Stephen writes, in part:
Marcus Agrippa was the main source for Pliny's Natural History Book 5...
Gmirkin gave an odd interpretation of an article by Hubaux as if it "excludes" a
Latin source. (It does not.) Gmirkin's declaration raises questions about
how he uses source criticism.
Stephen, there are two very basic aspects of source criticism which you omit
in your theory that Pliny, NH 5.73 on the Essenes drew on Agrippa. (1)
Language. Since the passage utilizes a play on words between the phoenix bird
and the palm tree (phoenix in Greek, palmarum in Latin) that makes sense only
in Greek, this indicates a Greek source. (2) Genre. The passage on the
Essenes shows by numerous features that it derived from a paradoxographical
ethnography emphasizing mirablia or "remarkable" customs, a well known genre
popular among the Peripatetics (the post-Aristotelean philosophical movement). The
passages in Pliny's geographical books drawing on Agrippa derive from his
commentary on the World Map whose creation he oversaw and are concerned with
distances, territorial dimensions and such (with two exceptional passages also
atypically containing ethnographical material - not from Agrippa's own hand,
but lifted out of an older periplus of the African coast and of the Caspian
Sea respectively). The passages in Pliny from Agrippa share nothing in common
with the florid and highly literary paradoxographical treatment of the
Essenes at NH 5.73.
Both language and genre considerations are consistent with the writings of
the Peripatetic philosopher Nicolas of Damascus, Herod the Great's tutor and
historian, who authored a paradoxographical treatise called the Collection of
Remarkable Customs. Juba of Mauretania, Pliny's foremost Greek source for
Book 5 (as Agrippa was the foremost Roman source), knew Nicolas and consulted
him for his book on Arabia written in 4 BCE, and the text surrounding NH 5.73
has several features pointing to Pliny's use of Juba in this section.
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