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The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea$
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Joan E. Taylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199554485

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199554485.001.0001

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(p.131) 5 Pliny
The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea

Joan E. Taylor

Oxford University Press

Pliny refers to the Essenes in his Natural History as a peculiar group living an austere existence in the barren region west of the Dead Sea. His very brief description is a caricature, set within the genre of mirabilia, probably sourced from Mucianus, and focuses only on a few key features that were designed to indicate the paradoxical nature of a group eschewing sexual life yet maintaining its existence over time. Nevertheless, Pliny provides some useful historical information, most particularly that there were large numbers of the Essenes and they could be found north-west of the Dead Sea.

Keywords:   Essenes, Pliny, Natural History, Dead Sea, mirabilia, Mucianus, paradox

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