1 peristyle, we pass through the semicircular wall, which is the principal relic of the
magnificent basilica of Constantine. Turning north, we pass along about one hundred feet
ithout finding traces of exedrae. In the north-west corner there is first a large chamber
vith a door, then a rectangular recess with four columns in front, a part of whose cornice
is still unfinished, then a semicircular exedrae, with a magnificent groined roof supported
bv two columns. These alcoves, as well as the successive semicircular and rectangular
exedrx on the north, east, and south sides, are lavishly decorated with shell-topped niches,
canopies, rosettes, and arabesques of the most elaborate and minute character. Here were
statues innumerable, which doubtless now lie buried under the masses of debris which fill the
area. The entablature ran uninterrupted all around the court, the frieze having rich
ornaments of pomegranates, grapes, vine-leaves and flowers. In one is a head surrounded
with a fan-like canopy of scaly wings; in another a winged dragon. All are decorated
within and without with pilasters. There are eight chambers with doors, eight rectangular
alcoves with columns, four semicircular dome-roofed exedrae, two niches eighteen feet
wide for colossal statues, one on each side of the triple gateway leading into the hexagon,
and in the southern niche, among the huge fallen arch stones which formed the ceiling, is
a curious circular keystone, as perfect and sharply cut as when fresh from the hand of the
The forty-four columns which supported the roofs of these alcoves were of Syenite granite,
twenty-nine inches in diameter. As Wood found only the shafts of Syenite, he inferred that
the bases and capitals of these columns were of the native limestone, the same rock with the
rest of the temple—a very probable supposition.
Amid this maze of architectural wonders and unsolved questions, we will not attempt to
offer any other solution of the mode of transporting these columns than to suppose them
floated from Egypt to Seleucia on rafts, then up the river Orontes as far as practicable, and
thence on sledges to the temples of Ba'albek and Palmyra.
On the east of the quadrangle is a triple gateway, the broad portal, now in ruins, being
fifty feet wide, with two side portals of ten feet, leading into the hexagonal court. This hexagon
is two hundred feet in breadth, east and west, and two hundred and fifty from north to south.
On the east and around the north and south anodes were rectangular exedrae or alcoves, with
smaller rooms intervening. The roofs of the alcoves were supported by twenty columns, all now
fallen. The effect of this hexagonal court to one entering from the eastern portico must have
been impressive, with its fine proportions and the glimpses of the great peristyle beyond.
\\ lthin this hexagon are immense mounds of earth, piled against the north and south walls.
May not this mass of earth have been brought in by the Saracens to aid them in rolling up the
uge blocks to the top of the fortress walls, and then left as slopes for their soldiers to mount
°n to the loopholes above ? We wonder at the cyclopean work of the Phoenicians, but one
cannot help admiring the prodigious energy of the Saracens, who lifted these huge blocks from
°ne place to another as if they had been mere toys.