History of Phoenicia - George Rawlinson

The Land

Phoenicia—Origin of the name—Spread of the name southwards—Real length of Phoenicia along the coast—Breadth and area—General character of the region—The Plains—Plain of Sharon—Plain of Acre—Plain of Tyre—Plain of Sidon—Plain of Berytus—Plain of Marathus—Hilly regions—Mountain ranges—Carmel—Casius—Bargylus—Lebanon—Beauty of Lebanon—Rivers—The Litany—The Nahr-el-Berid—The Kadisha—The Adonis—The Lycus—The Tamyras—The Bostrenus—The Zaherany—The Headlands—Main characteristics, inaccessibility, picturesqueness, productiveness.

Phoenicé, or Phoenicia, was the name originally given by the Greeks—and afterwards adopted from them by the Romans—to the coast region of the Mediterranean, where it faces the west between the thirty-second and the thirty-sixth parallels. Here, it would seem, in their early voyagings, the Pre-Homeric Greeks first came upon a land where the palm-tree was not only indigenous, but formed a leading and striking characteristic, everywhere along the low sandy shore lifting its tuft of feathery leaves into the bright blue sky, high above the undergrowth of fig, and pomegranate, and alive. Hence they called the tract Phoenicia, or "the Land of Palms;" and the people who inhabited it the Phoenicians, or "the Palm-tree people."

The term was from the first applied with a good deal of vagueness. It was probably originally given to the region opposite Cyprus, from Gabala in the north—now Jebili—to Antaradus (Tortosa) and Marathus (Amrith) towards the south, where the palm-tree was first seen growing in rich abundance. The palm is the numismatic emblem of Aradus, and though not now very frequent in the region which Strabo calls "the Aradian coast-tract," must anciently have been among its chief ornaments. As the Grecian knowledge of the coast extended southward, and a richer and still richer growth of the palm was continually noticed, almost every town and every village being embosomed in a circle of palm groves, the name extended itself until it reached as far south at any rate as Gaza, or (according to some) as Rhinocolura and the Torrens Aegypti. Northward the name seems never to have passed beyond Cape Posideium (Possidi) at the foot of Mount Casius, the tract between this and the range of Taurus being always known as Syria, never as Phoenecia or Phoenicé.

The entire length of the coast between the limits of Cape Possidi and Rhinocolura is, without reckoning the lesser indentations, about 380 miles, or nearly the same as that of Portugal. The indentations of the coast-line are slight. From Rhinocolura to Mount Carmel, a distance of 150 miles, not a single strong promontory asserts itself, nor is there a single bay of sufficient depth to attract the attention of geographers. Carmel itself is a notable headland, and shelters a bay of some size; but these once passed the old uniformity returns, the line being again almost unbroken for a distance of seventy-five miles, from Haifa to Beyrout (Berytus). North of Beyrout we find a little more variety. The coast projects in a tolerably bold sweep between the thirty-fourth parallel and Tripolis (Tarabulus) and recedes almost correspondingly between Tripolis and Tortosa (Antaradus), so that a deepish bay is formed between Lat. 34.27' and Lat. 34.45', whence the line again runs northward unindented for fifty miles, to beyond Gabala (Jebili). After this, between Gabala and Cape Posideium there is considerable irregularity, the whole tract being mountainous, and spurs from Bargylus and Casius running down into the sea and forming a succession of headlands, of which Cape Posideium is the most remarkable.

But while the name Phoenicia is applied geographically to this long extent—nearly 400 miles—of coast-line, historically and ethnically it has to be reduced within considerably narrower limits. A race, quite distinct from that of the Phoenicians, was settled from an early date on the southern portion of the west Asian coast, where it verges towards Africa. From Jabneh (Yebna) southwards was Palestine, the country of the Philistines, perhaps even from Joppa (Jaffa), which is made the boundary by Mela. Thus at least eighty miles of coast-line must be deducted from the 380, and the length of Phoenicia along the Mediterranean shore must be regarded as not exceeding three hundred miles.

The width varied from eight or ten miles to thirty. We must regard as the eastern boundary of Phoenicia the high ridge which forms the watershed between the streams that flow eastward toward the Orontes, Litany, and Jordan, and those that flow westward into the Mediterranean. It is difficult to say what was the average width, but perhaps it may be fairly estimated at about fifteen miles. In this case the entire area would have been about 4,500 square miles.

