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had recently taken place before our arrival. Passing through the gate of Allah we entered the Meidân, which is a long spur of the city forming a handsome broad street, which was perhaps the most interesting part of Damascus. Leisurely walking our horses up the Meidân, we were enabled to look about us and study the curious architecture and still more curious inhabitants, among whom our procession made a great stir, and who paused in groups to look at us, while the words "Feringhees!" (Franks) and "Giaours !" (Infidels) could be heard repeated in kind explanation from mouth to mouth. When we recollected how only sixteen years ago Damascus was deluged with Christian blood, we could not help being struck with the absence of real fanatic excitement; and although at this time, when the relations between East and West, between Christian and Moslem, were in an extremely turbulent condition, we were careful not to exhibit any gesture or feeling which might arouse hostility, we did not feel the least fear as we rode up this busy Eastern avenue amid all the elements of Eastern life and character. The street was in some places one hundred feet wide, lined with shops, the most numerous and striking of which, and the largest, were the corn-stores, spacious, open, vaulted buildings, with various kinds of grain lying in heaps upon the floor. Here and there was a ruinous mosque, which gave an air of Eastern picturesqueness to the scene. We encountered every kind of Eastern costume in perfection, without any European element whatever strings of camels passed us from time to time, and a band of mounted Bedouins, armed with guns and long spears, added to the novelty and excitement we experienced. I have no recollection of Damascus equalling in interest this ride up the Meidân.
The meadow, watered by the Abana, by which we entered Damascus, was not far from the part of the city in which Dimitri's hotel was situated, and therefore easy of access. I visited it several times for the pretty surroundings and the interesting sights sometimes seen there. This meadow, called Merj, is a spot celebrated in the "Arabian Nights," the scene of which is often laid at Damascus. Caravans of pilgrims encamp here, and the beautiful Tekiyeh, or Dervish mosque, is a striking feature of the scene. It is really a hospital, or hospice, for poor pilgrims, and exhibits the combination of elegance and decay, magnificence and ruin, so characteristic of Moslem buildings. Beautiful porphyry and granite columns contrast with ugly wooden fences, and the tall slender minarets and numerous small domes are features of architectural richness from afar
which, on a nearer inspection, are somewhat counterbalanced by a poverty of aspect arising from neglect and decay. On the Merj might often be seen active grooms exercising young and spirited horses, which gave promise of a beauty they did not at present possess. The great attraction of Arab horses, next to their arching necks and clean, high-stepping fore legs, is a beautiful and long silky tail. But in order to encourage the growth of this appendage they shave the tail when the horse is young, to the great detriment of its appearance for the time; though, of course, these present rat-tailed nags have splendid long caudal tufts in posse. Upon this Merj also I observed for the first time an interesting scene illustrative of Scripture. We were naturally on the look-out for such scenes, and the one I refer to was an excellent specimen of an Eastern shepherd leading his flock. Instead of driving the frightened sheep before him, as we too often see in this country, the Eastern shepherd walks leisurely in front, perhaps carrying a weakling in his arms, and the flock follow unterrified in a long, straggling string, some close behind him, and the most distant perhaps fifty or sixty yards off. They seem to recognise their master's voice, and follow him without fear or restraint. These sheep are of two kinds-the Bedouin sheep, very similar to our own larger breed, and the broad-tailed or fat-tailed sheep (Ovis platyura). It is said that the tail sometimes weighs 50 lbs. in a fat sheep of 150 lbs., and it is much prized. It is referred to in Exod. xxix. 22, and Lev. iii. 9.
One lady of our party was very anxious to see "two women grinding at one mill," and begged that we would inform her if we came in sight of such an illustrative circumstance. But we went all through the Holy Land without seeing it; and it was in Egypt, when looking down from the top of the great pylon at Edfou, that I saw, in the enclosure attached to a fellah's hut, "two women grinding at one mill."
