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
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
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
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
Joseph MATAR - Translation from the French: Kenneth