Page images

to the Tigris. This canal is variously called Saklawiya and Nahr Isa, the latter name, according to Abu-l-Fada, being derived from Isa ibn Abd-’ullah ibn Abbas, an uncle of the Khalif Mansur.

Beyond the valley of the Saklawiya, the soil rose again, and on an almost isolated gravelly spot, so surrounded by canals of irrigation, as to appear peninsulated on the river, stood the modern Arab fort of Filujah, a quadrangular walled building, without either town or village in the neighbourhood. The steamer brought to at this point, which being the most proximate to Baghdad, a party left hence the ensuing morning for that city.

The Roman arıny under Julian is related by Ammianus to have advanced from Ozogardana, after burning the town, which was abandoned towards the Euphrates. Some opposition, however, was made to the army passing the river, and an engagement was fought with the troops under Surenas, and the Malik Rodosaces.

The river Euphrates is described as having been crossed by a bridge of boats, after which the army arrived at Macepracta, where are stated to have been the remains of a wall built to preserve the Assyrians against incursions, and where the river Euphrates sent off a large canal. These two points would appear to establish satisfactorily so much of the progress of the Romans, and to identify Macepracta with the site of Sifairah, and the first canal drawn from Euphrates, also called Naaraga, * with the Nahr Isa or Saklawiya.

At the same spot, viz., where the Euphrates is first divided, Ptolemy placed his town of Sipphara, the name of which we still find preserved in Sisairah, and Abydenus (Apud. Euseb. Prap. Evang. lib. ix., c. 41) also notices the city of the Sipparani, after which he says the Euphrates is divided. It appears also to be the Schephithit in Nehardea, of Benjamin of Tudela:

The Roman army advanced from Macepracta to Perisabora, and Zozi. mus mentions, what is not alluded to by Ammianus, that the soldiers stuck in the mud at the entrance of the canal, which evidently refers to the marsh cailed Rumilah, or Kara Gül. Perisabora is described by Ammianus as a great and populous town, surrounded by water, the citadel being built on a rock imitating the Argolie buckler. According to Zozimus, the town had a double wall, disposed as a segment of a circle, the north side being defended by a canal, the east by a ditch and rampart, with oblique entrances to the south and west. The road from the outer wall to the citadel presented many difficulties, and there were high towers of bricks and plaster half way.

The name of Perisabora is derived by the sophist Libanius (Orat. p. 315) from the Sasanian King Sapor, or Shapur, and the identity of this city with A'bar I have found indicated in the lists of the metropolitan and episcopal churches subject to the Catholicos of the Chaldeans, where A’bar is mentioned as a bishop's see under the name of Pheroz Sapor, evidently Firuz Shapur, and it is also enumerated among the Jacobite bishoprics by the name of Pherce Sapor.

There is, however, considerable difficulty in positioning A'bar at

Pliny (lib. c. 26) also places Hippara or Hipparenum, evidently the same as Sipphara, and, which he describes as Chaldæorum doctrina clarum on the river Narraga.

Filujah as D'Anville has done. Idrisi places A’bar at a distance of thirty-six miles from Baghdad, on the road to Rakka, indicating at all events a north-westerly direction from Baghdad, but a great excess of distance, Filujah being only nineteen miles from the city of the Khalifs. The movements of the Romans also attest that Perisabora was reduced before attaining the Nahr Malcha or royal river, at the entrance of which was a tall tower like a Pharos.

A greater extent of river would also be expected at the site of a city so well defended in ancient times, and afterwards the residence of the first kings of the Al Mundar dynasty, as it was afterwards of the first among the Abasside Kalifs, Abu-l-Abbas Saffah, or “the sanguinary" and Abu Jafar al Mansur “the victorious." Ibn Haukel also relates that in his time the palace of one of the later Khalifs, Abu-l-Abbas al Kayim Bittah, who reigned s.v. 1031, were still visible at the same place, which was also a seat of learning, both among the Jews and the Arabs ; several of the most learned Arabian authors bearing the surname of A'bari.

