, had traversed a part of the Haouran to Mezareib and Draa, had observed the Paneium at the source of the Jordan at Baniás, had visited the ancient sites at Omkeis, Bett-er-Ras, Abil, Djerash and Amman, and had followed the route afterwards taken by Burckhardt through Rabbath Moab to Kerek, from whence he passed round the southern extremity of the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. The public, however, has never received any more than a very short account of these journeys, taken from the correspondence of M. Seetzen with M. de Zach, at Saxe-Gotha.3 He was quite unsuccessful in his inquiries for Petra, and having taken the road which leads to Mount Sinai from Hebron, he had no suspicion of the existence of the long valley known by the names of El Ghor, and El Araba.

This prolongation of the valley of the Jordan, which completes a longitudinal separation of Syria, extending for three hundred miles from the sources of that river to the eastern branch of the Red Sea, is a most important feature in the geography of the Holy Land, - indicating that the Jordan once discharged itself into the Red Sea, and confirming the truth of that great volcanic convulsion, described in the nineteenth chapter of Genesis, which interrupted the course of the river, which converted into a lake the fertile plain occupied by the cities of Adma, Zeboin, Sodom and Gomorra, and which changed all the valley to the southward of that district into a sandy desert.

The part of the valley of the Orontes, below Hamah, in which stood the Greek cities of Larissa and Apameia, has now for the first time been examined by a scientific traveller, and the large lake together with the modern name of Famia, which have so long occupied a place in the maps of Syria, may henceforth be erased.

The country of the Nabatæi, of which Petra was the chief town, is well characterized by Diodorus,4 as containing some fruitful spots, but as being for the greater part, desert and waterless. With equal accuracy, the combined information of Eratosthenes,5 Strabo,6 and Pliny,7 describes Petra as falling in a line, drawn from the head of the Arabian gulf (Suez) to Babylon, - as being at the distance of three or four days from Jericho, and of four or five from Phœnicon, which was a place now called Moyeleh, on the Nabatæan coast, near the entrance of the Ælanitic gulf, - and as situated in a valley of about two miles in length surrounded with deserts, inclosed within precipices, and watered by a river. The latitude of 30° 20' ascribed by Ptolemy to Petra, agrees moreover very accurately with that which is the result of the geographical information of Burckhardt. The vestiges of opulence, and the apparent date of the architecture at Wady Mousa, are equally conformable with the remains of the history of Petra, found in Strabo,7 from whom it appears that previous to the reign of Augustus, or under the latter Ptolemies, a very large portion of the commerce of Arabia and India passed through Petra to the Mediterranean: and that armies of camels were required to convey the merchandise from Leuce Come, on the Red Sea,8 through Petra to Rhinocolura, now El Arish. But among the ancient authorities regarding Petra, none are more curious than those of Josephus, Eusebius, and Jerom, all persons well acquainted with these countries, and who agree in proving that the sepulchre of Aaron in Mount Hor, was near Petra.9 For hence, it seems evident, that the present object of Musulman devotion, under the name of the tomb of Haroun, stands upon the same spot which has always been regarded as the burying-place of Aaron; and there remains little doubt, therefore, that the mountain to the west of Petra, is the Mount Hor of the Scriptures, Mousa being, perhaps, an Arabic corruption of Mosera, where Aaron is said to have died.10

It would seem, from the evidence regarding Petra which may be collected in ancient history, that neither in the ages prior to the commercial opulence of the Nabatæi, nor after they were deprived of it, was Wady Mousa the position of their principal town.

When the Macedonian Greeks first became acquainted with this part of Syria by means of the expedition which Antigonus sent against the Nabatæi, under the command of his son Demetrius, we are informed by Diodorus that these Arabs placed their old men, women, and children upon a certain rock (έπιτινοςπέτρας), steep, unfortified by walls, admitting only of one access to the summit, and situated 300 stades beyond the lake Asphaltitis.11 As this interval agrees with that of Kerek from the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and is not above half the distance of Wady Mousa from the same point; and as the other parts of the description are well adapted to Kerek, while they are inapplicable to Wady Mousa, we can hardly doubt that Kerek was at that time the fortress of the Nabatæ; and that during the first ages of the intercourse of that people with the Greeks, it was known to the latter by the name Petra, so often applied by them to barbarian hill-posts.

