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Re: orion Solinus, Dio, Pliny, M. Agrippa

     Thanks to Steven Goranson for the reference to a possible date press at
Qumran, as well as clarifying the matter of palms and Hirschfeld's site.  I
also agree that dating issues render's Hirschfeld's site problematic.  But
while Drori and Magen's date press, if valid, _might_ satisfy Solinus' "living
on palms," it doesn't really address Pliny's problematic "having only palm-
trees for company."  The juxtaposition of an adjacent Ein Gedi devastated by
war, with palm groves still standing, and the Essenes fraternizing with palms
is still highly suggestive.  Surely the _extremely_ valuable palm and balsam
grove at Ein Gedi was not left uncultivated despite the razing of the village
(perhaps as SG suggests in the 40s - I forget his reasons).  Someone must have
harvested these groves for Herod; I would suggest the Essenes as a strong
possibility in light of Pliny and Solinus.  This possibility stands
independently of Hirschfeld's discovery which I agree reflects a later era.
During the time Ein Gedi was a "heap of ashes" agriculturalists at the site
(i.e. Essenes) may have lived in temporary dwellings until such time as the
village was rebuilt.

     On Pliny and M. Agrippa, citations of the "Pliny sections where 'infra'
and 'Agrippa' appear" would be useful, as well as additional bibliography on
     M. Agrippa is of course most famous for his map, and his geographical
book was effectively a commentary on the map, with distances between locations
a prominent feature (of which Pliny praised their accuracy).  It is possible
that he was the common source behind Pliny and Solinus, yet the passage
regarding the Essenes themselves lacks Agrippa's characteristic precision in
locating sites - there are, for instance, no distances mentioned (but note the
dimensions of the Dead Sea are given).  The passage on the Essenes is also
florid prose.  This points to the possibility of another source, or that
Agrippa lifted his description of the Essenes from an existing literary
     M. Agrippa only came as close to Ein Gedi (or Qumran) as Herodium.  He
may be the source behind Pliny, but who was his source?  I would argue that it
was Nicolas of Damascus, whose familiarity with the Jordan valley date-palm
industry has already been noted above.  ND accompanied Herod when he visited
M. Agrippa in Asia Minor, etc.  During the very period, Nicolas of Damascus
attains a certain amount of fame in connection with the Judean date industry.
Nicolas was promoting Judean dates to Herod's powerful Roman patrons at this
time.  ND sent a present of choice Judean dates to Augustus, and the emperor
renamed this variety the "Nicolas date."  The Nicolas date, cultivated at
Jericho (and perhaps Ein Gedi?), was second in quality only to the caryotic
date, to which it was related.  The prominent mention of dates in Pliny and
Solinus -- both even ignore the more important balsam at Ein Gedi -- suggests
dates were in some way a favored topic to this source.  Self-promotion by
Nicolas, of Nicolas date fame?
     Nicolas of Damascus wrote a book on the remarkable customs of various
tribes around the world (FGH 90 103-124).  (Wacholder's important book on ND
reasonably argues that this was the source of the material on the Essenes that
was utilized by Josephus and Philo.)  In Pliny we read of "the solitary
_tribe_ of the Essenes, which is _remarkable beyond all other tribes in the
whole world_, as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no
money, and has only date-palms for company."  The language shows a literary
source concerned with remarkable customs of peoples around the world, and
appears to have been lifted from ND's book.  In this book ND also mentioned
the celibacy of the Ctistae (FGH 90 104 = Joann. Stob. _Anth._ III 1, 200),
and Josephus, having read ND, directly compares Ctistae and Essene celibacy
(Ant. 18.22).  ND also wrote the sort of purple prose as in the Pliny/Solinus
passages on the Essenes.  
     So instead of talking about M. Agrippa as Pliny and Solinus's source on
Essenes, perhaps we should speak of Nicolas instead (though I don't exclude
the possibility that M. Agrippa, frequently cited by Pliny, was the
intermediary source).

     Russell Gmirkin