The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XII

Of the Dead Sea; and of the Flome Jordan. Of the Head of Saint John the Baptist; and of the Usages OF THE Samaritans

AND from Jericho, a three mile, is the Dead Sea. About that sea groweth much alum and of alkatran. Between Jericho and that sea is the land of Engeddi. And there was wont to grow the balm; but men make draw the branches thereof and bear them to be grafted at Babylon; and yet men clepe them vines of Geddi. At a coast of that sea, as men go from Arabia, is the mount of the Moabites, where there is a cave, that men clepe Karua. Upon that hill led Balak, the son of Beor, Balaam the priest for to curse the people of Israel.

That Dead Sea parteth the land of Ind and of Arabia, and that sea lasteth from Soara unto Arabia. The water of that sea is full bitter and salt, and, if the earth were made moist and wet with that water, it would never bear fruit. And the earth and the land changeth often his colour. And it casteth out of the water a thing that men clepe asphalt, also great pieces, as the greatness of an horse, every day and on all sides. And from Jerusalem to that sea is 200 furlongs. That sea is in length five hundred and four score furlongs, and in breadth an hundred and fifty furlongs; and it is clept the Dead Sea, for it runneth nought, but is ever unmovable. And neither man, ne beast, ne nothing that beareth life in him ne may not die in that sea. And that hath been proved many times, by men that have deserved to be dead that have been cast therein and left therein three days or four, and they ne might never die therein; for it receiveth no thing within him that beareth life. And no man may drink of the water for bitterness. And if a man cast iron therein, it will float above. And if men cast a feather therein, it will sink to the bottom, and these be things against kind.

And also, the cities there were lost because of sin. And there beside grow trees that bear full fair apples, and fair of colour to behold; but whoso breaketh them or cutteth them in two, he shall find within them coals and cinders, in token that by wrath of God the cities and the land were burnt and sunken into hell. Some men clepe that sea the lake Dalfetidee; some, the flome of Devils; and some the flome that is ever stinking. And into that sea sunk the five cities by wrath of God; that is to say, Sodom, Gomorrah, Aldama, Zeboim, and Zoar, for the abominable sin of sodomy that reigned in them. But Zoar, by the prayer of Lot, was saved and kept a great while, for it was set upon a hill; and yet sheweth thereof some part above the water, and men may see the walls when it is fair weather and clear. In that city Lot dwelt a little while; and there was he made drunk of his daughters, and lay with them, and engendered of them Moab and Ammon. And the cause why his daughters made him drunk and for to lie by him was this: because they saw no man about them, but only their father, and therefore they trowed that God had destroyed all the world as he had done the cities, as he had done before by Noah’s flood. And therefore they would lie by with their father for to have issue, and for to replenish the world again with people to restore the world again by them; for they trowed that there had been no more men in all the world; and if their father had not been drunk, he had not lain with them.

And the hill above Zoar men cleped it then Edom and after men cleped it Seir, and after Idumea. Also at the right side of that Dead Sea, dwelleth yet the wife of Lot in likeness of a salt stone; for that she looked behind her when the cities sunk into hell. This Lot was Haran’s son, that was brother to Abraham; and Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and Milcah, Nahor’s wife, were sisters to the said Lot. And the same Sarah was of eld four score and ten year when Isaac her son was gotten on her. And Abraham had another son Ishmael that he gat upon Hagar his chamberer. And when Isaac his son was eight days old, Abraham his father let him be circumcised, and Ishmael with him that was fourteen year old: wherefore the Jews that come of Isaac’s line be circumcised the eighth day, and the Saracens that come of Ishmael’s line be circumcised when they be fourteen year of age.

And ye shall understand, that within the Dead Sea, runneth the flom Jordan, and there it dieth, for it runneth no further more, and that is a place that is a mile from the church of Saint John the Baptist toward the west, a little beneath the place where that Christian men bathe them commonly. And a mile from flom Jordan is the river of Jabbok, the which Jacob passed over when he came from Mesopotamia. This flom Jordan is no great river, but it is plenteous of good fish; and it cometh out of the hill of Lebanon by two wells that be clept Jor and Dan, and of the two wells hath it the name. And it passeth by a lake that is clept Maron. And after it passeth by the sea of Tiberias, and passeth under the hills of Gilboa; and there is a full fair vale, both on that one side and on that other of the same river. And men go [on] the hills of Lebanon, all in length unto the desert of Pharan; and those hills part the kingdom of Syria and the country of Phoenicia; and upon those hills grow trees of cedar that be full high, and they bear long apples, and as great as a man’s head.

And also this flom Jordan departeth the land of Galilee and the land of Idumea and the land of Betron, and that runneth under earth a great way unto a fair plain and a great that is clept Meldan in Sarmois; that is to say, Fair or market in their language, because that there is often fairs in that plain. And there becometh the water great and large. In that plain is the tomb of Job.

And in that flom Jordan above-said was our Lord baptised of Saint John, and the voice of God the Father was heard saying: HIC EST FILIUS MEUS DILECTUS, ETC.; that is to say, ‘This is my beloved Son, in the which I am well pleased; hear him!’ and the Holy Ghost alighted upon him in likeness of a culver; and so at his baptising was all the whole Trinity.

And through that flome passed the children of Israel, all dry feet; and they put stones there in the middle place, in token of the miracle that the water withdrew him so. Also in that flome Jordan Naaman of Syria bathed him, that was full rich, but he was mesell; and there anon he took his health.

About the flome Jordan be many churches where that many Christian men dwelled. And nigh thereto is the city of Ai that Joshua assailed and took. Also beyond the flome Jordan is the vale of Mamre, and that is a full fair vale. Also upon the hill that I spake of before, where our Lord fasted forty days, a two mile long from Galilee, is a fair hill and an high, where the enemy the fiend bare our Lord the third time to tempt him, and shewed him all the regions of the world and said, HEC OMNIA TIBI DABO, SI CADENS ADORAVERIS ME; that is to say, ‘All this shall I give thee, if thou fall and worship me.’

