CELEBRATED TRAVELLERS BETWEEN THE TENTH AND THIRTEENTH CENTURIES.

Benjamin of Tudela went on to Constantinople by way of Gardiki, a small township on the Gulf of Volo, Armyros, a port much frequented by the Venetians and Genoese, Bissina, a town of which no traces are left, Salonica, the ancient Thessalonica, and Abydos. He gives us some details of Constantinople; the Emperor Emmanuel Comnenus was reigning at that time and lived in a palace that he had built upon the sea-shore, containing columns of pure gold and silver, and "the golden throne studded with precious stones, above which a golden crown is suspended by a chain of the same precious metal, which rests upon the monarch's head as he sits upon the throne." In this crown are many precious stones, and one of priceless worth: "so brilliant are they," says this traveller, "that at night, there is no occasion for any further light than that thrown back by these jewels." He adds that there is a large population in the city, and for the number of merchants from all countries who assemble there, it can only be compared to Baghdad. The inhabitants are principally dressed in embroidered silk robes enriched with golden fringes, and to see them thus attired and mounted upon their horses, one would take them for princes, but they are not brave warriors, and they keep mercenaries from all nations to fight for them. One regret he expresses, and that is, that there are no Jews left in the City, and that they have all been transported to Galata, near the entrance of the port, where are nearly two thousand five hundred of the sects (Rabbinites and Caraites), and among them many rich merchants and silk manufacturers, but the Turks have a bitter hatred for them, and treat them with great severity. Only one of these rich Jews was allowed to ride on horseback, he was the Emperor's physician, Solomon, the Egyptian. As to the remarkable buildings of Constantinople, he mentions the Mosque of St. Sophia, in which the number of altars answers to the number of days in a year, and the columns and gold and silver candlesticks, are too numerous to be counted; also the Hippodrome, which at the present day is used as a horse-market, but was then the scene of combats between "lions, bears, tigers, other wild beasts, and even birds."

The approach to Constantinople
The approach to Constantinople.

When Benjamin of Tudela left Constantinople, he visited Gallipoli and Kilia, a port on the Eastern coast, and went to the islands in the Archipelago, Mitylene, Chios, whence there was much trade in the juice of the pistachio-tree, Samos, Rhodes, and Cyprus. As he sailed towards the land of Aram, he passed by Messis, by Antioch, where he admired the arrangements for supplying the city with water, and by Latakia on his way to Tripoli, which he found had been recently shaken by an earthquake, that had been felt for miles round. We next hear of him at Beyrout, at Sidon, and Tyre, celebrated for its glass manufactory, at Acre, at Jaffa near Mount Carmel, at Capernaum, at the beautiful town of Cæsarea, at Samaria, which is built in the midst of a fertile tract, where are vineyards, gardens, orchards, and olive-yards, at Nablous, at Gibeon, and then at Jerusalem.

In the holy city, it was but natural that the Jew could see nothing that would have interested a Christian visitor. For him, Jerusalem appeared only a small town, defended by three walls and peopled with Jews, Syrians, Greeks, Georgians, and Franks of all languages and nations. He found four hundred horse-soldiers in the city ready for war at any moment, a great temple in which is the tomb of "that man," as the Talmud styles our Saviour, and a house in which the Jews had the privilege of carrying on the work of dyeing; but they were few in number, scarcely two hundred, and they lived under the tower of David at one corner of the city. Outside Jerusalem, the traveller mentions the tomb of Absalom, the sepulchre of Osias, the pool of Siloam, near the brook Cedron, the valley of Jehoshaphat, and the Mount of Olives, from whose summit one can see the Dead Sea. Two leagues from it stands the pillar of Lot's wife, and the traveller adds, "that though the flocks and herds which pass this pillar of salt are continually licking it, yet it never diminishes in size." From Jerusalem, Benjamin of Tudela went to Bethlehem, and inscribed his name on Rachel's tomb, as it was customary for all Jews to do who passed by it; and from Bethlehem, after counting twelve Jewish dyeing establishments, he went on to Hebron, which is now deserted and in ruins.

After visiting, in the plain of Machpelah, the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah, and passing by Beth-Jairim, Scilo, Mount Moriah, Beth-Nubi, Ramah, Joppa, Jabneh, Azotus, Ascalon, built by Esdras, Lud, Tiberias, where are some hot springs, Gish and Merom, which is still a spot visited by Jewish pilgrims, Kedesh and Laish, near the cavern, where the Jordan takes its rise, the traveller left the land of Israel, and entered Damascus.