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Pliny the elder°


PLINY THE ELDER ° (23–79 c.e.), Roman historian, naturalist, and administrator. Pliny's voluminous Naturalis Historia, the only work of his extant, contains a number of references to Jews and Judaism. Some of these references relate to the physical characteristics of Judea and its natural resources, in particular the Dead Sea and the bitumen found there. Pliny notes the excellence of balsam (a monopoly of Judea), describes the tree, and praises the date palms of Jericho. The sections on Judea (Naturalis Historia, 5:66–73) in the geographical volumes include a survey of the administrative division of Judea into toparchies, which differs slightly from that given by *Josephus. Pliny describes the *Essenes, discussing their settlement by the Dead Sea, their separation from women, and their renunciation of money. Jerusalem, he observes, is the most illustrious city in the East ("longe clarissima urbium Orientis non Iudaeae modo"). The sources which Pliny used in his description of Judea cannot be ascertained, but he evidently relied on material dating from the period of Herod, which he adjusted to the situation of his time. Thus, he mentions the destruction of Jerusalem and the establishment of new Roman colonies in Palestine by *Vespasian. However, in addition, he must have used earlier sources. The theory that Pliny was present at the siege of Jerusalem as an officer in the army of Titus is hardly tenable.


Reinach, Textes, 267–83; H.G. Pflaum, Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain, 1 (1960), 106ff.

[Menahem Stern]

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