Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Shall destroy both the young man and the virgin,
The suckling—with the man of gray hairs.

I said, I would scatter them into corners,

I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men.

Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy,

Lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely,

---Lest they should say, Our hand---high,
And the Lord hath not done all this."

Deut. xxxii. 24—27.

Reference to the Beni-Israel in the East--Their manner of Burial—Israelitish Tombs, northward of the Caucasian mountains.—Names of the Rivers between the Don and the Danube, indicative Israel's sojourn there.—Moesia.—The Getæ or Goths.—Attacked by Darius, Alexander, and the Romans.-Dacia.-The Goths precipitated upon the Romans by Attila and his Huns.—They regain possession of Moesia. They war with the Romans. --The Storm passes over to Africa, and leaves the Gothic race in possession of Europe.--Their important position.—Their Traditional Prophecies—as in "Voluspa,"—consistent with their Israelitish Descent; and supposed to be handed down from the days of Elijah, who had ministered the Word of God, chiefly, in this House of Israel.

I have seen several accounts from India, stating that there is a people there, seemingly about seven thousand in number, and scattered over the country, from the neighbourhood of Bombay, who are called Beni-Israel, and are supposed to be a remnant of the lost ten tribes. They are said to be the descendants of seven men, and seven women,—who, about sixteen hundred years ago, were saved from shipwreck, on the coast near Bombay. They profess to be of the tribe of Reuben, and, consistently with this, they call more of their children by that name than by any other. If

the facts be so with regard to the signal preservation of this portion of the tribe of Reuben, the prayer of Moses, for this tribe, seems to have been signally answered,

"Let Reuben live, and not die." At the same time, they seem to have fulfilled, in them, the words of Jacob, Gen. xlix. 4 :—" Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." They seem to be generally rather respectable in the lower, or, perhaps, middle rank of society. When they enter the army, they are valued as musicians, and generally attain to the rank of native



officers: but none of them appear to rise to great eminence, in any respect. As a people, they seem to have been remarkably stationary, except as influenced by surrounding society, which has led to considerable change outwardly, even as to religious worship; whilst, essentially, they remain the same. And among them have signally been preserved some of those customs belonging to ancient Israel, with which it is most important to our present inquiry that we should become acquainted. The last required of these, -those that regard the interment of the dead,—are those that will first engage our attention. And indeed it is a curious coincidence, that upon proceeding northward from Assyria and Media, (as we have been directed in search of Israel, after their political death and burial,) the first remarkable objects that strike our attention are tombs, which, by their construction, plainly tell that once Israel lay there. With regard to the Beni-Israel, already referred to, it is thus reported of their funeral ceremonies: -When one of them dies,


They wash the body, and clothe it with white linen, laying it on a plank, and carrying it to the burying ground. They sing alternately all the way as they go,


Hear, O Israel,' &c., and continue the same till the body is committed to its original dust. On the fourth day, some of the relations visit the grave, and perform the following ceremony :

"They raise up the grave a foot high with sand, and afterwards cover it over with a piece of white linen; then they take a little fire in a vessel or pot, and place it at the head, eastward; they then burn incense, during which time they collect in another vessel a quantity of different kinds of grain, with cocoa-nuts made into small pieces, and flowers of all kinds mixed together, and sprinkle them over the grave, while covered with the linen cloth; then they remove the linen cloth which covers it, and sprinkle over the grave a little chunnan mixed with water, which they have previously prepared, and then disperse.

"On the seventh day, they again visit the grave; but use no ceremony, with the exception of a prayer, which is offered up


for the soul of the deceased, if there be any person present able to perform the duty, which is seldom the case, owing to their extreme ignorance. They then go to it no


Were they to repeat their visits, and leave what they thus place upon the grave, as was probably the case in more ancient times, then there would be over it alternate layers of earth and vegetable matter. The covering the grave thus, seems now, however, to have degenerated into a mere ceremony. Let us recollect that Israel did not so much choose to bury in the earth merely; as in a cave, either built of stones or dug in the rock. A stone lay upon the grave's mouth, which was eastward. The grave seems to have been covered by alternate layers of earth, or sand, and vegetable matter, the sand being the first laid on; which manner of covering their dead may have been adopted, the better to preserve the interior of the tomb from damp:—and over the grave, in distinguished cases, they were accustomed to raise high heaps,—both, perhaps, to serve as a monument, and also the better to preserve the tomb from spoliation. Now let us, with the intelligent traveller, Dr. Clarke, visit the country immediately beyond the Caucasian mountains, directly north-west from the places to which Israel were carried by the Assyrians. Here are immense plains, producing the most beautiful herbage, and apparently capable, with cultivation, of sustaining immense multitudes; but they are now chiefly remarkable as a place of graves.

"By much the most frequent objects were the tumuli; and, from their great numbers, I should have been inclined to suppose they were occasionally raised as marks of guidance across these immense plains during winter, when the ground is covered by snow; but whenever any one has been laid open, the appearance of a sepulchre puts the question of their origin beyond dispute, and the traveller is left to wonder and perplex himself in conjectures concerning the population which supplied the labour of raising these numerous



vestiges of interment, as well as the bodies they served to contain. The number greatly increased as we drew near to the Kuban; and, in the last stage, before we reached that river, I counted ninety-one, all at once in view.

"No trace of any ancient work afterwards appeared, excepting tumuli, until we came to the Bay of Taman. Then, on the shore, immediately above some very high cliffs, we observed the remains of a very large fortress and town, entirely surrounded with tombs and broken mounds of earth, indicating evident vestiges of human labour. The geography of these coasts is so exceedingly obscure, that a little prolixity in noticing every appearance of this kind may, perhaps, be tolerated. We soon reached the post-house of Sienna, actually scooped in the cavity of an ancient tomb. In the neighbourhood of this place, we found remains of much greater importance. Its environs were entirely covered with tumuli, of a size and shape that could not fail at once to excite a traveller's wonder, and stimulate his research. The commandant of engineers at Taman, General Vanderweyde, had already employed the soldiers of the garrison in opening the largest. It was quite a mountain. They began the work, very ignorantly, at the summit, and for a long time laboured to no purpose. At last, by changing the direction of their excavation, and opening the eastern side, they discovered the entrance to a large arched vault, of the most admirable masonry. I had the pleasure to descend into this remarkable sepulchre. Its mouth was half filled with earth, yet, after passing the entrance, there was sufficient space for a person to stand upright. Farther, towards the interior, the area was clear, and the work perfectly entire. The material of which the masonry consisted, was a white crumbling limestone, such as the country now affords, filled with fragments of minute shells. Whether it was the work of Milesians, or other colonies of Greece, the skill used in its construction is very evident. The stones of the sides are all square, perfect in their form, and put together without any cement. The roof exhibits the finest turned arches imaginable, having the whiteness of the purest marble. An interior vaulted chamber is separated from the outer, by means of two pilasters, swelling out wide towards their bases, and placed, one on each side, at the entrance. The inner chamber is the larger of the two.


Concerning every thing found in this


tomb, it is perhaps impossible to obtain information. One article alone, that was shown to me by General Vanderweyde at Taman, may give an idea of the rank of the person originally interred there. It was a zone for the leg, or bracelet for the arm, of the purest massive gold. The soldiers employed in the undertaking stole whatever they deemed of value, and were able to conceal, and destroyed other things which did not appear to them to merit preservation. Among these was a number of vases of black earthenware, adorned with white ornaments. The bracelet was reserved by General Vanderweyde, to be sent to Petersburg, for the Emperor's cabinet; but as enough has been said of Russia to induce at least a suspicion that so valuable a relic may never reach its destination, a more particular description of it may be necessary. Its weight equalled three quarters of a pound. It represented the body of a serpent, curved in the form of an ellipse, having two heads, which, meeting at opposite points, made the opening for the wrist or ancle. These serpents' heads were studded with rubies, so as to imitate eyes, and to ornament the back part of each head with two distinct rows of gems. The rest of the bracelet was also further adorned by rude graved work. It possessed no elasticity; but on account of the ductility of pure gold, might, with sufficient force, be expanded so as to admit the wrist or ancle of the person who was to wear it; and probably, when once adapted to the form, remained during the lifetime of the owner. I could not but view it as the most ancient specimen of art which, perhaps, exists in the world; and which, while it shows the progress then made in metallurgy, and in the art of setting precious stones,—at the same time offers a type of the mythology of the age in which it was made; the binding of the serpent round the leg or arm, as a talisman, being one of the superstitions common to almost every nation in an early period of civilization. Immediately above the stone work constructed for the vault of the sepulchre, appeared, first a covering of earth, and then a layer of sea-weed, compressed by another superincumbent stratum of earth, to the thickness of about two inches. This layer of sea-weed was as white as snow, and when taken in the hand, separated into thin flakes, and fell to pieces. What the use of this vegetable covering could be, is very uncertain,--but it is found in all the tombs of this country. Pallas observed it placed in regular layers, with coarse earthenware



