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Re: orion Palms/Water

Mark Dunn wrote [among other things]:
> I did want to question the statement made by Kraft that he "would doubt that
> the [use of] 'socia palmarum' requires palm trees in Pliny's understanding -
> it may simply be an idiom describing the solitariness and lack of social
> contamination of this people."  

Let me elaborate a bit. Pliny is amazed at the non-procreative survival of
this "gens" which he here calls "socia" (associate, companion, etc.). 
Socius/socia can also mean marriage partner, and it seemed possible, even
probable, that Pliny (and/or his source) had this nuance in mind here --
this strange "gens" has no human mate, but cohabits with the palms (why
not with the rocks?). What I expected to find here was not a reference to
trees, but to the uniqueness or exemplary nature of the group, and indeed,
my Latin dictionary lists "palmaris, -e" in that sense ("excellent,
admirable"), but I don't find any such uses elsewhere in Pliny. Perhaps
his source said something of that sort (societas palmare?), and he
misinterpreted -- I don't know if "palmaris" is sufficiently old in that
meaning to serve such a hypothesis. (I also rejected, "out of hand" as it
were, reading "palmarum"  as referring to the human hand rather than the
tree, and thus finding an ironic, perhaps, homosexual twist to Pliny's
language about these non-procreative people.) In the end, I convinced
myself that "a companion people of palm trees" need not depend on the
known presence of real trees to make Pliny's rhetorical point. Maybe a
further search of early Latin literature would reveal whether "palm" gets
used this way by other authors of the period. Something to do, sometime. 

Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania