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orion-list Agrippa in Pliny
Pliny listed Agrippa first among his sources for Book 5, in which
Essenes appear (not Book 7, which Gmirkin raised as if somehow relevant).
Nicolaus of Damascus does not appear in that long list. I have asked what
author who is listed might have used Nicolaus; R. Gmirkin has not yet
specified one, even though he previously suggested one of them was a
tradent. Now, he suggests Pliny perhaps used Nicolaus without listing him.
It is true that Pliny did not list Marcus Agrippa as a source for book 7,
even though he mentions Agrippa in two different sections of Book 7 (on
feetfirst birth and the health of Augustus). (Agrippa, however, and not
Nicolaus, was one of Pliny's Roman heros, a character of general knowledge
in his circles.) (Perhaps Pliny listed another Agrippa family member,
though, I have not had opportunity to check.)
Did Pliny use the Autobiography--a book this army veteran would
have found of great interest? At the risk of being criticized for providing
a secondary bibliographic reference to orion readers, Jean-Michel Roddaz,
in his monograph Marcus Agrippa (Ecole Francaise de Rome, Fasc. 253), 1984,
takes this as obvious. I responded to A. Baumgarten, in effect, that there
is a conflict between the theory that Nicolaus was as source for Josephus
and/or Philo (at least in some, geographic, passages) and the location in
Pliny of Essenes by the Dead Sea, south of Jericho and north of Ein Gedi,
in other words, Qumran and Feskhka. Even B.-Z. Wacholder, in his learned
book on Nicolaus--and Wacholder is no stranger to speculations, even
condradictory ones--did not suggest Pliny used Nicolaus.
Whatever one thinks about the Commentarii of Agrippa (and Pliny the
Younger said the Commentarii of Pliny the Elder were quite huge), I would
suggest that the Marcus Agrippa Oration known to Pliny, the work on
Aqueducts, and the Autobiography were not made up of lists of measurements,
as, perhaps, some reader, somewhere, might have been led to suppose from
Gmirkin's rhetoric about Agrippa's prose abilities. (That Pliny cited
authors for measurements more often than for some other topics may be
frustrating, but we have to deal with the evidence,) Creator of the
Pantheon, Governor of Syria, defeator of Marc Antony (for whom Nicolaus
worked)--unable to write the prose in Pliny's Essene account!? Please.
It is true that Pliny (Book XIII) mentions the Nicolaus date, but
he does not tell how it got that name (which was from this N. of Damascus).
Then, either Pliny did not know, or he did not think such a story--one of
his specialties--was of interest.
As a minor aside, perhaps when Magen and Drori publish their
results from a brief hurry-up dig the West Bank project, they will tell
more about the proposed date press (if that is what it is) and maybe
anaylse the date pits. Pliny wrote that Nicolaus dates, though big, were
not as juicy as those preferred for a honey-like drink.
I have explictly and publically disagreed with some aspects of
Menahem Stern's analysis of Pliny. But Stern did write of "the main
Herodian source" and how he thought it (singular) was updated. Gmirkin owes
the late Stern an apology.
If R. Gmirkin, in the future, makes a plausible proposal for
Nicolaus of Damascus as Pliny's source on Essenes, I will certainly
consider it. So far, all indications point to Marcus Agrippa.
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