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cannot but admire the tact and accuracy of bis observation, as evinced by the fact, that succeeding travellers, with far more leisure, bave added comparatively little to the fulness of his general description. Minor details have indeed been given, and the general outlines more carefully filled out ; especially in the account given by Captains Irby and Mangles, which we consider as the most graphic. The merit of M. Laborde here lies not in his pen, but in his pencil ; he and his companion have brought Petra itself before our eyes; and those strange ruins, which till now could only be visited, through dangers and hardships, in the midst of naked rocks and desert solitudes, now present themselves to our view in our very chambers and by our firesides. *
The French travellers ascended to Petra from the Ghor on the west, and arrived at the ruins by a very rugged descent on the southwestern part of the amphitheatre. But the " single approach" of which Diodorus speaks, was from the east; and by it all other travellers, who have visited the place, have made their way to the ruins. In the very brief notices which our limits permit us to make of the site and remains of this celebrated spot, we shall follow the latter order, referring the reader for further details to the accounts of Burckhardt and Legh, and especially to that of Captains Irby and Mangles.
In looking at the wonders which here lie before us, we are at a loss, whether most to admire the singularity of the natural scenery, or the taste and skill with which it has been fashioned by art into a secure retreat, and adorned with splendid structures intended for the abode both of the living and the dead. The two, however, are so connected, that they cannot well be separated even in contemplation; and we can only speak of them as mutually heightening the effect of each other. Wady Mousa is at first a small valley, with a copious fountain at its eastern extremity, from which a brook flows along the valley westward. Lower down it is joined by another brook, descending through a ravine from the southern mountain. On a bill in the angle formed by the two, stands the village of Wady Mousa, or Eldjg. Following the rivulet farther to the
* The plan of Petra given by M. Laborde is by far the best; although he has unfortunately neglected to mark upon it the points of the compass. The patch-work character of his descriptions, as wrought into a “continuous whole" by the English editor, sets at defiance all attempts to acquire from them a correct idea of the topography of the place.
westward, the valley becomes narrower, and here the antiquities of Wady Mousa may be said to begin ; -- a suburb, as it
a were, to the city of Petra, situated before its principal entrance. These remains consist of sepulchral chambers hewn in the perpendicular rocks which form the sides of the valley, with fronts either plain, or ornamented with columns and pilasters. These continue for several hundred paces, presenting a continued street of tombs ; beyond which the rocks approach each other, and seem all at once to close without any outlet. There is, however, a frightful chasm for the stream, which also furnishes now, as formerly, the only avenue to Petra on this side.
This approach is in the highest degree wild and sublime. The width is just sufficient for two horsemen abreast; the sides are in all parts perpendicular, varying from four hundred to seven hundred feet in height; and they often overhang to such a degree, that the sky is intercepted, and the full light of day shut out, for a hundred yards together. The tamarisk, wild fig, and oleander, grow luxuriantly along this chasm, often rendering the passages difficult ; and in some places they hang
; down gracefully from the cliffs and crevices, where they have taken root.
The Arabs call this pass El Syk. About fifty paces from the entrance, a bold arch is thrown across the chasm at a great height, connecting the opposite sides of the cliff; and underneath it are niches, apparently for the reception of statues. M. Laborde ascertained this to be a highly ornamented arch of triumph.* The ravine holds its general direction from east to west ; but presents many elbows and windings in its course, so that the eye can seldom penetrate beyond a few paces forwards, and is often at a loss in what direction the passage will open. Artificial watercourses are here carried along the sides of the rocks, probably for the better supply of the ancient city.
This singular passage continues for nearly two miles ; the sides increasing in height as the path continually descends, while the tops of the precipices retain their former level. Where they are just at the highest, a beam of stronger light breaks in, and opens to view, at first half seen through the tall, narrow cleft, the columns, statues, and cornices of a temple,
* A copy of M. Laborde's view of this arch is given in Finden's Illustrations of the Bible. VOL. XLIV. NO. 95.
executed in stone of a pale rose color, of a light and finished taste, and fresh as if just from the chisel. Only a portion of an extensive architectural front is seen at first; but it has been so contrived, that a statue with expanded wings, perhaps of Victory, just fills the centre of the opening in front, which, being closed below by the projecting sides of the chasm, gives to the figure the appearance of being suspended in the air. * The rest of the design opens gradually as one advances, until the narrow defile spreads on both sides into an area of a moderate size, girt in by lofty and inaccessible rocks of the same general character. The traveller then finds himself in front of a magnificent temple, the richness and finish of whose decorations contrast strangely with the savage scenery around. No part is built; the whole being purely a work of excavation, in the highest state of preservation, even to its minutest embellishments. On the summit is an urn, which Arab superstition regards as the depository of the treasures of the Pharaohs ; and hence the structure bears the name Khasneh el Faraoun, or Treasury of Pharaoh. This is the most beautiful and striking of all the inonuments of Petra. M. Laborde has given two different views of it.
