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PART henceforth for a better work; insomuch that he being mira. JI. culously converted by a voice from heaven, as he was on the
road, and now not far from the city, instead of continuing a persecutor, became a preacher of the Gospel, when he arrived at Damascus.
This city is one of the most venerable for antiquity in the A description of Da. wn
a whole world, being the birth-place of Eliezer “, the steward of mascus. Abraham. Nor has it been less considerable on account of
its strength and greatness, being for a long timed the capital of Syria, and residence of the Syrian kings, mentioned in the Old Testament. To pass by other titles, it is styled by Juliano the Eye of the whole East; and, to pass by other accounts of it, I shall content myself with that given us by the Reverend and ingenious Mr. Maundrel', as being the latest, and given by one that has himself seen the place, and was in all respects qualified to give a most just description thereof.
My author then acquaints us, that certainly no place in the world can promise the beholder at a distance greater voluptuoufnefs. Insomuch that the Turks have a tradition among them, that their prophet coming near Damascus, took his station upon a certain precipice for some time, in order to view the city ; and considering the ravishing beauty and delightfulness of it, he would not tempt his frailty by entering into it, but instantly departed, with this reflection upon it, that there was but one paradise designed for man, and for his part he was resolved not to take his in this world. But to proceed to a more particular description of this city.
It is situated in an even plain of fo great extent, that you can but just discern the mountains that compass it on the farther side. It stands on the west side of the plain, at not above two miles distance from the place where the river Barrady breaks out from between the mountains, its gardens extending almost to the very place. The city itself is of a long straight
e Gen. xv. 2.
f Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 117–132.
in lonth no forno I
figure, its ends pointing near north-east and south-west. It CHAP. is very slender in the middle, but swells bigger at each end, I. especially at that to the north-east ; in its length, as far as I could guess by my eye, it may extend near two miles. It is thick set with mosques and steeples, the usual ornaments of the Turkish cities, and is encompassed with gardens extend. ing no less, according to common estimation, than thirty miles round; which makes it look like a noble city in a vast wood. The gardens are thick set with fruit-trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of Barrady. You discover in them many turrets and steeples and summer-houses, frequently peeping out from amongst the green boughs, which may be conceived to add no small advantage and beauty to the prospect. On the north side of this vast wood is å place called Solkees, where are the most beautiful summerhouses and gardens.
The greatest part of this pleasantness and fertility proceeds from the waters of Barrady, which supply both the gardens and city in great abundance. This river, as soon as it issues out from between the cleft of the mountain into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams, of which the middlemoft and biggest runs directly to Damascus, through a large open field, called Ager Damafcenus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the city. The other two (which seem to be the work of art) are drawn round, one to the right hand, the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let (as they pass along) by little currents, and so dispersed all over the vast wood. Insomuch that there is not a garden, but has a fine quick stream running through it, which serves not only for watering the place, but is also improved into fountains and other water-works, very delightful, though not contrived with that variety of exquisite art, which is used in Christendom.
Barrady being thus divided, is almost wholly drunk up by the city and gardens. What small part of it escapes is united, as Mr. Maundrel was informed, in one channel again, on the south-east side of the city, and, after about three or four hours
PART course, finally lofes itself in a bog, without ever arriving at II. the sea. .
The Greeks, and from them the Romans, call this river Chrysorroas (i. e. Golden Stream). But as for Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus, mentioned 2 Kings v. 12. I could find, faith my author, no memory of so much as the names remaining. They must doubtless have been only two branches of the river Barrady, and one of them was probably the same stream that now runs through the Ager Damascenus, directly to the city, which seems, by its serpentine or winding course, to be a natural channel. The other I know not well where to find; but it is no wonder, seeing they may and do turn and alter the courses of this river, according to their own convenience and pleasure.
The garden walls are of a very singular structure. They are . built of great pieces of earth, made in the fashion of brick, and hardened in the fun. In their dimensions they are two yards long each, and somewhat more than one broad, and half a yard thick. Two rows of these placed edge-ways one upon another make a cheap, expeditious, and in this dry country a durable wall.
