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The town is farmed by Government this year to the present Zabit Seid Hussain, for 280,000 Riego Piastres, or a sum nearly equalling to £660 sterling.
To the north of the modern town, about half a mile, a curious spiral tower is situated. It is called the Malwiyeh.* Ascertained its height to be 163 feet, as near as possible. From its summit a fine view of the extent of ancient Samarrah is obtained. Heaps of bricks, glass, pottery and scoriæ are strewed in every direction, and the alignments of many edifices are plainly distinguishable from this commanding position.† The former town is said to have been watered by a tunnel cut under ground, having its mouth in the neighbourhood of the Hamrin. Traces of this tunnel are still to be seen in the remains of wells, (named Kannats or Kharees) descending into it. Both the Malwiyeh and the remains of an oblong building (the Jammal or Medressah) close to it, are built of fine brick, with a neatness not to be equalled in the present day. The Medressah is about 810 feet in length and 490 broad, having 12 buttresses between the corner bastions on its N. W. and S. E. faces, and 10 on its N. E. and S. W. side. The great entrance faces the Hebla and shows at once its Mahomedan origin ; a fountain appears to have existed in the centre of its area. The walls at present are about 30 feet high, and on the S. W. side the remains of Gothic windows are discernible. To the N. N. W. of the Malwiyeh, about two and half miles distant, are the remains of the Khalifa or Palace of Motassem, the 8th Khaliph of the Abbasides. I The entrance is now all that is left standing. The ruins around occupy a large space and have vaulted chambers beneath them; many an idle tradition is attached to these subterranean apartments by the Arabs, and moreover “ Beckford's Vathek” owes its origin to this locality. During our visit to it in 18-13, we descended into the
* See sketch of this town and the modern Samarrah, with a bird's eye view of the surrounding ruins.
+ A spiral road on the outside of the tower conducts to its summit. Fraser, in his description of this tower, states the existence of a staircase in the interior of the building. I think however he is in error, as I deem it, fronı close scrutiny, a solid mass of brick. work. Large holes, similar to those observed at the Birs, Nimrud and the Mujelibe, perforate the pile at right angels, but for what purpose unless for ventilation I am ignorant. All the Babylonian ruins indeed, are thus pierced through, and the architect of the Khalifs in this peculiarity, appears to have copied the more ancient molels.
| He quitted Baghdad on account of the rebellions disposition of its inhabitants, Note in Rich, Vol. 2, p. 251.
vaults by means of a rope and block much to the dismay of the frightened natives, who would not trust themselves near the spot, but awaited the termination of our enterprize with a superstitious dread. They firmly believe that a Lion has chosen this place to hold his court in, and when we again made our appearance on " terra firma" scathless, they thanked God for our deliverance. The vaults are of some extent, and are cut out of the limestone rock, but have brick roofs. A few scraps
of old and much rusted iron and a fathom or two of decayed rope rewarded our labours.
The site of the ancient Samarrah was undoubtedly well chosen. The broad and rapid Tigris bounded it to the west, the main branch of the Nahrwán extending from the Kantaratel Resásá to the river "Atheim," on the north ; and the south branch of the Nahrwán extending from El Ghaim in an easterly direction to its junction with the north branch, on the south ; thus enclosing a triangle of rich land, whose longest side was 35 English miles and the remaining two 20 miles in length. Many towns occupied its area, and the numerous canals, offshoots from the great Nahrwán, crossing it in a diversity of lines, attest its former fertility. At this time not a blade of grass or a single tree breaks the monotony of the extensive view from the top of the Malwiyeh. A death-like silence prevails around the fallen city, interrupted only by the howling of a jackal, who has just issued from some of its deserted vaults.
W. by N. of the Khalifa and on the undulating mounds forming the right boundary of the valley of the Tigris, another ruin, apparently of the same order and date is seen. The buttresses which are met with at regular intervals along the wall, are partly standing, giving to the whole ruin, when viewed at a distance, from whatever quarter, the resemblance of a group of pillars. These buttresses are circular or square pedestals, and are neatly built of fine brick work. It is called
Ashik, or the Lover.” Some high mounds about half way between the Khalifa and Ashik, or near the latter, in the valley of the river, mark the site, I think, of some very old ruin (probably Babylonian) of much earlier date than that above mentioned. The Arabs however call them “Máshuk, or the Beloved," and a bridge over the Tigris is said formerly to have connected them with Ashik, notwithstanding which, tradition assigns to this place a tale, similar to the well known but doubtful feat of the Leander of Hellespontic notoriety.
