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Panoramic Views > North > Bcharreh > Tarpeian Rock

The Tarpeian Rock of North Lebanon

Is it true or false? Here we have a story that is neither the first nor the last not to be based on precise historical written documents. There are many other events, facts and actions that give one food for thought. I have heard and noted down oral testimony concerning traditions that are firmly implanted in the minds of elderly people whose forebears have lived through the events described and who consider them as indisputable. Any thing may be believed about the ferocity of the sanguinary Ottoman Turks, who were culpable of genocide accompanied by atrocious crimes. What happened at the Lebanese equivalent of Rome’s Tarpeian Rock is nothing compared to their general barbarity.

Like all other legends our story commences with “Once upon a time….” in a country of which the relief map is in front of me now, a country which I have visited and which I know perfectly well. When we go there we see a rocky cliff below a mountain soaring between four thousand and five thousand feet. This beautiful cliff is in many places quite vertical and overlooks deep valleys.

This cliff is part of a shelf that passes from South to North Lebanon, from Jezzine through Barouk, the Shouf, the Metn, to Farraya in Kesserwan; it goes on through the regions of Jbeil, Akoura and Tannourine towards Bsharry and the Cedars in the North. This cliff is in a rocky band millions of years old, sometimes crossed by rivers and streams where waterfalls tumble down, enchanting the eye with incomparable scenery that is like paradise. We feel that we are in a divine domain, a holy land blessed by its Creator. How many dramatic events this land must have seen! Invasions, conquests, wars, terror, horror, epidemics, famines, massacres, injustice, and brutal occupation! Such is the will of God! A small country bit a great nation, on each occasion Lebanon raised itself up, arising like the Phoenix from its ashes.

Many conquerors have trampled its soil. Some have come from the North, bringing their own cultures and forms of civilization, while others have attacked from the deserts and hot sands of the South bringing barbarity, the ones being builders and the others destroyers.

During the occupation by the Ottomans, now known simply as the Turks, who governed a sultanate larger than Europe, stretching from India to the Atlantic Ocean, after they had come from Eastern Europe and spread over almost the whole Mediterranean, Lebanon included, all this vast empire was submissive and obedient, the only opponents of the Sublime Porte were a group of Maronites taking shelter in their impregnable mountain fastness.

The Ottomans, experts in tyranny and oppression, specialists in torturing the bold and heroic, revived a technique of execution, namely throwing the condemned prisoners from the height of a cliff. The victims were hurled from the summit to fall far below in the depths of the valley. Their bodies were never retrieved but left to be devoured by wild animals. One such place existed between Bsharry and the Cedars higher up.

Let us continue our tour. If we turn right to stand above the rocky heights of the cliff, we find ourselves in front of a superb panorama stretching as far as the eye can see. The valley is thousands of feet deep and at one point there is the cave of Qadisha, source of the river. Above this are the Cedars and the culminating peak of Cornet es-Sawda. The site is worthy of some sculpture executed by a Phidias or Michael Angelo or Rodin to the glory of the Creator.

The ruthless Ottomans made this a place of execution and terror. But are there other such rocky spurs along this cliff? At present, lovers have made of this nook a trysting place for love, joy and prayer. In any case, after World War I the Allies, particularly the French, put an end to such barbarous deeds. Now for any records one must refer to the accounts given me by the old folk of the region, for of written historical record there is none between my hands. However, I have contacted historians who also spoke of events known by oral transmission from one generation to another, consisting of stories that are entirely credible.

Joseph MATAR - Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Tarpeian Rock 1: >> View Movie << (2016-09-01)
- Tarpeian Rock 2: >> View Movie << (2017-06-15)



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