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Re: orion-list a test of the Nicolaus of Damascus proposal
Dear Stephen Goranson,
> If I understand Russell's proposal correctly, Pliny used,
> as his source on Essenes, an author listed for Book 5 who
> had copied an earlier text by Nicolaus.
This is correct.
> Russell also
> emphasized that Book 7 (with cannibals; people immune to
> snakebite, etc.) is actually more in character with
> Nicolaus' book on customs than is Book 5.
I made no such statement. However, you raise an interesting point. I
would point out that Isigonus is listed as an authority for book 7.
Isigonus, thought to be a younger contemporary of Nicolas of Damascus, is
believed to be the author of the _Paradoxographus Vat. Rhodii_, which
excerpted the _Paradoxon Ethon Sunagoge_ (Collection of Remarkable Customs)
by Nicolas of Damascus. Pliny was thus acquainted with traditions deriving
from Nicolas by way of Isigonus. (I have not yet acquired the
_Paradoxigraphus_ but it will be interesting to see how Nicolas is cited and
how much of that work survives.) Perhaps Pliny used Isigonus for an isolated
excerpt on Essenes in book 5 without listing him as an authority, much as you
have suggested he used Agrippa's Autobiography in book 7 without listing him
as an authority.
I agree that Pliny may have read the Autobiography, as Pliny 36.121
refers to Agrippa's memoirs of his aedileship in 33 BCE. The autobiography
doubtless primarily chronicles Agrippa's career in service of Augustus. We
may assume Agrippa wrote of his role in the civil wars, etc. Perhaps you
could clarify a point regarding the Autobiography on which I'm unclear
(Reinhold's biography of Agrippa not yet having arrived by ILL). What date
does scholarship assign the autobiography? What is the latest event referred
to in surviving fragments? Obviously, if a reference to the Essenes appears
in it, as you suggest, then it must postdate his trip to Judea in 15 BCE.
(Yet it seems to me the Autobiography, serving important propaganda purposes
in presenting the Augustine version of recent events, would have been useful
relatively early on in Augustus' controversial reign.)
It seems to me unlikely the Autobiography covered Agrippa's trip to Judea
(in which he allegedly learned of the Essenes). We may assume Josephus was
familiar with Agrippa's Autobiography. Josephus wrote at Rome, and one of
his patrons, Herod Agrippa, was named after Marcus Agrippa and maintained
contacts with Agrippa's descendants as I recall. His histories mention
Agrippa's conferring benefits on the Jews of Asia Minor and his trip to Judea
in the company of Herod and Nicolas. Yet Josephus - whose search for
favorable references to the Jews was exhaustive - never cites Agrippa's
Autobiography for any purpose that I am aware. Agrippa's Autobiography was
not consulted for the trip to Judea, for instance. This can scarcely be
explained except if Agrippa's Autobiography did not extend to events as late
as 15 BCE. Of course, if you could can demonstrate that the Autobiography
contains references to any events of 15-12 BCE, i.e. after Agrippa's Judean
trip, that is another matter. (And in that case, it would be necessary to
explain why Josephus failed to mention Agrippa's hypothetical Dead Sea
Essenes, of which Josephus would certainly have read.) But lacking such
evidence, and in light of the negative evidence from Josephus, perhaps your
suggestion regarding Agrippa's Autobiography as a source on the Essenes
should be withdrawn.
Your comments on the accepted date for the Autobiography, and the
evidence on that date is based (i.e. events that appear therein), would be
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