The Palace


The Palace
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The Palace

 This ruined building is situated to the south of the East Arch, and, although it is one of the most interesting edifices in Bosra, it has been barely mentioned by three or four of the travellers who have written descriptions of the ancient city. This is probably due, to the fact that it is almost completely hidden by the modern dwellings that are crowded around and within it. It is plainly visible from only one side, the east, which is the side least likely to be approached by visitors. Here a long wall with two storeys of niches (111. 227) now faces upon a plantation of peach and almond trees; but this garden is enclosed by a wall so high that a view of the Palace is to be had only at intervals where the wall is in need of repairs. The best view of the building is to be had from the roof of the Djami' id-Dabbaghah, from which point one of my photographs (111. 228) was taken. This picture, although not very good as a photograph, may serve to show that a considerable part of the ancient structure is still preserved, and to illustrate the crowded condition of the village about it. There are seven families living in the compartments of the Palace, and in crude hovels built within its court; while many sheep, goats, and cattle are stabled in its lower chambers, and other rooms serve for the storing of fodder. It will be observed that the task of extricating the plan of the ancient building from the mass of modern structures is not an easy'' one.
The Palace, as it stands, occupies a rectangle of 50 by 33 metres (111. 229), its longer axis lies north and south, its entrance was on the west, the side of the building which is least well preserved. The building was constructed throughout of highly finished quadrated blocks of basalt laid dry. The apartments were grouped on the north and south sides of a large open court, the east side of which was closed by a heavy, unbroken, wall within which was a narrow passage. The west side appears to have consisted of another heavy wall in which the entrance must have been ; for no entrance is visible elsewhere. Colonnades of two storeys were placed upon the north and south sides of the court, and an arcade carried by piers, with a colonnade above it, occupied the east side of the open quadrangle which measured 22 by 16 metres. The residential portions of this great edifice consisted of two, three, and four storeys; for there are many cases in which two corbelled storeys are together equal in height to one arched storey; and there appear to have been angle towers that were carried up in a fifth storey. The larger and more important rooms were those on the south side of the court, but the north side contained chambers of dignity and high interior finish. Almost all of the apartments of the ground floor are in a perfect state of preservation, many of them are inhabited, others serve as stables or granaries. Manyof of the rooms of the intermediate and upper floors are likewise inhabited, and rooms in the fourth floor are to be seen in ruins. In the northeast angle a fragment of wall with a window in it suggests a fifth storey in a tower at each angle of the building. Three columns and two half columns engaged with piers are standing on the north side of the court, four of the piers of the arcade on the east side are in place, and the details of the lower colonnade on the south side, and remains of the upper colonnades on all three sides, are to be found in the ruins. With all this material at our disposal it is not difficult to reconstruct the major part of the building.
In 111. 229 I have given a plan which shows the lower floor of the northern half of the Palace and the upper floor of the southern half. This is partly the result of the fact that some of the apartments could not be satisfactorily measured, the upper ' rooms on the north side being occupied by women, and the lower chambers on the south side being dark and inaccessible, and filled with cattle or straw. But, the upper floor on the one side, or the lower floor on the other, can not be very different in plan from the floor below or' above it in either case. Let us begin our survey of the Palace at the northwest angle where a group of four small rooms lies in a mass of ruins. A piece of wall with an engaged column at one end stands in front of these ruins, and the row of columns extending eastward from it is represented by three shafts and four bases and another half column engaged with a pier. The first complete apartment (K) on this side is well preserved in two storeys and is inhabited. On the ground floor it has two divisions separated by a moulded arch. The outer division has a

 ceiling of stone slabs carried by a fine corbel course in form of a salient cyma recta, the rear division is covered by a tunnel vault composed of long slabs carried on arches in the form of a salient cyma like that of the outer ceiling (see Section K-L). Above the outer division is another room similar to the one below; but over the vaulted chamber are two low storeys of chambers equal in height to the outer room, in the style often seen in the Southern Haurân in houses which had only one high storey in the outer room. The second  apartment is

 a very large room with a high transverse arch (PL XI, Sect. M-N) carried by piers with carved caps which are shown in Plate XI, and with a salient corbel course carved at the angles, which is shown in the same plate. The arch, as Sections M-N and P-0 show, elevated the ceiling above the level of the ceilings of the rooms adjoining it, and above the floor level of the colonnade without, so that it was necessary to provide steps in the thickness of the walls where the doorways were in order to reach the floor of the great chamber above. The great arch, the corbel course, and the steps in the thickness of the doorway in the upper floor in the west wall, are all in place; but the ceiling slabs of the lower chamber have been removed, and the arch of the chamber above has fallen, although its piers are in place. The windows shown in the ground floor in Plate XI, and the lower windows in the upper floor are still to be seen, though walled up ; but the upper windows were supplied from similar windows in another part of the Palace. The apartment adjoining this large chamber on the east is similar on the ground floor to that on the opposite side; but above it there appear to be two low storeys throughout, and both of them are inhabited. This brings us to the angle tower, which had five low storevs, and the small chamber next to it which was four storevs hio;h. The middle part of this side of the Palace is quite similar in plan and arrangement to many of the houses of the better class at Umm idj-Djimal1. The eastern division of the Palace seems to have served only to connect the northern and southern divisions which were the residential quarters. There was a long narrow passage just within the thick east wall, a fine colonnade of two storeys outside the wall, and an arcade upon the court. This part of the interior of the Palace is filled with recently constructed houses which utilize the parts of the ancient building behind the piers of the arcade, and conceal one of the piers completely.' One may find the angle pier of the north end with a half column engaged to one of its faces, three complete piers, and one pier standing at about half its original height. None of the arches is in place; but there are numerous moulded voussoirs lying about that belonged to them. I have taken it for granted that the passage behind the wall of the arcade was as high as the arcade itself (111. 229, Sect. A-B), but I could not see any part of it; and it is quite clear that there were two storeys of low chambers above it. The upper storey colonnade (PI. XI, P-O) I have restored from an angle pier with two engaged columns, and from fragments of an order smaller than that of the lower colonnades.
The exterior colonnade shown in Restoration I-J (111. '229) w,as drawn entirely from fallen fragments; although the wall behind it, with its two storeys of niches, and its sockets for the cross beams of the intermediate floor, is well preserved, as may be seen in 111. 227. The niches are alternately semicircular and rectangular in plan in both storeys, and alternately arched and square topped; arched niches appear above