The tract was one of a remarkably diversified character. Lofty mountain, steep wooded hill, chalky slope, rich alluvial plain, and sandy shore succeeded each other, each having its own charm, which was enhanced by contrast. The sand is confined to a comparatively narrow strip along the seashore, and to the sites of ancient harbours now filled up. It is exceedingly fine and of excellent silicious quality, especially in the vicinity of Sidon and at the foot of Mount Carmel. The most remarkable plains are those of Sharon, Acre, Tyre, Sidon, Beyrout, and Marathus. Sharon, so dear to the Hebrew poets, is the maritime tract intervening between the highland of Samaria and the Mediterranean, extending from Joppa to the southern foot of Carmel—a distance of nearly sixty miles—and watered by the Chorseas, the Kaneh, and other rivers. It is a smooth, very slightly undulating tract, about ten miles in width from the sea to the foot of the mountains, which rise up abruptly from it without any intervening region of hills, and seem to bound it as a wall, above which tower the huge rounded masses of Ebal and Gerizim, with the wooded cone, on which stood Samaria, nestling at their feet. The sluggish streams, several of them containing water during the whole of the year, make their way across it between reedy banks, and generally spread out before reaching the shore into wide marshes, which might be easily utilised for purposes of irrigation. The soil is extremely rich, varying from bright red to deep black, and producing enormous crops of weeds or grain, according as it is cultivated or left in a state of nature. Towards the south the view over the region has been thus described: "From Ramleh there is a wide view on every side, presenting a prospect rarely surpassed in richness and beauty. I could liken it to nothing but the great plain of the Rhine by Heidelberg or, better still, to the vast plains of Lombardy, as seen from the cathedral of Milan and elsewhere. In the east the frowning mountains of Judah rose abruptly from the tract at their foot; while on the west, in fine contrast, the glittering waves of the Mediterranean Sea associated our thoughts with Europe. Towards the north and south, as far as the eye could reach, the beautiful plain was spread out like a carpet at our feet, variegated with tracts of brown from which the crops had just been taken, and with fields still rich with the yellow of the ripe corn, or green with the springing millet. Immediately below us the eye rested on the immense olive groves of Ramleh and Lydda, and the picturesque towers and minarets and domes of these large villages. In the plain itself were not many villages, but the tract of hills and the mountain-side beyond, especially in the north-east, were perfectly studded with them, and as now seen in the reflected beams of the setting sun they seemed like white villas and hamlets among the dark hills, presenting an appearance of thriftiness and beauty which certainly would not stand a closer examination." Towards its northern end Sharon is narrowed by the low hills which gather round the western flanks of Carmel, and gradually encroach upon the plain until it terminates against the shoulder of the mountain itself, leaving only a narrow beach at the foot of the promontory by which it is possible to communicate with the next plain towards the north.

Compared with Sharon the plain of Acre is unimportant and of small extent. It reaches about eight miles along the shore, from the foot of Carmel to the headland on which the town of Acre stands, and has a width between the shore and the hills of about six miles. Like Sharon it is noted for its fertility. Watered by the two permanent streams of the Kishon and the Belus, it possesses a rich soil, which is said to be at present "perhaps the best cultivated and producing the most luxuriant crops, both of corn and weeds, of any in Palestine." The Kishon waters it on the south, where it approaches Carmel, and is a broad stream, though easily fordable towards its mouth. The Belus (Namaané) flows through it towards the north, washing Acre itself, and is a stream of even greater volume than the Kishon, though it has but a short course.

The third of the Phoenician plains, as we proceed from south to north, is that of Tyre. This is a long but comparatively narrow strip, reaching from the Ras-el-Abiad towards the south to Sarepta on the north, a distance of about twenty miles, but in no part more than five miles across, and generally less than two miles. It is watered about midway by the copious stream of the Kasimiyeh or Litany, which, rising east of Lebanon in the Buka'a or Coelesyrian valley, forces its way through the mountain chain by a series of tremendous gorges, and debouches upon the Tyrian lowland about three miles to the south-east of the present city, near the modern Khan-el-Kasimiyeh, whence it flows peaceably to the sea with many windings through a broad low tract of meadow-land. Other rills and rivulets descending from the west flank of the great mountain increase the productiveness of the plain, while copious fountains of water gush forth with surprising force in places, more especially at Ras-el-Ain, three miles from Tyre, to the south. The plain is, even at the present day, to a large extent covered with orchards, gardens, and cultivated fields, in which are grown rich crops of tobacco, cotton, and cereals.

The plain of Sidon, which follows that of Tyre, and is sometimes regarded as a part of it, extends from a little north of Sarepta to the Ras-el-Jajunieh, a distance of about ten miles, and resembles that of Tyre in its principal features. It is long and narrow, never more than about two miles in width, but well-watered and very fertile. The principal streams are the Bostrenus (Nahr-el-Auly) in the north, just inside the promontory of Jajunieh, the Nahr-Sanik, south of Sidon, a torrent dry in the summer-time, and the Nahr-ez-Zaherany, two and a half miles north of Sarepta, a river of moderate capacity. Fine fountains also burst from the earth in the plain itself, as the Ain-el-Kanterah and the Ain-el-Burak, between Sarepta and the Zaherany river. Irrigation is easy and is largely used, with the result that the fruits and vegetables of Saida and its environs have the name of being among the finest of the country.