About four miles north of the modern town of Samarrah, a high tumulus stands on the plain. It is called Tel Alij* or the “nose bag round,” and is said by tradition to have been raised by some former ruler ordering his troops each to bring the nose bag of his horse full of earth for this purpose. It exactly resembles the tumuli to be met with in Syria and in the plains of Shiragoor near Suleimanieh.
* This highly curious and interesting mound, in all probability marks the site of the "Ustrima" or pyre on which the body of the Emperor Julian was burnt previous to the removal of his ashes to Tarsus.
We learn from Gibbon in his Decline and Fall, chap. 24, that the Roman army under Julian wandered many days to the East of Baghdad and afterwards countermarched in the direction of the Tigris, that the Emperor received his mortal wound and died within a few days march of Samarrah, and that his body was embalmed amid a scene of terror and distress; we are informed also that Anatolius, master of the offices and the personal friend of Julian, with three tribunes met their death on the same day. That the army, after having elected Jovian Emperor, resurned its route at the next dawn in the direction of the Tigris and after marching and fighting a long summer's day encamped in the evening at Samarrah. On the next day the second after the death of Julian, it appears the Roman legions remained encamped at Sammariah as instead of being harassed on the march, the Persian troops attacked the camp which was pitched in a sequestered valley. On the eveniog of the third day, it is related the Roman army encamped at Carche (see sequel) tolerably secure om assault in the protection afforded by the lofty dikes of the river ; and that on the fourth day after the death of Julian they pitched their tents at Dina where they remained a considerable time occupied in vain attempts to cross the Tigris and finally accepted after four days' negotiation, the humiliating conditions of peace.
The circumstances attending the death of Julian and the subsequent marches of the army to Dina are here so clearly related that any one conversant with the geographical detail of the country between Samarrah and Dur would trace, at a single glance, almost every footstep of the worn out and incessantly exposed legions. It will be seen therefore that the site of Tel Alij must have been the very ground on which the army encamped on the second day after the demise of the Emperor, and it is presumed that the act of encamping, under such circumstances, was one of duty and not of choice. The heat of a Sammariah summer cannot have materially changed since the time of Julian, the interment or burning of the dead therefore within 36 hours was imperatively necessary. The reason for embalming his body I conceive was only a compliance with universal custom (vide Digest 14, Ed. 3, S.5, E. 8), or for the purpose of enabling it to accompany the army until the passage of the Tigris was effected, when comparatively secure, more time would have been afforded them for performing the sacred rites, than in the presence of an active enemy. But the insufferable heat, if such was the intention, I conjecture prevented its execution and caused either the interment of the body or its reduction to ashes on this very spot. The delay had already been extended to its farthest limits, for the time above stated is the utmost that can be accorded to the non-interment of the dead on the sultry plains of Irak or Mesopotamia, the army therefore was
At 9-55 A. M. April 6th, left Samarrah, and had hardly proceeded an hour before we grounded on a shingle flat. From Samarrah to this place we had been struggling hard against the violence of the stream and had nearly surmounted a fall of water over a shoal spot when the engines losing their power, the vessel's keel touched the ground and in an instant she was thrown on the bank, with her
compelled to encamp for the performance of the inviolable rites of the "funus publicum" over the corpse of the departed Julian. This may reasonably, I think, be inferred; for any delay, otherwise than on an occasion like the present, would not have been resorted to in the distressed position the army then occupied, and moreover, at such times, we are informed a total cessation from business was enjoined (called Justitium) which was usually ordained by public appointment. The soldiers were then freed from their military duties even, (Tacitum. I. 16–82 ; L. W. IX. 7) and in this case no doubt enjoyed a repose they had long been strangers to.
It may be said that the act of embalming the body on the night of his death implied its removal into the Roman territories; but it can hardly be supposed that such an idea was ever contemplated by a famished army surrounded and harassed by barbarians at every mile, and amid such distress as Gibbon states, shortened the moments of grief and deliberation, even did the fierce heats permit such a proceeding.
