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Logos [6-27-2010]

To know what that was upon which the Crusading host came when they at last saw Antioch, a man must himself have seen the strange small relic of what Antioch once was, standing now today upon its river bank: that little shrivelled present town, the huge precipitous mountainside towering above it, miles and miles of fortified wall with curtain and tower climbing up and down the mountain slopes, crossing the profound gorge and encircling like a vast arm all that now wasteland whereon the mighty city once stood.

It is more than a mile from the banks of the Orontes southward and upward to the crest which the topmost of the wall still follows; it is two miles at least from the western extremity of those defenses downstream, to the eastern extremity, along the Aleppo road.  All that great space had been filled for a thousand years with clamor and life.  Antioch had been the third city of the Eastern world; it had been crowded with every kind of movement, officialdom, and wealth, a mass of temples and palaces, with colonnades that stretch from end to end.  Today it is something larger than a village but not much larger, with not one stone of its antique grandeur remaining to stand against the sky as such things stand in profusion throughout the ruins of antiquity elsewhere, from Mesopotamia to the Channel, from the Sahara to the Rhine.

Of that ancient splendor, how much remained for the Crusaders to see?  How much could the Crusading myriads see as their still prodigious column wound down the road from the Orontes crossing towards the walls, with the wide, very large shallow lake upon their right and the dark mountain with its line of towers frowning above them, much as Cader Idris frowns over its abrupt southern steep.  What they saw as they approached was certainly something very much more than remains for us today after so many centuries of Mongol barbarism and general Mohammedan neglect.

[From The Crusades by Hilaire Belloc]

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