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Re: orion "shores of the Essene"

The sentence in question is "Ab occidente litora esseni fugiunt usque qua
nocent, gens sola . . ." and Jay has taken exception to my proposed
translation of it as a resumption from two sentences before, a
continuation of Pliny's description, going generally from North to South,
from Kinneret to Jericho to Arabia Nomadum on the East of the Dead Sea,
Machaerus on the South, to arrive at the Western coast of the Dead Sea.

According to Jay C. Treat:
> Sigrid:
[. . .]
> Later, you agree with me that "gens" and "Esseni" are in apposition, but
> you then say that you "don't think that they must agree in case".  I refer
> you to Gildersleeve and Lodge's _Latin Grammar_, #321: "The word in
> apposition agrees with the principal word (or words) in case, and as far
> as it can in gender and number."  If "gens" and "Esseni" are in
> apposition, then they agree in case. 

Not necessarily, according to Moreland and Fleischer LATIN: AN INTENSIVE
COURSE. In their summary of grammar at the end they give a usage called
"appositional genitive" - "The genitive is sometimes used instead of a
noun in apposition," (364) and note that it is not discussed in the text.
In terms of definitions, they leave us both out, for their definition of
apposition is "A word placed next to another one which means or indicates
the same thing." They add: "The appositive must be in the same case as the
word to which it refers," (12) but as I've indicated, there is an
exception in their summary for *appositional genitive.*

You introduced the idea that <gens> and <Esseni> are in apposition and
together indicate the subject of <fugiunt>. That would mean that Essenes
has to be plural, as I understand your argument. However, <gens> is not
plural. If Esseni as singular genitive, in my understanding of the
sentence, it is more in keeping with the singular feminine word <gens>.
Then, a further step that I guess needs to be specified is that <Esseni>
functions as the referent, a "tribe" whose *gentilic* form is <Esseni>. 

> Regarding the abrupt shift in number you create by taking "Esseni" as a
> genitive singular in apposition to the implied subject of "fugiunt", you
> appeal to analogies in English: "a sheep runs" and "sheep run" (This is
> not the best example of a collective noun since "sheep" is the English
> plural of "sheep"). In standard English we do not say, "The Essene run," 
> or, "The Essene, they run"; we say, "The Essene runs" or, "The Essenes
> run." 

We do say "The Essene run" when Essene is a collective noun. Such would be
the case if Pliny understands Essenes as a gens, or tribe, and therefore a
collective noun of a similar sort.

> Your rendering of "litora Esseni fugiunt" makes an abrupt shift from
> singular to plural: "The shores of the Essene, they flee..." This abrupt
> shift is a major obstacle to accepting your reading. You could make a case
> for "The shores of the Essene flee." It makes more sense to take "litora
> Esseni fugiunt" as "The Essenes flee the shores."  

"It makes more sense" is a statement that begs for elaboration. It
probably once made more sense, when the prevailing understanding of the
Latinists who worked with Pliny was that the Dead Sea (based on other
sources) gave off "noxious vapors" in Rackham's phrase. However, it does
not make sense in terms of Pliny, because he nowhere else talks about the
Essenes, and everywhere in his geographical descriptions specifies a
direction with some description, not with personification of geographical
features. That is, however strange Pliny may be in his acceptance of
impossible phenomena, he doesn't, as far as I can see, anthropomorphize a
feature of the landscape such as a coast. Certainly he doesn't do so for
the noun <litus>, <litora>. So "the shores of the Essene flee" does not
make sense. That Pliny suddenly interrupts his geographical recital to
discuss a solitary <gens>, <Esseni>, that is running away from the
shore of the Dead Sea (in exile, fleeing, escaping) doesn't make 

> You suggest "Arabia" is an undeclined noun, the object of "prospicit" in

Not exactly. This is a misstatement of my argument.

> "Prospicit eum ab oriente Arabia Nomadum". In fact, the noun "Arabia" does
> decline in the first declension. Since "Arabia" is either nominative or

Jay is correct, here. Pliny uses <Arabia> in declined form, checking the
electronic version of the text via the Ibycus computer (Phi-CD Latin).

> ablative, it cannot be the direct object of "prospicit". The direct object
> of "prospicit" is the accusative pronoun "eum". 

To have Arabia Nomadum as the subject of the sentence, the subject of
<prospicit>, is to read the sentence as good Hebrew. Steve Goranson notes
that since his suggested source is Marcus Agrippa (not one of the two
Herodian kings of that name), it is unlikely that Pliny was influenced by
Hebrew style. It is more likely, to my way of thinking, that such a
construction indicates compression due to the speed with which he worked,
and an objectivity in his account which led to impersonal constructions
that were not necessarily expressed in regular grammatical terms.

> Regarding "Prospicit eum ab oriente Arabia Nomadum," you take exception to
> my rendering "prospicit" as "faces". 

I termed it a "brilliant solution" of Rackham's, though not representing
the meaning of <prospicio> very well.

> Render "prospicit" as "looks toward" if you prefer.  Then we have, "On
> the East, Arabia of the Nomads looks toward it (i.e., the Dead Sea)." 
> In my opinion, my three posts demonstrate that your interpretations
> stretch both Pliny and Latin out of shape.  I leave it to others to judge
> the value of our respective arguments. 

I don't see that you have done much more than argue the underlying
grammaticality of Rackham's translation. Latin grammar as we have it has
its own tradition, and must cover both Classical and Medieval Latin usage.
The language was used extensively through the nineteenth century, and in
the Roman Catholic Church through the sixth decade of the twentieth, with
the tendency to get more and more regular. Pliny has some idiosyncratic
features that come from his concerns and the way he wrote. Rackham has
several complaints about the incomprehensibility of Pliny's text. This
leads me to think that exploring Pliny in contexts is a useful approach.

If you were to address other factors that might determine the reading, or 
discuss those I have suggested, I would be happy to continue this
discussion. Otherwise, I'll post a short summary of my position tomorrow
as a conclusion. 

> Sincerely,
> Jay
> -- 
> Jay C. Treat
> The University of Pennsylvania      email:  treat@ccat.sas.upenn.edu


Sigrid Peterson  University of Pennsylvania   petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu