LYDDA AND RAMLEH. 147
The desolation of the plain of Sharon is at present due to want of a stable and organized
government. It is still well watered, it still counts its forests, and the sea-sand has not greatly
encroached upon its borders; its soil is most fertile, and its people are able and willing to till
the land, were they not ground down and hindered by the rapacious officials who are sent
periodically to take from them their gains, under one pretext or another. These people are
a rural race whose sympathies are evidently not with their Turkish rulers, but rather with
the Egyptians, with whom, as in days of yore, they still keep up a close connection, not a
few having been down to work on the Suez Canal. Like the Egyptians, they have raised
the fruitful groves surrounding their habitations by the sweat of their brow. Irrigation is
necessary to keep them in a flourishing condition, and this is kept up by means of water
ever flowing from wells nearly one hundred feet in depth, the water-wheels (see page 138)
of which are worked by contributions of animals, camels, horses, mules, oxen, donkeys, from
the families in the villages, according to their wealth and breadth of lands.
Let us descend the tower and visit Ludd, the ancient Lydda, by moonlight. Passing over
fields of ranunculus, anemones, saffrons, and other wild flowers now closed, we burst through a
line of tall bushy reeds and grasses, startling a heron into flight, and sec in front of us, on a
flash of water, the beautiful ruins of Lydda, the city of our patron saint, St. George, held in
honour both by Mohammedans and Christians. The church, the ruins of which were until
lately so picturesque, has passed through many vicissitudes (see page 145). As early
A.d. 315 we know it to have existed here, the site of a bishopric, and dedicated to St. George,
whose remains are said to be interred beneath. This church was destroyed in tin: eighth
century by the Saracens, and again rebuilt by the Crusaders, again destroyed by Saladin and
rebuilt by Richard Cceur de Lion.
But it is not only as a Christian site that Lydda is of interest -unlike the modern Ramleh,
Lydda can lay claim to our interest as an ancient site; not, however, rendered conspicuous until
the time of the apostles. Here it was that Saint Peter healed the paralytic one, and here
he was staying when he was sent for to Joppa (see page 137), nine miles distant, at the time
of the death of Tabitha. It assumed the name of Diospolis (City of Zeus) about the time of
Hadrian, and only gradually, through the lapse of centuries, regained its original name.
Forcing our way over vast quantities of segs or flags, and scarcely escaping the thorns of
the prickly pear, we ascend the swelling hills and find ourselves among the ruins of 'Amwas
(the ancient Emmaus, afterwards called Nicopolis), with Latron in the distance (see page 152).
Emmaus is mentioned in the book of Maccabees, and also by F. Josephus as being a
place of note in the time of the Asmoneans, and it was in sight of this city that Jonathan
Maccabeus defeated the Syrian army. It must not, however, be confounded with Emmaus of
Luke xxiv. 13, though Dr. Robinson was in favour of this supposition. (Refer to pages 198 et
seq., vol. L, where the subject of the site of Emmaus is fully treated.) "Amwas is now merely
a squalid village with a ruined church. From here we can see the new carriage road winding
up the highlands to Jerusalem.