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Page:Early Christianity in Arabia.djvu/13

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IN ARABIA.

wealth, enriching Syria with gold, and supplying the Phœnician navigators with lucrative cargoes.[1] The seas too were celebrated for the quantity and quality of their pearls.[2] The value of the productions of Sabæa were equalled only by the magnificence of the temples and palaces which adorned its cities. Supported by columns of gold and silver, and covered with gems and precious stones, they almost exceeded in splendour the magic buildings of oriental fable. The wealth of the Arabians was exhibited in a profusion of pompous couches and tripods, in gorgeous bowls, and richly ornamented cups.[3] The expenses of the royal household for a single day were estimated at fifteen Babylonian talents.[4]

We are naturally led to suppose that these accounts which the ancients give of the riches and magnificence of the people of Arabia Felix are considerably exaggerated. When we turn, however, to native authors, we find the rich and fertile fields of Sabæa, watered by innumerable streams and canals,[5] covered with gardens, and woods, and flowers, and universal

  1. Agatharchides, p. 64.
  2. Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xii. c. 18.
  3. Agatharchides, Peripl. p. 65.
  4. Τα δ'αναλωματα λεγει της ἡμερας εις τον βασιλεα, και τας περι αυτον γυναικας και φιλους, γινεσθαι ταλαντα πεντεκαιδεκα Βαβυλωνια. Heraclides apud Athenæum, lib. xii. p. 252. Ed. Bas. 1535.—The Babylonian talent was about £223 of our money, fifteen talents would therefore be £3420.
  5. Mesoud, p. 160 (in Schunltens, Hist. Joctanid.)—Compare the account of the canal described by Herodotus as the work of the Arabian king, lib. iii. p. 185.