Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Van de Velde, “ that the abyss of Zuwairah certainly is; but to look for Zoar here, the city Zoar,” the little, "visible from the plain on which Sodom stood-no, impossible! Whatever the apparent similarity of the two dames may seem to indicate, such never could have been more than a fortress of a very inferior description.” M. Van de Velde then goes on to notice the arguments against the positioning of Zoar on the south-west side of the Dead Sea, to which we have already alluded. It is necessary, however, to remark that it was never attempted to identify the existing ruinous Saracenic fortress with the remains of Zoar. The décombres designated by De Saulcy as Zouera-et-Tahtah are described as being situated on the low hills which dominate the mouth of the valley of Zuwairah. Van de Velde alludes to this further on, when he

says: Zuwairah is separated from a plain on the south-west shore of the Dead Sea by a gorge of white and yellowish limestone rocks, called Wadi Zuwairah. Under the action of rain these rocks have assumed most fantastic shapes, as the soft substance easily gives way, and leaves on the perpendicularly broken sides the different horizontal and slanting strata visible. A vivid imagination has difficulty in convincing itself that these layers of stone and lime have not been built by the hand of man, and that Nature herself has alone been at work here. I thought of M. de Saulcy and bis imaginary ruins. I must acknowledge that one is easily led to see in these rocks the ruins of towns and villages.

This is more precise, and, as a confutation of M. de Saulcy's supposed discoveries, more conclusive. The appearances described are precisely what might have been expected from the nature of the soil. We must now follow M. Van de Velde to the foot of the Salt Mountain :

For half an hour the Wadi Zuwairah winds along; it then ends in a plain about three-quarters of an hour in breadth from the entrance of the valley to the shore of the Dead Sea. Towards the north side, the plain grows gradually more narrow until it ends in the sea-shore, while on the south side it is immediately shut in by the mountains, of which the nearest to the sea is the Salt Mountain, a ridge extending for about ten miles, and reaching an elevation of 200 to 300 feet. It is entirely composed of rock-salt, covered only by a thin layer of clay and lime. Entering the plain from the Wadi Zuwairah, one sees that the Salt Mountain does not stand altogether isolated, but is connected with the main chain by a peninsula of rocks, whilst on the north side it projects into the plain. The plain exhibits an extent of gravel, chiefly of a grey colour, diversified occasionally by rows of large stones, which generally run parallel to each other. Between these rows of stones grow various shrubs, such as are proper to this locality, especially one kind, which bears a great resemblance to the tamarisk, but which, on closer examination, indicates a different botanical affinity. [This is either nonsense or a mistranslation.] M. de Saulcy crossed this plain twice, once from north to south along the sea-shore, and afterwards from the north corner of the Salt Mountain to the Wadi Zuwairah. Here he gets quite excited. Without doubt this is the plain of Sodom, and the rows of stones are the remains of the city walls, and who knows what more! How little observation, thought I, is necessary to recognise in these rows of stones among the gravel, and in the rich vegetation, the course of torrents which in the winter time sweep down from the mountain-gorges and overflow the plain! Nothing is clearer than this. Any one who has ever seen the dry course of a river in the desert has no difficulty in here tracing the different beds of the numerous streams which during the rainy season wind through this plain. But what will imagination not do?

We followed in the footsteps of M. de Sauley to Jibal Usdum. Accidentally we were kept for a considerable time on the north side of this mountain. One of our Bedouins, who knew well that we should have that day a very long journey, being ill, and so not feeling himself in a condition to accomplish it, attempted to conduct us by the east side of the Salt Mountain. At first I did not see through his design ; but as we came nearer to the mountain and began to have it on our left, his object could be no longer hid. My guides now swore with all sorts of oaths that there was no way to the west of the Salt Mountain ; but you may easily understand that their oaths did not weigh much with me, and when they saw at last that I kept to my point, they gave way with the usual“ Insh'-Allah!” This circumstance, meanwhile, caused me to make a double march along the north side of the mountain, and I became thus fully convinced that whatever there may be on the plain, ruins there are not. That M. de Saulcy should have found here not only the remains of buildings and cities, but positively those of Sodom, I declare I cannot attribute to any other source than the creation of his fancy.