The rock in which this temple is sculptured, (as indeed all the rocks through which the extraordinary chasm leads, and in which all the tombs and monuments of the city have been excavated, even to the summit of Mount Hor,) is freestone or sandstone of a reddish color, which continues towards the south to skirt the eastern side of the great valley or Ghor. The fornis of the summits of these rocks are so irregular and grotesque, that, when seen from a distance, they have the appearance of volcanic mountains. The softness of the stone afforded great facilities to those, who excavated and sculptured the sides of the mountain ; but the same cause has naturally operated against their preservation. Above the Khasneh, the face of the rock is left as an overhanging vault ; and it is to this, and the projection of the adjacent rocks, that the excellent preservation of its details is to be ascribed. The interior of this structure presents nothing corresponding to its splendid
A view taken from this point by Mr. Bankes, is given on the titlepage to the first volume of Finden's Ilustrations. The drawings of Mr. Bankes have long been promised to the public; and we hope that M. Laborde's work will not have the effect to make this promise vain.
† One of these is copied in Finden's Illustrations.
front ; a large plain room, and two side chambers, constitute the whole. The architecture is supposed by Captains Irby and Mangles to belong to an age posterior to the time of Trajan's conquest.
The area before this temple is about fifty yards in width, and one hundred and fifty in length. Towards the south, it terminates in a wild precipitous cliff, rendered accessible by a flight of steps cut in the rock ; as is also done in various other parts of the cliffs. Towards the N. N. W. the defile again assumes, for about three hundred yards, the same features which characterize the eastern approach, with an endless variety of tombs, both Arabian and Roman, on either side. Here the valley again widens ; and on the left is a theatre cut entirely from the rock, with all its seats, capable of containing perhaps three thousand spectators ; the area of it is now filled up with gravel, brought down by the winter torrents.
From this spot the ruins of the city itself burst upon the view in their full grandeur,* shut in on the opposite side and all around, by barren, craggy precipices, from which numerous ravines and valleys, like those already described, branch out in all directions. Here is the valley or amphitheatre” of Pliny, “ less than two thousand paces in amplitude, surrounded by inaccessible mountains, with a stream Aowing through the midst.” Nothing can be more definite than this description ; as any one may see by looking at M. Laborde's plan. . This area or plain opens about one hundred and fifty paces beyond the theatre ; and is described by Burckhardt as being two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards across, bordered by heights somewhat less precipitous than before. The stream flows across it in a N. N. W. direction, and enters another similar ravine, where it is lost for a time beneath the rocks. The whole of this open area is covered with heaps of bewn stones, foundations of buildings, fragments of columns, and vestiges of paved streets ; all clearly indicating that a large city once existed here. On the left side of the stream is a mound or rising ground extending westwards, entirely covered with similar remains. On the right bank, where the ground is more elevated, ruins of the same description exist. In the level ground, near the left bank of the stream, would seem to have
*.M. Laborde gives a view from this spot, which is also copied in Finden's Illustrations.
been some of the principal edifices. Here is an archway of a very Aorid architecture, much ruined, and serving originally as an introduction to a large pile of buildings, called by the
, Arabs Kaszr Bent Faraoun, or the Palace of Pharaoh's daugh
M. Laborde calls it simply the Palace of Pharaoh, and has given drawings both of the palace and of the arch. Further to the west, and on higher ground, are the ruins of a temple, with one column yet standing, to which the Arabs have given an indecent name. Hence the ground descends towards the W. N. W. and then the traveller ascends in the same direction, through a narrow lateral valley, towards the rugged mountain on which stands the Tomb of Aaron.
One other structure of imposing beauty was seen by Mr. Bankes and his companions from the summit of Mount Hor, situated in a lateral valley in a direction N. N. E. from the ruins of the city; but from the intricacy of the ravines and want of time, they were unable to reach it. The French travellers were more successful, and have given a view of the edifice, which bears a general resemblance to the Khasneh ; though the latter is of a lighter taste and purer architecture. It is called by the Arabs El Deir, or the Convent.
But the great singularity of the whole place is, not that there are occasional excavations and sculptures like those we have described, but that the whole extent of perpendicular rocks around the chief area and in all the lateral valleys, is full of innumerable excavations of a similar character and of different dimensions, whose entrances are variously, richly, and often fantastically decorated with every imaginable order of architecture. Indeed it is impossible to give the reader an idea of the singular effect of these rocks, tinted with the most extraordinary hues, whose summits present us with nature in her most savage and romantic form, whilst their bases are worked out in all the symmetry and regularity of art, with colonnades and pediments, and ranges of corridors adhering to the perpendicular surface.” * A great proportion of these were doubtless sepulchres ; even the theatre is surrounded by them ; indeed in every quarter the depositories of the dead must have presented themselves constantly to the eyes of the living, and almost have outnumbered the habitations of the latter. The largest of these sepulchres are
* Irby and Mangles, p. 423.