At this point the sailors began taking in sail, whereupon the Hebrew exclaimed, heartily, “See! you who hate the sea, and you who have vows, get ready your curses and your prayers. The bridge yonder, over which the road to Seleucia is carried, marks the limit of navigation. What the ship unloads for further transit, the camel takes up there. Above the bridge begins the island upon which Calinicus built his new city, connecting it with five great viaducts so solid time has made no impression upon them, nor floods nor earthquakes. Of the main town, my friends, I have only to say you will be happier all your lives for having seen it.”
As he concluded, the ship turned and made slowly for her wharf under the wall, bringing even more fairly to view the life with which the river at that point was possessed. Finally, the lines were thrown, the oars shipped, and the voyage was done. Then Ben-Hur sought the respectable Hebrew.
“Let me trouble you a moment before saying farewell.”
The man bowed assent.
“Your story of the merchant has made me curious to see him. You called him Simonides?”
“Yes. He is a Jew with a Greek name.”
“Where is he to be found?”
The acquaintance gave a sharp look before he answered- “I may save you mortification. He is not a money-lender.”
“Nor am I a money-borrower,” said Ben-Hur, smiling at the other’s shrewdness.
The man raised his head and considered an instant.
“One would think,” he then replied, “that the richest merchant in Antioch would have a house for business corresponding to his wealth; but if you would find him in the day, follow the river to yon bridge, under which he quarters in a building that looks like a buttress of the wall. Before the door there is an immense landing, always covered with cargoes come and to go. The fleet that lies moored there is his. You cannot fail to find him.”
“I give you thanks.”
“The peace of our fathers go with you.”
“And with you.”
With that they separated.
Two street-porters, loaded with his baggage, received Ben-Hur’s orders upon the wharf.
“To the citadel,” he said; a direction which implied an official military connection.
Two great streets, cutting each other at right angles, divided the city into quarters. A curious and immense structure, called the Nymphaeum, arose at the foot of the one running north and south. When the porters turned south there, the new-comer, though fresh from Rome, was amazed at the magnificence of the avenue. On the right and left there were palaces, and between them extended indefinitely double colonnades of marble, leaving separate ways for footmen, beasts, and chariots; the whole under shade, and cooled by fountains of incessant flow.
Ben-Hur was not in mood to enjoy the spectacle. The story of Simonides haunted him. Arrived at the Omphalus- a monument of four arches wide as the streets, superbly illustrated, and erected to himself by Epiphanes, the eighth of the Seleucidae- he suddenly changed his mind.