The plain of Berytus (Beyrout) is the most contracted of all the Phoenician plains that are at all noticeable. It lies south, south-east, and east of the city, intervening between the high dunes or sand-hills which form the western portion of the Beyrout peninsula, and the skirts of Lebanon, which here approach very near to the sea. The plain begins at Wady Shuweifat on the south, about four miles from the town of Beyrout, and extends northwards to the sea on the western side of the Nahr Beyrout. The northern part of the plain is known as Ard-el-Burajineh. The plain is deficient in water, yet is cultivated in olives and mulberries, and contains the largest olive grove in all Syria. A little beyond its western edge is the famous pine forest from which (according to some) Berytus derived its name.

The plain of Marathus is, next to Sharon, the most extensive in Phoenicia. It stretches from Jebili (Gabala) on the north to Arka towards the south, a distance of about sixty miles, and has a width varying from two to ten miles. The rock crops out from it in places and it is broken between Tortosa and Hammam by a line of low hills running parallel with the shore. The principal streams which water it are the Nahr-el-Melk, or Badas, six miles south of Jebili, the Nahr Amrith, a strong running brook which empties itself into the sea a few miles south of Tortosa (Antaradus), the Nahr Kublé, which joins the Nahr Amrith near its mouth, and the Eleutherus or Nahr-el-Kabir, which reaches the sea a little north of Arka. Of these the Eleutherus is the most important. "It is a considerable stream even in summer, and in the rainy season it is a barrier to intercourse, caravans sometimes remaining encamped on its banks for several weeks, unable to cross." The soil of the plain is shallow, the rock lying always near the surface; the streams are allowed to run to waste and form marshes, which breed malaria; a scanty population scarcely attempts more than the rudest and most inefficient cultivation; and the consequence is that the tract at present is almost a desert. Nature, however, shows its capabilities by covering it in the spring-time from end to end with a "carpet of flowers."

From the edges of the plains, and sometimes from the very shore of the sea, rise up chalky slopes or steep rounded hills, partly left to nature and covered with trees and shrubs, partly at the present day cultivated and studded with villages. The hilly region forms generally an intermediate tract between the high mountains and the plains already described; but, not unfrequently, it commences at the water's edge, and fills with its undulations the entire space, leaving not even a strip of lowland. This is especially the case in the central region between Berytus and Arka, opposite the highest portion of the Lebanon; and again in the north between Cape Possidi and Jebili, opposite the more northern part of Bargylus. The hilly region in these places is a broad tract of alternate wooded heights and deep romantic valleys, with streams murmuring amid their shades. Sometimes the hills are cultivated in terraces, on which grow vines and olives, but more often they remain in their pristine condition, clothed with masses of tangled underwood.

The mountain ranges, which belong in some measure to the geography of Phoenicia, are four in number—Carmel, Casius, Bargylus, and Lebanon. Carmel is a long hog-backed ridge, running in almost a straight line from north-west to south-east, from the promontory which forms the western protection of the bay of Acre to El-Ledjun, on the southern verge of the great plain of Esdraelon, a distance of about twenty-two miles. It is a limestone formation, and rises up abruptly from the side of the bay of Acre, with flanks so steep and rugged that the traveller must dismount in order to ascend them, but slopes more gently towards the south, where it is comparatively easy of access. The greatest elevation which it attains is about Lat. 32.4', where it reaches the height of rather more than 1,200 feet; from this it falls gradually as it nears the shore, until at the convent, with which the western extremity is crowned, the height above the sea is no more than 582 feet. In ancient times the whole mountain was thickly wooded,but at present, though it contains "rocky dells" where there are "thick jungles of copse," and is covered in places with olive groves and thickets of dwarf oak, yet its appearance is rather that of a park than of a forest, long stretches of grass alternating with patches of woodland and "shrubberies, thicker than any in Central Palestine," while the larger trees grow in clumps or singly, and there is nowhere, as in Lebanon, any dense growth, or even any considerable grove, of forest trees. But the beauty of the tract is conspicuous; and if Carmel means, as some interpret, a "garden" rather than a "forest," it may be held to well justify its appellation. "The whole mountain-side," says one traveller, "was dressed with blossoms and flowering shrubs and fragrant herbs." "There is not a flower," says another, "that I have seen in Galilee, or on the plains along the coast, that I do not find on Carmel, still the fragrant, lovely mountain that he was of old."

The geological structure of Carmel is, in the main, what is called "the Jura formation," or "the upper oolite"—a soft white limestone, with nodules and veins of flint. At the western extremity, where it overhangs the Mediterranean, are found chalk, and tertiary breccia formed of fragments of chalk and flint. On the north-east of the mountain, beyond the Nahr-el-Mukattah, plutonic rocks appear, breaking through the deposit strata, and forming the beginning of the basalt formation which runs through the plain of Esdraelon to Tabor and the Sea of Galilee. Like most limestone formations, Carmel abounds in caves, which are said to be more than 2,000 in number, and are often of great length and extremely tortuous.

Carmel, the great southern headland of Phoenicia, is balanced in a certain sense by the extreme northern headland of Casius. Mount Casius is, strictly speaking, the termination of a spur from Bargylus; but it has so marked and peculiar a character that it seems entitled to separate description. Rising up abruptly from the Mediterranean to the height of 5,318 feet, it dominates the entire region in its vicinity, and from the sea forms a landmark that is extraordinarily conspicuous. Forests of fine trees clothe its flanks, but the lofty summit towers high above them, a bare mass of rock, known at the present day as Jebel-el-Akra, or "the Bald Mountain." It is formed mainly of the same cretaceous limestone as the other mountains of these parts, and like them has a rounded summit; but rocks of igneous origin enter into its geological structure; and in its vegetation it more resembles the mountain ranges of Taurus and Amanus than those of southern Syria and Palestine. On its north-eastern prolongation, which is washed by the Orontes, lay the enchanting pleasure-ground of Daphné, bubbling with fountains, and bright with flowering shrubs, where from a remote antiquity the Syrians held frequent festival to their favourite deity—the "Dea Syra"—the great nature goddess.

The elevated tract known to the ancients as Bargylus, and to modern geographers as the Ansayrieh or Nasariyeh mountain-region, runs at right angles to the spur terminating in the Mount Casius, and extends from the Orontes near Antioch to the valley of the Eleutherus. This is a distance of not less than a hundred miles. The range forms the western boundary of the lower Coelesyrian valley, which abuts upon it towards the east, while westward it looks down upon the region, partly hill, partly lowland, which may be regarded as constituting "Northern Phoenicia." The axis of the range is almost due north and south, but with a slight deflection towards the south-east. Bargylus is not a chain comparable to Lebanon, but still it is a romantic and picturesque region. The lower spurs towards the west are clothed with olive grounds and vineyards, or covered with myrtles and rhododendrons; between them are broad open valleys, productive of tobacco and corn. Higher up "the scenery becomes wild and bold; hill rises to mountain; soft springing green corn gives place to sterner crag, smooth plain to precipitous heights;" and if in the more elevated region the majesty of the cedar is wanting, yet forests of fir and pine abound, and creep up the mountain-side, in places almost to the summit, while here and there bare masses of rock protrude themselves, and crag and cliff rise into the clouds that hang about the highest summits. Water abounds throughout the region, which is the parent of numerous streams, as the northern Nahr-el-Kebir, which flows into the sea by Latakia, the Nahr-el-Melk, the Nahr Amrith, the Nahr Kublé, the Nahr-el-Abrath, and many others. From the conformation of the land they have of necessity short courses; but each and all of them spread along their banks a rich verdure and an uncommon fertility.

But the great range of Phoenicia, its glory and its boast is Lebanon. Lebanon, the "White Mountain"—"the Mont Blanc of Palestine"—now known as "the Old White-headed Man" (Jebel-esh-Sheikh), or "the Mountain of Ice" (Jebel-el-Tilj), was to Phoenicia at once its protection, the source of its greatness, and its crowning beauty. Extended in a continuous line for a distance of above a hundred miles, with an average elevation of from 6,000 to 8,000 feet, and steepest on its eastern side, it formed a wall against which the waves of eastern invasion naturally broke—a bulwark which seemed to say to them, "Thus far shall ye go, and no further." The flood of conquest swept along its eastern flank, down the broad vale of the Buka'a, and then over the hills of Galilee; but its frowning precipices and its lofty crest deterred or baffled the invader, and the smiling region between its summit and the Mediterranean was, in the early times at any rate, but rarely traversed by a hostile army. This western region it was which held those inexhaustible stores of forest trees that supplied Phoenicia with her war ships and her immense commercial navy; here were the most productive valleys, the vineyards, and the olive grounds, and here too were the streams and rills, the dashing cascades, the lovely dells, and the deep gorges which gave her the palm over all the surrounding countries for variety of picturesque scenery.

