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orion-list Dio; Cathedra article on Ein Gedi
Dio's mention of Essenes received interesting comment in C.P. Jones, The
Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (Cambridge: Harvard, 1978) 63f. Synesius (c.
400-405?) wrote that Dio (writing perhaps more than 300 years earlier)
"praises the Essenes, a whole city of happiness by the Dead Sea in the
center of Palestine, apparently situated very near Sodom." This has been
discussed before (e.g. by M. Stern; by C. Burchard in RB 1962), including
questions whether Dio used Pliny or not (or both used Pliny's source,
Herod the Great contemporary M. Agrippa?--neither Dio nor Synesius ever
explictly quote Pliny, to my knowledge), and whether the dead water in the
midst of Palestine near which Essenes lived is the (Syria-) Palestine in
the estimation of Dio or Synesius. What Jones added is the observation that
it was probably Bishop Synesius, not Dio, who added the comment about
Sodom. The elusive Sodom is most reliably located in the text of Genesis, a
book there is no reason to think Dio had read. The contrast between the
"eudaimonic" settlement of Essenes (at Qumran/Feshka) and the supposedly
approximately proximate bad Sodom likely occurred to Synesius. And, as
Jones noted, by Synesius' time, Sodom had been supposedly located at the
north of the Sea, in part for convenience of pilgrims.
The July 2000 issue of Cathedra, the Hebrew journal also transliterated as
Katedrah be-toldot Erets-Yisrael ve-yishuvah (Jerusalem: Yad Y. Ben-Tsevi)
includes a relevant article by D. Amit and J. Magness which presents
archaeological analysis and reasons why the Ein Gedi site dug by Y.
Hirschfeld is not the site of Essene settlement mentioned by Pliny's source.
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