[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

orion socia palmarum

	While there were apparently actual palm trees in the vicinity of
Qumran and Ein Feshkha, it is, perhaps, possible that there is also a
symbolic echo in Pliny's source. Botanically, palm trees are male or
female, but, symbolically, they were sometimes regarded as female, as shown
by the use of the name Tamar. So "socia palmarum" could, possibly, refer
back to "sine ulla femina, omni venere abdicata"--reinforcing the comment
that Essenes gave up sexual relations with women by adding that palm trees
were their only companions. However, if such a reference were intended, it
might have arisen even prior to the source, since the text appears more
admiring than humorous, and may simply note the trees to emphasize the
general renunciation, as well as the geographic location. Josephus said
some Essenes married; women are in the Qumran cemetery; and some Qumran
texts refer to women. Apparently, some Essenes were celibate; some were
not; and some were celibate limited to certain times and places. Many
non-Essene Jews and many Greeks and Romans regarded celibacy as odd, and it
is perhaps possible that a remark not originally meant entirely as a
compliment was incorporated with a different tone in a more admiring
Stephen Goranson     goranson@duke.edu