Letters

28 April 1900

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Sat 28. [28 April 1900] After a most delicious night by the Zerka [Zarqa] and a morning bath in it before sunrise, we were off at 6.35. We rode up a lovely country, all thick cornfields scattered over with little oaks, smiling and prosperous beyond words and the Circassians working in it everywhere, the fathers of industry. After an hour and a half's ride suddenly we saw in front of us magnificent ruins, a great triumphal arch and hundreds of columns - it was Jerash [Jarash]. This place has no history. It was one of the Roman towns of the Decapolis and it must have been of surprising magnificence. It lies chiefly on the western side of the valley, what ruins there were to the east being concealed or destroyed by the big prosperous Circassian village which has grown up in the last few years. You can trace the line of the wall right up the hillside and along the crest both on the east and the west. Directly we had chosen our camping ground, I flew off with my camera to get the lovely morning sun on the ruins. It is all very florid, something like Palmyra [Tadmur], says Dr R. [Rosen], but bigger. You go under the arch, pass a great stadium, and find yourself in a big open place with an almost complete circle of Corinthian columns round it. On one side, perched up on a hill, is a lovely temple and a theatre near it, the proscenium of which is wonderfully perfect; on the other a street runs north through the town and the whole street is bordered on either side by columns, many dozens of which are still standing. Presently you come to a carrefour with 4 blocks of building on which statues stood, and another columned street leading out at right angles; then a fine building with elaborate niches and cornices, and then the Propylaeum of the great Temple of the Sun which stands, almost perfect, on a height above. There is another theatre near to it and, opposite, great ruins of baths; and so the columned street continues to the ruined gateway at the northern end, just opposite our camp. A mill stream runs through this gateway now and the lower part of the city wall is built into the mill. The corn is standing high down the streets between the columns, and all over the great courts and roads leading to the Temple of the Sun. All round rise the low hills covered with a stunted oak and the Circassians come and go along the beautiful road that they have made and build acanthus leaves and the inscriptions of emperors into their tidy houses with small concern for the wonderful city which they have inherited. We have had a peaceful afternoon, an early lunch and a long rest. I have just read Mother's article on thrift, which I admire very much. I now feel that I need not hesitate to extend my journey to any limit - isn't that the right lesson to be derived from it? but seriously, I think it's a very beautiful and good bit of morals. After tea Dr R. and I walked all over the ruins a second time. They looked most lovely in the evening light. I have since bathed in a stream with a pergola of vines above me and a lot of lovely Roman stones tumbling into the river on purpose to hold my soap. We have been watching the Circassians driving in their cows - hundreds of them, cows I mean, more than I have yet seen in the whole of Syria.



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