When the effects of commerce required a situation better suited than Kerek to the collected population and increased opulence of the Nabatæi, the appellation of Petra was transferred to the new city at Wady Mousa, which place had before been known to the Greeks by the name of Arce (Αρκη), a corruption perhaps of the Hebrew Rekem.12 To Wady Mousa, although of a very different aspect from Kerek, the name Petra was equally well adapted; and Kerek then became distinguished among the Greeks by its indigenous name, in the Greek form of Charax, to which the Romans added that of Omanorum, or Kerek of Ammon,13 to distinguish it from another Kerek, now called Kerek el Shobak. The former Kerek was afterwards restored by the Christians to the Jewish division of Moab, to which, being south of the river Arnon, it strictly belonged, and it was then called in Greek Charagmoba, under which name we find it mentioned as one of the cities and episcopal dioceses of the third Palestine.14

When the stream of commerce which had enriched the Nabatæi had partly reverted to its old Egyptian channel, and had partly taken the new course, which created a Palmyra in the midst of a country still more destitute of the commonest gifts of nature, then Arabia Petræa,15 Wady Mousa was gradually depopulated. Its river, however, and the intricate recesses of its rocky valleys, still attract and give security to a tribe of Arabs; but the place being defensible only by considerable numbers, and being situated in a less fertile country than Kerek, was less adapted to be the chief town of the Nabatæi, when they had returned to their natural state of divided wanderers or small agricultural communities. The Greek bishopricks of the third Palestine were obliterated by the Musulman conquest, with the sole exception of the metropolitan Petra, whose titular bishop still resides at Jerusalem, and occasionally visits Kerek, as being the only place in his province which contains a Christian community. Hence Kerek has been considered the see of the bishoprick of Petra, and hence has arisen the erroneous opinion often adopted by travellers from the Christians of Jerusalem, that Kerek is the site of the ancient capital of Arabia Petræa.

The Haouran being only once mentioned in the Sacred Writings,16 was probably of inconsiderable extent under the Jews, but enlarged its boundaries under the Greeks and Romans, by whom it was called Auranitis. It has been still farther increased since that time, and now includes not only Auranitis, but Ituræa also, or Ittur, of which Djedour is perhaps a corruption; together with the greater part of Basan, or Batanæa, and Trachonitis. Burckhardt seems not to have been aware of the important comment upon Trachonitis afforded by his description of the singular rocky wilderness of the Ledja, and by the inscriptions which he copied at Missema, in that district.17 It appears from these inscriptions, that Missema was anciently the town of the Phænesii, and the metrocomia or chief place of Trachon, the descriptions of which district by Strabo and Josephus,18 are in exact conformity with that which Burckhardt has given us of the Ledja.

From Strabo and Ptolemy,19 we learn that Trachonitis comprehended all the uneven country extending along the eastern side of the plain of Haouran, from near Damascus to Boszra. It was in consequence of the predatory incursions of the Arabs from the secure recesses of the Ledja into the neighbouring plains, that Augustus transferred the government of Trachonitis from Zenodorus, who was accused of encouraging them, to Herod, king of Judæa.20 The two Trachones, into which Trachonitis was divided, agree with the two natural divisions of the Ledja and Djebel Haouran.

Oerman, an ancient ruin at the foot of the Djebel Haouran. to the east of Boszra, appears from an inscription copied there by Burckhardt, to be the site of Philippopolis, a town founded by Philip, emperor of Rome, who was a native of Boszra.

Another ancient name is found at Hebran, in the same mountains, to the N.E. of Boszra, where an inscription records the gratitude of the tribe of Æedeni to a Roman veteran. The Kelb Haouran, or summit of the Djebel Haouran, appears to be the Mount Alsadamum of Ptolemy.21

Of the ancient towns just mentioned, Philippopolis alone is noticed in ancient history; and although the name of Phæno occurs as a bishoprick of Palestine, and that the adjective Phænesius is applied to some mines at that place (ταΦαινηςιαμεταλλα), it seems evident that these Phænesii were different from those of Trachon, and that they occupied a part of Idumæa, between Petra and the southern extremity of the Dead Sea.22

