Epistula Claudii ad Alexandrinos: Siriad Jews (a Jewish merchant marine corp)

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Epistula Claudii ad Alexandrinos: Siriad Jews (a Jewish merchant marine corp)

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Letter of Claudius on recent anti-Jewish disturbances in Alexandria (November 10, AD 41) P. Lond. VI, 1912 = C. Pap. Jud. II, 153 = Sel. Pap. II, 212 (DDBDP):
On the other hand, I order the Jews not to agitate for more privileges than they had and in the future not to send separate embassies, as if living in separate cities, which has never happened before, nor to seek to enter the gymnasiarchics or cosmetice games, while enjoying their own festivals and sharing in an abundance of blessings in a city which is not their own, nor to introduce or to admit Jews coming by boat from 'Syria' or from Upper Egypt—an act which I shall be compelled to regard with great suspicion.

Syria? No: the Siriad. Claudius warned the Alexandrian Jews not to summon their compatriots from the proximate areas of the Fayum or the Siriad (Sethrum) of Egypt. Col. 5:
... μηδὲ ἐπάγεσθαι ἢ προσίεσθαι ἀπὸ Συρίας ἢ Αἰγύπ<τ>ου καταπλέοντας Ἰουδαίους ἐξ οὗ μείζονας ὑπονοίας ἀναγκασθήσομαι λαμβάνειν·

..and to not [ἐπάγεσθαι=] bring on/call in nor [προσίεσθαι=] let in/admit from 'Syria' or 'Egypt' the sailing Jews whom I am compelled to view with great suspicion...

Consider the phrasing: ἀπὸ Συρίας ἢ Αἰγύπ του καταπλέοντας Ἰουδαίους = the Jews who sail in from 'Syria' or 'Egypt'. The issue is never raised that Alexandrian Jews were causing unrest elsewhere in the Roman Empire - that wasn't the case. Nor is the Edict regarding any other distant province outside the land we now know as 'Egypt'. Everything that Claudius mentions is specific to this one area: the Nile, Delta and Alexandria proper.

On news and an urgent Alexandrian Jewish call for help, the feared 'merchant marine' would rapidly deploy, sailing from Mendes, Tanis, Pelusium, Kedua, Migdol, Hebua, Gilbana, Daphne... 9-12 ports?! In an emergency, the arrival of Jewish marines would be within 7-10 days, I suppose. Why is this (allied?) Jewish force of the Siriad nowhere else mentioned, never critically examined? Emperor Claudius recognized a real threat, so this Jewish merchant marine could possibly 'take over' Alexandria: w/ +5,000 men? (Alexandria's population was then 500,000, see D. Delia, "The Population of Roman Alexandria," TAPA, 118 (1988), pp.275-93.)

Christian H. Bull, The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: The Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom [2018], p.47:
Among the authentic Manethonic passages, however, we also find some contested fragments from the so-called Book of Sothis, and it is in one of these that we find the most developed genealogy, or perhaps rather series of incarnations, of Thoth and Hermes Trismegistus. Syncellus provides a letter, supposedly written by Manetho, to Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and prefaces the letter with an explanatory note on several Egyptian Hermeses.62 In The Book of Sothis, he says, Manetho claimed to have consulted monuments lying in the “Seriadic land,” a name for Egypt that is clearly derived from Isis and Osiris’ connection with the Dog Star, Sothis or Sirius (Σείριος):63

