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Re: orion-list a test of the Nicolaus of Damascus proposal
Stephen Goranson writes:
> You have explicitly stated that your proposal calls for a tradent
> listed by Pliny for Book 5. Isigonus is not listed there.
Pliny clearly utilized sources who in turn excerpted Nicolas' _Collection
of Remarkable Customs_. His use of Isigonus in book 7 demonstrates the
It is possible that one of Pliny's listed authorities for book 5 also
used Nicolas; or, alternately, that Pliny used Isigonus in book 5 without
citing him, much as you hold Pliny used Agrippa in book 7 without citing him.
> As to Latin authors, such as Agrippa, wouldn't one expect Josephus
> to have less knowledge than Pliny?
This is special pleading. Josephus acted as a Jewish delegate to Rome
before the Jewish War. One would presume he had knowledge of Latin and he
would not have ovrelooked Agrippa's Autobiography if the latter had contained
information relevant to Jewish history.
> To respond to your request about Agrippa's autobiography, Reinhold
> wrote: "The disappearance of the autobiography of Agrippa, the extent of
> which and the date of which we do not know, is a regrettable loss not only
> for the biographer of Agrippa, but also for the historian of the foundation
> of the Roman Empire, over which Agrippa exerted a tremendous and
> far-reaching influence."
Then there is, as I suspected, no evidence Agrippa postponed the writing
of his Autobiography till the last two years of his life. An account of the
foundation of the Roman Empire, which Agrippa's Autobiography certainly
touched upon, would have been useful earlier in the reign of Augustus.
Agrippa's Autobiography would have concerned itself with matters of
political import, not the strange customs of an obscure tribe by the Dead Sea.
Incidentally, that Nicolas of Damascus was the source of Pliny's excursus
on the Essenes may explain Pliny's curious reference to their living beyond
the "noxious exhalations" of the Dead Sea coast. In _de Plantis_ [On
Plants], whose authorship by Nicolas of Damascus is considered beyond
question, Nicolas extensively discusses the process by which heavy salt water
is produced by evaporation from lighter fresh water that has been confined to
a certain place. Nicolas illustrates this process by reference to the Dead
Sea, in which "nothing can sink or be born" (On Plants 2.824a). Nicolas also
makes the obvious point that salty earth produced in this fashion cannot
support plant life. So far as I can tell, only in the writings of Nicolas
are combined the notions of evaporation, toxicity, and the Dead Sea. I take
the sense of Pliny's region of "noxious exhalations" bordering the Dead Sea
to refer to the area near the water where the salt content of the soil,
created by evaporation ["exhalations"] renders the soil toxic to plants (not
that it kills humans to breathe, as the harvesters of bitumen floating in the
Dead Sea illustrates).
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