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Concerning the Eastern Buildings.
[N. B. This discourse is taken from Dr Shaw's Travels into Bar. bary and the Levant, Ann. 1722. Quarto, London, 1757*.]
"As there is a near relation between the buildings in this country, and those that are occasionally mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, it may be presumed, that a particular account of the structure and contrivance of the one, will not a little contribute to the clearing up such doubts and difficulties as have arisen from not rightly comprehending the fashion of the other.
"Now the general method of building, both in Barbary and the Levant, seems to have continued the same from the earliest ages down to this time, without the least alteration or improvement. Large doors, spacious chambers, marble pavements, cloistered courts, with fountains sometimes playing in the midst, are certainly conveniences very well adapted to the circumstances of these climates, where the summer heats are generally so intense. The jealousy likewise of these people is less apt to be alarmed, whilst, if we except a small latticed window or balcony which sometimes looks into the street, all the other windows open into their respective courts or quadrangles. It is during the celebration only of some zeenah, as they call it, or public festival, that these houses, and their windows and latticed balconies are left open. For this being a time of great liberty, revelling and extravagance, each family is ambitious of adorning both the inside and outside of their houses with their richest furniture; whilst crowds of both sexes, dressed in their best apparel, and laying aside all modesty, ceremony and restraint, go in and out where they please. The account we have, 2 Kings ix. 30. of Jezebel's painting her face, and tiring her hair, and looking out at a window on Jehu's public entrance, gives us a lively idea of an eastern lady at one of these zeenah's or solemnities.
"The streets of these cities, the better to shade them from the sun, are usually narrow, with sometimes a range of shops on each side. If from these we enter into any of the principal houses, we shall first pass through a porch or gateway, with benches on each side, where the master of the family receives visits, and dispatches business; few persons, not even the nearest relations, having adinission any farther, except upon extraordinary occasions. From
* As in this and the three following discourses, a variety of matters of fact are related, tending to illustrate the antiquities of Palestine, I judged it proper to lay them before the reader in the words of the authors, upon whose testimony, as eye-witnesses, we receive them. And therefore any inaccuracies of style, or mistakes in facts, or misapplications of Scripture, that may be found in these discourses, are to be charged upon their respective authors,
hence we are received into the court, which lying open to the weather, is according to the ability of the owner paved with marble, or such proper materials as will carry off the water into the common sewers. There is something very analogous between this open space in these buildings, and the impluvium, or cava adium of the Romans, both of them being alike exposed to the weather, and giving light to the house. When much people are to be admitted, as upon the celebration of a marriage, the circumcising of a child, or occasions of the like nature, the company is seldom or never admitted into one of the chambers. The court
is the usual place of their reception, which is strewed accordingly with mats or carpets for their more commodious entertainment; and as this is called el woost, or the middle of the house, literally answering to the To μico of St Luke v. 19. it is probable that the place where our Saviour and the apostles were frequently accustomed to give their instructions, might have been in the like situation, i. e. in the area or quadrangle of one of these houses. In the summer season, and upon all occasions when a large company is to be received, the court is commonly sheltered from the heat and inclemencies of the weather, by a vellum umbrella or veil, which being expanded upon ropes from one side of the parapet wall to the other, may be folded or unfolded at pleasure. The Psalmist seems to allude either to the tents of the Bedoweens, or to some covering of this kind, in that beautiful expression, Of spreading out the heavens like a veil or curtain, Psal. civ. 2. See also Isa. xl. 22.
"The court is for the most part surrounded with a cloister, as the cava adium of the Romans was, with a peristylium or colonade, over which, when the house has one or more stories, (and I have seen them with two or three) there is a gallery erected of the same dimensions with the cloister, having a balustrade, or else a piece of carved or latticed work going round about it, to prevent people from falling from it into the court. From the cloisters and galleries we are conducted into large spacious chambers of the same length with the court, but seldom or never communicating with one another. One of them frequently serves a whole family, particularly when a father indulges his married children to live with him, or when several persons join in the rent of the same house. From whence it is that the cities of these countries, which are generally much inferior in bigness to those of Europe, are so exceedingly populous, that great numbers of the inhabitants are swept away with the plague, or any other contagious distemper.
