Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

LEBANON.

A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY.-ITS WONDERFUL TOPO-
GRAPHY. THE RENOWNED CEDARS.-THE FOREST
WHERE THEY WERE PROCURED FOR SOLOMON'S TEMPLE.
-HOW THEY WERE CONVEYED FROM THE MOUNTAINS
TO THE SEA, AND MADE UP INTO FLOATS.-THE SINGU-
LAR INHABITANTS OF LEBANON; THEIR MANNERS
AND CUSTOMS.—THE AKALS, A SECRET ORDER, HAVING
SIGNS, GRIPS, AND WORDS ANALOGOUS TO THOSE
USE AMONG FREEMASONS.

IN

LEBANON is first mentioned in the covenant promise given by the Lord to Israel (Deut. I, 7; xi. 24). To the inhabitants South, the cool streams and verdant forests must have been an earthly paradise when contrasted with their parched and thirsty country.

The mountains were originally inhabited by a number of independent war-like tribes, some of whom Joshua conquered on the banks of lake Merom. Further north were the Hivites, Giblites, and Arkites, whose names still cling to the ruins of their ancient strongholds. The Israelites were never able to subdue them ; but the Phoenicians had them under their power, or in their pay, for they got timber from the mountains, and were able to supply Solomon with cedars from their forests. During the conquests of David, and the commercial prosperity of the Jews under Solomon, they became acquainted with the riches, grandeur, and luxuriant. foliage of Lebanon; and ever after, that mountain

166

was regarded as an emblem of wealth and majesty During the reign of the Seleucidæ several large cities were founded, and others rebuilt in these mountains. At the commencement of the Christian era, Lebanon, with the rest of Syria, passed into the hands of Rome; and under its rule great cities were built, and beautiful temples erected. The hights on which Baal fires had burned in primeval times, and the groves where the rude mountain tribes worshipped their idols, became the site of noble buildings whose ruins, to this day, excite the admiration of every traveller. The temples of Baalbek and Chalcis were not surpassed even in Greece.

Owing to the almost inaccessible nature of this mountain country, its inhabitants have enjoyed great immunity from the wars and persecutions that have desolated other portions of Palestine; and while Christianity was nearly extirpated from the rest of Syria, it has retained its hold here; and the Maronites and Druzes, who still occupy the greater part of the range, are the lineal descendants of the ancient Syrians.

The Maronites now number over 200,000. The Druzes, their hereditary foes, dwell towards the southern end of the range, and number about 80,000. The jealousies and feuds of these rival sects often desolate Lebanon with fire and sword. The whole range is now under the authority of the Pasha of Damascus.

[ocr errors]

GEOGRAPHY AND TOPOGRAPHY.

The mountain chain of Lebanon commences in

Galilee near Acre, lat. 33° and extends in a north easterly direction, and nearly parallel with the Med iterranean, to the plain of Hamath in lat. 34° 40', making its extreme length 100 geographical miles, and the average width of its base is about 20 miles. The highest peak, Dahr el Kudib, is 25 miles from the northern extremity, and just above a grove of the cedars. Its elevation is 10,051 feet; 23 miles to the southward of this is the massive round summit of Sunin,-8,500 feet high; and the next highest peak is Jebel-Keniseh, 6,824 feet. The twin peaks, the highest peaks of Southern Lebanon, are about 6,700 feet high. From these the fall is rapid to the ravine of the river Litany.

The view of Lebanon from the Mediterranean is grand and picturesque. It appears to rise from the deep like a vast wall; the top covered with snow during winter and spring; and the highest peaks capped with ice and snow throughout the sultriest days of mid-summer. The slopes facing the Mediterranean are long and gradual, and furrowed from top to bottom with deep rugged ravines,— broken everywhere by lofty cliffs of white rock, and tens of thousands of terrace walls rise like steps of stairs from the sea to the snow capped peaks far above.

Nearly the whole mass of the mountain consists of a whitish limestone, or at least the rocky surface, as it everywhere exhibits a whitish aspect. The mountains of Lebanon teem with villages, and are cultivated more or less nearly to the top. Yet so steep and rocky is the surface that the tillage is carried or

« PreviousContinue »