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J. W. McGarvey
Lands of the Bible (1881)


L E T T E R   X I X.


      LATE in the afternoon of July 7th we stepped from the pavement in front of our hotel in Beirût' into an Ar'ab row-boat, and were soon on board the Austrian steamer "Ettare" ("Hector"), which rode at anchor about a mile from the shore. At about eight o'clock we set sail, full of hope as we looked forward to our distant homes, and moved with inexpressible thankfulness as we looked back over our travels in Palestine. We had seen the land of all lands, and from its hills and plains there had been reflected a new light upon the Book of all books. We had ridden on horseback for 82 days under a sun which seldom failed to shine all day, and had slept in tents beneath stars which seldom failed to shine all night; we had ridden over mountains 9000 feet above the sea, and through valleys 1000 feet below the sea; we had endured much fatigue and exposure in many ways; and although sickness had several times invaded the camp, and death had once stood at the door of my tent, not a day of the 82 had been lost from travel because of sickness or accident. We had nightly worshiped together, with reading, singing, and prayer, and we had rested from travel every Lord's day. Whenever we could, on the Lord's day, we had attended public worship in the missionary chapels, and when we could not we had made a chapel of one of our tents. The Lord had heard our prayers, and had blessed us above what we had dared to hope, and we relied with implicit confidence on the continuance of His protecting care as we turned our faces toward our distant homes.

      As we sailed away from the Syrian coast I left behind, far away to the north, one place unvisited which I had long desired to see. It was Antioch, for so long a time the seat of the Greek kings of Syria, who cruelly oppressed the Jews,--the city in which the disciples were first called Christians, and the headquarters of Paul during his missionary tours among the heathen. Its modern representative is a poor and squalid town of 6000 inhabitants, situated in the northwest part of the ancient city, on the south bank of the Orontes, and within the extensive ancient wall which further dwarfs its appearance. The cut on the following page is supposed to fairly represent it.

      Our ship touched at Larnica, on the island of Cyprus, now the only [572] important city on that famous island. Salamis and Paphos, the two ports visited by Paul, have long since been deserted by commerce and gone to ruin. Cyprus appears to be a white elephant in the hands of the British government, drawing much from the treasury, and putting nothing into it; but in a generation or two, if British rule shall continue, a great change for the better must certainly take place. We saw in the harbor boat-loads of watermelons just received from Joppa,


and great piles of them lay on the streets. They are grown in great abundance on the Plain of Sha'ron.

      The next point at which we touched was the celebrated city and island of Rhodes. We went on shore to see something of the ancient city, and found it replete with the remains of dwellings, palaces, and churches, once the property of the Knights of St. John. The little harbor, across whose mouth the famous Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, once stood astride, is now filled up, and the modern harbor is too shallow for any but the smallest vessels. Here we found the first ripe grapes of the season, and a few ripe figs.

      From Rhodes we sailed along the eastern shore of the Ægean Sea, with islands famous in Greek history, and often seen by the Apostle Paul, continually in view. Among others, we had a distant view of [573] Patmos, where the visions of the Revelation appeared to the Apostle John. We sailed over a smooth sea, under a warm sun by day and a bright moon by night.

      On Friday, July 11th, at about noon, we steamed into the harbor of Smyrna, having been about three days and a half on the voyage from Beirût'. Here I had determined to stop, in order to visit the sites of the seven churches of Asia, while my companions, preferring to spend the time in certain parts of Europe which I did not intend to visit, determined to leave me. But they could not sail till the afternoon of the next day, so they had time to go with me to Ephesus.

      The ship which was to take them to Athens was already in port, so instead of going to a hotel they merely transferred their baggage to the other vessel, and went on shore with me to see Smyrna and to make preparation for a visit to Ephesus. When I stepped from the boat upon the quay, a man demanded of me my passport. I looked him in the face and said, "I have no passport; I am an American, and I go where I please." I then pushed by him. He looked at me with a puzzled expression, and let me pass without another word. As I made my way through the crowd of idlers on the quay, another man met me, and, claiming to be a custom-house officer, proposed to let my valise pass unexamined if I would give him a franc. I said, "I will give you no bribe; examine the valise if you choose." I then ordered the man who was carrying it to set it down. Pulling out my key, I stood ready to open it, but the fellow hesitated, and I ordered the servant to take the valise and move on. I now think that this chap and the passport man were both pretenders, trying to extort money from me, and that the English-speaking servant who carried my valise was conniving at their rascality. I was led to the Egyptian Hotel, and found it an elegant new building with first-rate accommodations. It was the first hotel I had visited since I left Jerusalem in which ladies sat at the table. Several Greek ladies were here on a visit.