"In houses of better fashion, these chambers from the middle of the wall downwards, are covered and adorned with velvet or damask hangings, of white, blue, red, green, or other colours, Esth. i. 6. suspended upon hooks, or taken down at pleasure.
But the upper part is embellished with more permanent ornaments, being adorned with the most ingenious wreathings and devices in stucco and fret-work. The ceiling is generally of wainscot, either very artfully painted, or else thrown into a variety of pannels, with gilded mouldings and scrolls of their Koran intermixed. The prophet Jeremiah, xxii. 14. exclaims against the eastern houses that were ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. The floors are laid with painted tiles, or plaster of terrace. But as these people make little or no use of chairs, (either sitting cross-legged, or lying at length) they always cover or spread them over with carpets, which for the most part are of the richest materials. Along the sides of the wall or floor, á range of narrow beds or mattresses is often placed upon these carpets; and for their farther ease and convenience, several velvet or damask bolsters are placed upon these carpets or mattresses— indulgences that seem to be alluded to by their stretching themselves upon couches, and by the sewing of pillows to the arm-holes, as we have it expressed, Amos vi. 4. Ezek. xiii. 8. At one end of each chamber there is a little gallery, raised three, four, or five feet above the floor, with a balustrade in the front of it, with a few steps likewise leading up to it. Here they place their beds; a situation frequently alluded to in the Holy Scriptures, which may likewise illustrate the circumstance of Hezekiah's turning his face when he prayed towards the wall, i. e. from his attendants, 2 Kings xx. 2. that the fervency of his devotion might be the less taken notice of and observed. The like is related of Ahab, 1 Kings xxi. 4. though probably not upon a religious account, but in order to conceal from his attendants the anguish he was in for his late disappointment.
"The stairs are sometimes placed in the porch, sometimes at the entrance into the court. When there is one or more stories, they are afterwards continued through one corner or other of the gallery to the top of the house, whither they conduct us through a door that is constantly kept shut to prevent their domestic animals from daubing the terrace, and thereby spoiling the water which falls from thence into the cisterns below the court. This door, like most others we meet with in these countries, is hung not with hinges, but by having the jamb formed at each end into an axle-tree or pivot, whereof the uppermost, which is the longest, is to be received into a correspondent socket in the lintel, whilst the other falls into a cavity of the like fashion in the threshold.
"I do not remember ever to have observed the stair-case conducted along the outside of the house, neither indeed will the contiguity and relation which these houses bear to the street and to each other, (exclusive of the supposed privacy of them) admit of any such contrivance. However, we may go up or come down by the stair I have described, without entering into any of the offices
offices or apartments, and consequently without interfering with the business of the house.
"The top of the house, which is always flat, is covered with a strong plaster of terrace, from whence in the Frank language it has obtained the name of the terrace. This is usually surrounded by two walls, the outermost whereof is partly built over the street, partly makes the partition with the contiguous houses, being frequently so low that one may easily climb over it. The other, which I shall call the parapet wall, hangs immediately over the court, being always breast high, and answers to the npy or lorica, Deut. xxii. 8. which we render the battlements. Instead of this parapet wall, some terraces are guarded like the galleries with ballustrades only, or latticed work; in which fashion probably, as the name seems to import, was the , or net or lattice as we render it, that Ahaziah (2 Kings i. 2.) might be carelessly leaning over, when he fell down from thence into the court. For upon those terraces several offices of the family are performed, such as the drying of linen and flax, Josh. ii. 6. the preparing of figs or raisins, where likewise they enjoy the cool refreshing breezes of the evening, converse with one another, and offer up their devotions. In the feast of tabernacles, booths were erected upon them, Nehem. viii. 16. As these terraces are thus frequently used and trampled upon, not to mention the solidity of the materials wherewith they are made, they will not easily permit any vegetable substances to take root or thrive upon them; which perhaps may illustrate the comparison, Isa. xxxvii. 27. of the Assyrians, and Psal. cxxix. 6. of the wicked, to the grass upon the house tops, which withereth before it is grown up.
