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The Historical Works Of Venerable Bede

THE Dead Sea is five hundred and eighty furlongs in length, and extends as far as the Zoari in Arabia. Its breadth is one hundred and fifty furlongs, as far as the neighbourhood of Sodom. For it is certain that it flowed also out of some salt-pits, after the burning of Sodom and Gomorrha and the adjacent cities. But it appears to those who look at it from the top of Mount Olivet, that the collision of the waves causes salt of a very strong kind to be thrown up, which, when dried in the sun, is collected, and is of considerable service to many of the neighbouring nations. Salt is said to be produced in a different manner from this in a certain mountain of Sicily, where large blocks of the strongest and most useful salt are hewn out of the earth: this is called rock-salt. The name of the Dead Sea is derived from this circumstance—that it does not sustain any kind of living thing; for there are neither fish in its depths, nor waterfowl swimming upon its surface. Indeed, if by accident the river Jordan, when swollen by storms, carries down any fish into it, they immediately die, and their dead bodies are seen floating on the languid waters. They say that a lighted candle will float without being upset, and that when the light is put out, it sinks; but that it is difficult for any thing else to be made stop at the bottom; and that every living thing, however different, and with whatever violence thrown in, instantly rises again. Indeed, it is recorded that Vespasian ordered some persons who could not swim to be thrown in with their hands tied behind their backs, and all of them rose and floated on the top. The water is bitter and unfertilizing, of a darker colour than other water, and tastes as if it had been burnt. It is certain that lumps of bitumen with a black liquor are seen swimming in the water, and the natives go out in boats and collect them. They say that the bitumen sticks together most firmly, and cannot be divided by any instrument of steel, but dissolves in urine, or in the blood of a woman. It is of use to fasten ships, and is applied medicinally to the human body. The whole region still bears marks of the judgment inflicted upon it. Apples of a most beautiful appearance are produced there, which make the mouths of the beholders water, but when gathered, they rot and moulder to ashes, and send forth smoke, as if still acted on by fire. In summer an excessive vapour floats over the whole plain; by which cause, and the great drought co-operating together, the air becomes corrupted, and the inhabitants are afflicted with dreadful distempers.








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