The geology of the Lebanon is exceedingly complicated. "While the bulk of the mountain, and all the higher ranges, are without exception limestone of the early cretaceous period, the valleys and gorges are filled with formations of every possible variety, sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. Down many of them run long streams of trap or basalt; occasionally there are dykes of porphyry and greenstone, and then patches of sandstone, before the limestone and flint recur."Some slopes are composed entirely of soft sandstone; many patches are of a hard metallic-sounding trap or porphyry; but the predominant formation is a greasy or powdery limestone, bare often, but sometimes clothed with a soft herbage, or with a thick tangle of shrubs, or with lofty forest trees. The ridge of the mountain is everywhere naked limestone rock, except in the comparatively few places which attain the highest elevation, where it is coated or streaked with snow. Two summits are especially remarkable, that of Jebel Sunnin towards the south, which is a conspicuous object from Beyrout, and is estimated to exceed the height of 9,000 feet, and that of Jebel Mukhmel towards the north, which has been carefully measured and found to fall a very little short of 10,200 feet. The latter, which forms a sort of amphitheatre, circles round and impends over a deep hollow or basin, opening out towards the west, in which rise the chief sources that go to form the romantic stream of the Kadisha. The sides of the basin are bare and rocky, fringed here and there with the rough knolls which mark the deposits of ancient glaciers, the "moraines" of the Lebanon. In this basin stand "the Cedars." It is not indeed true, as was for a long time supposed, that the cedar grove of Jebel Mukhmel is the sole remnant of that primeval cedar-forest which was anciently the glory of the mountain. Cedars exist on Lebanon in six other places at least, if not in more. Near Tannurin, on one of the feeders of the Duweir, a wild gorge is clothed from top to bottom with a forest of trees, untouched by the axe, the haunt of the panther and the bear, which on examination have been found to be all cedars, some of a large size, from fifteen to eighteen feet in girth. They grow in clusters, or scattered singly, in every variety of situation, some clinging to the steep slopes, or gnarled and twisted on the bare hilltops, others sheltered in the recesses of the dell. There are also cedar-groves at B'sherrah; at El Hadith; near Duma, five hours south-west of El Hadith; in one of the glens north of Deir-el-Kamar, at Etnub, and probably in other places. But still "the Cedars" of Jebel Mukhmel are entitled to pre-eminence over all the rest, both as out-numbering any other cluster, and still more as exceeding all the rest in size and apparent antiquity. Some of the patriarchs are of enormous girth; even the younger ones have a circumference of eighteen feet; and the height is such that the birds which dwell among the upper branches are beyond the range of an ordinary fowling-piece.

But it is through the contrasts which it presents that Lebanon has its extraordinary power of attracting and delighting the traveller. Below the upper line of bare and worn rock, streaked in places with snow, and seamed with torrent courses, a region is entered upon where the freshest and softest mountain herbage, the greenest foliage, and the most brilliant flowers alternate with deep dells, tremendous gorges, rocky ravines, and precipices a thousand feet high. Scarcely has the voyager descended from the upper region of naked and rounded rock, when he comes upon "a tremendous chasm—the bare amphitheatre of the upper basin contracts into a valley of about 2,000 feet deep, rent at its bottom into a cleft a thousand feet deeper still, down which dashes a river, buried between these stupendous walls of rock. All above the chasm is terraced as far as the eye can reach with indefatigable industry. Tiny streamlets bound and leap from terrace to terrace, fertilising them as they rush to join the torrent in the abyss. Some of the waterfalls are of great height and of considerable volume. From one spot may be counted no less than seven of these cascades, now dashing in white spray over a cliff, now lost under the shade of trees, soon to reappear over the next shelving rock." Or, to quote from another writer,—"The descent from the summit is gradual, but is everywhere broken by precipices and towering rocks, which time and the elements have chiselled into strange fantastic shapes. Ravines of singular wildness and grandeur furrow the whole mountain-side, looking in many places like huge rents. Here and there, too, bold promontories shoot out, and dip perpendicularly into the bosom of the Mediterranean. The ragged limestone banks are scantily clothed with the evergreen oak, and the sandstone with pines; while every available spot is carefully cultivated. The cultivation is wonderful, and shows what all Syria might be of under a good government. Miniature fields of grain are often seen where one would suppose that the eagles alone, which hover round them, could have planted the seed. Fig-trees cling to the naked rock; vines are trained along narrow ledges; long ranges of mulberries on terraces like steps of stairs cover the more gentle declivities; and dense groves of olives fill up the bottoms of the glens. Hundreds of villages are seen, here built amid labyrinths of rock, there clinging like swallows' nests to the sides of cliffs, while convents, no less numerous, are perched on the top of every peak. When viewed from the sea on a morning in early spring, Lebanon presents a picture which once seen is never forgotten; but deeper still is the impression left on the mind, when one looks down over its terraced slopes clothed in their gorgeous foliage, and through the vistas of its magnificent glens, on the broad and bright Mediterranean."

The eastern flank of the mountain falls very far short of the western both in area and in beauty. It is a comparatively narrow region, and presents none of the striking features of gorge, ravine, deep dell, and dashing stream which diversify the side that looks westward. The steep slopes are generally bare, the lower portion only being scantily clothed with deciduous oak, for the most part stunted, and with low scrub of juniper and barberry. Towards the north there is an outer barrier, parallel with the main chain, on which follows a tolerably flat and rather bare plain, well watered, and with soft turf in many parts, which gently slopes to the foot of the main ascent, a wall of rock generally half covered with snow, up which winds the rough track whereby travellers reach the summit. Rills of water are not wanting; flowers bloom to the very edge of the snow, and the walnut-tree flourishes in sheltered places to within two or three thousand feet of the summit; but the general character of the tract is bare and bleak; the villages are few; and the terraced cultivation, which adds so much to the beauty of the western side, is wanting. In the southern half of the range the descent is abrupt from the crest of the mountain into the Buka'a, or valley of the Litany, and the aspect of the mountain-side is one of "unrelieved bareness."

There is, however, one beauty at one point on this side of the Lebanon range which is absent from the more favoured western region. On the ascent from Baalbek to the Cedars the traveller comes upon Lake Lemone, a beautiful mountain tarn, without any apparent exit, the only sheet of water in the Lebanon. Lake Lemone is of a long oval shape, about two miles from one end to the other, and is fed by a stream entering at either extremity, that from the north, which comes down from the village of Ainat, being the more important. As the water which comes into the lake cannot be discharged by evaporation, we must suppose some underground outlet, by which it is conveyed, through the limestone, into the Litany.

The eastern side of Lebanon drains entirely into this river, which is the only stream whereto it gives birth. The Litany is the principal of all the Phoenician rivers, for the Orontes must be counted not to Phoenicia but to Syria. It rises from a small pool or lake near Tel Hushben, about six miles to the south-west of the Baalbek ruins. Springing from this source, which belongs to Antilibanus rather than to Lebanon, the Litany shortly receives a large accession to its waters from the opposite side of the valley, and thus augmented flows along the lower Buka'a in a direction which is generally a little west of south, receiving on either side a number of streams and rills from both mountains, and giving out in its turn numerous canals for irrigation. As the river descends with numerous windings, but still with the same general course, the valley of the Buka'a contracts more and more, till finally it terminates in a gorge of a most extraordinary character. Nothing in the conformation of the strata, or in the lie of ground, indicates the coming marvel—the roots of Lebanon and Hermon appear to intermix—and the further progress of the river seems to be barred by a rocky ridge stretching across the valley from east to west, when lo! suddenly, the ridge is cut, as if by a knife, and a deep and narrow chasm opens in it, down which the stream plunges in a cleft 200 feet deep, and so narrow that in one place it is actually bridged over by masses of rock which have fallen from the cliffs above. In the gully below fig-trees and planes, besides many shrubs, find a footing, and the moist walls of rock on either side are hung with ferns of various kinds, among which is conspicuous the delicate and graceful maidenhair. Further down the chasm deepens, first to 1,000 and then to 1,500 feet, "the torrent roars in the gorge, milk-white and swollen often with the melting snow, overhung with semi-tropical oleanders, fig-trees, and oriental planes, while the upper cliffs are clad with northern vegetation, two zones of climate thus being visible at once." Where the gorge is the deepest, opposite the Castle of Belfort (the modern Kulat-esh-Shukif), the river suddenly makes a turn at right angles, altering its course from nearly due south to nearly due west, and cuts through the remaining roots of Lebanon, still at the bottom of a tremendous fissure, and still raging and chafing for a distance of fifteen miles, until at length it debouches on the coast plain, and meanders slowly through meadows to the sea, which it enters about five miles to the north of Tyre. The course of the Litany may be roughly estimated at from seventy to seventy-five miles.

The other streams to which Lebanon gives birth flow either from its northern or its western flank. From the northern flank flows one stream only, the Nahr-el-Kebir or Eleutherus. The course of this stream is short, not much exceeding thirty miles. It rises from several sources at the edge of the Coelesyrian valley, and, receiving affluents from either side, flows westward between Bargylus and Lebanon to the Mediterranean, which it enters between Orthosia (Artousi) and Marathus (Amrith) with a stream, the volume of which is even in the summer-time considerable. In the rainy season it constitutes an important impediment to intercourse, since it frequently sweeps away any bridge which may be thrown across it, and is itself unfordable. Caravans sometimes remain encamped upon its banks for weeks, waiting until the swell has subsided and crossing is no longer dangerous.

