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orion Pliny; Solinus; En Gedi
Some observations on Pliny, Solinus, Ein Gedi, etc.
1. Philemon Holland translated Pliny's long work. Volume one was published
in London (by Adam Islip) in 1601, _The Historie of the World, Commonly
Called, The Naturall Historie..._. His translation (p. 101), after
introducing Ein Gedi, reads: "Now, they say, it [Ein Gedi] serveth for a
place onely to interre their dead." In other words, in this translation
only Ein Gedi is noted as destroyed, alone, and not joined by either
Jerusalem or Jericho (the choice depending on whether a copyist error is
accepted). He did not take "alterum" as requiring another specified
2. If Marcus Agrippa is Pliny's source, the destruction of Ein Gedi noted
here is the c.40 BCE destruction, not a c.70 CE destruction of Ein Gedi or
another place. (Incidently, if M. Agrippa is the source, Semitic constructs
would appear to be unlikely in this text. Herod Agrippa, a child probably
named after M. Agrippa, was partly educated in Rome with the grandson of M.
3. A source on Essenes which has received relatively little attention
(except by Ch. Burchard), and which was not even mentioned in Dead Sea
Scrolls discussion, apparently, until 1957, is C. Julius Solinus, probably
from the third century CE (according to Oxford Classical Dictionary,
3rd.ed.). Solinus either used Pliny or Pliny's source; in any case, he has
observations additional to Pliny's. According to Solinus, "Lying below the
Essenes was formerly the town of Engada, but it [singular] was razed."
"Engada oppidum infra Essenos fuit, sed excisum est." (Quoting from M.
Stern II, 421, 419.) Solinus lends further support to the observation that
only the destruction of En Gedi, i.e., the one in c. 40 BCE, dates these
sources, and hence, dates their descriptions of Essenes, namely to the time
of Herod the Great, as also indicated on other grounds.
4. Yizhar Hirschfeld's excavations have not yet been fully reported. But,
from preliminary reports, it appears that his site may have been occupied
only later than the time when these sources describe Essenes. If so, his
site does not qualify, even if one were to accept the unlikely translation
of infra as locating Essenes on (unmentioned) heights west of the town.
Pliny's text describes a downstream movement in listing sites.
5. Thanks to Sigrid Peterson for her proposals. And thanks to Jay Treat for
his clear and very helpful remarks, with which I largely agree. "Shore of
the Essenes," or "shores of the Essene," is a problematic translation.
(Cf., by the way, "gate of the Essenes.") In any case infra cannot be
stretched to include a long shore(s) and heights inland of Ein Gedi (i.e.,
not both south of Essenes or Essene-shore and west of Ein Gedi). Plus, the
larger the area proposed, the less plausible is a name that characterizes
it by Essene inhabitants, and the less plausible such an area could be
used, even in a proposed rhetorical afterthought, to locate Ein Gedi.
6. In 1853 Christian Friedrich Lebrecht Strack translated Pliny's long
compilation. After recounting the Essene description, he wrote, "Sudlich
von ihnen lag sonst die Stadt Engadda." This translation (with an umlaut on
the u) follows the natural sense of Pliny's account. As noted before,
"below" or "beneath" are ambiguous translations. The reference:
_Naturgeschichte_, Plinius, (vol. 1; ed. Max Strack; Bremen: Johann Georg
Hense, 1853; reprinted Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968).
7. BAR overstated the ostracon's centrality, important though it is. It is
not a "missing link," because no such link was missing. The caves were
already linked by proximity, pottery, paths, and more, texts, some of which
are self-identified as Essene. The ostracon is another link. I don't know
the precise find spot of the ostracon. But let's estimate. It was found,
say, 100 meters from cave four. Cave four included numerous copies of serek
hayahad. The ostracon is still most reasonably read as a draft deed of gift
to the Essene community. Ex cathedra declarations notwithstanding, this
reading does not rest on merely one letter. This ostracon may well be
earlier than the 68 date which Cross and Eshel suggest, even though I agree
with much else in their interpretation.
8. A. I. Baumgarten has written a learned book (which I have not yet
finished), _The Flourishing of Jewish Sects..._ (Leiden: Brill). It makes
some interesting observations and raises some questions. But the
repeated--though not entirely consistent--listing of Essenes and the Qumran
sect separately merely strengthens the implausibility of their lack of
overlap. The question is no longer whether Essenes lived at Qumran, but how
much we can know about them and their relations with Essenes and others
elsewhere. Prof. Baumgarten, in my recent reading, is the only learned and
reasonable expositor of in-depth treatments suggesting Qumranites were
not--or may not have been--Essenes. And so far, civil and erudite as it is,
I find it, on that point, unpersuasive.
9. Before Pliny's text leads the reader downstream from Panias to note
Jericho, the Essene settlement, Ein Gedi, and Masada in sequence, it
specifies (if I can use the Loeb translation for this section), in 71, that
the Jordan is a "delightful stream" meandering within its straight valley
and, along its course, "putting itself at the service of the people who
dwell on its banks, as though moving with reluctance towards that gloomy
lake, the Dead Sea, which ultimately swallows it up, its much-praised
waters mingling with the pestilential waters of the lake and being lost."
There is also mention of "salubrious hot springs" west of the Sea of
Gennesareth. Later (72), the water at Callirrhoe is praised. Then (73) we
come to the coast from which the Essenes keep distance. Presumably, this
could be a reference to the previously-denigrated water there; the Essenes,
then, are inland enough to have a supply of potable water. This describes
Qumran/Ein Feskhkha and not the newly-excavated site west of Ein Gedi.