298 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
defences, and placed there a strong garrison. Vespasian's general, Placidus, who was sent
against the place, " found it impracticable to ascend the heights," and obtained possession of it
only by stratagem. Its history during the long struggles between Crusaders and Moslems was
a chequered one, and even in modern times this sacred mountain has become associated with
one of the greatest conquerors of the world. The famous battle of Mount Tabor, which
occurred April 16th, 1799, between the French and Turks, was fought near it by General
Kleber under the eye of Napoleon himself.
But far more inspiring than its historical associations is the magnificent view from its
summit. Not only are beautiful fields in sight, but also many peaceful cities and villages, the
silent mountains which were the pride of the Hebrews, and much of the country which was
familiar to our Lord. In the north we see the Horns of Hattin (see page 296), Safed, and
Hermon, the north end .of the Sea of Galilee (see page 297), and the great plateau of Bashan
to the east; in the south-east, the hills of Gilead and the chasm-like depression of the Jordan
Valley ; in the south, Gilboa (see page 269), and the hills of Samaria (see page 268); and in
the west, Mount Carmel. Below us is the plain of Esdraelon, " one vast carpet thrown back
to the hills of Samaria and the foot of Carmel," and north-west towards the Mediterranean.
The landscape is exceedingly diversified, and the fertility of the soil of this province enabled
it to be one of the most densely-populated regions on the globe. One fact connected with
Mount Tabor is deserving of special notice, and that is, the clouds that gather about it
during a large part of the summer (see page 287). In an almost cloudless land this gives
special beauty to this isolated peak, which may have been one reason why the Hebrews gave
special prominence to it when they declared, " as Tabor is among the mountains, and as
Carmel by the sea" (Jeremiah xlvi. 18). The abundance of dew which falls there is also
noticeable, and to this circumstance is to be attributed the freshness of vegetation on the
slopes and about the foot of the mountain.
In the fourth century, the period in which St. Jerome flourished, there was a tradition
that Mount Tabor was the scene of the transfiguration of our Lord, and during the centuries
since that time this opinion has been widely circulated ; but scholars are now quite unanimous
in rejecting this view. It is almost certain that at this time Christ was farther north, and that
this wonderful event took place elsewhere.
From the summit of Tabor one sees, looking north towards Safed and the hills of Upper
Galilee, a rolling country in which are situated Cana of Galilee (Kefr Kenna) and the Horns
of Hattin; and beyond that is an extensive and fertile plain called El Biittauf (see page 292).
In making our way north from the foot of Tabor we shall leave Nazareth on our left, and
in two hours shall reach Kefr Kenna, where, according to ecclesiastical tradition, the first
miracle of our Lord was performed. Before reaching El Meshhad we pass a spring and a
small village on our left called Er Reineh. Near this point, on the 1st of May, 1187, the
Franks won a victory over the Moslems, which, with nearly all else that they had gained in
Palestine, was soon to be lost in the terrible slaughter at the Horns of Hattin.