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orion-list Pliny HN 5.15.73 transl. (II) 'nocent'

Second of two parts ------

In episkopein the arguments made earlier on Orion I could point to a great
deal more that stands out in mind as notable, if not as plain problematic;
yet, not to tax further anyone's patience, I should like now in all fairness
to mount an own attempt in rendering this, after listing first again Pliny.

  Ab occidente litora Esseni fugiunt usque qua nocent, gens sola et in toto
  orbe praeter ceteras mira, sine ulla femina, omni venere abdicata, sine
  pecunia, socia palmarum.

  Off the western shore (which) the Essenes avoid on up-to (there being)
  "deadly", (being they) a solitary kind and (one who "invite') wonder more
  than all others in the whole world; (being) without any woman, [having]
  forever given up on "worshipping Venus", [living] without money,
  in the company of [or, in the fellowship of/with] palms.

Given that no translation is final, critique of the effort is appreciatively
welcome. In the meantime, on to the main point: "deadly".

Behind that 'nocent', "deadly", IMO, lies the Greek NEKRH, or NEKRO(N).
NEKRH 8ALASSA, or NEKRO UDWR; "Dead Sea" or "Dead Water"--an epithetal
expression of the as yet practically unknown "Sea" by that name in the area,
the "Dead". This is a name, from a "tradition" that had observed rather
closely and was cognizant of the area, and to which Pliny must had
evidently been justonly then exposed, and while being unfamiliar with it
could neither render it "properly" and comfortably, as there was not
any established Latin translation that he knew, nor ignore it.

Of course, NEKRH/A 8ALASSA is an expression that has survived to us as
having been used in the immediate centuries by Galen (7.97b), Pausanias
(5.7, 4), Palladius (1212c) and by Epiphanius (I, 261A), while NEKRO
UDWR is said by Synesius to had been used to describe this same water
earlier Dio Chrysostom. But the origins of the term to describe this water
body (that which so "easily" Rackham interjected as "Dead Sea") are to be
rather found well before Pliny and its becoming "coinage" in the Common
Era; much earlier: in the Greek geo-historians and naturalists; in the
Hellenistic age historians and the Neo-Platonic and Stoic "philosophers",
on to Aristotle, and beyond-- authors with whom neither Pliny, nor his
immediate Roman associates were so quite familiar, or so comfortable
as to have known generically and render the "term" either by analogous
Latin terminology, that evidently was not coined as yet, or, as in so many
other cases, in Greek, but with the Greco-Roman lettering. Striving for a
place in between, Pliny seems want to render the *term* NEK(R-) by its
Greek root NEC- (NEK-), and to which he added the Latin suffix (-ENT).
Thus, the obstacle of the novel term was thought to had been overcome

There could had been used a word such as 'nocent', were to had been
"exhalations" there, as Rackham took it. But, as Stephen Goranson noted on
10 March 98, there were no toxic vapors coming off the lake. There was
just salty water, which was, however, long believed to be "sea" like, and
so, for some, to had made the sea-lake life rather "dead".

Besides, were this "shore", 'litora', to had been "harmful" or itself
"injurious" there could had been other Latin words to select and use for
the case, by far more apt and appropriate. Such as, 'injuriosus', 'gravis',
'maleficus', or even 'noxi(os)us' -- were there to had been truly "harm"
involved and, especially in the case of the latter two paradigmes, if
there was harm by "exhalations", fumes, vapors, in which case such a
word should had been used certainly as a referant there.

The likely known to few people in the area Greek "Sea" tradition could,
anyway, not provide clues to Pliny to better "interpret" his source(s).
In the OG/LXX, in Joshua (3.16), Num. (34.12) and Genesis (14.3)
reference is to a "Sea of Salt(s)", 8ALLASA ALOS, or 8ALASSA TWN
ALWN, in the last. While in other "books", such as Ezek. (47.18) and
Joel (2.20) it is referred to as 8ALASSA ESXATH, commonly translated
in English as "Eastern Sea", but being more like "Furthest Sea"--which is
quite interesting in that such a geo-positional reference could only come
from the (relatively speaking) "Centrally", or the "Western" located,
"Mainland", or Asia Minor, Greeks.

Just as interesting, or even more so, for our case, seems likely that
it was just such an "Eschate", or a "fringe" literary reference that must
had been the influence on Jerome and onto the Vulgata, where in rendering
Gen. 14.3 he does not metafrazei in Latin H 8ALASSA TWN ALWN, but
depends on some kind of a tradition involving such a reference as "Eschate",
in that he writes here MARE SOLITUDINIS, "Sea of Solitude" (or as it is
translated in English, "Sea of the Wilderness") to *add* yet, there
importantly, as if in explication to the text, QUOD NUNC VOCATUR MORTUUM,
that "which is now called Dead (Sea)."

Remarkable in many respects it is this translation; suffice it, though,
for our purposes here to note that, if not quite in the eons of Pliny,
by the forth century Rome had come to know of the Greek "Dead Sea"
terminology--albeit it remained rather unaware of his own early
attempt to come to terms with the phrase, thus using a word in place of
NECRA, instead, that, though may had been likely "commonly" understood,
it was far from the originally intended Hellenic epithetal spirit.
At the same time, Jerome seems sufficiently influenced by the spirit of
this tradition so as to avoide writing outright such as a "Mare Mortuum",
which would had made then not any sense in Latin.

Pliny, himself unaware of the "Mainland" Greece "Dead Sea" tradition
reference, as he were generally, rather used the Latinized form of the other
Greek name by which the lake was better known in the area of Palestine,
and as it was also in Alexandria, and in Rome, LIMNH ASFALTITIS; and as it
were, for example, known to Josephus: the "Asphalt Lake", 'Asphaltitis
Limne', or 'Lacus Asphaltitis'. Rendering 'nec-ra' by the cognate 'nocent' was
for Pliny an inspiration of the moment--in trying to accommodate a term
that came to him not through the Alexandrine tradition, that churned out such
as '8alassa Alos' and 'Asfaltitis Limnh', but from the Greek of Anatolia, or
of Greek Syria, Asia Minor and the Mainland, there where there was a
scientific tradition that that "Eschath" Sea-Lake was "Dead", "NEC-ra", its
water "devoid of life". A "dead water" that it was because of its "lack of
life" to be rather "avoided," 'fugiunt', or -- to be more precise, and so as
not just to "shun", or to need to "flee", or contemplate "exile" from any
"shores", that so very curiously are said to "pollute", to "injure", or do
"harm" -- maybe it was said to better APOFEUGEIN, to "avoid", "take a
distance from", 'apo-FEUGEIN'. That may rather well be another Greek word
from which that other curius and quite rare Latin 'fugiunt' may come from.
That Qumran, and Ein Gedi, were not right on the edge of the shore may
also be due to another important reasons. Yet, Pliny might had likely
understood and re-corded as nearly the original as he faithfully could here
that the "Esshnoi apofeugoun thn paralian ths Nekrhs 8alassas". Which is
something they did evidently nearly everywhere and at Ein Gedi--if one
were to judge by those other much discussed words: 'infras hos' ... ;-)

I should want to add a few more words to the (main) above, if there is
interest; and on Pliny's possible source.


The Ionic Centre

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