Ammianus Marcellinus describes Perisabora as being beyord the Nabr Malcha or Royal River, which is contradicted by all other historians, as well as by the facts of the case itself, for the Romans did not go beyond the Royal River, the bed of which being obstructed by the Persians, they had to cleanse and open it previous to the boats gaining entrance therein; after which they are described as sailing to the Tigris.

The army is also described as passing a district watered by many canals of irrigation, between Perisabora and the Royal River, as also a city inhabited by Jews, which being deserted Julian caused to be burnt. This town is called Tisserne by Zonarc, and apparently Fissenia by Zozimus, but the latter historian also notices a town without a name, previous to Fissenia, which he says was near the Royal River.

Next came Maogamalcha, which is described as being a considerable place, fortified by double walls, and situated in a marsh surrounded by water. This town was captured by the Romans, and reduced to cinders. Zoparc calls it Bitra, and Zozimus Bithra; but Cellarius doubts the identity, from some contradictory evidence in regard to the reduction and capture of the town. The army was now on the Royal River, or Trajan's canal, as historians also designate it, the entrance of which is described, as being indicated by a tower like a Pharos, and upon which, besides the castle in the date grove, where Julian was placed in personal danger, was also the town of Besuchin, which was only forty stadia, or four miles from Ctesiphon. It was after this that the army took to the boats; they having only navigated thirty stadin, or three miles by the Royal River to Ctesiphon. The difficulties met with during this progress, and the details of a war so fatal to the Roman emperor, are matters of ordinary history, and are circumstantially related by Gibbon from Ammianus, Libanimus, and others; the actual position of the sites mentioned, with the exception of Macepracta and Ctesiphon is still

, however, a desideratum in historical geography, to the perfection of which what we have been enabled to state is but a slender contribution. :)

To turn then to the principality of the captive Jews; Sur, Sura, or Sora, was their third most distinguished school and synagogue, as it was also once a celebrated Babylonian town. Babylon itself, according to the Book of Baruch, was upon the river Sud, for which Bochart reads

says are

Sovp, Sur, and in which reading he is supported by Hebrew monuments.

The Muhammadan geographers also corroborate this fact. Abu-l-fada distinctly states that the Euphrates after passing the Nahr Kulbah by six farsakhs, and giving off the Nil canal, divides itself into two streams, one of which flowed onwards to Sura, while the other flowed by Kufa into the marshes of the Rumiyah. The first was called Nahr Sura; Mr. Fraser (Mesopotamia and Assyria, p. 33) says from the name of a town in its vicinity, and which must be the site of ancient Sura, but the exact position of which has not yet been determined.

Ibn Haukal, in going from Baghdad to Kufa, passed the Royal River to arrive at Kasr ibn Hubaira, on the river Frat, where he several streams, so that the water is much augmented, and it passes on to the town of Sura. The great river Frat has not any branch, he says, more considerable than this. The name of Naarsares and Maarsares, which

may be corrupted from Nahr Sura, but which some scholars explain as meaning "the fætid river," appears also to have been given by classical antiquity to that portion of the river Euphrates which lay below the Royal River, at & time when that derivative carried away a great portion of the waters of the main stream. The remainder dividing itself to flow sluggishly onwards on the one hand by Babel and Sura to the marshes of Babylon, and on the other by Kufa to the marshes of Rumiyah and the antique Pallacopas; became, from its stagnant characters, impure and fætid. Flumen fætidum (says Hyde, de Relig. Vet. Persarum) quod ad Paludes ducat per

Babeleen." The subject of the rivers and cities of the plains of Babylonia, hovever, well merits a separate consideration, by which, indeed, the details of the inquiry can be alone understood.

The Jews of the captivity, besides the destruction of their cities by the Babylonians in the year 32, B.C., their slaughter by the Greeks of Seleucia, and their persecution by the Romans under Trajan, Lucius Quietus, and Hadrian; had to undergo many reverses, and to be subjected to severe trials before their final extinction as a power in Babylonia.

