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Re: orion-list Philo



Despite Goranson^s cautions that Every Good Man is Free has been dated by 
some to before 37 CE - and I have not yet read the literature he cited - it 
now nevertheless seems certain to me that this essay postdates the troubles 
in Alexandria under Flaccus.  The decisive passage is towards the end of his 
discussion of the Essenes.

"Many are the potentates who have at various times raised themselves to power 
over the country... Some of them carried their zest for outdoing the wild 
beasts in ferocity to the point of savagery.  They left no form of cruelty 
untried.  They slaughtered their subjects wholesale, or like cooks carved 
them piecemeal and limb by limb whilst still alive, and did not stay their 
hands till justice who surveys human affairs visited them with the same 
calamities." (Every Good Man is Free, 13.89.)

Here we have an unmistakable historical allusion to a past ruler in Egypt who 
savaged his subjects and himself died a horrible death, cut to pieces like 
those he himself caused to be hacked up while still living.  This can only be 
Flaccus, who permitted the Alexandrians, "whom savagery had maddened and 
transformed into the nature of wild beasts" (Flaccus, 66)  to slaughter the 
Jews by a wide variety of means which Philo details culminating in 
crucifixion (Flaccus, 65-72).  Philo refers to "justice" and "God who watches 
over human affairs" (more verbal parallels) intervening against Flaccus 
(Flaccus, 104, 107, 115, 121, 189) and describes in great and gory length 
Flaccus^ fate in exile at the hands of Caligula^s assassins:

"With hands, feet, head, breasts and side slashed and cut to bits, he lay 
carved like a sacrificial victim.  For it was the will of justice that the 
butcheries which she wrought on his single body should be as numerous as the 
number of Jews whom he unlawfully put to death... As his corpse was dragged 
into the pit which had been dug, most of the parts fell asunder as the 
ligaments which bind the whole body together had been rent."  (Flaccus, 
189-190.)

It may be taken as a certainty that Flaccus was the potentate in Every Good 
Man is Free who justice caused to be "carved... limb from limb." Every Good 
Man is Free continues by referring to a second kind of scoundrel, those who 
cause treacherous violence while masking their true intentions, an obvious 
reference to Lampo, Isidorus, and Helicon, anti-Semitic forces behind the 
Alexandrian pogrom.  

"Yet none of these, neither the extremely ferocious nor the deep-dyed 
treacherous dissemblers, were able to lay a charge against the congregation 
of Essenes or holy ones here described."  (Every Good Man is Free, 13.91.)

This last passage demonstrates what I posted earlier, that the enemies of the 
Jews in 37 CE (notably Flaccus) had raised various accusations against the 
Essenes.  These accusations, Philo asserts, were never proven.  Philo 
mentions one such accusation in his description of the Alexandrian riots.

"He invented a strange calumny to the effect that the Jews had stocks of 
every kind of arms in their houses... After this careful [house-to-house] 
investigation, what an enormous amount of defensive weapons was discovered, 
the helmets, breastplates, shields, daggers, pikes, outfits of armor, piles 
of which were produced, and on another side, the missile kind, javelins, 
slings, bows and arrows!  Why! Absolutely nothing, not even the knives which 
suffice the cooks for their daily use.  This last in itself showed clearly 
the simplicity of the life led by people who discarded the expensive habits 
and luxury... When were we suspected of revolting?  When were we not thought 
to be peacefully inclined to all?"  (Flaccus 11.86-91, 94.)

Compare this with the following passage in the description of the Essenes.

"As for darts, javelins, daggers, or the helmet, breastplate or shield, you 
could not find a single manufacturer of them, nor, in general, any person 
making weapons or engines or plying any industry concerned with war, nor, 
indeed, any of the peaceful kind, which easily lapse into vice, for they have 
not the vaguest idea of commerce either wholesale or retail or marine, but 
pack the inducements to covetousness off in disgrace" (Every Good Man is Free 
78).

The similarities in language indicate that Philo was thinking about the 
weapons charges raised in 37 CE, i.e. Philo is defending the Essenes against 
contemporary accusations (and cannot be considered impartial or reliable on 
this point).  

Finally, in rereading "The Contemplative Life," referring to and thus written 
later than "Every Good Man is Free", it seems to me that the Therapeutae^s 
residence by the Mareotic Lake outside of Alexandria can best be interpreted, 
not as a preferred lifestyle, but a necessity.  In Flaccus Philo refers to 
the Jews of Alexandria being driven from the city to the very "beach 
property" where the Therapeutae are later said to reside.  Other idealized 
features of the description - their poverty, their avoidance of Alexandria 
with its turmoils and disturbances - are all consistent with the Therapeutae 
as refugees from the pogrom.

Eventually I^ll put this material in article form for a journal, but in the 
meantime I thought the list might enjoy it.  Criticisms and suggestions are 
of course welcome.

Regards to all,
Russell Gmirkin


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