M. Van de Velde attributes the errors of M. de Saulcy to misplaced generosity to Abu Dahuk. This is true to a certain extent only. It has little to do with the practical part of the question, which, after all, it will require 'some practised geologist and archæologist to determine conclusively, as to whether or not there are ruins at the foot of the Salt Mountain. In a communication made to the Palestine Archæological Association (Transactions, No. I. p. 10), M. Van de Velde says:

According to the custom of the country, M. de Saulcy had made a contract with a certain Sheik, Abu Dahuk, a Bedouin chief, who, with his tribe, inhabits the south-western vicinity of the Dead Sea. With this Sheik, and a numerous escort of Bedouins, he journeyed along the south-western shore of the Dead Sea ; and it is from the Sheik's own mouth that M. de Saulcy is enlightened. Who this Abu Dahuk is, the reader may see from the narratives of De Bertou, and Robinson and Smith. I, also, had no small experience of this arch-robber. In the narrative of my travels, I have given a minute description of a two-days' stay in his camp. Abu Daluk is of the same nature as his fellow Bedouins. Show him that you are anxious to recognise in every stone squared off, by the hand of nature, a piece of antiquity; excite his covetousness by presenting him continually with piastres, whenever he shows you something that he calls a ruin ; and you may be certain that he will show you ruins (khurbets) every quarter of an hour, with names and surnames ; if not near you, then, at all events, at a distance. This is the reason that, in those regions of the Bedouins, one hears of so many names mentioned by some travellers, which other travellers are never able to re-find. I myself have repeatedly detected my Bedouin guides in telling me stories. To lie is, as it were, daily bread among them; and nothing but a close cross-questioning is sufficient to bring out the truth. Nor must it be supposed that these Bedouins have much knowledge of ancient history, or care at all about the correctness of tradition. Like all other travellers, save M. de Saulcy, I have found them most ignorant and indifferent about such things. Piastres and ghazis is all the Bedouin cares for. Is it any wonder, then, that M. de Saulcy, after having spoiled Abu Dahuk by his continual presents, should be deceived by this fellow?. Certainly the sharp eye of the robber-chief has well discerned the weak side of his traveller.

Under these circumstances, then, the caravan of M. de Saulcy proceeds along the Salt Mountain-the Jibal Usdum of the Arabs—at the southwestern side of the Dead Sea. A heap of stones, already seen and mentioned by Seetzen and Robinson (“ Biblical Researches,” ii. 482), attracts the notice of the French traveller. He is deeply impressed with it. His imagination gets excited, and he forth with recognises in these stones a part of the buildings

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of the burnt city. These are his words:-“ By ten o'clock, we pass close by a hillock, fifteen yards in diameter, covered with large rough stones, that look'as if they had been burnt, and which constituted, at some remote and unascertainable period, a part of a round structure immediately commanding the shore. The sea is only thirty yards off to our left, and the mountain side not more than twenty in the opposite direction. The sight of this building impresses me strongly; and my thougths revert to Sodom. I question Abu Dahuk: • What is that? Kasr-Kadin' (“an ancient castle') is the answer. The name?' 'Redjon-el-Mezorrhel ('the heap of fallen stones').”.

Now enthusiasm darkens M. de Saulcy's understanding. “ For myself,” he says, “ I entertain no doubt that I see before me the

ruins of a building, which was anciently a part of Sodom. The Sheik, Abu Dabuk, is very explicit on this point. When I ask him - Where was the town of Sodom ?” he answers me, Here! And did this ruin belong to the condemned city ?—'Assuredly.' • Are there other vestiges of Sodom?'-— Yes, there are a great many.' "Where are they ?'-' There, and there,' and he points to the extremity of the Salt Mountain, which we have just wound along, and the plain, planted with acacias, extending to the foot of the mountain towards the Wad-ez-Zouerah.”