In this case the persecutions did not arise from that religion which, having its origin in their own fatherland, was, nevertheless

, rejected with the same contempt as the elegant mythology of the Greeks, and the spirituality of the Magians; and which they refused to associate with the institutions of Moses with the same pertinacity that they exhibited in Babylonia, in resisting the more furious proselytism and iron oppression of the followers of Muhammad.

Under all circumstances, and surrounded or oppressed by whatever form of religion, the Talmud remained to the Jew, the magic circle within which the national mind patiently laboured for ages in performing the bidding of the old enchanters, who first drew the sacred line, beyond which it might not pass.

The re-establishment of the Prince of the Captivity, in all his former state and power, dated from the time when the schools of Babylonia and Palestine fell into open schism concerning the calculation of the Paschal, and when the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud commenced and finished under the Rabbi Asche, resulted from that schism. The pomp of their prince, the wealth of their subjects, and the flourishing condition of the schools are strong testimonies that the condition of the Babylonian Jews under the Persians, was highly favourable.

Whether, as Gibbon argues, it was from the unsociality and obstinacy of the national mind, or as is argued with more likelihood by Milman, from their never scrupling to render themselves both useful and necessary, by their superior judgment and command of money, to fierce and uncivilised conquerors; the Babylonian Jews were spared at the first spread of Islamism, and the khalifs readily acknowledged the Prince of the Captivity as their vassal.

This was the period of their highest prosperity, and the schools of Nearda, Pombeditha, and Sura, were crowded with hearers. But civil discord came with this increase of power. The so-called Gaonim, or “the illustrious,” founded a sort of senate, and while the princes of the captivity maintained the sovereign executive power, the former assumed the legislative. A rival to the then prince, David ben Saccai, was summoned from Egypt, in the person of Saadias, who established his rule at Sura, and whose successor, Scherira, removed the seat of government and of learning to Pherutz Schabur, as Firuz Shapur is written from the Hebrew.

In the midst of these internal dissensions, the then reigning khalif, Mutawakil, began to cast an avaricious eye upon the wealth of his vassal sovereign. Edicts of persecution were issued. The descendants of David were prohibited from riding on lordly horses, they were to aspire no higher than humble mules and asses, they were forbidden to have an iron stirrup, and commanded to wear a leathern girdle. This failing to rouse an ever-patient and enduring people to acts of suicidal violence, they were ordered to be distinguished from the faithful by a brand mark; and the populace defaced their houses by figures of swine, devils, and apes.

At length Scherira, when a hundred years of age, was seized with his son Hai; their riches were confiscated, and the old man was hung up by the hand. Hezekiah assumed the perilous office of Prince of the Captivity for two more years, when he was with the whole of his family arrested by order of the khalif, and the dynasty was for ever extinguished by the ignominious death of the last sovereign. The schools were now closed, most of the learned fled to Egypt and Spain, and those that remained became an abject and degraded part of the oriental population.





In sooth a queen; a gentle, loving queen!

So true to nature, as to cheat the will
From all observance of the mimic scene,

To bow in reverence of thy matchless skill.
Thy brow, which well the diadem became,

Beam'd with the light and purity of truth;
While the clear eye flash'd well and wild the flame,

From the soul's altars, fed by hope and youth.


And then the high-wrought tales of woman's love,

Shackled by chains of custom and of state,
Which the fond heart strives vainly to remove,

Preferring to be loved than to be great.
From thee, the tale came like a pleasant dream,

Cheating the heart, and robbing it of care-
Alas! that this all bright and glorious theme

Should wild Delusion's fleeting raiment wear.



may observe thy course, and watch thy star,
Brighten with years along the Drama's heaven,
No envious clouds thy onward fame to mar,

All threatening tempests from thy pathway driven.
With such rare powers to cultivate the Muse,

Genius to model, judgment to refine;
Who may behold thy flight, and yet refuse

To crown thee champion of the “ Sacred Nine."

« PreviousContinue »