Mezareib, a village and castle on the Hadj route, appears to be the site of Astaroth, the residence of Og, king of Bashan;23 for Eusebius25 places Astaroth at 6 miles from Adraa (or Edrei, now Draa,) between that place and Abila (now Abil), and at 25 miles from Bostra, a distance very nearly confirmed by the Theodosian Table, which gives 24 Roman miles between those two places. It will be seen by the map, that the position of Mezareib conforms to all these particulars. The unfailing pool of the clearest water, which now attracts the men and cattle of all the surrounding country to Mezareib in summer, must have made it a place of importance in ancient times, and therefore excited the wonder of our traveller at its having preserved only some very scanty relics of antiquity.

Although Mount Sinai, and the deserts lying between that peninsula and Judæa, have not, like the latter country, preserved many of the names of Holy Scripture, the new information of Burckhardt contains many facts in regard to their geography and natural history, which may be useful in tracing the progress of the Israelites from Egypt into Syria.

The bitter well of Howara, 15 hours southward of Ayoun Mousa, corresponds as well in situation as in the quality of its water, with the well of Marah, at which the Israelites arrived after passing through a desert of three days from the place near Suez where they had crossed the Red Sea.24

The Wady Gharendel, two hours beyond Howara, where are wells among date trees, seems evidently to be the station named Elim, which was next to Marah, and at which the Israelites found “twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees.”25 And it is remarkable, that the Wady el Sheikh, and the upper part of the Wady Feiran, the only places in the peninsula where manna is gathered from below the tamarisk trees, accord exactly with that part of the desert of Sin, in which Moses first gave his followers the sweet substance gathered in the morning, which was to serve them for bread during their long wandering;26 for the route through Wady Taybe, Wady Feiran, and Wady el Sheikh, is the only open and easy passage to Mount Sinai from Wady Gharendel; and it requires the traveller to pass for some distance along the sea shore after leaving Gharendel, as we are informed that the Israelites actually did, on leaving Elim.27

The upper region of Sinai, which forms an irregular circle of 80 or 40 miles in diameter, possessing numerous sources of water, a temperate climate, and a soil capable of supporting animal and vegetable nature, was the part of the peninsula best adapted to the residence of near a year, during which the Israelites were numbered and received their laws.

About the beginning of May, in the fourteenth month from the time of their departure from Egypt, the children of Israel quitted the vicinity of Mount Horeb, and under the guidance of Hohab, the Midianite, brother-in-law of Moses, marched to Kadesh, a place on the frontiers of Canaan, of Edom, and of the desert of Paran or Zin.28 Not long after their arrival, “at the time of the first ripe grapes,” or about the beginning of August, spies were sent into every part of the cultivated country, as far north as Hamah.29 The report which they brought back was no less favourable to the fertility of the land, than it was discouraging by its description of the warlike spirit and preparation of the inhabitants, and of the strength of the fortified places; and the Israelites having in consequence refused to follow their leaders into Canaan, were punished by that long wandering in the deserts lying between Egypt, Judæa, and Mount Sinai, of which the sacred historian has not left us any details, but the tradition of which is still preserved in the name of El Tyh, annexed to the whole country; both to the desert plains, and to the mountains lying between them and Mount Sinai.

