1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hermon

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HERMON, the highest mountain in Syria (estimated at 9050 to 9200 ft.), an outlier of the Anti-Lebanon. As the Hebrew name (חֶרְמוֹן, “belonging to a sanctuary,” “separate”) shows, it was always a sacred mountain. The Sidonians called it Sirion, and the Amorites Shenir (Deut. iii. 9). According to one theory it is the “high mountain” near Caesarea Philippi, which was the scene of the Transfiguration (Mark ix. 2). A curious reference in Enoch vi. 6, says that in the days of Jared the wicked angels descended on the summit of the mountain and named it Hermon. The modern name is Jebel es-Sheikh, or “mountain of the chief or elder.” It is also called Jebel eth-Thelj, “snowy mountain.” The ridge of Hermon, rising into a dome-shaped summit, is 20 m. long, extending north-east and south-west. The formation of the lower part is Nubian sandstone, that of the upper part is a hard dark-grey crystalline limestone belonging to the Neocomian period, and full of fossils. The spurs consist in some cases of white chalk covering the limestone, and on the south there are several basaltic outbreaks. The view from Hermon is very extensive, embracing all Lebanon and the plains east of Damascus, with Palestine as far as Carmel and Tabor. On a clear day Jaffa also may be seen. The mountain in spring is covered with snow, but in autumn there is occasionally none left, even in the ravines. To the height of 500 ft. it is clothed with oaks, poplars and brush, while luxuriant vineyards abound. Foxes, wolves and Syrian bears are not infrequently met with, and there is a heavy dew or night mist. Above the snow-limit the mountain is bare and covered with fine limestone shingle. The summit is a plateau from which three rocky knolls rise up, that on the west being the lowest, that on the south-east the highest. On the south slope of the latter are remains of a small temple or sacellum described by St Jerome. A semicircular dwarf wall of good masonry runs round this peak, and a trench excavated in the rock may perhaps indicate the site of an altar. On the plateau is a cave about 25 ft. sq. with the entrance on the east. A rock column supports the roof, and a building (possibly a Mithraeum) once stood above. Other small temples are found on the sides of Hermon, of which twelve in all have been explored. They face the east and are dated by architects about A.D. 200. The most remarkable are those of Deir el ‘Ashaiyir, Hibbariyeh, Hosn Niha and Tell Thatha. At the ruined town called Rukleh on the northern slopes are remains of a temple, the stones of which have been built into a church. A large medallion, 5 ft. in diameter, with a head supposed to represent the sun-god, is built into the wall. Several Greek inscriptions occur among these ruins. In the 12th century Psalm lxxxix. 12 was supposed to indicate the proximity of Hermon to Tabor. The conical hill immediately south of Tabor was thus named Little Hermon, and is still so called by some of the inhabitants of the district.