Were it later—for example, were it the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and forty—five, we should be deprived of this extraordinary spectacle. In the nineteenth century Antioch is—that is to say, Antioch will be—in a lamentable state of decay. It will have been, by that time, totally destroyed, at three different periods, by three successive earthquakes.
Indeed, to say the truth, what little of its former self may then remain, will be found in so desolate and ruinous a state that the patriarch shall have removed his residence to Damascus. This is well. I see you profit by my advice, and are making the most of your time in inspecting the premises—in. I beg pardon; I had forgotten that Shakespeare will not flourish for seventeen hundred and fifty years to come.
But does not the appearance of Epidaphne justify me in calling it grotesque? All this I must acknowledge. Still there is an infinity of mud huts, and abominable hovels. We cannot help perceiving abundance of filth in every kennel, and, were it not for the over—powering fumes of idolatrous incense, I have no doubt we should find a most intolerable stench.
Did you ever behold streets so insufferably narrow, or houses so miraculously tall? What gloom their shadows cast upon the ground! It is well the swinging lamps in those endless colonnades are kept burning throughout the day; we should otherwise have the darkness of Egypt in the time of her desolation. What is the meaning of yonder singular building? Hereafter a very notorious Roman Emperor will institute this worship in Rome, and thence derive a cognomen, Heliogabalus.
I dare say you would like to take a peep at the divinity of the temple.
You need not look up at the heavens; his Sunship is not there—at least not the Sunship adored by the Syrians. That deity will be found in the interior of yonder building.
He is worshipped under the figure of a large stone pillar terminating at the summit in a cone or pyramid, whereby is denoted Fire. Some few are mountebanks. Others more particularly belong to the race of philosophers. How terrible a spectacle! Terrible, if you please; but not in the least degree dangerous. Each animal if you will take the pains to observe, is following, very quietly, in the wake of its master. Some few, to be sure, are led with a rope about the neck, but these are chiefly the lesser or timid species.
The lion, the tiger, and the leopard are entirely without restraint.
They have been trained without difficulty to their present profession, and attend upon their respective owners in the capacity of valets—de—chambre. It is true, there are occasions when Nature asserts her violated dominions;—but then the devouring of a man—at—arms, or the throttling of a consecrated bull, is a circumstance of too little moment to be more than hinted at in Epidaphne.
Surely this is a loud noise even for Antioch! It argues some commotion of unusual interest.
The king has ordered some novel spectacle—some gladiatorial exhibition at the hippodrome—or perhaps the massacre of the Scythian prisoners—or the conflagration of his new palace—or the tearing down of a handsome temple—or, indeed, a bonfire of a few Jews. The uproar increases. Shouts of laughter ascend the skies. The air becomes dissonant with wind instruments, and horrible with clamor of a million throats. Let us descend, for the love of fun, and see what is going on!
This way—be careful! Here we are in the principal street, which is called the street of Timarchus. The sea of people is coming this way, and we shall find a difficulty in stemming the tide. They are pouring through the alley of Heraclides, which leads directly from the palace;—therefore the king is most probably among the rioters.
Yes;—I hear the shouts of the herald proclaiming his approach in the pompous phraseology of the East. We shall have a glimpse of his person as he passes by the temple of Ashimah. Let us ensconce ourselves in the vestibule of the sanctuary; he will be here anon. In the meantime let us survey this image. What is it? You perceive, however, that he is neither a lamb, nor a goat, nor a satyr, neither has he much resemblance to the Pan of the Arcadians.
Yet all these appearances have been given—I beg pardon—will be given—by the learned of future ages, to the Ashimah of the Syrians. Put on your spectacles, and tell me what it is. True—a baboon; but by no means the less a deity. His name is a derivation of the Greek Simia—what great fools are antiquarians!
But see—yonder scampers a ragged little urchin.
Where is he going? What is he bawling about? What does he say? For this exploit the ragamuffin is lauding him to the skies. They have made a Latin hymn upon the valor of the king, and are singing it as they go:. Yes: the king is coming! He comes;—he is coming;—there he is! Indeed, I cannot help admiring the animal for the excellent use he is making of his feet.
Beasts, did you say? Do you not perceive that the animal has the visage of a man? Why, my dear sir, that cameleopard is no other than Antiochus Epiphanes, Antiochus the Illustrious, King of Syria, and the most potent of all the autocrats of the East! It is true, that he is entitled, at times, Antiochus Epimanes—Antiochus the madman—but that is because all people have not the capacity to appreciate his merits.
It is also certain that he is at present ensconced in the hide of a beast, and is doing his best to play the part of a cameleopard; but this is done for the better sustaining his dignity as king. In Stock. Dark Roots. A Lovely and Terrible Thing. Fabulous Lives. Heat and Light Shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Thirteen Ways of Looking. The Turning. Stories of Your Life and Others. Collected Fables. Good Trouble.
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