rectangular ones and vice versa. The sixth niche from the south end and the fifth from the north end are now both pierced through for doorways; I could not tell if the openings were original. All of the fragments used in the Restoration were found in the ruins and in walls of modern houses at the southeast and south of the Palace. There are two orders, on two different scales; the capitals of the larger order are of the plainest Doric type; those of the upper order have a necking and an astragal. . The fragments of the triglyphal frieze appear to belong to the upper rather than to the lower order. The parapet was suggested by fragments in marble lying in front of the east wall, and was restored from sections of a marble parapet which still serves its purpose upon the roof of the minaret of the Djâmi' Fâtmeh. The statues shown in the niches are of course imaginary.

The southern division of the building is the portion of the ruin that gives it the name of Palace. Here the important feature of the upper floor is a large apartment which is a sort of triconchos, having an entrance on the north, large apses to the east and west, and a deep rectangular recess to the south, all three opening upon the central square by large arches. In the angles between the recess and the apses are square chambers with doorways opening upon the recess. I was unable to discover the entire ground-plan of the lower storey of this part of the structure; but I could see that there were four great transverse arches which carry the solid stone floor of the central square of the triconchos (PI. XII, Sect. C.-D.); and it is probable that there were curved walls under the apse walls above. The space between the triconchos and the east wall of the Palace is occupied by a large arched apartment in two storeys, with two small chambers opening out of each to the south. These have one corbelled storey corresponding to the lower arched storey, and two low corbelled storeys corresponding to the upper arched room (111. 229 Sect. G-H). To the west of the triconchos is an open loggia with its two columns and one half column still standing. There are three windows and a doorway in the western apsis which open upon this loggia. South of the loggia is a square chamber in the southwest angle-tower of the Palace. The greater part of this important south wing of the Palace is well preserved, though it is very difficult to see it properly among the modern constructions; the half domes of the apses and all three arches of the triconchos have fallen; but their piers are still in place. The east apsis has been walled up and provided with a flat roof, and, with the room adjoining it on the south, is now used as a residence. The room adjoining the west apse and the room next to the loggia form another modern house. All the lower storey of this part is used for storing chopped straw. The windows of the upper storey are all preserved, and may be seen with their shade-stones above them in the view of the south wall shown in 111. 228; but the third storey of rooms over the row of small chambers on the south side of this wing is in ruins, only the intercommunicating doorways and the window sills remain to prqve that this third storey existed. Even the sills of the upper row of windows in the south arm of the triconchos are still to be seen. The two-storey colonnade which I have restored on the court side of this wing (PI. XII, Sect. E-F) is drawn entirely from a pier at the west end in the lower storey which is still in place, from sockets in the wall which secured the ends of roof timbers, and from fragments of columns of two orders.
The plan of this south wing is sufficiently like that of the central part of the Palace at Kasr Ibn Wardan to have been its direct prototype, as may be seen by comparing this plan (111. 229) with that of the other1. It will also be found interesting to compare the plan of this Palace with that of the great ecclesiastical residence behind the Cathedral, which I have called the Episcopal Palace. These two examples, - the one at Kasr Ibn Wardan and the Bishop's Palace — belong, the first certainly, the other probably, to the sixth century; the building before us appears to be a much earlier structure. All the details, like the pier-cap and the corbel course shown in Plate XI, resemble the earliest work of the Roman period in the Hauran, and is not unlike late examples of Nabataean work; for the ornaments shown in the meander pattern of the pier-cap include the crescent moon and the wine jar which may be taken as symbols of Allat and Dushara. The fragments of the minor order of the colonnades are almost exactly similar to the details of the order of the colonnade at. the top of the cavea of the Theatre which is certainly a building of the best Roman period in Syria. The ruin was referred to by the natives as Der Deradjan, i. e. the "Cloister of Trajan". It would be extremely interesting if inscriptions or other proofs should later be found to show that this was indeed a palace built by the first Roman governor of Arabia in the name of the Roman emperor; for, in its style and construction, there is nothing to prevent us from assigning the building to that period.


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