From the western flank of Lebanon flow above a hundred streams of various dimensions, whereof the most important are the Nahr-el-Berid or river of Orthosia, the Kadisha or river of Tripolis, the Ibrahim or Adonis, the Nahr-el-Kelb or Lycus, the Damour or Tamyras, the Auly (Aouleh) or Bostrenus, and the Zaherany, of which the ancient name is unknown to us. The Nahr-el-Berid drains the north-western angle of the mountain chain, and is formed of two main branches, one coming down from the higher portion of the range, about Lat. 34.20', and flowing to the north-west, while the other descends from a region of much less elevation, about Lat. 34.0', and runs a little south of west to the point of junction. The united stream then forces its way down a gorge in a north-west direction, and enters the sea at Artousi, probably the ancient Orthosia. The length of the river from its remotest fountain to its mouth is about twenty miles.

The Kadisha or "Holy River" has its source in the deep basin already described, round which rise in a semicircle the loftiest peaks of the range, and on the edge of which stand "the Cedars." Fed by the perpetual snows, it shortly becomes a considerable stream, and flows nearly due west down a beautiful valley, where the terraced slopes are covered with vineyards and mulberry groves, and every little dell, every nook and corner among the jagged rocks, every ledge and cranny on precipice-side, which the foot of man can reach, or on which a basket of earth can be deposited, is occupied with patch of corn or fruit-tree. Lower down near Canobin the valley contracts into a sublime chasm, its rocky walls rising perpendicularly a thousand feet on either side, and in places not leaving room for even a footpath beside the stream that flows along the bottom. The water of the Kadisha is "pure, fresh, cool, and limpid," and makes a paradise along its entire course. Below Canobin the stream sweeps round in a semicircle towards the north, and still running in a picturesque glen, draws near to Tripolis, where it bends towards the north-west, and enters the sea after passing through the town. Its course, including main windings, measures about twenty-five miles.

The Ibrahim, or Adonis, has its source near Afka (Apheca) in Lat. 34.4' nearly. It bursts from a cave at the foot of a tremendous cliff, and its foaming waters rush down into a wild chasm. Its flow is at first towards the north-west, but after receiving a small tributary from the north-east, it shapes its course nearly westward, and pursues this direction, with only slight bends to the north and south, for the distance of about fifteen miles to the sea. After heavy rain in Lebanon, its waters, which are generally clear and limpid, become tinged with the earth which the swollen torrent detaches from the mountain-side,and Adonis thus "runs purple to the sea"—not however once a year only, but many times. It enters the Mediterranean about four miles south of Byblus (Jebeil) and six north of Djouni.

The Lycus or Nahr-el-Kelb ("Dog River") flows from the northern and western flanks of Jebel Sunnin. It is formed by the confluence of three main streams. One of these rises near Afka, and runs to the south of west, past the castle and temples of Fakra, to its junction with the second stream, which is formed of several rivulets flowing from the northern flank of Sunnin. Near Bufkeiya the river constituted by the union of these two branches is joined by a third stream flowing from the western flank of Sunnin with a westerly course, and from this point the Lycus pursues its way in the same general direction down a magnificent gorge to the Mediterranean. Both banks are lofty, but especially that to the south, where one of Lebanon's great roots strikes out far, and dips, a rocky precipice, into the bosom of the deep. Low in the depths of the gorge the mad torrent dashes over its rocky bed in sheets of foam, its banks fringed with oleander, which it bathes with its spray. Above rise jagged precipices of white limestone, crowned far overhead by many a convent and village. The course of the Nahr-el-Kelbis about equal to that of the Adonis.

The Damour or Tamyras drains the western flank of Lebanon to the south of Jebel Sunnin (about Lat. 33.45'), the districts known as Menassif and Jourd Arkoub, about Barouk and Deir-el-Kamar. It collects the waters from an area of about 110 square miles, and carries them to the sea in a course which is a little north of west, reaching it half-way between Khan Khulda (Heldua) and Nebbi Younas. The scenery along its banks is tame compared with that of the more northern rivers.

The Nahr-el-Auly or Bostrenus rises from a source to the north-east of Barouk, and flows in a nearly straight course to the south-west for a distance of nearly thirty-five miles, when it is joined by a stream from Jezzin, which flows into it from the south-east. On receiving this stream, the Auly turns almost at a right angle, and flows to the west down the fine alluvial track called Merj Bisry, passing from this point through comparatively low ground, and between swelling hills, until it reaches the sea two miles to the north of Sidon. Its entire course is not less than sixty miles.