"When any of these cities are built upon level ground, one may pass along the tops of the houses from one end of it to the other, without coming down into the street. Such in general is the manner and contrivance of these houses. If then it may be presumed, that our Saviour at the healing of the paralytic was preaching in a house of this fashion, we may, by attending only to the structure of it, give no small light to one circumstance of that history, which has lately given great offence to some unbelievers. For among other pretended difficulties and absurdities relating to this fact, it has been urged, that as the uncovering or breaking up of the roof, Mark ii. 4. or the letting a person down through it, Luke v. 19. supposes the breaking up of tiles, spars, rafters, &c. so it was well if Jesus and his disciples escaped with only a broken pate, by the falling of the tiles, and if the rest were not smothered with dust. But that nothing of this nature happened will appear probable from a different construction that may be put upon the words in the original. For it may be observed with relation to the words of St Mark, nisiyatan thi seynu ömm 77, xui ižegužas, &c. that as syn, no less perhaps than tatilo, VOL. I.
the correspondent word in the Syriae version, will denote with propriety enough any kind of covering, the vail which I have mentioned, as well as a roof or ceiling properly so called; so for the same reason, arosty may signify the undoing, or the removal only of such a covering. Ežogutarres, which we render breaking up, is omitted in the Cambridge MS. and not regarded in the Syriac and some other versions; the translators perhaps either not rightly comprehending the meaning of it, or finding the context clear without it. In St Jerome's translation, the correspondent word is patefacientes, as if žogužas was farther explanatory of απετέγασαν. The same in the Persian version is expressed by quatuor angulis lectuli totidem funibus annexis; as if žogužavrı, related either to the letting down of the bed, or preparatory thereto to the making holes in it for the cords to pass through. According to this explication, therefore, the context may run thus: When they could not come at Jesus for the press, they got upon the roof of the house, and drew back the vail where he was: or they laid open and uncovered that part of it especially which was spread over the place, on, where he was sitting; and having removed and plucked away, according to St Jerome, whatever might incommode them in their intended good office; or having tied, according to the Persian version, the four corners of the bed or bedstead with cords, where the sick of the palsy lay, they let it down before Jesus.
"For that there was not the least force or violence offered to the roof, and consequently that guerres, no less than OT UV, will admit of some other interpretations than what have been given to them in our version, appears from the parallel place in Luke, where dia tay nigαμv nabav avrov, per tegulas demiserunt illum, which we translate, they let him down through the tiling, as if that had been actually broken up already, should be rendered, they let him down over, along the side, or by the way of the roof. For as negaus or tegula, which originally denoted a roof of tiles, like those of the northern nations, were afterwards applied to the tectum or dwux in general, of what nature or structure soever they were; so the meaning of letting down a person into the house, per tegulas, or dia tay xegav, can depend only on the use of the preposition da. Now both in Acts ix. 25. natunav dia te Tax, and 2 Cor. xi, 33. xaben die Tu Tuxes, where the like phraseology is observed as in St Luke, die is rendered in both places by, that is, along the side, or by the way of the wall. By interpreting, therefore, da in this sense, dia tay guv nabnnav avlev, will be rendered as above, they let him down over, or by the way of the wall, just as we may suppose M. Antony to have been, agreeable to a noted passage in Tully.. An action of the same nature seems to be implied in what is related of Jupiter, Ter. Eun. iii. 5. 37. where he is said, sese in hominem convertisse at