Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Ravishing Praise of Pseudo-Hegesippus

We were perusing an article: 

"Pseudo-Hegesippus at Antioch? Testing a Hypothesis for the Provenance of the De Excidio Hierosolymitano", by Carson Bay, Florida State University in BABELAO 8 (2019), p. 97-128:

which is ostensibly about a rewrite of Josephus' Judean War but in fact has a lot to do with the supposed Antiochene origin of the mysterious Pseudo-Hegesippus. In his work, the ancient author speaks of Antioch (at 3.5.2) in glowing terms, though nothing we haven't heard from others of its native sons that sung similar praises:

"This city is held, without hesitation, to be the first, and for that reason the metropolis, of Syria, having been founded by the partisans of the warrior Alexander the Great and called by the name of its founder. The city is situated thus: spread out over an immense length, it is narrower in width, because it is bounded on the left side by the steep face of a mountain, such that the spaces of the city as measured were not able to be extended further. Necessity marked the location, because such a high mountain would provide a place to hide from the Parthians breaking in through unknown and alternate routes, from which they could pour themselves out by way of an unanticipated onset and immediate attack against an unprepared Syria, unless the city should lie before a mountain as before a bulwark and obstruct the egress of those approaching, so that if any of the barbarians should ascend, immediately he would be seen from the hollow center of the city. Eventually, they hold that, when theatrical plays were being frequented in that city, one of the farcical actors, raising his eyes to the mountain, saw the Persians arriving and immediately said: “I am either beholding a dream or a great danger. Behold: Persians!” This was possible because the mountain leaned over the city, so that not even the height of the theatre provided an impediment to seeing the mountain. A river separates it in the middle which, originating from the direction of the sun’s rising, is joined to the sea not far from the city. This river those of former times called ‘Orient’ due to the tracing of its origin, inasmuch as they [those of former times] are commonly believed to have given names to places, names which were thereafter adopted. It is from the frigid flows of this river from its very onset, and from the Zephyrs blowing constantly through it in places, that the entire city is cooled at nearly every moment, so that it has hidden the East in its eastern parts. Within it are sweet waters, and without a nearby meadow surrounded by open spaces and clusters of cypress trees, as well as productive fountains. They call it Daphne, because it never sets aside its greenery. There there exists a populus numerous and very happy that is more refined than nearly all others of the East, but nearer to licentiousness. This city, having been reckoned to hold third place of all other citizen bodies which exist in the Roman world, now holds fourth place, after the citizen body of the Byzantines has produced Constantinople, once capital of the Persians, but now a means of defense. I believe enough has been said concerning the situation of the city. For it is not seemly to delay by describing its edifices. When I spoke of the East from its back, it was clear enough that the South is situated from the left, that Europe meets it from the front, that the Northern peoples live to the right, where also the Caspian kingdoms are held, who had previously been the most inclined to make incursions into Syria. But after Alexander the Great established the Caspian Gate at a steep part of the Taurus Mountain, and closed off the way to all the peoples of the interior, he returned the famous city to peace, except perhaps when observing Persian movement".