In passing between the gardens, we observed their method of scowering the channels. They put a great bough of a tree in the water, and fasten it to a yoke of oxen. Upon the bough there fits a good weighty fellow, to press it down to the bottom, and to drive the oxen. In this equipage the bough is dragged all along the channel, and serves at once both to cleanse the bottom, and also to mud and fatten the water for the greater benefit of the gardens. · The streets of this city are narrow, as is usual in hot countries; and the houses are all built on the outside of no better a material, than either fun-burnt brick, or Flemish wall, daubed over in as coarse a manner as can be seen in the pooreft cottages. From this dirty way of building they have this among other inconveniencies, that, upon any violent rain, the whole city becomes, by the washing of the houses, as it were a quagmire.
It may be wondered what should induce the people to build c HAP. in this base manner, when they have in the adjacent moun- 1. tains such plenty of good stone for nobler fabrics. I can give no reason for it, unless this may pass for such, that those who first planted here, finding so delicious a situation, were in haste to come to the enjoyment of it, and therefore nimbly set up these extemporary habitations, being unwilling to defer their pleasures so long, as whilst they might erect more magnificent structures : which primitive example their successors have followed ever since.
But however in these mud walls you find the gates and doors adorned with marble portals, carved and inlaid with great beauty and variety. It is an object not a little surprising, to see mud and marble, state and fordidness fo mingled • together.
On the inside the houses discover a very different face from what you see without. Here you find generally a large square court, beautified with fragrant trees and marble fountains, and compassed round with splendid apartments and duans 8. The duans are flowered and adorned on the sides with variety of marble, mixed in Mosaic knots and mazes. The ceilings and traves are after the Turkish manner, richly painted and gilded. They have generally artificial fountains springing up before them in marble basons; and as for carpets and cushions, are furnished out to the height of luxury. Of these duans they have generally several on all sides of the court, being placed at such different points, that at one or other of them you may always have either the shade or the sun, which you please.
Such as I have described, saith Mr. Maundrel, was the house of an eminent Turk we went to see; and I was told the rest resemble the same description :
& Duans are a sort of low stages, feated in the pleasantest part of the room, elevated about sixteen or eighteen inches or more above the floor They are spread with carpets, and furnished all round with bolsters for leaning upon. It is on these the
Turks eat, sleep, smoak, receive vi. fits, say their prayers, &c. Their whole delight is in lolling on them, and in furnishing them richly out is their greatest luxury. Mr. Maundrel, Journey &c. page 29.
In the next place we went to see the church of St. John Baptist, now converted into a mosque, and held too sacred for Christians to enter, or almost to look into. However we had three short views of it, looking in at three several gates. Its gates are vastly large, and covered with brass, stamped all over with Arab characters, and in several places with the figure of a chalice, supposed to be the ancient ensign or arms of the Mamalukes. On the north side of the church is a spacious court, which I could not conjecture to be less than one huu. dred and fifty yards long, and eighty or one hundred broad. The court is paved all over, and inclosed on the fouth side by the church, on the other three sides by a double cloister, fup. ported by two rows of granate pillars of the Corinthian order, exceeding lofty and beautiful.
On the south side, the church joins to the Bazars, or ex. : change, and there we had an opportunity just to peep into it. It is within, spacious and lofty ; built with three ailes, between which are rows of polished pillars, of a surprising, if not furpassing beauty; unless perhaps we were tempted to overvalue what was so sparingly permitted to our sur
In this church are kept the head of St. John, and some other relicks, esteemed so holy, that it is death even for a Turk to presume to go into the room, where they are kept. We were told here by a Turk of good fashion, that Christ was to descend into this mosque at the day of judgment, as Mahomet was to do in that of Jerusalem. But the ground and reason of this tradition I could not learn.
From the church we went to the castle, which stands about two furlongs distant towards the west. It is a good building of a rustic manner ; in length it is three hundred and forty paces, and in breadth somewhat less. We were ad. mitted but just within the gate, where we saw store of an• cient arms and armour, the spoils of the Christians in former times. Among the artillery was an old Roman balista; but *his was a place not long to be gazed upon by such as we. At the east end of the castle there hangs down in the middle