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Page:Early Christianity in Arabia.djvu/107

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IN ARABIA.

this tribe, was the Eleusis of ancient Arabia. It is situated in a very narrow valley, between two ranges of lofty mountains, whose mean breadth does not much exceed nine hundred feet.[1] The Kaaba, or temple of Mecca, had been from time immemorial the most sacred resort of the Arabian idolaters. It had been several times enriched by the munificence of the tobbaas of Hamyar, and the power of the gods was said to have been more than once exerted in its defence. Around it were deposited the various idols of the different tribes. On the last month of the year a multitude of devotees assembled from all parts of Arabia. After having cast off their garments, they thrice made the circuit of the Kaaba, and kissed the sacred stone. When they had drunk of the holy well of Zemzem, they proceeded to the mountains, and seven times, in as many successive days, hurled stones against the evil genius in the valley of Mina. The ceremonies were finished by a sacrifice of sheep and camels.

Tbe Christian king of Hamyar beheld with grief the multitudes of pilgrims who went to pay their superstitious devotions to the deities of the Kaaba, and resolved, by building a magnificent church at Sanaa, which appears to have been sometimes the capital of Yaman, to draw the curiosity and the worship of the Arabs to another object. The edifice was completed, and far surpassed in the splendour of its ornaments the object of their idolatrous reverence. But the

  1. Modern Traveller, Arabia, p. 254.