Upon this information of Abu Dahuk, M. de Saulcy builds a whole system of cities. Zoar,—so he reasons,-cannot be far off. Some days later, he passes by the same road, and enters the Wadi-es-Zuwairah. This name corresponds somewhat with Zoar. He knows that Irby and Mangles, Seetzen and Lynch, have found the ruins of Zoar at the entrance of the Wadi-Kerak, at the northern bay of the south-eastern peninsula of the Dead Sea : and this contradicts his discovery. M. de Saulcy, therefore, sets to work to overthrow the accounts of these travellers, and also of Holy Writ, taking the precaution, however, to quote the Scriptures along with such comments of his own, as to make them appear to plead in his favour. For instance, the Scriptures most distinctly place Zoar in Moab; but, for the sake of bringing his Žuwairah of the opposite coast within the territory of Moab, he draws the boundaries of Moab right across the centre of the provinces of Judah and Simeon. So, also, he wishes to place Adamah high and far in the mountains of the wilderness of Judah. He sees there a place of a somewhat volcanic appearance, which Abu Dahuk calls Suk-et-Thaemeh, and which he decides at once is Adamah. Zeboim he finds in the heart of Moab. And, finally, in order to put a seal of truth upon his discoveries, he calls in the testimony of his four young, joyfulhearted French companions. But how absurd is this! The traveller has, of his own accord, ensnared himself in the errors which, wittingly or unwittingly, be presents to the world. With the Bedouins of the same Abu Dahuk, i visited the Saracenic ruin of Es Zuwairah, which is nothing more than the remains of a small castle upon a white chalky rock of 150 feet in height, in the bottom of an extinct crater, between four and five miles distance from the south-western shore of the Dead Sea. From thence I went through the Wadi-es-Zuwairah, and crossed the plain which M. de Saulcy takes to be the plain of Sodom, and where he says he found a number of rows of large stones, which he believed to be the ruins of Sodom.

Dr. Robinson, in his “ Biblical Researches," has fully shown, that Zoar has nothing in common with Es Zuwairah ; and with regard to these rows of large stones,-yes, I have seen them; but I have also recognised them to be merely

I stones,-brought down by the winter torrents, which empty themselves into this plain from the surrounding mountains ! It is well known how winterstreams, when carrying along stones, wood, or other objects, over a level surface, leave such things behind in long rows, after they have subsided.

Robinson and Smith, not to speak of other travellers, have also passed across this plain ; and, indeed, were I to mistrust my own.eyes, I would have perfect confidence in the eagle-eyed scrutiny of the American travellers, whom the ruins of Sodom (if there had been any) would not have escaped. In fine, the heap of stones (Um Mzôghel), which I have noticed as well as Sept.- VOL. CII. NO. CCCCV.

с

a

[ocr errors]

M. de Saulcy, has nothing in common with the ruins of a city, much less of the city of Sodom. And the other so-called ruins, in the plain at the northern extremity of the Salt Mountain, are natural stones from the surrounding mountains, carried down thither by the winter-torrents. Zuwairah, in the hollow of the mountains, near the west coast, cannot possibly be the Zoar of the Bible, which belonged to the east coast, the land of Moab. Adamah and Zeboim lie in the Siddim valley, not in the mountains of Judah and Moab : and, finally, to find Gomorrah at more than fifty English miles distance from Sodom, is in perfect contradiction to Holy Writ.

In a note appended to the published narrative of his travels, M. Van de Velde adds :

I have followed M. de Saulcy's track in this place with Bedouins of the same tribe, of the same shaikh-Bedouins accustomed to rove about in these localities. I had a copy of M. de Saulcy's manuscript map with me. It was, therefore, impossible for me to pass by unnoticed the ruins he mentions. With eagerness I sought for them. It was not possible to miss them; nevertheless I have not seen anything which confirms his sertions; and notwithstanding all his assurances, I must set down his discoveries of Sodom as the mere work of the imagination. M. de Saulcy makes an appeal to his fellow-travellers for the truth of bis information. I hope I shall be allowed to appeal, on the opposite side, to the testimony of Robinson and Smith, and their predecessors. Certainly what might have escaped the notice of the latter would not have eluded the careful research of the American travellers.

