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Re: orion Solinus, Dio, Pliny
Steve Goranson writes:
> Solinus wrote (soon after 200 CE?) "infra Essenos," i.e.,
> downstream (or south or further along) from the Essenes was, formerly, the
> town of Ein Gedi. Pliny wrote "infra hos." Solinus and Pliny shared a
> source. Any translation which suggests that the object of Pliny's infra is
> shore or shores appears to be unlikely.
If Pliny and Solinus had a common source who used the phrase "infra Essenos"
or "infra hos" then the discussion of Pliny's use of "infra" elsewhere becomes
It is possible, for instance, that Pliny does routinely use "infra" to mean
downstream: this does not guarantee that his source used "infra" in that
sense. This source could have used "infra" to mean "below" as in the
relationship of Dr. Hirschfeld's site to Ein Gedi.
Note also that while Pliny puts the Essenes on the "west side of the Dead
Sea" [Ab occidente litori] but away from the coast, Solinus puts them in the
"interior of Judaea looking west" [Interiora Iudaeae occidentem]. To my mind
this puts them west of the Dead Sea, i.e. in the hills above the Dead Sea. Is
the site of Qumran in the "interior of Judaea"? I think Hirschfeld's site
better qualifies for this description.
By the above, I do not intend to endorse Hirchfeld's views. My point is
merely that the evidence in Pliny and Solinus do not unequivocally favor
Qumran over Ein Gedi, as SG has opined.
> Solinus wrote of balsam before writing of Essenes. I do not exclude
> the possibility that Essenes may have worked with balsam, or that they may
> have lived at some time (after Herod the Great?) in or near Ein Gedi. I
> just haven't seen evidence.
Both Pliny and Solinus progress from the sources of the Jordan to the Dead
Sea. Pliny goes directly from Callirhoe near Jericho to the Essenes; Solinus
injects between these two a discussion of balsam groves (from Pliny 12.111-124
- balsam was cultivated near Jericho) and Sodom and Gomorrah (Dio Chrysostom
also put the Essenes in the vicinity of Sodom - per Philo, near Jericho; per
Strabo 16.2.44, near Masada). Balsam was a royal monopoly, found only in two
locations, a larger park or grove at Jericho (near the palace) and a smaller
one at Ein Gedi. I don't believe Solinus (or his source) here connects balsam
and the Essenes, as he appears to refer to the balsam park at Jericho.
On the other hand, both Pliny and Solinus connect the Essenes with the date-
palm cultivation. Pliny also states here that the Essenes have "only palm-
trees for company" [socia palmarum]. Solinus more pointedly states that the
Essenes "live on palms" [palmis victitant]. These show that the Essenes were
involved in the palm industry. This significant point has been generally
ignored in discussions of the location of the Essenes.
Both Pliny and Solinus prominently mention the palms at Ein Gedi. Per Pliny
5.73, Ein Gedi was "second only to Jerusalem [Jericho] in the fertility of its
land and in its groves of palm-trees." This is clearly an allusion to the
royal parks of date-palms (and balsam) at Jericho and Ein Gedi, and shows a
good knowledge of the date industry. and again points to a possible
proximity to Ein Gedi. Caryotic dates, a valuable royal monopoly, were grown
at Jericho, Archelais, Phaeselis and Livias in the Jordan valley (per Pliny
13.44 - all Herodian foundations or palace cities) as well as in Ein Gedi
(Ant. 9.7=9.1.2 "the _best kind_ of palm trees and opobalsum" grow at Ein
Gedi). On Judean dates and palms see conveniently M. Stern, _Greek and Latin
Authors on Jews and Judaism_ under Theophrastus, Diodorus, Strabo, and Pliny,
Palm trees require springs or rivers for growth, not rain water, per our
classical sources. Qumran was without a spring, and hence without palms. The
closest palms were north at Ein Feshka (where palms grow today). Ein Feshka
had its own village, and is inconveniently distant from Qumran, so I think it
unlikely Qumran was directly connected with cultivating the palms at Ein
Feshka. Both Pliny and Solinus mention Ein Gedi (Solinus says the groves
still stood, despite Ein Gedi being razed). This suggests the Essenes may
have lived in proximity to Ein Gedi. It seems to me that the Essenes, who
were favored by Herod, were employed as agriculturalists in the royal sites
where precious palms were cultivated, Ein Gedi being one of the most famous
locations. Perhaps someone who has visited Ein Gedi could tell the list how
far into the hills palms grow, and whether they grew near the Hirschfeld site.
This is definitely relevant in comparing the merits of the Hirschfeld site vs.
Qumran as compared to classical sources.