vases, of rude workmanship, and unglazed, which were filled with a mixture of earth and charcoal. It is said that a large marble soros, or sarcophagus, the top of which now serves for a cistern, near the fortress of Yenikale, in the Crimea, was taken from this tomb. The appearance of the entrance, however, in its present state, contradicts the story,--as the opening has never yet been made sufficiently wide for its removal, even had it been so discovered.

"Similar tombs are found on all the shores of the Bosphorus. Close by that which I have described are many others,--and some nearly of equal size. Pallas, in his journey over this country, mentions the frequent recurrence of such appearances all round the Bay of Taman. Indeed, it would be vain to ask where they are not observed. The size, grandeur, and riches of those on the European and Asiatic sides of the Cimmerian Straits, excite astonishing ideas of the wealth and power of the people by whom they were constructed; and,--in the view of labour so prodigious, as well as of expenditure so enormous, for the purpose of inhuming a single body,-customs and superstitions are manifest, which illustrate the origin of the pyramids of Egypt,--the caverns of Elephanta,--and the first temples of the ancient world."

I was somewhat at a loss to ascertain the connection with our subject, of this golden serpent, the only remarkable object found in the tomb seen by Dr. Clarke: but I observe that the Beni-Israel in India, are accused of having, each of them, in his secret chamber, a silver serpent, to which they burn incense twice a day, and throw a little flower before it,—and sing, accompanied with a small tomtom beating during the ceremony. Nor is this strange; as, even in the other house, that of Judah, the same superstition appears to have long continued. It was not until after the ten tribes had been carried away, that Hezekiah arose, of whom it is recorded, (2 Kings, xviii. 4,) "He brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it. And he called it Nehushtan:"—a piece of brass.

The tombs referred to, commence north of the river Kuban, that empties itself into the Euxine, near Ta


man; in the neighbourhood of which there are other places whose names argue a Hebrew origin. They stretch from the Kuban, northward, to an immense distance, and the direction they take seems clearly to indicate that the people who there deposited their dead, proceeded, not eastward, towards Siberia, along the back of the Caspian sea, but, with the usual tide of emigration, westward, along the back of the Euxine.

Here, in addition to the high heaps already noticed, we have way-marks sufficiently legible. The names of all the great rivers in this neighbourhood seem to refer to the Jordan, as being the original seat of the people,—who, before the great migration of nations westward, inhabited the country north of the Euxine, between the Don and the Danube. Thus, proceeding westward from the Don, we have the Danez, flowing into the Don itself:farther in the same direction, there is the Danieper, contractedly, Dnieper;still farther westward, we meet with the Daniester, or Dniester: and southward from thence, and flowing from the far west, we have the Danube, or Danau,—which, I have heard, the Germans understand to mean the river Noah; as if the people who gave it this name had, after bearing much tossing and great affliction, expected to find here rest and comfort. Much of this district, which appears to have been anciently well inhabited, has but few men left in it. It has been so entirely left in obscurity, that before the truth on this subject was presented to my mind, I thought that if there was one portion of the globe of less importance than another, it was this. Here nothing of any interest was ever known to be transacted. And yet there is scarcely any spot out of Palestine that would now be more interesting, or that would be more likely to reward a careful examination. This, and not the barren north, appears to have been the great store-house nations. This store-house, however, is now comparatively empty. It was emptied into the north, in consequence

« AnteriorContinuar »