      We spent the afternoon in making arrangements for a railway excursion to the ruins of Ephesus the next day. As the regular train would not suit our purpose, we engaged an extra train to take us out early in the morning and bring us back by one o'clock. The cost to each was $10. For a larger party it would have been less in proportion. The railway was built and is operated by an English company, and it is called the Smyrna and Aidîn' Railway. It is 105 miles long. It runs nearly due south 50 miles to Avasalouk', a small village near the ruins of Ephesus, and thence it runs a little south of east to Aidîn'. The latter place is situated in the midst of the valley of the river Cayster, [574] a broad and fertile valley reaching 150 miles farther into the interior, and drained by the Cayster, which empties into the Mediterranean at Ephesus. This valley is the greatest fig-producing portion of Asia Minor; and besides furnishing Smyrna with the supply of this fruit, which has made it the greatest fig-market in the world, it sends forth a sufficient amount of other products to make the railway profitable to its owners.

      Having reached Avasalouk', and employed a guide resident there who had been recommended to us, we walked about a mile in order to reach the ruins. The ruins of the Temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, lie but a short distance from the village. For ages past they have been completely buried beneath the ground, but they were disinterred a few years ago by Mr. T. J. Wood, an employee of the British Museum. The excavation made for the purpose is about 20 feet deep. Down in this pit lie the broken columns of white marble and the foundation walls of the grandest temple ever erected on earth. All else has been transported to other cities and used to adorn inferior buildings.

      From the temple to the more southern of the two eastern gates of the city are traces of a paved street nearly a mile in length, along one side of which was a continuous colonnade, with the marble coffins of the city's illustrious dead occupying the spaces between the columns. The processions of worshipers, as they marched out of the city to the temple, passed by this row of coffins, the inscriptions on which were constantly proclaiming the noble deeds of the mighty dead.

      After passing the ruins of the gateway just mentioned we soon came to the ruins of a marble church, which is supposed, from some inscriptions found near it, to have been dedicated to the Apostle John; and near by is an ancient tomb supposed to be that of Luke. North of these ruins, in the face of a small mountain which was inclosed within the ancient city, are the well-preserved remains of a small theatre intended for musical entertainments. As we go westward from these points we pass among a continuous succession of ruins, the most of which are in such a state of confusion that we are at a loss to determine what class of structures they represent. But after reaching the western end of the small mountain just mentioned, we found at its western base the most interesting of all its remains. It is the theatre into which Paul's companions were dragged by the mob of the silversmiths; into which he was about to enter at imminent peril of his life when he was prevented from doing so by certain rulers who were his friends; and in which the town clerk, by a speech of wonderful [575] ingenuity, restored the frenzied mob to order and quiet.1 The theatre was constructed, like most of the ancient theatres in hilly places, by excavating a suitable space in the hill, so that the tiers of marble seats might have the natural rock of the hill for a support. Many of the seats are yet in a good state of preservation, and the entire outline of the structure is easily traced.


      I was deeply impressed by this ruin, and as we stood on one of its high seats, gazing down upon it, I repeated to my companions the speech of the town clerk. I also pointed out the spot on which I think he stood while the surging mass of idolaters, occupying all the other space, were yelling at the top of their voices, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

      The harbor of Ephesus, once the seat of an immense commerce, is now completely filled up, and the sea, which once washed its walls, is pushed back about two miles farther west. The same accumulation of earth from the wash of adjacent mountains and the deposit in winter of the overflowing Cayster, which have produced this result, also covered up the ruins of the great temple and hid the prostrate columns which lined the way from it to the city. So completely were the ancient landmarks of the city hidden that its ruins were a puzzle to modern visitors until the excavations made by Mr. Wood brought all [576] into daylight once more, and revealed to the eye some of the splendors of the city concerning which ancient historians are silent.

      On our return from Ephesus my companions went aboard their ship, which was to sail for Athens in a few minutes, and I was left alone, to find my way as best I could in a country of which I knew but little, and of which I found that the English and American residents of the city knew almost as little as I did. I felt somewhat depressed in spirit, but the anticipation of visiting spots of the deepest interest was cheering, and I felt somewhat animated by the very thought of the difficulties which beset my way.

      I spent the afternoon in searching for a suitable person to act as my guide and interpreter. By the aid of our consul, Mr. Smithers, and that of the superintendent of the railway, I succeeded in procuring as a dragoman a Greek named George Fed'ros, who, though but little acquainted with the places which I proposed to visit, was a bold, enterprising fellow, with a fair knowledge of English, and able to converse with Turks as well as Greeks. He boasted of having acted as guide for the Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria, about the environs of Smyrna, and he had marvelous tales to tell of incidents connected with the duke's visit.

