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orion-list Was Chaeremon STOIC Priest?
While I have not yet accessed Porphyry's , _De Abstinentia_ 4.6-8.
I have found an interesting mention by Jerome in his _Against
Jovinianus_ regarding these Egyptian priests. In a post of long
ago, you said "Chaeremon described the Egyptian priests (of
which he was one)...."
I have posted the Jerome piece below. And from this piece, if
it is anything like the Porphyry piece, I get the distinct impression
that Chaeremon was talking about JEWISH priests! There is
everything about Jerome's text which sounds like the Essenes as
we have come to know them. And there is hardly anything about
the text which sounds like any Egyptian "paganism" I have ever
Could you spell out
1) What makes you think Chaeremon's testimony
is more believable than Philo regarding the Therapeutae?
2) What is it about Porphyry's Chaeremon that sounds
even remotely Egyptian (there may be much!)? And,
3) Is it you or Porphyry that says Chaeremon was a
Priest (Stoic or otherwise)? Jerome says he was
employed as a Stoic tutor, and as chief librarian...
with no hint that he himself was an ascetic to the
degree of the "Egyptian Priests".
Jerome answers the second, third, and fourth propositions of Jovinianus.
13. ..... "Chaeremon the Stoic , a man of great eloquence, has
a treatise on the life of the ancient priests of Egypt, who, he says,
laid aside all worldly business and cares, and were ever in the temple,
studying nature and the regulating causes of the heavenly bodies; they
never had intercourse with women; they never from the time they began
to devote themselves to the divine service set eyes on their kindred and
relations, nor even saw their children; they always abstained from flesh
and wine, on account of the light-headedness and dizziness which a
small quantity of food caused, and especially to avoid the stimulation
of the lustful appetite engendered by this meat and drink. They seldom
ate bread, that they might not load the stomach. And whenever they ate
it, they mixed pounded hyssop with all that they took, so that the action
of its warmth might diminish the weight of the heavier food. They used
no oil except with vegetables, and then only in small quantities, to
the unpalatable taste. What need, he says, to speak of birds, when they
avoided even eggs and milk as flesh. The one, they said, was liquid
the other was blood with the colour changed? Their bed was made of
palm-leaves, called by them baiae a sloping footstool laid upon the
served for a pillow, and they could go without food for two or three
The humours of the body which arise from sedentary habits were dried
up by reducing their diet to an extreme point."
"[Note 117] Chaeremon was chief librarian of the Alexandrian library.
He afterwards became one of Nero's tutors."
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