In the course of their residence in the neighbourhood of Kadesh, the Israelites obtained some advantages over the neighbouring Canaanites,30 but giving up at length all hope of penetrating by the frontier, which lies between Gaza and the Dead Sea, they turned to the eastward, with a view of making a circuit through the countries on the southern and eastern sides of the lake.31 Here however, they found the difficulty still greater; Mount Seir of Edom, which under the modern names of Djebal, Shera, and Hesma, forms a ridge of mountains, extending from the southern extremity of the Dead Sea to the gulf of Akaba, rises abruptly from the valleys El Ghor and El Araba, and is traversed from west to east by a few narrow Wadys only, among which the Ghoeyr alone furnishes an entrance that would not be extremely difficult to a hostile force. This perhaps was the “high way,” by which Moses, aware of the difficulty of forcing a passage, and endeavouring to obtain his object by negotiation, requested the Edomites to let him pass, on the condition of his leaving the fields and vineyards untouched, and of purchasing provisions and water from the inhabitants.32 But Edom “refused to give Israel passage through his border,” and “came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.”33 The situation of the Israelites therefore, was very critical. Unable to force their way in either direction, and having enemies on three sides; (the Edomites in front, and the Canaanites, and Amalekites on their left flank and rear,) no alternative remained for them but to follow the valley El Araba southwards, towards the head of the Red Sea. At Mount Hor, which rises abruptly from that valley, “by the coast of the land of Edom,”34 Aaron died, and was buried in the conspicuous situation, which tradition has preserved as the site of his tomb to the present day. Israel then “journeyed from Mount Hor, by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom,”35 “through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongeber,” until “they turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab, and arrived at the brook Zered.”36 It may be supposed that they crossed the ridge to the southward of Eziongeber, about the place where Burckhardt remarked, from the opposite coast, that the mountains were lower than to the northward, and it was in this part of their wandering that they suffered from the serpents, of which our traveller observed the traces of great numbers on the opposite shore of the Ælanitic gulf. The Israelites then issued into the great elevated plains which are traversed by the Egyptian and Syrian pilgrims, on the way to Mekka, after they have passed the two Akabas. Having entered these plains, Moses received the divine command, “You have compassed this mountain long enough, turn you northward.” – “Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir, and they shall be afraid of you.”37 The same people who had successfully repelled the approach of the Israelites from the strong western frontier, was alarmed now that they had come round upon the weak side of the country. But Israel was ordered “not to meddle” with the children of Esau, but “to pass through their coast” and to “buy meat find and water from them for money,” in the same manner as the caravan of Mekka is now supplied by the people of the same mountains, who meet the pilgrims on the Hadj route. After traversing the wilderness on the eastern side of Moab, the Israelites at length entered that country, crossing the brook Zered in the thirty-eighth year, from their first arrival at Kadesh Barnea, “when all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host.”38 After passing through the centre of Moab, they crossed the Arnon, entered Ammon, and were at length permitted to begin the overthrow of the possessors of the promised land, by the destruction of Sihon the Amorite, who dwelt at Heshbon.39 The preservation of the latter name, and of those of Diban, Medaba, Aroer, Amman, together with the other geographical facts derived from the journey of Burckhardt through the countries beyond the Dead Sea, furnishes a most satisfactory illustration of the sacred historians.

It remains for the Editor only to add, that while correcting the foreign idiom of his Author, and making numerous alterations in the structure of the language, he has been as careful as possible not to injure the originality of the composition, stamped as it is with the simplicity, good sense, and candour, inseparable from the Author’s character. In the Editor’s wish, however, to preserve this originality, he cannot flatter himself that incorrect expressions may not some times have been left. In regard to the Greek inscriptions, he thinks it necessary only to remark, that although the propriety of furnishing the reader with fac-similes of all such interesting relicts of ancient history cannot in general be doubted, yet in the present instance, the trouble and expense which it would have occasioned, would hardly have been compensated by the importance of the monuments themselves, or by the degree of correctness with which they were copied by the traveller. They have therefore been printed in a type nearly resembling the Greek characters which were in use at the date of the inscriptions, and the Editor has taken the liberty of separating the words, and of supplying in the small cursive Greek character, the defective parts of the traveller’s copies.

The Editor takes this opportunity of stating, that in consequence of some discoveries in African geography, which have been made known since the publication of Burckhardt’s Travels in Nubia, he has made some alterations in the maps of the second edition of that work. The observations of Captain Lyon have proved Morzouk to be situated a degree and a half to the southward of the position formerly assigned to it, and his enquiries having at the same time confirmed the bearing and distance between Morzouk and Bornou, as reported by former travellers, a corresponding change will follow in the latitude of Bornou, as well as in the position of the places on the route leading to those two cities from the countries of the Nile.

A journey into Nubia, by the Earl of Belmore, and his brother, the Hon. Capt. Corry, has furnished some latitudes and longitudes, serving to correct the map of the course of the Nile, from Assouan to the confines of Dóngola, which the Editor constructed from the journals of Burckhardt, without the assistance of any celestial observations. The error in the map as to the most distant point observed by Lord Belmore is however so small, that it has not been thought necessary to make any alteration in that map for the second edition of Burckhardt’s Journey in Nubia; but the whole delineation of this part of the Nile will be corrected from the recent observations, in a new edition of the Supplement to the Editor’s general Map of Egypt.