The various passages of Scripture which make mention of dogs, as animals to be feared, receive illustration in every Eastern town, but notably at Damascus and Constantinople. "Dogs have compassed me" (Ps. xxii. 16); "They make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city" (Ps. lix. 6); "Beware of dogs" (Phil. iii. 2); "For without are dogs" (Rev. xxii. 15), etc. etc. These are some of the passages to which I refer, and no one who has been in either of the above cities will fail to appreciate them. In Mussulman countries dogs are not owned, as with us, and cared for, but they run wild
everywhere; and in cities their value as scavengers is tacitly recognised, and they are allowed to infest the streets, and do exactly as they like. These dogs are all of a wild mongrel kind, usually yellowish in colour, something like jackals, prick-eared, and always hungry and fierce, unless they are asleep. In the first case the passenger must guard himself against attack, though they are very cowardly; in the second he must be careful to do as the horses do, namely, step over them if they are lying exactly in the middle of the road or pathway. They are exceedingly numerous, so that wherever one goes they are sure to be met with; and if there is a carcase or any offal, they may be seen by scores. They snap up everything eatable that encumbers the streets, and yet always seem starving. Some pious Mussulmans have left legacies for their benefit, in order that in certain streets they may be periodically fed, and the dogs of such a quarter have occasionally a good time. For it must be observed that the dogs have a system among themselves. They keep to certain quarters of the city, and all know each other; and should a dog in the night wander to a quarter of the city in which he is not known, the intrusion is soon recognised, and he is chased out with a tempest of barking and uproar. I have often been awaked in the night in Constantinople by the barking of apparently scores of dogs all at once, when probably such an intrusion has occurred. By day the dogs are quiet enough, and will not molest any one; but by night it is very different. The inhabitants of the place they do not interfere with, but it would not be safe for a Frank to go about the city after nightfall without a proper escort armed with a thick stick and a lantern. A foreigner would probably be worried to death. In Damascus a gentleman connected with the Ottoman Bank informed me, that having occasion to traverse the streets late, he was in the habit of filling his pockets with bread in order to conciliate the dogs, until at last they knew him, and did not molest him. The Turks themselves seemed to feel that they had too many dogs in Constantinople at one time, and it is said that they collected a shipload of them and sent them out into the sea of Marmora, and there sunk them; but unless such a course was adopted periodically, the plague could not be kept down. They litter in the streets, and bring up their pups on steps and roadways. Sometimes a tender-hearted Moslem will place an old rag of carpet under the pups, which, until they can run about, remain of course in precisely the same spot, and even afterwards do not ramble far away. One such family, near the
door of the hotel, I used to feed every morning with a large piece of bread, which the old mother wistfully looked for and gratefully received, with six juvenile pups hanging to her as she stood. But although such a slight kindness as this is occasionally shown to the dogs, they are as rule very cruelly treated. It is against the law to kill them, and did a Frank kill a miserable maimed animal there would probably be a hue and cry raised against him. But it is not uncommon to see a broken-backed animal, maimed by accident (or design), dragging its paralysed hind limbs after him, or a dog mangy all over, whose life is a burden. I have seen them savagely struck, out of sheer mischief, without exciting any notice from passers-by, and boys especially seemed to delight in doing them mischief. It is very curious to see the excitement among them if a tame dog belonging to some Frank appears in the street. Every dog sets up a barking, and the chorus is taken up from one to another until the whole quarter is aroused; but they do not attack it if it keeps beside its owner. I have seen the same thing at the Jardin d'Acclimatisation in Paris, where there is a considerable collection of dogs confined in a large kennel. On the appearance of a small dog outside they are frantic; and the fever spreads from one to another, so that those which cannot see the intruder take up the chorus, and not one remains mute.
The outskirts or suburbs of Damascus are very pretty. They are particularly well irrigated by canals, for there is an unlimited supply of water. Figs, pomegranates, walnuts, vines, abound everywhere; all within the Abana belt is green and fertile, though beyond all is desert, and thus an advantageous contrast is effected. There are several pretty villages near Damascus, especially Salahiyeh, on the north side, for some years the residence of Captain Burton, the late consul, and Mrs. Burton. Dining with them at Trieste, after my return from Damascus, Mrs. Burton spoke in raptures of their home at Salahiyeh, of the beautiful climate and the flowers, and not less of the affectionate dispositions and grateful hearts of the native people among whom she was thrown, and of the regret with which she left the place when the chances of official life called them elsewhere. In her fresh and womanly book, "The Inner Life of Syria and Palestine," much information about these things may be obtained, which will well repay perusal, even if we do not refer to the charming and delightful style of the authoress.
Damascus is situated on an elevation of 2200 feet above the sea, which fact, and its abundance of water, help to contribute to its
healthiness. Its population is about 150,000, of whom 15,000 are Christians and 6000 Jews. In 1860 a terrible crisis took place, which culminated in the Druses attacking the city, destroying 6000 houses in the Christian quarter, and massacring 4000 or 5000 Christians of both sexes and all ages, while many of the women were sold into Turkish harems. This fearful affair, which called for the interference of European governments, has resulted in a better and stricter government between the rival religionists; and while at the present day all is quiet and peaceable in Damascus, we may hope that such horrors may be repressed in future.
(To be continued.)
SCRAPS OF CHURCH HISTORY.
NO. IV. THE GNOSTICS.
THE term Gnosticism (from a Greek word meaning knowledge) has been applied to a system largely based upon the Grecian and Oriental systems of mental and moral philosophy, and which in various shapes seems to have been actively engaged in an effort to undermine the Christian faith at a very early period in the history of the Church. Simon Magus was, according to the testimony of several of the early Fathers, one of the first who attempted to incorporate the doctrines with the Gnostic philosophy, and subsequently a large number of sects grew out of the system he propounded.
The principal object of the Gnostics appears to have been to account for the presence of evil in the world, their conclusion being that evil originated and retains its existence in matter. Matter was
believed by some to be eternal, originating, not in the Supreme Being, but in a coeternal though inferior Intelligence. Others, however, believed matter to be an emanation from an inferior Being, who, though originally created by the Supreme, subsequently existed as an independent power.
The ideas generally held by the (so-called) Christian Gnostics appear to have been that the Supreme Being resided in the vast Mansions of Light called Pleroma, and that from Him there descended, through a vast succession of ons, the Demiurgos, who was the God of the Jews, the author of the Old Testament, and the Creator of the world. Man they regarded as a compound being possessed of a corrupt body and a divine soul. The great desideratum of human life