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orion-list Pliny HN 5.15.73 transl. (I) critique

Dear Oriones,

am very sorry about the delay in responding to Sigrid
Peterson's follow-up
question after a lead of mine, a week or so ago, re
Pliny's usage of Latin
<nocent, noceo> as per to Greek, yet an impending
trip away from my Mac
base advised not to respond hurriedly then, and be
absent on possible
queries following from any, but wait and post properly
and while there
was in the horizon some available time.

Before putting my
point accross, may I first, and with Avital's
understanding, critically
review the passage's translation history on Orion
in one post (I), and, on
a second (II) offer my own translation, along with
a 'hunch" and analysis
as per Pliny's likely Greek word source for <nocent>.

If I may add, alike
Rochelle Altman's note of few days past, I take this
write-up, as
everything we all "copy" ('kope', "scribe") here as being in
any case
"copy-righted", so that if anyone wishes to cite part of it,
whether in
electronic form or on paper, may do so fairly and by citing
properly the
Orion list and all that is appropriate referrent on the Header
(and this,
to follow, again, Rochelle, in spite of my anyway incorrigible
syntax! :).

Pliny's Natural History 5.15.73 has been used, on Orion
especially, as
a point of reference to giving the near Qumran scroll finds
a literary-
historical locus and context.

The passage has been used as
means to linking historically Qumran with
the Essenes (or the Essenes with
Qumran) directly by appeal to geography,
as well as on the basis of
assumptions regarding the possible literary
source(s). The "history" of
these arguments is, unfortunately, too long,
and this list, perhaps more
than other places, bears sorry witness to the
passion the arguments have
invoked. At the same time, that this topic is
still being examined actively
bespeaks of the fact that not everything
has been settled. In fact, I think
that, in spite of volume, and (too) often
the loudness, little is given as
a known.

The question of Essenes vis a vis Qumran does no longer, so far
as I am
concerned, stand. Whatever doubt might there had persisted, the
find helped in dissolving. Qumran may well be associated with
both for reasons that bear directly on this Pliny passage, and
as well as on the area archaeology. Of course, even more telling,
to me,
is the linguistic evidence that the scrolls themselves internally
But, it is neither my intention to enter now into any scroll
analysis, nor to explore the issue in archaeological or
historical terms.
What I am concerned here with is the question of this
language, and especially of that <nocent>, and its possible

Sigrid's recent philological probing of HN 5.15.73 is of
interest, I think,
not merely as an expression of a keen mind out there
gone on one more
"fishing" expedition and "catching" possibly something of
special meaning,
but as an example of a reaching further out kind of an
"act of desperation"
-- in trying to explain away and make, finally, sense
out of these few
lines that -- past the Esseni as per to the Qumran
association -- have
withstood philological analysis and remain, at least,

Certainly no philological scrutiny would had been brought to
bear on
the passage were it not for that "Esseni" itself, and for the
scroll finds.
By the same token, there would had likely been not any
attention focused
on it were it not for the passage synthesis to had been
"resisting" a proper analysis-- as well as to be inviting it.

Sigrid reminded us, the passage was mulled over by her and Jay Treat
late February, early March 1998. The Loeb edition, as given by Jay,
Pliny as following:

  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.

In examining the archives
one finds the following argued translations,
about which I should want to
make, immediately below each one, what
I consider to be wanting and
necessary comment-- and particularly
on the translations of that

(1) The H. Rackham translation, and as provided also by Jay T.,

> "On the west side of the Dead Sea, but out of range of the noxious
exhalations of the coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes, which is
remarkable beyond all the other tribes in the whole world, as it has no
women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money, and has only
palm-trees for company."

There are not any "exhalations" in the text, nor
any "out of range" words,
and it's the absence of these (and more--would
Pliny say that Essenes
"renounced ... sexual desire"?!) that were noted
first by Sigrid, and which
lead her to proposing quite a distinctly
different translation.

(2) Sigrid Peterson on 23 Feb 1998 16:59:12 EST,
initially, wrote:

> Towards the West is the shore of the Essenes,
> those
who flee from (or abhor) everything that is polluted/noxious."

and then,
on 26 Feb 1998 (after J. Treat's critique) added toward
completing the

> (Looking out) towards the West (one sees) the shore of the
> They completely shun [fugiunt] (that) which hurts [=pollutes?], a
> [gens] united (by a common name and by certain religious rites,)
> astonishing beyond everything else in the whole world

Re the same,
preceding, on the same day, 26 Feb, Sigrid had commented:

>This part I
translated "They completely shun (or flee, or exile themselves
>from) that
which hurts [=pollutes?]." I wondered whether <noceo> might not
>be the
best translation of the concept of impurity in the Judaisms of
>time--that which harms or hurts. It will take further investigation
establish the equation I'm suggesting here.

I, too have (after JT)
several objections to just such a rendering but,
departing here,
importantly, I should say that, there does not exist in the
text any direct
reference or indication of "hurt", or of "injury". Or of
"pollution". As
there does not seem, also, to exist there any (further)
whatever-- to any of a Judaic concept of ritual (im)purity.
In addition, to
preposition there the term "completely" before that "shun"
would be to
dramatize the offered paradigm unduly--and where the given
"flee" is, also, too strong-- actually uncalled for-- while
the other, the
further one suggested, "exile", points to such a severe action
so as to
cast the phrase in an all unrealistic light. Not any "hurt", or
"pollution", or any "abhor(rence)" is there actually met directly on
the text
which may require the employment of such dramatic wording.

focusing on the absence of Sigrid's "shore of the Essenes" and,
on her contention that the verb "noceo" can mean "pollute" here,
the attempt as misleading and as inaccurate, just as earlier
Goranson saw
it as unpersuasive.

But, I can rather see why Sigrid may have been want to
move from 'nocent'
to "pollution", and just as Rackham, drawn by similar
reasons, was want to
include there those "exhalations".  This part,
especially, of Pliny's sentence
seems, indeed, "idiomatic" Latin.

(3) To
counter-dict Sigrid's "allowances", Treat offered, instead,
on 25 Feb 1998,
his own, near literalist, said "wooden translation".

> "On the western
side [i.e., of
> the Dead Sea], the Essenes avoid the shores wherever they
do harm -- a
> solitary tribe and one more extraordinary than others in the
whole world:
> without any woman, having given up all sex, without money,
companion to
> date-palms."

Here Jay seems to avoid some of Sigrid's
hyperboles but, at the same time,
he is already influenced by her and is
being lead on so as to, on the very
point that we discuss, render <nocent>
as: "wherever they do harm" --
meaning the "shores"(?) Yet, not only
"wherever" is nowhere there to be
found there on text (while there could be
"where", maybe, in some form)
importantly, there could not be, does not
appear logical, any shores which
"do harm" -- inspite of what seems to
point to, on a surface reading,
the text.

Further to this, Sigrid and Jay
there argued aspects of the grammar, into
which I won't enter here, as it
is not bearing much on my concerns, which
are rather etymological. Only
wish to note again that I can understand
why, after Rackham, Peterson and
Treat were also "fatally" attracted by,
and "paid due" attention to, that
"[all]harmful" <nocent> effect.

End of the first of two parts

The Ionic Centre

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