Since the Journey of Lord Belmore, Mr. Waddington and Mr. Hanbury, taking advantage of an expedition sent into Æthiopia by the Viceroy of Egypt, have prolonged the examination of the Nile four hundred miles beyond the extreme point reached by Burckhardt; and some French gentlemen have continued to follow the army as far as Sennaar. The presence of a Turkish army in that country will probably furnish greater facilities for exploring the Bahr el Abiad, or western branch of the Nile, than have ever before been presented to travellers; there is reason to hope, that the opportunity will not be neglected, and thus a survey of this celebrated river from its sources to the Mediterranean, may, perhaps, at length be made, if not for the first time, for the first time at least since the extinction of Egyptian science.

The expedition of the Pasha of Egypt has already produced some important additions to African geography. By permission of Mr. Waddington, the Editor has corrected, from that gentleman’s delineation, the parts of the Nile above Mahass, for the second edition of Burckhardt’s Nubia, and from the information transmitted to England by Mr. Salt, he has been enabled to insert in the same map, the position of the ruins of an ancient city situated about 20 miles to the north-eastward of Shendy.

These ruins had already been partially seen by Bruce and Burckhardt,40 and there can be little doubt that Bruce was right in supposing them to be the remains of Meroe, the capital of the great peninsula of the same name, of which the general geography appears to have been known with considerable accuracy to men of science in the Augustan age, although it had not been visited by any of the writers whose works have reached us. For, assuming41 these ruins to mark the site of the city Meroe, and that the latitude and longitude of Shendy have been accurately determined by Bruce, whose instruments were good, and whose competency to the task of observation is undoubted, it will be found that Ptolemy is very nearly right in ascribing the latitude of 16·26 to the city Meroe.42 Pliny45 is equally correct in stating that the two points of the ecliptic, in which the sun is in the zenith at Meroe, are the 18th degree of Taurus, and the 14th degree of Leo. The 5000 stades which Strabo43 and Pliny47 assert to be the distance between Meroe and Syene is correct, at a rate of between 11 and 12 stades to the geographical mile; if the line be taken in direct distance, as evidently appears to have been the intention of Strabo, by his thrice stating (upon the authority of Eratosthenes,) that the distance from Meroe to Alexandria was 10,000 stades.44 The latitudes of Ptolemy equally accord in shewing the equidistance of Syene from Meroe and from Alexandria; the latitude of Syene being stated by him at 23-50,45 and that of Alexandria at 31-0.46 The description of the island of Meroe as being 3000 stades long, and 1000 broad, in form like a shield, and as formed by the confluence of the Astasobas, Astapus, and Astaboras,47 is perfectly applicable to the great peninsula watered on the east by the Tacazze, and on the west by the Bahr el Abiad, after receiving the Bahr el Azrek. The position of the city Meroe is shewn by Artemidorus, Ptolemy, and Pliny,48 to have been, like the ruins near Shendy, near the northern angle of the island, or the confluence of the rivers. The island between Djebail and Shendy which Bruce calls Kurgos, answers to that which Pliny describes as the port of Meroe; and finally, the distance of “15 days to a good walker,” which Artemidorus49 places between Meroe and the sea, giving a rate of about 16 English miles a-day, in direct distance, is a correct statement of the actual distance between the ruins near Shendy and Souakin.50

It will hardly be contested, that the modern name of Mérawe, which is found attached to a town near the ruins of an ancient city, discovered by Messrs. Waddington and Hanbury in the country of the Sheygja, is sufficient to overthrow the strong evidence just stated. It may rather be inferred, that the Greek Meroe was formed from a word signifying “city” in the ancient Æthiopic language, which has continued up to the present time, to be attached to the site of one of the chief cities on the banks of the Nile, - thus resembling in its origin many names of places in various countries, which from simple nouns expressive in the original language of objects or their qualities, such as city, mountain, river, sacred, white, blue, black, have been converted by foreigners into proper names.

