248 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
Sea of Tiberias. All of these bodies were simply expansions in the beds of rivers.
Beginning in Northern Syria, the first salt lake demanding attention was the SABAKHAH. It
was situated on the route from Aleppo to the Euphrates, just below the thirty-sixth
parallel of latitude. It contains about fifty square miles of water, being thirteen miles
in length and from three to five miles broad. It is the product of several small streams,
which pour their contributions into a basin from which there is no outlet. The waters are
so exceedingly salty that the natural incrustations are gathered along the shores and
sold-a rudimentary and puny commerce.
The BAHR-EL-MELAK has already been mentioned as the lake into which flows the river of
Aleppo. It has the same general character as that last described, but is considerably less
in area. Its value, however, is not less considerable, for from the bed of this basin,
when the waters under the summer sun have receded to their lowest ebb, the inhabitants
take from the bottom a large part of the salt which supplies the markets of Syria. Over
the surface of the same sheet of brine, when the winter rains have filled the basin to the
brim, large flocks of geese and ducks and solitary flamingoes go sailing.
The three lakes in the immediate vicinity of Damascus have already received some notice.
Between the rainy and the dry season they fluctuate greatly in extent. Indeed, when the
rains are excessive the edges of the three bodies touch each other, and the lake is
continuous. They are all, as has been said, supplied from the streams of the Antilib anus,
and being without an outlet, are brackish and heavy.
The DEAD SEA, at the lower extremity of the gorge of the Jordan, is the largest salt lake
of Western Asia. Perhaps no other body of water of equal size has attracted so much
attention. It is forty-six miles in length and ten and a-half miles in breadth. The area
is about two hundred and fifty
I The marvel of the Dead Sea in regard to the quality of its waters has been greatly
exaggerated. The fact is that dead seas prevail wherever the natural conditions are
present. Syria abounds in them, and Utah furnishes a notable example.
square miles. The lake is of an oblong form, being quite regular in shape, except on the
eastern side near the southern extremity, where a long peninsula projects nearly to the
other shore. All that portion of the sea lying south of this peninsula is shallow, having
a depth of only a few feet, while the main body lying to the north sinks to the
extraordinary depth of one thousand two hundred or one thousand three hundred feet; and
since the surface of the lake is above one thousand three hundred feet below the level of
the Mediterranean, the bottom of the chasm is in some places more than two thousand six
hundred feet below the sea! No other body of water on the earth's surface is so greatly
The water of the Dead Sea is impregnated with salt and other minerals to a degree
unequaled. Lake Urumiyeh, in Northern Media, most nearly approaches it in saltness and
general character. From this unusual impregnation of minerals, and from the great
depression of the surface, the Dead Sea waters have a specific gravity and consequent
buoyancy greater than any other lake or sea. Chemical analysis shows that one-fourth of
the whole weight of this thick brine is composed of solid matter-a quantity twice as great
as is found in the waters of the open ocean. Heavy logs of wood thrown into the Dead Sea
float out on the surface, buoyed up like cork, and the human body will sink of its own
weight only to the shoulders. For the greater part the lake is lifeless. Even the shores
are incrusted with the crystalline deposits of ages. Lot's wife is a pillar of salt.
Turning to the fresh-water lakes, the most important is the SEA OF TIBERIAS, or Galilee.
In shape it resembles its salt counterpart of the south, being an ellipse, with its
greater axis up and down the Jordan valley. Its length is thirteen miles; its width, six
miles. The greatest depth is one hundred and sixty-five feet. It is simply an expansion of
the Jordan, which comes down from Merom discolored with a muddy sediment. This, however,
is left in the bottom of the lake, and the river issues below a clear and beautiful