      After spending Sunday in a quiet way, and attending the Episcopal services at the residence of the English consul, on Monday morning I deposited all my valuables with our consul, laid in a supply of crackers, sardines, sugar, and coffee for the journey, and took the train for Philadelphia. Now, Philadelphia lies a little north of east from Smyrna, and 108 miles distant by rail. This railway, like the other, is the property of an English company, and it is called the "Smyrna and Cas'saba Railway," because its original terminus was Cas'saba, but it has recently been extended to Philadelphia. Like the Smyrna and Aidîn' road, it has an elegant stone building of ample size for its freight and passenger depot. Its coaches and engines are of the best English make, and the track is well laid.

      About 20 miles out from Smyrna we passed a thriving town called Men'amen, near which is a large cotton-factory owned by an English company, and employed in the manufacture of cotton, which is grown along the line of the railway. The country is tolerably well adapted to the growth of cotton, and may yet be made to produce a large quantity of this valuable staple.

      Post-offices are almost as rare in Asia Minor as they are in Palestine, but the building of railroads necessarily brings with it many of the other arts and customs of civilization, and our train was blessed with [577] a regular Turkish mail-agent. He sat in the same compartment with Fedros and myself, with a leather mail-bag by his side. He sat à la Turc, with his slippered feet doubled under him, and at noon he went through his prayers with all the genuflexions which the motions of the train and his seat on the narrow cushion would allow. I was amused at the way in which he managed his business. As he approached a station he would fumble through the letters in his bag, pick out those intended for that station, and make a little bundle of them. On arriving he would hand this little bundle to a man who answered the purpose of a postmaster, and receive one in return for other stations. When persons would come to him to mail letters, as they did at almost every station, he would receive from them the money for the postage, and then put stamps on the letters after the train started. I suppose that he must have been an honest man, otherwise he could have thrown many of the letters away, pocketed the money, and saved the stamps.

      We reached Philadelphia on time at 2.35 P. M., having run at the average rate of 16 miles to the hour. There was no such thing as a hotel in the city, and we were somewhat puzzled to know where we would find lodging, until the conductor of our train proposed to take us to his boarding-house, where he said everything was clean and neat. We found it a large and indescribable old tenement, but it had a very broad open porch along one side, and we were led into a very airy room in the second story opening into this porch. By having some of our own coffee prepared and a chicken stewed we secured a good supper, and all went well with us till bedtime. We ordered mattresses to be spread in the porch, where it was pleasantly cool, and where we expected to escape the bugs which might be in the rooms. But our expectations were vain,--at least mine were, for I had scarcely begun to sink into unconsciousness when the tormentors began their work. I lit the candle two or three times, and made vigorous assaults upon my enemies, but they finally drove me from the bed. I retired to the most distant corner of the porch, wrapped myself in my shawl, and tried the hard floor. There the fleas attacked me, and between them and the hardness of my bed I was prevented from sleeping soundly. I was the earliest riser in the house the next morning, and I wondered at Fed'ros and the conductor, who slept like logs all night, and scarcely knew that there was a bug or a flea in the house. I thought there was nothing like being used to a thing.

      The railway, in starting from Smyrna, first winds around the western terminus of a mountain range a few miles northwest of Smyrna, and then runs almost due east, following the southern edge of the valley [578] of the river Hermus. This valley is subject to overflow in very wet winters, for the river lies in a shallow bed, with a sluggish current, and it is very easily swelled to overflow by the rush of water from the mountains which bound its valley on both the north and the south. The railway lies near the foot of the southern range of mountains, and all the towns along the plain are built on the mountain slopes. Philadelphia, like the other towns, is situated on the slope at the southern side of the valley, and the valley is here about nine miles wide. Immediately south of it rises a ridge about 270 feet high above the plain, and extending about a mile north and south. The ancient wall, now much broken, runs along the summit of this ridge, and there is a large castle of irregular shape at its western extremity. This castle was at the southwestern corner of the city. From this corner the western wall descends the hill toward the north, and reaches out nearly a mile into the plain. The northern wall runs at a right angle to the western, and is more than a mile in length. The eastern wall first runs south, then east, leaving out of the city at the northeast a piece of low, wet ground, and then runs south again till it joins the southern wall. The ancient city, if the present wall marks its limits, was nearly a mile and a half long from east to west, and a mile wide from north to south.