As the question now stands before the public, it is one of the most singularly contradictory character. The evidence, as far as we have been enabled to sift it, in a fair and candid spirit, tends to induce a belief in M. de Saulcy having been too hasty in his observations, in having admitted as traces of ruins, at least in some instances, what are merely detached masses of rock more or less linearly arranged. These evidences are strengthened by the circumstances under which they occur, the analogies of other mistakes made under similar circumstances, and M. de Saulcy's own superficiality when speaking of ruins on the crest of the Salt Mountains, which he does not appear to have ever examined. They are also strengthened by the fact of so many capable observers having traversed the same districts without having noticed them, and by the fact of M. Van de Velde, although evidently an unscientific and somewhat prejudiced traveller, having subsequently sought for the supposed ruins without success. But these subsequent researches are by no means satisfactory as to there being no ruins at all at the foot of the Salt Mountain, as we shall subsequently see when discussing the site of the “City of Salt."

On the other hand, the evidences are by no means so satisfactory as is generally supposed, that Sodom was on the east side of the Dead Sea. The great body of evidence connects it with the Salt Mountain-the Sodom of Galen and Usdum of the Arabs. Even if buried in the waters of the Dead Sea, still the probabilities would be that it was in the neighbourhood of the Salt Mountain.

Van de Velde says, speaking of the City of Salt:

From its name it is clear that it lay at no great distance from the Salt Mountain. M. de Saulcy gives a very attractive description 'of the fountains at the ruins of Embarrheg, which he takes to be Thamara. On his grounds for this identification I do not place much value; but I attach importance to

a

his discovery of this fonntain, the only one I am acquainted with in the vicinity of the Salt Mountain, capable of supplying a town with water. Thus, probably, the City of Salt has stood there. The cairn at the foot of the Salt Mountain, called Um-Mzoghal, I do not think myself justified in taking to be ruins of a town or fortification, from the very fact of the absence of water. Robinson, too, seems not to consider Um-Mzoghal as a ruin.

Um-Mzoghal, it will be observed, is spoken of in this passage in a much more subdued tone than before; add to which, is there not every probability that the City of Salt, enumerated by Joshua as one of the cities of Judah in connexion with En-gedi, was the same as Sadom? The vale of Siddim, in which was Sodom, is spoken of in Seripture as synonymous with the Salt Sea. Zephaniah speaks of Sodom and Gomorrha as salt pits; and we have seen that Stephen notices the propinquity of Sodom and En-gedi. Robinson also says that " the position of the Salt Mountain, at the south end of the Dead Sea, enables us to ascertain the place of the Valley of Salt' mentioned in Scripture; where the Hebrews under David, and again under Amaziah, gained decisive vietories over Edom. This valley could well have been no other than the Ghur, south of the Dead Sea, adjacent to the Mountain of Salt ; it separates, indeed, the ancient territories of Judah and Edom. Somewhere in the neighbourhood lay also, probably, the City of Salt,' enumerated along with En-gedi as in the desert of Judah.”

It seems to us that, whatever may be the result of this discussion, whether it be confirmed by future travellers that ruins do or do not exist at the foot of the Salt Mountain, that the proximity of Sodom to that mountain is rendered extremely probable; and the full understanding and even the chance of a successful investigation of the destruction of that city has been very much retarded by the reliance hitherto placed by biblical scholars and geographers upon the assumption of its being on the east side of the lake or buried in its waters. Sodom existed, according to Scripture, before the advent of Abraham and Lot; and therefore before the birth of the father of the Moabites. The latter possessed themselves of the country of the Emims, on the east side of the Dead Sea, previous to the Exodus ; but there is no proof that even at that time, and subse. quently when hostilities broke out with the Hebrews, that they did not also hold the Salt Valley—the first home of their fathers—at all events until the time of Joshua, when En-gedi and the City of Salt became enumerated among the conquests of Judah. With regard to Zoar, the case may have been different*; it appears to have been in that district which was afterwards the country of the Moabites, at the foot of the mountains, at the south-eastern extremity of the Dead Sea, not far from the Valley of Salt, and as Jerome has it, in finitus Moabitarum. It was this peculiarity of situation which probably, with the favour of Heaven, saved it from the destruction which befel the four other primeval cities.

This being the case, the probabilities still remain that profane history and tradition are right, and that the popularly received opinion that some of the doomed cities are entombed in the waters of the Dead Sea is correct. These cities lay at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, which may be supposed to have been filled up with water shortly after the local subsidence which took place at the time of their destruction ; whilst Sodom being nearer to the Salt Mountains, which still preserve its name,

« AnteriorContinuar »