The ruins near Mérawe seem to those of Napata, the chief town of the country intermediate between Meroe and Egypt, and which was taken by the præfect Petronius, in the reign of Augustus, when it was the capital of Queen Candace;51 for Pliny, on the authority of the persons sent by Nero to explore the river above Syene, states 524 Roman miles to have been the interval between Syene and Napata, and 360 miles to have been that between Napata and Meroe, which distances correspond more nearly than could have been expected with the real distances between Assouan, Mérawe, and Shendy, taken along the general curve of the river, without considering the windings in detail.52

The island of Argo, from its extent, its fertility, as well as from the similarity of name, seems to be the Gora, of Juba,53 or the Gagaudes, which the explorers of Nero reported to be situated at 133 miles below Napata.

In placing Napata at the ruins near Mérawe, it is necessary to abandon the evidence of Ptolemy, whose latitude of Napata is widely different from that of Mérawe; and as we also find, that he is considerably in error, in regard to the only point between Syene and Méroe, hitherto ascertained, namely, the Great Cataract, which he places 37 minutes to the north of Wady Halfa, still less can we rely upon his authority for the position of the obscurer towns.

Although the extreme northern point to which the Nile descends below Berber, before it turns to the south, is not yet accurately determined in latitude, nor the degree of southern latitude which the river reaches before it finally takes the northern course, which it continues to the Mediterranean, we cannot doubt that Eratosthenes had received a tolerably correct account of its general course from the Egyptians, notwithstanding his incorrectness in regard to the proportionate length of the great turnings of the river. “The Nile,” he says “after having flowed to the north from Meroe for the space of 2700 stades, turns to the south and south-west for 3700 stades, entering very far into Lybia, until it arrives in the latitude of Meroe; then making a new turn, it flows to the north for the space of 5300 stades, to the great Cataract, whence inclining a little eastward, it traverses 1200 stades to the small Cataract of Syene, and then 5300 stades to the sea.54 The Nile receives two rivers, which descending from certain lakes surround the great island of Meroe. That which flows on the eastern side is called Astaboras, the other is the Astapus, though some say it is the Astasobas,” &c.

This ambiguity, it is hardly necessary to observe, was caused by the greater magnitude of the Astasobas, or Bahr el Abiad, or White River, which caused it to give name to the united stream after its junction with the Astapus, or Bahr el Azrek, or Blue River; and hence Pliny,55 in speaking of Meroe, does not say that it was formed by the Astapus, but by the Astasobas. In fact, the Astapus forms the boundary of the island, as it was called, on the S.W. the Astasobas, or united stream, on the N.W.

William Martin Leake,
Acting Secretary of the African Association.

1 Polyb. l.5.c.71. Joseph. de Bel. Jud. l.4.c.8. Euseb. Onomast. in Αϊθαμ. The distance of the ruins at Omkeis from the Hieromax and the hot baths seems to have been Burckhardt’s objection to their being the remains of Gadara; but this distance is justified by St. Jerom, by Eusebius, and by a writer of the 5th century. According to the two former authors the hot baths were not at Gadara, but at a place near it called Aitham, or Aimath, or Emmatha; and the latter correctly states the distance at five miles. Reland Palæst. p.302, 775.

Perhaps Gamala was at El Hosn; Gaulanitis, of which Gamala was the chief town, will then correspond very well with Djolan.

2 There were two cities of this name. Abil on the Western borders of the Haouran appears to have been the Abila of Lysanias, which the Emperors Claudius and Nero gave, together with Batanæa and Trachonitis, to Herodes Agrippa. Joseph. Ant. Jud. l.19.c.5.-l.20.c.7.

3 This correspondence having been communicated to the Palestine Association, was translated and printed by that Society in the year 1810, in a quarto of forty-seven pages.

4 Diod. Sic. l.2,c.48.

5 Eratosth. ap. Strab. p. 767.

6 Strabo, p. 779.

7 Plin. Hist Nat. l.6,c.28.

8 P.781.

9 Leuce Come, on the coast of the Nabatæi, was the place from whence Ælius Gallus set out on his unsuccessful expedition into Arabia, (Strabo, ibid.) Its exact situation is unknown.