      On the hill, in the southern edge of the town, is a space artificially shaped, which has every appearance of a Greek stadium, or race-course, for foot-races and chariot-races. There is also a recess in the hill, evidently made for an amphitheatre. Both of these were admirably located, for they were 200 feet above the plain, and the spectators, whose faces, when witnessing the games, were toward the north, at moments when their attention was not occupied by the performance in the arena, could look out over the city, across the plain, and along the face of the mountain-range beyond, enjoying a view with which the eye would never grow weary.

      The present city occupies but a small part of the space within the walls. It is built chiefly of small stones of irregular shape laid in a large quantity of cement; but the meaner houses, of which there are many, are of sun-dried bricks. Nearly all the houses are covered with tiles, very heavy and very rudely made. The streets are from six to eight feet wide and very crooked. In the middle of each there is usually a gutter two feet wide and four inches deep, intended for the feet of passing animals, and also to convey a little stream of water formed by the waste from many public fountains. These fountains, like those in Damascus, are supplied by pipes which lead the water from a spring on the mountain-side. The water issues from a pipe [579] projecting from the wall of the building, falls into a stone trough which it keeps full, and then overflows into the street. Many of these troughs are sarcophagi dug from the ancient burial-grounds, and they were once filled with dead men's bones.

      The population of the place is not exactly known, and it is estimated by houses. A Greek priest, who showed us much kindness by acting as our local guide, stated that the Turkish houses are commonly estimated at 2000, and those of the Greeks at 400. Allowing 5 persons to a house, which is the usual estimate, this would give a population of 12,000. Five minarets rise above the city, representing as many mosques, and there are two Greek churches.

      Columns, broken pieces of statuary, and large building stones are seen in every part of the city and about the open spaces within the walls; but there is only one ancient structure whose outline can be traced. This is an old church called The Church of the Apocalypse. Three of the four stone piers that once supported its massive roof are still standing, the fourth having been torn down by the English railroad-builders, and its stones used for making culverts. These piers are 20 feet square and 40 feet high; and they are crowned with the remains of brick arches of immense thickness, which constituted, when entire, the vaulted ceiling and roof of the immense building. The piers were once covered with paintings in fresco, which the Mohammedans covered over with plaster when they took possession of the country; but now the plastering is broken in places, and the colors can be distinctly seen. The Greeks believe that this church was built in the days of the Apostle John, but this cannot be true, for all churches of such magnificence belong to the period following Constantine's conversion, when the public treasury was taxed for their erection.

      When we were about to enter the inclosure surrounding the old church, a Turkish servant stood in the door and forbade us to enter because we were Christians. After much altercation, and some pushing, we got him out of the way, but he followed us and looked daggers at us all the time we were there. When we were leaving I offered him some buckshish, but he refused it with a disdainful upturning of his nose. I remarked that the best thing for him would be a man's fist planted on his mouth.

      Southeast of the city, about half a mile, there is a copious spring of mineral water, much used by the people as a promoter of digestion. It has a very strong taste of mineral matter, and it makes a slight deposit of iron. I filled a glass bottle with the water to bring home for [580] analysis.2 About half a mile farther to the southeast, in a ravine descending from a mountain of basalt, there is a warm spring whose temperature is 90° with a cold one on each side of it. Two bathing pools have been excavated in the rock, one for warm water and the other for cold, and they are frequented by a large number of persons from the city.

      In passing along the streets of Philadelphia I frequently heard the cooing of doves, and on looking up I saw ring-doves walking about on the roofs of houses, on the banisters of porticos, and on all places about the houses which afforded them a perch. On inquiry, I learned that this dove is a kind of sacred bird with the Philadelphians, and that it is allowed to roost and build where it chooses without molestation. I had observed, as I came from Smyrna, a great many storks standing on house-tops and walking about the fields, and I observed at Philadelphia that many of them were constantly standing on the remnants of the old wall where they had built their nests. They are held as a sacred bird in all this part of Asia Minor, and it is as great a sin here to kill a stork as to kill a dog in Damascus. The solemn bird is allowed to build his nest wherever he chooses, and I have often seen half a dozen of the huge nests, four or five feet in diameter, and built chiefly of large sticks, on the roof of a single house. Sometimes I have seen a dozen storks standing with solemn mien on the top of a house, maintaining all the gravity of a tall undertaker at a funeral, and appearing as if everybody in the house was dead and they had come to the burial.3

      1 Acts xix. 24-41. [576]
      2 Through the carelessness of a boy who handled my baggage at Athens the bottle was broken and the water lost. [581]
      3 For a description of the stork see page 74. [581]


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J. W. McGarvey
Lands of the Bible (1881)

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