The circumstantial detail however, of the funeral obsequies of Julian, which took place afterwards at Tarsus, as related by Gibbon, if literally true will, I confess, invalidate all that I have advanced, for he distinctly states in Vol. III. p. 236, that the corpse of Julian was transported from Nisibis to Tarsus in a slow march of fifteen days; but again in the next page, in speaking of the sophist of Antioch, he esteems his general zeal for the cold and neglected “ashes" of his friend, this in some measure leading us to conclude that the body was previously burnt. Whether this was the case or whether the heart alone sufficed for Jovian to bestow the last honours to the manes of the deceased sovereign, will for ever perhaps, be attended with some doubt; but we cannot at the same time, reconcile Gibbon's description of the great distress of the army, their famished and wearied condition, the factions cxisting amongst them, the anxiety of each individual to secure his present safety at the passage of the Tigris (where the loss of the army is stated as equalling the carnage of a day of battle), the subsequent sufferings both from hunger and thirst on their dreary march through the wilderness of Mesopotamia, when the beasts of burthen were slaughtered and devoured and the arms and baggage of the soldiery strewed the desert for want of strength to carry them, with the statement that his corpse reached the frontier town of Nisibis ; indeed, the slow march of fifteen days which were occupied in transporting the remains of Julian from Nisibis to Tarsus will not, I think, coincide with the geographical distance between the two places of 400 Roman, 366 English, or nearly 25 miles daily march, and that too, through the hilly country situated at the foot of the Taurus.
These discrepancies certainly afford grounds for suspecting the general consistency of the historian, even did not the stern fact, which I have previously advanced of the almost impossible transaction of carrying the corpse for such a distance over the densely heated and sultry plains of Mesopotamia, negative such a procedure.
ed to a stream running nearly seven geographical miles per hour. I have been many times aground both on the upper Euphrates and on this river, but a worse position than this I scarcely ever occupied. The shore was 290 yards distant, and the dropping of anchors in the stream, from long experience, was known to be useless, as from the hard nature of the bottom they came home with the slightest strain. After six hours hard labour we succeeded in getting an anchor buried on shore, and a
I think therefore we may fairly infer that, either the body of the apostate Julian, or the funeral pyre in which it was consumed, formed the “ Nucleus" of this antiquated pile, and that either his heart, or his ashes conveyed in an urn, received the "last honours of Jovian and the mournful lamentations and clamorous insults of the hostile factions” on the journey to Tarsus. The stately tomb erected to commemorate his virtues, on the banks of the Cydnus, has long ere this passed away ; but the imperishable monument of earth raised by a devoted army over the remains of a beloved general, on the margin of the Tigris, will endure for ages yet to come.
For an interesting description of Yet Alij or Walijah, consult Dr. Ross's paper on a journey to Apis in the Journal of Roy. Geo. Society, part II. vol. XI. act IX. p. 121. He describes it as about 100 feet high, but I consider it at least 150. Its present singular appearance may be accounted for, by subsequent rulers having fortified its summit as a place of refuge from sudden attacks during the ever-varying and disturbed stages which have swept over the country.
The Arab tradition in itself, is not a little curious, and shows that a large body of troops were employed in the construction of the mound.
In Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Vol. 3, p. 225, we find in a note that M. D'Anville has demonstrated the precise position of Sumero, Carche and Dura. I have not M. D'Anville's work by me, por am I acquainted with the situation he assigns to Curche. From my own observations however, I am inclined to identify this spot with the position the Roman, army encamped in, under Jovian, the night previous to its reaching Dur. The“ lofty dikes of the river" can be no other than the high embankments of the gigantic Mahrwan, and by " the tills from which the archers of Persia insulted and annoyed the weary legionaries." I presume it meant the high conglomerate cliffs which here bound the east valley of the Tigris. These are diversified into a multitude of heaps caused by torrents from the highlands formning deep ravines (" sequcstered valleys'' of Gibbon) on their passage to the Tigris ; unless it be as I have premised, it is certain that no other“ Hills” exist within 35 miles of this vicinity. The eye wanders over a vast and magnificent plain, relieve ed only by the twin monuments of antiquity known as the Zellal Benat and Alij, which in all probability, were not only erected by the distressed legionaries over the ashes of their late Emperor and comrades, but remain to this day a sad memorial of the sufferings they endured.
The geographical distances of each day's march will be found to correspond with the movements of a large army, and the precise spot on which Julian fell must be looked for about 10 miles to E. N. E. of the ancient Samarrah. The true bearings of the various objects of interest in this neighbourhood will be found in another part of this Journal taken from the summit of the Malurgeh, on the site of the ancient town.