10 Euseb. et Hieron. Onomast. in Ωρ. Joseph. Ant. Jud. l.4.c.4.

11 Deuter. c.x.v.6. In addition to the proofs of the site of Petra, just stated, it is worthy of remark that the distance of eighty-three Roman miles from Aila, or Ælana, to Petra, in the Table (called Theodosian or Peutinger,) when compared with the distance on the map, gives a rate of about 7/10 of a Roman mile to the geographical mile in direct distance, which is not only a correct rate, but accords very accurately with that resulting from the other two routes leading from Aila in the Table, namely, from Aila to Clysma, near the modern Suez, and from Aila to Jerusalem. Szadeka, which Burckhardt visited to the south of Wady Mousa, agrees in distance and situation as well as in name with the Zadagasta of the Table, or Zodocatha of the Notitiæ dignitatum Imperii. See Reland Palæst. p. 230. Most of the other places mentioned on the three roads of the Table are noticed by Ptolemy or in the Notitiæ.

And here, the Editor may be permitted to add a few words on a third Roman route across these deserts, (having travelled the greater part of it three times,) namely, that from Gaza to Pelusium. In the Itinerary of Antoninus, the places, and their interjacent distances are stated as follows, Gaza, 22 M. P. Raphia, 22 M. P. Rhinocolura, 26 M. P. Ostracine, 26 M. P. Casium, 20 M. P. Pentaschœnus, 20 M. P. Pelusium. The Theodosian Table agrees with the Itinerary, but is defective in some of the names and distances; Gerrhæ, placed by the Table at 8 M. P. eastward of Pelusium, is confirmed in this situation by Strabo and Ptolemy. Strabo confirms the Itinerary in regard to Raphia, omits to notice Ostracine, and in placing Casium at three hundred stades from Pelusium, differs not much from the 40 M. P. of the Itinerary, or the ten schœnes indicated by the word Pentaschœnus, midway.

The name of Ráfa is still preserved near a well in the desert, at six hours march to the southward of Gaza, where among many remains of ancient buildings, two erect granite columns are supposed by the natives to mark the division between Africa and Asla. Polybius remarks (l.5,c.80), that Raphia was the first town of Syria, coming from Rhinocolura, which was considered an Egyptian town. Between Raphia and the easternmost inundations of the Nile, the only two places at which there is moisture sufficient to produce a degree of vegetation useful to man, are El Arish and Kátieh. The whole tract between these places, except where it has been encroached upon by moving sands, is a plain strongly impregnated with salt, terminating towards the sea in a lagoon or irruption of the sea anciently called Sirbonis. As the name of Kátieh, and its distance from Tineh or Pelusium, leave no doubt of its being the ancient Casium, the only remaining question is, whether El Arish is Rhinocolura, or Ostracine? A commentary of St. Jerom, on the nineteenth chapter of Isaiah, v.18, suggests the possibility that the modern name El Arish may be a corruption of the Hebrew Ares, which, as Jerom observes, means οστρακον, and alludes to Ostracine. Jerom was well acquainted with this country; but as the translators of Isaiah have supposed the word not to have been Ares, and as Jerom does not state that Ares was a name used in his time, the conjecture is not of much weight. It is impossible to reconcile the want of water so severely felt at Ostracine (Joseph. de Bel. Jud. l.4, ad fin. Plutarch, in M. Anton. Gregor. Naz. ep. 46.), with El Arish, where there are occasional torrents, and seldom any scarcity of well water, either there or at Messudieh, two hours westward. Ostracine, therefore, was probably near the εκρηγμα of the lagoon Sirbonis, about mid-way between El Arish and Kátieh, on the bank described by Strabo (p. 760), which separates the Sirbonis from the sea. This maritime position of Ostracine is confirmed by the march of Titus, (Joseph. ibid.) Leaving the limits of the Pelusiac territory, he moved across the desert on the first day, not to the modern Kátieh, but to the temple of Jupiter, at Mount Casium, on the sea shore, at the Cape now called Ras Kasaroun; on the second day to Ostracine; on the third to Rhinocolura; on the fourth to Raphia; on the fifth to Gaza. It will be seen by the map that these positions, as now settled, furnished exactly five convenient marches, the two longest being naturally through the desert of total privation, which lies between El Arish and Kátieh. As the modern route, instead of following the sea shore, passes to the southward of the lagoon, the site of Ostracine has not yet been explored.

