SAMARIA is generally defined as the country lying between Galilee and Judea, though at one time it included all that portion of the Holy Land embraced by the tribes over which Jeroboam made himself king, whether east or west of the river Jordan. The country is described as more beautiful than Judea. The soft limestone or chalky hills, of which it is largely made up, unlike those farther south, abound in springs and mountain brooks. Fertile bottoms of black earth are not infrequent; rich fields, gardens, and orchards once decorated the valleys, while vineyards and trees of different kinds spread up the slopes; and woods of olives and walnuts still crown the soft outlines of many of the hills. The meadows and pasturelands of Samaria were famous in Israel. The landscape, however, with its flat valleys, and straight lines of rounded hills, all nearly of a height, is tame when compared with the bold scenery of the highlands of Galilee, among which, was the home of Jesus. 

Through the pleasantest part of Samaria runs the valley of Shechem, on opposite sides of which are the two most important mountains of Samaria, "the giants of the mountains of Ephraim," mounts Ebal and Gerizim, on which the blessings and curses were pronounced when the children of Israel first came into the land of Canaan. 

In the valley between these mountains is the city of Nablous, as described in a former article. Still following down this valley, we come to the city of Samaria, the capital of the kingdom, some six miles northwest from Shechem, or Nablous.

The present city of Samaria is small and poor, consisting of only a few cottages built of stone from the ancient ruins. Its situation is exceedingly beautiful, and strong by nature. It stands on a fine large hill, compassed all around by a broad deep valley. The valley is surrounded by four hills, one on each side, which are cultivated in terraces to the top, and sown with grain, or planted with fig and olive trees, as are also the valleys. The hill of Samaria rises in terraces to a height equal to any of the adjoining mountains.

This is a very ancient city, having first been built by Omri, king of Israel, about 920 years before Christ. It became the favorite residence of the kings of Israel, and was highly adorned with public buildings. Ahab built there a palace of ivory. 

It was finally destroyed by the Assyrians, at the time the Israelites were carried into captivity. It was partly rebuilt by the Samaritans; but a little before the birth of Christ, Herod the Great enlarged and adorned it, surrounded it with a strong wall, and gave to it the name of Sebaste, the Greek word for Augustus, in honor of the Roman emperor.

The eastern part of the country of Samaria is occupied by the Plain of Sharon, justly celebrated for its beauty and fertility. Sharon, even at the present day, contains some of the finest pastureland in Palestine. In spring it is all spangled with flowers of the brightest colors. But owing to the wretched government that prevails, this region has become to a great extent a solitude, and indicates its fertility only by the enormous growth of weeds and the forests of thistles which cover it. The fear of the Bedouins, a wild people who roam over the country, plundering and even murdering, at will, has driven the inhabitants to the mountains; and here, as in other parts of the Holy Land, the oppression of Turkish rulers is an effectual discouragement to agriculture. The ruins of many cities and villages are found on this plain. Joppa, or Jaffa, as it is now called, situated on the seacoast, is one of the most ancient seaports in the world, and is sometimes called the gate of the Holy Land. 

E. B.