The Zaherany repeats on a smaller scale the course of the Bostrenus. It rises near Jerju'a from the western flank of Jebel Rihan, the southern extremity of the Lebanon range, and flows at first to the south-west. The source is "a fine large fountain bursting forth with violence, and with water enough for a mill race." From this the river flows in a deep valley, brawling and foaming along its course, through tracts of green grass shaded by black walnut-trees for a distance of about five miles, after which, just opposite Jerju'a, it breaks through one of the spurs from Rihan by a magnificent chasm. The gorge is one "than which there are few deeper or more savage in Lebanon. The mountains on each side rise up almost precipitously to the height of two or three thousand feet above the stream, that on the northern bank being considerably the higher. The steep sides of the southern mountain are dotted with shrub, oak, and other dwarf trees." The river descends in its chasm still in a south-west direction until, just opposite Arab Salim, it "turns round the precipitous corner or bastion of the southern Rihan into a straight valley," and proceeds to run due south for a short distance. Meeting, however, a slight swell of ground, which blocks what would seem to have been its natural course, the river "suddenly turns west," and breaking through a low ridge by a narrow ravine, pursues its way by a course a little north of west to the Mediterranean, which it enters about midway between Sidon and Sarepta. The length of the stream, including main windings, is probably not more than thirty-five miles.

We have spoken of the numerous promontories, terminations of spurs from the mountains, which break the low coast-line into fragments, and go down precipitously into the sea. Of these there are two between Tyre and Acre, one known as the Ras-el-Abiad or "White Headland," and the other as the Ras-en-Nakura. The former is a cliff of snow-white chalk interspersed with black flints, and rises perpendicularly from the sea to the height of three hundred feet. The road, which in some places impends over the water, has been cut with great labour through the rock, and is said by tradition to have been the work of Alexander the Great. Previously, both here and at the Ras-en-Nakura, the ascent was by steps, and the passes were known as the Climaces Tyriorum, or "Staircases of the Tyrians." Another similar precipice guards the mouth of the Lycus on its south side and has been engineered with considerable skill, first by the Egyptians and then by the Romans. North of this, at Djouni, the coast road "traverses another pass, where the mountain, descending to the water, has been cut to admit it." Still further north, between Byblus and Tripolis, the bold promontory known to the ancients as Theu-prosopon, and now called the Ras-esh-Shakkah, is still unconquered, and the road has to quit the shore and make its way over the spur by a "wearisome ascent" at some distance inland. Again, "beyond the Tamyras the hills press closely on the sea," and there is "a rocky and difficult pass, along which the path is cut for some distance in the rock."

The effect of this conformation of the country was, in early times, to render Phoenicia untraversable by a hostile army, and at the same time to interpose enormous difficulties in the way of land communication among the natives themselves, who must have soon turned their thoughts to the possibility of communicating by sea. The various "staircases" were painful and difficult to climb, they gave no passage to animals, and only light forms of merchandise could be conveyed by them. As soon as the first rude canoe put forth upon the placid waters of the Mediterranean, it must have become evident that the saving in time and labour would be great if the sea were made to supersede the land as the ordinary line of communication.

The main characteristics of the country were, besides its inaccessibility, its picturesqueness and its productiveness. The former of these two qualities seems to have possessed but little attraction for man in his primitive condition. Beauties of nature are rarely sung of by early poets; and it appears to require an educated eye to appreciate them. But productiveness is a quality the advantages of which can be perceived by all. The eyes which first looked down from the ridge of Bargylus or Lebanon upon the well-watered, well-wooded, and evidently fertile tract between the mountain summits and the sea, if they took no note of its marvellous and almost unequalled beauty, must at any rate have seen that here was one of earth's most productive gardens—emphatically a "good land," that might well content whosoever should be so fortunate as to possess it. There is nothing equal to it in Western Asia. The Damascene oasis, the lower valley of the Orontes, the Ghor or Jordan plain, the woods of Bashan, and the downs of Moab are fertile and attractive regions; but they are comparatively narrow tracts and present little variety; each is fitted mainly for one kind of growth, one class of products. Phoenicia, in its long extent from Mount Casius to Joppa, and in its combination of low alluvial plain, rich valley, sunny slopes and hills, virgin forests, and high mountain pasturage, has soils and situations suited for productions of all manner of kinds, and for every growth, from that of the lowliest herb to that of the most gigantic tree. In the next section an account of its probable products in ancient times will be given; for the present it is enough to note that Western Asia contained no region more favoured or more fitted by its general position, its formation, and the character of its soil, to become the home of an important nation.