432 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
This building, a peripteros standing on a raised platform, is one hundred and thirty-four
feet in length exclusive of the colonnade, and is believed to be unique in design. Around the
shrine stood a single row of fluted Corinthian columns, sixty-four feet high, with bronze
capitals, above which was an unbroken entablature, whose frieze was ornamented with boldly
carved festoons of fruit and flowers, supported at intervals by winged figures. The capitals are
now gone, as bronze was an article too valuable not to be coveted and too portable not to be
carried away. The doorway is not, as usual, in the centre of the building, but between two
columns in the west side, and opposite to the main door of the court; and in front of it, within
the building, is the entrance to the cell.
This exquisitely sculptured portal is thirty-three feet high by fifteen feet wide, and on the
soffit is an eagle with outspread wings, similar to those at Ba'albek and Husn Suleiman. It is
on a starred ground, flanked by genii. The wall is pierced with windows, between which are
pilasters opposite the columns, and at each end are two Ionic semi-columns. The roof of the
temple is entirely gone, as is that of the Ba albek temples, and the roof of the mosque standing
within it is supported by roughly built arches. At each extremity of the building is a
semicircular vaulted chamber, with a richly sculptured monolithic roof. The chamber in the
northern apse has the signs of the Zodiac carved in relief around the periphery of a circle,
within which, carved in seven pentagons, are busts in high relief of what seem to have been
figures of the principal deities. On the south side is the mihrab, or kibleh, of the mosque.
From the summit of the wall one can obtain a fine view of the temple, the triple arch, and
the distant castle, and the imagination may reconstruct the splendid temple with the immense
court and elegant colonnade. It cannot boast of marble columns, of which we read in so many
books of travel, for there is not a marble shaft or capital in Palmyra. The temples were all
built of the white compact limestone from the adjacent hills. Near the triumphal arch there
are, however, four syenite columns, one of which is thirty feet in length and three feet in
diameter (see page 427).
The most striking object in Palmyra, as you look down from the Saracenic castle on the
north-western mountain, is the Grand Colonnade. This is the wonder of travellers and the
artist's delight (see pages 427 and 435). When entire, with its one thousand five hundred white
columns standing, its elegant entablature fading away in airy perspective for a distance of four
thousand feet, with its central and side avenues, its intersecting colonnades and porticoes, and
its triumphal arch flanked on both sides by temples and palatial dwellings, it must have been
the perfection of architectural beauty. Between the temple and the arch was the marketplace, or central square of the city, and on a column here there has been found the votive
inscription of the leader of a commercial caravan.
The Triumphal Gateway, with three arches, the central arch being thirty-four feet high,
is adorned with an excess of sculptured decoration, more Oriental than Grecian in its
profuseness (see page 434). In the amount of minute detail, it reminds one of the temples of
Northern India. The keystone of this central arch has subsided about a foot, and threatens to