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WIDOW DALLAS. AN IRISH TALE
NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE HOLY LAND.*
The natural features of the Holy Land consist simply of a low sandy littoral or maritime strip, of a hilly and stony district of limestones, in the heart of which Jerusalem is situated, of the deep hollow of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, and of the naked hilly region beyond and to the east. In the parallel of Samaria the central stony region is more broken up, the littoral—the Plain of Sharon-wears a more smiling aspect, and the sternness of the Moab is replaced by the green slopes of Gilead. This is still more the case in Galilee, in which the naked limestone district is reduced to its minimum, and the eastern range is represented by the oakclad hills and the pasture-lands of Bashan. Beyond, and farther to the north, we have the mountainous regions of Anti-Lebanon and Lebanon, imparting quite a new aspect to the country—a character which is more or less preserved to its utmost confines in that direction, the ranges being almost continuously prolonged by the Ansairi hills, the Rhosus, and the Amanus, to the Taurus.
Eastward of these northerly regions we have the redoubtable volcanic district of the Hauran, the fertile river basin of Damascus, and the long valley of the Orontes (Colæ-Syria), with the Syrian wilderness beyond.
While the more stern features of the Holy Land soften off to the north till broken up by the heights of Lebanon, they augment in the south, the maritime sands are of wider girth in Philistia and beyond, the barren stony limestone region, wider at Hebron, ultimately spreads out to form the Desert of Tih, or “ of the Wandering,” the eastern hills are succeeded by the rocky fastnesses and wilds of the Nabatheans, while to the south the lofty granitic peaks of Sinai tower up, rivals in height with Hermon and Lebanon.
The central limestone district of the Holy Land is 2200 feet high at Jerusalem, 2685 feet at Singil, and 2800 feet at Hebron, sinking from both the latter points to the north and to the south; the maritime band naturally slopes to the level of the Mediterranean, whilst the valley of the Jordan, from an elevation of 500 feet above the level of the sea at Dan, sinks 50 feet below it at Meron, 625 feet in Genesareth, and 1312 feet in the Dead Sea. The snow-clad peak of Hermon, the highest mountain of Syria, attains an elevation of some 10,000 feet; its rival in the south, Mount Sinai, attains an elevation of 9300 feet; while Jebel Makmel, the highest peak of Lebanon, is 9375 feet in elevation.
* Physical Geography of the Holy Land. By Edward Robinson, D.D. John Murray.
May-VOL. CXXXIV. NO. DXXXIII.
Dr. Robinson has treated these marked and simple features under the heads of mountains and hill country, including mountains west of Jordan, subdivided into those which are north and those which are south of the plain of Esdraelon, and the mountains east of Jordan. Next the valleys, including El Ghor, with its side-valleys from the east and from the west, and the valleys running to the coast. Next the plains, including those of the coast, those in the hill country west of the Ghor, in the Ghor, and east of the Ghor, the said Ghor not being at all a familiar word with Biblical students, but meaning the valley of the Jordan. Next the rivers, which are simply the Jordan and its tributaries, and the lesser streams of the coast. Lastly, the lakes, fountains, wells, and cisterns, with some very unsatisfactory notices of the trees and plants, and of the living things in Syria.
The more striking succession of features which present themselves, and have ever presented themselves, from the days of the Greeks and Romans to those of Crusaders and Christian pilgrims down to our own times, of a low maritime strip of land, only interrupted here and there by rocky promontories, of rocky stony uplands and hills, also interrupted at times by fertile vales and currents of water, of a deep valley, with a river expanding ever and anon into lake and sea, and of a still more stubborn hill and mountain district shading off into wilderness beyond, appear, however, to be far preferable as a groundwork for the study of details, than the more formal and pedantic system adopted by the studious and travelled American.
Phænicia is so natural a starting-point of the maritime plain of Judæa and Samaria as to be geographically inseparable. It is a chief feature in the maritime plains of Syria that they are narrow in the north, and become wider and wider the farther they get south, till they finally expand into the wilderness. These plains are also throughout divided into two parallel tracts, the sandy or littoral, and the inner and cultivated, or pasture or wooded tract. This is the case in Phænicia, the towns of which also resemble in their situation the others along the whole extent of coast, standing out on rocky promontories, with very small harbours, natural or artificial.
If there were any difference to be observed which might in any degree account for the far greater celebrity obtained by these cities in commerce and navigation, it would be that the promontories of Tyre, Sidon, and Beyrut project farther, and thus form something more of a protection, or of a sea-girt situation, than those of Ascalon, Jaffa, Dor, or Acre. Perhaps, also, the groves and gardens which surround the ports from which these promontories start, are, especially at Beyrut and Sidon, more extensive and luxuriant even than those at Jaffa. This long line of coast, then, from Arvad to the White Cape—a length equal to that of the whole of Palestine from Dan to Beersheba—is the famous country, second only to Palestine itself in its effect on the ancient world, called by the Hebrews, partly perhaps in allusion to its level plain, “ Canaan," or " the Lowland," the more remarkable for its situation under the highlands of Lebanon; called by the Greeks Phænicia, or the Land of Palms," from the palmgroves
which appear indeed at intervals all along the western coast, but here more than elsewhere. The vast range of Lebanon gave to the coast of Phænicia a security which the coast of Philistia never enjoyed. The