12 Diod. Sic. l.19.c.95, 98.

13 Joseph. Antiq. Jud. l.4,c.4.

14 Plin. Hist. Nat. l.6,c.28.

15 Hierocl. Synecd. - Notit. Episc. Græc.

16 A comparison of the architecture at Wady Mousa, and at Tedmour, strengthens the opinion, that Palmyra flourished at a period later than Petra.

17 Ezekiel. c. xlvii v. 16.

18 See p. 117, 118.

19 Strabo. 755, 756. Joseph. Antiq. Jud. l.15,c.13.

20 Strabo. ibid. Ptolemy, l.5,c.15.

21 Joseph. Antiq. Jud. l.5,c.10. De Bell. Jud. l.1,c.20.

22 Ptolem. l.5,c.15.

23 Reland. Palæst. 1.3, voce Phæno.

24 Deuter. c.l.v.4. Josh. c.ix.v.10.

25 Euseb. Onomast. in Ασταρωθ et Ασαρωθ.

26 Exodus, c.xiv. xv. Numbers. c.xxxiii.

27 Exodus, c.xv. Numbers, c.xxxiii.

28 Exodus, c.xvi.

29 Numbers, c.xxxiii.v.10, 11.

30 Numbers, c.x. et seq. and c.33. Deuter. c.i.

31 Numbers, c.xiii. Deuter. c.i.

32 Numbers, c.xxi.

33 Numbers, c.xx, xxi.

34 Numbers, c.xx. Deuter, c.i.

35 Numbers, c.xx.

36 Numbers, ibid.

37 Numbers, c.xxi.

38 Deuter, c.ii.

39 Deuter, c.ii.

40 Deuter, c.ii.

41 Numbers, c.xxi. Deuter, c.ii.

42 Burckhardt passed through the vestiges of what seems to have been a dependency of this city on the Nile, at seven hours to the north of Shendy, and two hours to the south of Djebail; the latter name, which is applied by Burckhardt to a large village on a range of hills, is evidently the same as the Mount Gibbainy, where Bruce observed the same ruins, which have now been more completely explored by M. Cailliaud. See Travels in Nubia, p. 275. Bruce’s Travels, Vol. iv. p. 538, 4to.

43 To illustrate the following observations, as well as some of the preceding, a small drawing of the course of the Nile is inserted in the margin of the map of Syria which accompanies the present volume.

44 Ptolem. l.4,c.8.

45 Plin. Hist. Nat. l.2,c.73.

46 Strabo, p. 113.

47 Plin. ibid. We learn from another passage in Pliny, (l.6,c.29,) that the persons sent by Nero to explore the Nile, measured 884 miles, by the river, from Syene to Meroe.

48 Eratosth. ap. Strab. p. 62. Strabo, p. 113, 825.

49 Ptolem. l.4,c.6.

50 Ptolem. ibid.

51 Eratosth. ap. Strab. p. 786. Strab. p. 821. Diodor. Sic. l.l,c.33. Heliodor. Æthiop. l.10,c.5.

52 Artemid. ap. Strab. p.771. Ptolem. l.4,c.8. Plin. Hist. Nat. l.6,c.29.

53 Artemid. ibid.

54 It is fair to remark, that there are two authorities which tend to place the city of Meroe 30 or 40 miles to the southward of the ruins near Shendy. Eratosthenes states it to have been at 700 stades, and Pliny at 70 miles above the confluence. But it is rare indeed to find a coincidence of many ancient authorities in a question where numbers are concerned, unless one author has borrowed from another, which is probably the case in regard to the two just quoted.

55 Ptolem. l.4,c.7. Strabo, p. 820. Plin. Hist. Nat. l.6,c.29.

56 We must not, however, too confidently pronounce on real distances until we possess a few more positions fixed by astronomical observations.

57 Ap. Plin. ibid.

58 Ap. Strab. p. 786. The only mode of reconciling these numbers to the truth, is to suppose the three first of them to have been taken with all the windings of the stream, the two last in a direct line, and even then they cannot be very accurate.

59 Plin. Hist. Nat. l.5,c.9.

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