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Re: orion news article; Pliny again

Some statements about Pliny, Essenes, and Ein Gedi on orion lately are
premature and some are incorrect. Though, in my opinion, Yizhar Hirschfeld
has not yet made a strong case for his interpretation of his
newly-excavated site (nor for his reading of Qumran), it is only fair to
recall that one newspaper report is not sufficient for full evaluation. We
read that Essenes lived in various places, and if it turns out that 25 or
so lived at his site, very well.
	But it is instructive to read some posts which apply a lighter
requirement of evidence for Essenes at Ein Gedi than at Qumran/Ein Feshkah.
Several recent comments about Pliny are misleading; others are false.
Presumably, some Essenes survived the period of the first revolt; it is
possible some went to Ein Gedi afterward, post-70 (though east of the
Jordan may be a more probable direction to look). But this small settlement
does not accord with Pliny's description, for several reasons. Pliny (and
Dio and Solinus) describe a larger and longer-lasting settlement. Pliny's
description concerns conditions a century earlier. (Some recent assertions
on orion concerning history of scholarship on Pliny are innacurate.) If
Pliny were a visitor in 75, it makes no sense that he would note that Ein
Gedi was destroyed--except for this settlement?--while, at the same time,
neglect to mention that Masada had fallen, even though that notable seige
by the Roman army ended just before, in 73 or 74! The same applies to the
claim that he "updated" the text.
	Pliny was not in Judaea in A.D. 75, as Yizhar is described as
averring. This has been demonstrated in detail by several scholars. For
example, Sir Ronald Syme carefully explains not only why Pliny was not in
Judaea or Egypt, then or ever, but where his other government and Army
posts took him, in "Pliny the Procurator,"  Harvard Studies in Classical
Philology 73 (1969) 201-236.  Or: Michel Malaise, "Pline l'ancien a-t-il
sejourne en Egypte?" Latomus 27 (1968) 852-63. Or: J. Reynolds, "The Elder
Pliny and his Times" in Science in the Early Roman Empire: Pliny the Elder,
his Sources and Influence (1986). Other relevant bibliography on Pliny has
appeared earlier on orion. Th. Mommsen in Hermes 19 (1884) 644-48 made an
influential mistake; he misinterpreted a Greek inscription from
Phoenicia/Syria in relation to the preface of Pliny. Classics scholars know
this, but the mistake still echos in some Qumran and archeological studies.
	"Infra" in Pliny (and in relation to Marcus Agrippa) has been
discussed on orion before, and by Ch. Burchard and others, including its
senses and contexts. There are 17 appearances of "infra" in books 3 to 6 of
Natural History--the geographic section. A list of these is available in
Revue Biblique 69 (1962) 369-80, esp 371-2. The review of scholarship on
this by Klaus Sallmann, leading scholar on the geography (and biography) of
Pliny, has been documented on orion. In this context, Pliny's source, with
high probability, refered to Jericho, the Essene settlement, Ein Gedi, and
Masada in one directional sequence. The Essene settlement in his text is
Qumran/Ein Feshkha, as confirmed by the communal archaeology and the
beliefs, practices, and social structures in the associated sectarian
texts. The Qumran ostracon deed of conveyance in the second year of
initiation further confirms the presence of Essenes at Qumran, linking with
Serek ha-yahad and Josephus War 2.  As I read it, it refers to that second
year of initiation--not to a second year of the liberation of Jerusalem, a
zealot calendar designation not safe to assume Essenes accepted. The
archaeology dates the ostracon to period II, not specifically to 68. And it
isn't yet known exactly when the Qumran Essenes fled.
	The destruction of Ein Gedi (not ineluctably linked to that of
Jerusalem) was the c.40 BCE destruction there, not the c.70 CE
destruction--even though Yizhar has written this, as did Benjamin Mazar
before him (Atiqot 5 [1966] 6, and in NewEnc.Arch.Excav.H.L. [1993] 2:399).
The confluence of this chronology with the differing toparchy lists in
Pliny and Josephus, and the revised and refined chronology of the
archaeology at Qumran, has been described previously.
	There have been different layers of misunderstanding of Pliny's
text: supposing he visited Judaea; asserting he carefully "updated" his
text to post-revolt conditions; misreading the geography; and misreading
the chronology.
	Of course there are unknowns concerning Pliny and Essenes, but to
assert that Ein Gedi was inhabited by Essenes, and that Qumran/Ein Feshkha
was not, is contrary to the available evidence, only some of which is
retyped above.
Stephen Goranson
Duke University