Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][graphic]

!!!

SAIN

for a year I have not slept soundly till last night.' I then went with him to the governor, and said, “Will you give Nas-reddin the handkerchief of amnesty?' The governor said to Nas-reddin, ‘Speak without fear;' upon which he recounted his story, when the governor said, 'La bas' (no harm), on which he kissed the governor's hand and went away.”

The whole of this region was once thickly studded over with towns and cities, and appears to have been one of the most fertile and densely populated countries on the face of the earth; but, in consequence of bad government, the population is rapidly decreasing, and many once flourishing villages and cities now contain only empty dwellings and desolate ruins. The present population is estimated to be only about 50,000.

The view over the Hauran is at all times most striking, and from many points extremely beautiful. Gebel Sheik, or Hermon, the last mountain of the chain of Anti-Lebanon, is always visible to the n.w. Gebel IIauran—a range of hills—limits the view to the E., but to the s.E. it is boundless. The soil is naturally excellent; numerous corn-fields surround every village, while in many places the pasturage is good, and is grazed by the flocks of the Bedouins, who visit the Hauran in swarms every spring.

E.N.E. of the Hauran is a very singular region called the Szaffa ; it is a stony district, much resembling the Lcdja, except that the rocks with which it is covered are larger. Its circumference is equal to two or three days' travel, and it is a place of refuge for the Arabs, who fly from the Pasha’s troops, or from their ene mies in the desert. The Szaffa has no springs, the only supply being rain-water collected in cisterns. There is but one entrance into this region, and that is through a narrow pass called Bab-el Szaffa—a cleft between high perpendicular rocks, not more than two yards wide—which none dare to enter as enemies. Many sanguinary encounters between pursued and pursuers have taken place at this pass, as is attested by numerous skeletons and human bones met with here.

CHAPTER XI.

THE KNIGHTS TEMPLARS.

Origin of the Order— The Battle-field of Hattin

Massacre of the Knights -- Ancient kerak, a Stronghold of the Knights.

AFTER the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusa. ders, pilgrims and other travelers from all parts of Europe visited the Holy Land in great numbers ; many of whom, when traveling from one place to another, especially when going from the coast to Jerusalem, were robbed, and subjected to various outrages and indignities by the Mohammedans, who regarded them as interlopers and Christian dogs, and treated them as such whenever an opportunity presented itself. From this state of things arose the necessity of an organization for the protection of pilgrims and others, while traveling in the Holy Land. Hence, in 1118, a society was formed, called

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the “ Poor Soldiers of Jesus,” whose duty it was to act as escort and guard for the Christian travelers; especially those visiting Jerusalem. This humble society soon became so popular, that to belong to it was esteemed an honor; and its accessions in numbers and wealth were such as to eventually render it the most powerful and wealthy organization the world had ever seen.

KNIGHTS TEMPLARS.

The buildings allotted to the “Poor Soldiers of Jesus” were in the Temple enclosure, and some of them on the site of Solomon's Temple, from which circumstance they received the name, Knights Templars. In time this order embraced in its ranks many of the best architects of the day; and the ruins of castles, fortresses, and fortified towns, built by them, are monuments of the skill and energy of this warlike and mechanical order.

CAUSES WHICH LED TO THEIR DESTRUCTION.

Ar this period, Palestine was covered with castles and fortified towns, which were occupied and commanded by petty barons, Knights of St. John, and Knights Templars; but all subject to the king at Jerusalem. Yet the commanders of these fortresses declared war and made peace at their own will and pleasure—not only against the common enemy but against one another; and what renders this state of anarchy more surprising is, that the Christian occupants of Palestine were nearly surrounded by

« PreviousContinue »