Also from the Dead Sea to go eastward, out of the marches of the Holy Land that is clept the Land of Promission, is a strong castle and a fair, in an hill that is clept Carak in Sarmois; that is to say, Royally. That castle let make King Baldwin, that was King of France, when he had conquered that land, and put it into Christian men’s hands for to keep that country; and for that cause was it clept the Mount Royal. And under it there is a town that hight Sobach, and there, all about, dwell Christian men, under tribute.

From thence go men to Nazareth, of the which our Lord beareth the surname. And from thence there is three journeys to Jerusalem: and men go by the province of Galilee by Ramath, by Sothim and by the high hill of Ephraim, where Elkanah and Hannah the mother of Samuel the prophet dwelled. There was born this prophet; and, after his death, he was buried at Mount Joy, as I have said you before.

And then go men to Shiloh, where the Ark of God with the relics were kept long time under Eli the prophet. There made the people of Hebron sacrifice to our Lord, and they yielded up their vows. And there spake God first to Samuel, and shewed him the mutation of Order of Priesthood, and the mystery of the Sacrament. And right nigh, on the left side, is Gibeon and Ramah and Benjamin, of the which holy writ speaketh of.

And after men go to Sichem, some-time clept Sichar; and that is in the province of Samaritans. And there is a full fair vale and a fructuous; and there is a fair city and a good that men clepe Neople. And from thence is a journey to Jerusalem. And there is the well, where our Lord spake to the woman of Samaritan. And there was wont to be a church, but it is beaten down. Beside that well King Rehoboam let make two calves of gold and made them to be worshipped, and put that one at Dan and that other at Bethel. And a mile from Sichar is the city of Luz; and in that city dwelt Abraham a certain time. Sichem is a ten mile from Jerusalem, and it is clept Neople; that is for to say, the New City. And nigh beside is the tomb of Joseph the son of Jacob that governed Egypt: for the Jews bare his bones from Egypt and buried them there, and thither go the Jews often-time in pilgrimage with great devotion. In that city was Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, ravished, for whom her brethren slew many persons and did many harms to the city. And there beside is the hill of Gerizim, where the Samaritans make their sacrifice: in that hill would Abraham have sacrificed his son Isaac. And there beside is the vale of Dotaim, and there is the cistern, where Joseph, was cast in of his brethren, which they sold; and that is two mile from Sichar.

From thence go men to Samaria that men clepe now Sebast; and that is the chief city of that country, and it sits between the hill of Aygnes as Jerusalem doth. In that city was the sittings of the twelve tribes of Israel; but the city is not now so great as it was wont to be. There was buried Saint John the Baptist between two prophets, Elisha and Abdon; but he was beheaded in the castle of Macharim beside the Dead Sea, and after he was translated of his disciples, and buried at Samaria. And there let Julianus Apostata dig him up and let burn his bones (for he was at that time emperor) and let winnow the ashes in the wind. But the finger that shewed our Lord, saying, ECCE AGNUS DEI; that is to say, ‘Lo! the Lamb of God,’ that would never burn, but is all whole; — that finger let Saint Thecla, the holy virgin, be born into the hill of Sebast; and there make men great feast.

In that place was wont to be a fair church; and many other there were; but they be all beaten down. There was wont to be the head of Saint John Baptist, enclosed in the wall. But the Emperor Theodosius let draw it out, and found it wrapped in a little cloth, all bloody; and so he let it to be born to Constantinople. And yet at Constantinople is the hinder part of the head, and the fore part of the head, till under the chin, is at Rome under the church of Saint Silvester, where be nuns of an hundred orders: and it is yet all broilly, as though it were half-burnt, for the Emperor Julianus above-said, of his cursedness and malice, let burn that part with the other bones, and yet it sheweth; and this thing hath been proved both by popes and by emperors. And the jaws beneath, that hold to the chin, and a part of the ashes and the platter that the head was laid in, when it was smitten off, is at Genoa; and the Genoese make of it great feast, and so do the Saracens also. And some men say that the head of Saint John is at Amiens in Picardy; and other men say that it is the head of Saint John the Bishop. I wot never, but God knoweth; but in what wise that men worship it, the blessed Saint John holds him a-paid.

From this city of Sebast unto Jerusalem is twelve mile. And between the hills of that country there is a well that four sithes in the year changeth his colour, sometime green, sometime red, sometime clear and sometime trouble; and men clepe that well, Job. And the folk of that country, that men clepe Samaritans, were converted and baptized by the apostles; but they hold not well their doctrine, and always they hold laws by themselves, varying from Christian men, from Saracens, Jews and Paynims. And the Samaritans lieve well in one God, and they say well that there is but only one God, that all formed, and all shall doom; and they hold the Bible after the letter, and they use the Psalter as the Jews do. And they say that they be the right sons of God. And among all other folk, they say that they be best beloved of God, and that to them belongeth the heritage that God behight to his beloved children. And they have also diverse clothing and shape to look on than other folk have; for they wrap their heads in red linen cloth, in difference from others. And the Saracens wrap their heads in white linen cloth; and the Christian men, that dwell in the country, wrap them in blue of Ind; and the Jews in yellow cloth. In that country dwell many of the Jews, paying tribute as Christian men do. And if ye will know the letters that the Jews use they be such, and the names be as they clepe them written above, in manner of their A. B. C.

Aleph Beth Gymel Deleth He Vau Zay

Heth Thet Joht Kapho Lampd Mem Num

Sameth Ey Fhee Sade Coph Resch Son Tau

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10