126 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
" Now the younger son was industrious and prudent, and his wealth increased preatlv
The elder one was profligate and idle, and he became poor. In his poverty he looked
with jealous anger on the rich flocks and herds of his brother, and considered in his heart how
he might destroy them. He journeyed to Egypt, and thence brought some young crocodiles
and having secretly placed them in the river, he went to a distant country. His hope was
that his brother's flocks would be devoured on going to drink, or while feeding on the
banks. He did not know that his brother, having been warned of coming danger in a dream,
no longer watered his flocks there.
" Now after a time the elder brother returned to this place, and he went down to the riverside to wash his feet, without taking thought of the danger which he in his wickedness had
spread there. The crocodiles swiftly approached him, and seized upon him and destroyed him.
Such was the will of God, and thus the wicked fall into the nets which they spread for their
Stories or fables of this kind are often very appositely introduced in ordinary conversation,
to point a moral or give force to an argument, or to administer an indirect rebuke to a
superior. The versions of such stories naturally vary slightly according to the circumstances
under which they are related.
It is probable that the ancient city called Crocodilon was situated near to the Nahr ez
Zerka. Strabo, who died in a.d. 24, speaks of it as one of the many cities of the coast of
Palestine which in his time existed only in name. From the Nahr ez Zerka the Plain of
Sharon extends southwards to the Nahr er Rubin, a distance of forty-four miles (see map).
The northern section between Nahr ez Zerka and Nahr Iskanderuneh, nine miles from
north to south, averages eight miles in width : the greater part of it is either marshy or
encumbered with drifting sand dunes. It is a district of deserted ruins, and is haunted
by the Bedawin, who occasionally cultivate some patches of land here, and reap scanty crops
of wheat and barley (see page 111).
This desolate-looking region, however, includes a winding water-course called Nahr
Mefjir, to the north of which there is an oak forest nearly nine miles in circumference, near
to the eastern hills, which are bordered by a strip of rich alluvial soil. Here there are
a few insignificant villages, with small plots of cultivated land around them.
Groups of sarcophagi and mounds of ruins, representing ancient towns or comparatively
modern villages, are numerous; and by the seashore, midway between the Nahr ez Zerka
and the Nahr Mefjir, a vast expanse of ground is covered with the almost indistinguishable
debris of Herod's once-splendid city of Caesarea Sebaste, so named in honour of Augustus;
and within this area, in a central position close to the seashore (occupying, however, only
about one-tenth of the space included within the walls of the Roman city), stand the ruins
of the Crusading city which succeeded it.
C/ESarea Sebaste was built on the site of a place called Strato's Tower, and As minutely
described by Josephus. It was planned and completed by King Herod the Great within the