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Ascending a rocky mountain, which is supposed to be the Ladder of Tyrus, mentioned by Josephus; I observed the ruins of a castle, said to have been erected by Alexander the Great, from which lofty position I enjoyed a grand view of the snow-capped Libanus; a short distance from hence the road winds along the face of a rock overhanging the sea ; this, I was informed, was the work of the Emperor Hadrian, being an exception to the general account of all public works in the east, which the inhabitants invariably attribute to Iskander Bey, or Alexander the Great. The view from the precipice downwards is absolutely terrific; but, as the road is well walled in, the passage is perfectly safe. From this eminence may be obtained a prospect of Sour, the ancient Tyre.
Proceeding on our course, after passing some torrents, which we forded with ease, our attention was first attracted, after passing Capo Bianco, to the stone cisterns called Solomon's Cisterns, at the village of Ras el Ain. These are so accurately described by Maundrell, that I cannot do better than give his own words. "Roselayn (Ras el Ain) is a place where are the cisterns called Solomon's, supposed, according to common tradition, to have been made by that great king, as part of the recompense made to King Hiram for the supplies of materials sent by him toward the building of the Temple. They are doubtless very ancient, but yet of a much later date than this tradition ascribes to them. That they could not have been built till since Alexander's time may be conjectured from this, among other arguments; because the aqueduct which conveys the water from hence to Tyre, is carried over the neck of land by which Alexander, in his famous siege of this place, joined the city to the continent.
Of these cisterns there are three entire at the present day; one about a furlong and a half distant from the sea, and the other two a little higher up. The former is of an octagonal figure, twenty-two yards in diameter; it is elevated above the ground nine yards on the south side, and six on the north, and within is said to be of an unfathomable deepness; but ten yards
of line confuted that opinion. Its wall is of no better a material than gravel and small pebbles; but consolidated with so strong and tenacious a cement, that it seems to be all one entire vessel of rock. Upon the brink of you have a walk round, eight foot broad, from which, descending by one step on the south side, and by two on the north, you have another walk twenty-one foot broad.
“All this structure, though so broad at top, is yet made hollow, so that the water comes in underneath the walks.
"The whole vessel contains a vast body of excellent water, and is so well supplied by its fountain, that though there issues from it a stream like a brook, driving four mills between this place and the sea, yet it is always brimfull. On the east side of this cistern was the ancient outlet to the water, by an aqueduct raised about six yards from the ground, and containing a channel one yard wide.
"The aqueduct, now dry, is carried eastward about one hundred and twenty paces, and then approaches the other two cisterns, one of which is twelve, the other twenty, yards square. You may trace out the aqueduct all along by the remaining fragments of it. It goes about one hour northward, and then, turning to the west at a small mount, where anciently stood a castle, but now a mosque, it proceeds over the isthmus into the city." Maundrell, pp. 51, 52.
In about six hours we arrived at Sour, after passing through a very fertile, but neglected, and almost uninhabited, plain. On our arrival, we immediately presented ourselves to the governor, who procured us a room, but did not seem disposed to treat us with much hospitality. From the lateness of the hour of our arrival, we expected that he would have sent us dinner; but some bread and bad cheese was the whole extent of his liberality.
In spite, however, of such meagre fare, repose, after the fatiguing journey which we had just concluded, made us consider our situation as enviable.
The morning found us burning with impatience to examine the ruins of a place once the head of a huge commercial empire, whose "merchants were princes, and her traffickers the honourable of the earth," and respecting which the prophecies have been so completely and wonderfully fulfilled. "She shall be like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the middle of the sea."-Ezekiel, xxvi., 4, 5. This denunciation, though it might be considered as only a forcible metaphorical expression signifying the utter ruin which was to take place, is, at this day, literally and actually fulfilled; the wretched inhabitants of the city gaining a miserable subsistence by fishing.
The place is slightly fortified, and towards the sea surrounded by low reefs of rocks, which break the force of the swell. The ancient Tyre was undoubtedly surrounded completely by the sea; having fortifications on the land side, and also corresponding defences on the terra firma; for we read that the latter were assaulted and taken by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, B. C. 573.
The present town projects considerably into the sea; and is built on a rocky base. Indeed the Hebrew name of this celebrated city, Tyoor, (pronounced by the Syrians Thoor,) signifies a rock.
There is a small harbour in which the Greeks have made a feeble and unsuccessful attempt to revive the commerce with Damascus. Mr. Conner, who visited this place in 1820, was informed by the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Tyre, that there were 1200 Greek Catholics, 100 Greeks, 100 Maronites, 200 Motomalees, and only about 100 Turks. This account, in all probability, greatly exaggerates the number of Greek Catholics. Within the walls are three Christian churches and one mosque.
From the innumerable sieges which this ill-fated city has undergone, there are scarcely any traces of its pristine magnificence and wealth. I noticed some fragments of huge columns of red granite, and the remains of a Christian church, which now forms part of the wall. It is thus described