61.  But cf. Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss, and David A. Warburton, Ancient Egyptian Chronology (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 34–35, who claim that Manetho’s work postdates Diodorus Siculus, since it contains glosses to the list — first found in Herodotus and Diodorus — and anti­semitism, unattested before the Maccabeans. I find this wholly unconvincing. Since Manetho knew of Herodotus, he could easily have accomodated his style to “write back” (cf. Ian S. Moyer, Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011], 103), and if the Septuagint was started under the auspices of Philadelphus, then Manetho would surely respond to the “antiegyptianism” (excuse the neologism) found in this work. Cf. Peter Schäfer, Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 17–21; William F. McCants, Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 99; Gregory E. Sterling, Historiography and Self-Definition: Josephos, Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 117–36. That Manetho is seldomly cited by subsequent authors proves nothing. We would, for example, know nothing of Philodemus without the chance survival of his writings in Herculaneum. On the name Manetho, cf. Donald Redford, “The Name Manetho,” in Egyptological Studies in Honor of Richard A. Parker (ed. Leonard H. Lesko; Hanover: University Press of New England, 1986), 118–21, who proposes Mry-nṯr-ꜥꜣ, “beloved of the great god,” while Heinz-Josef Thissen, “Der Name Manetho,” Enchoria 15 (1987): 93–99, opts for Mnjw-tꜣ-ḥwt, “guardian of the temple.” Cf. John Dillery, “The First Egyptian Narrative History: Manetho and Greek Historiography,” ZPE 127 (1999): 93–116.
62.  Cf. Charles Burnett, “The Legend of the Three Hermes,” JWCI 39 (1976): 231–34.
63. Σηριαδικῇ γῇ. The claim that this refers to China is clearly mistaken, cf. Gerrit J. Reinink, “‘Seiris’ (Sir) und das Volk der Serer,” JSJ 6 (1975): 72–85 at 78–79. Cf. also Guy G. Stroumsa, Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology (NHS 24; Leiden: Brill, 1984), 138, who claims that Hermes = Seth, and Seirias is the “Sethites’ land,” Seir, in Josephus (see below). Scott (3:492 n. 4) more plausibly suggests γῆ Ὀσιριάς or Όσιριακή, though Reitzenstein (Poimandres, 183) had already pointed out that Isis was from the land of Seirias: cf. IG VII, 3426 (Chaironeia, 3rd c. CE): ἱέρειαν διὰ βίου τῆς ἀπὸ Σειριάδος Εἴσιδος.

In the Jewish Antiquities we are told about Seth and his descendants, who attained astrological knowledge which they inscribed on two stelae, one of brick and one of stone, since Adam had presaged the destruction of the world by fire and by flood. The flood of Noah would then have destroyed the stela of brick, leaving only the pillar of stone, which “remains in the land of the Seiriad to this day.” The interpretations of the land of Seiriad have been many,” but in my view it most likely refers to Egypt, since Seirios is the Greek name of the Dog Star, Sothis, and according to Plutarch, the Egyptians. “consider Seirios to belong to Isis,” though also Osiris “is called Seirios by Seirios by the. Greeks.” Since Josephus had read Manetho, it seems to me highly likely that his “land of the Seiriad” corresponds to the latter's “Seriadic land.” Josephus probably took the motif of the stela that survived the flood from Manetho, and appropriated it by saying that this is in fact a copy of another one made of brick, which disappeared during the flood, and that both of these were written by Seth and his progeny, containing Adamic astrological knowledge. Josephus thus writes in the same tradition as Artapanus, the Hellenistic author who claims that Moses was called Hermes by the Egyptian priests, and taught them their letters and the worship of their gods.”

84. Jos., Ant. 1.67–71: σοφίαν τε τὴν περὶ τὰ οὐράνια καὶ τὴν τούτων διακόσμησιν ἐπενόησαν. ὑπὲρ δὲ τοῦ μὴ διαφυγεῖν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τὰ ηὑρημένα μηδὲ πρὶν εἰς γνῶσιν ἐλθεῖν φθαρῆναι, προειρηκότος ἀφανισμὸν Ἀδάμου τῶν ὅλων ἔσεσθαι τὸν μὲν κατ’ ἰσχὺν πυρὸς τὸν ἕτερον δὲ κατὰ βίαν καὶ πλῆθος ὕδατος, στήλας δύο ποιησάμενοι τὴν μὲν ἐκ πλίνθου τὴν ἑτέραν δὲ ἐκ λίθων ἀμφοτέραις ἐνέγραψαν τὰ εὑρημένα, ἵνα καὶ τῆς πλινθίνης ἀφανισθείσης ὑπὸ τῆς ἐπομβρίας ἡ λιθίνη μείνασα παράσχῃ μαθεῖν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ ἐγγεγραμμένα δηλοῦσα καὶ πλινθίνην ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἀνατεθῆναι. μένει δ’ ἄχρι δεῦρο κατὰ γῆν τὴν Σειρίδα. Cf. Albertus F.J. Klijn, Seth in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Literature (NTSup 46; Leiden: Brill, 1977), 23–25. Klijn thinks that Josephus says that the earth will first be raked by fire, and then by water, but if that were the case, none of the stelae would remain. Josephus lists the disasters in that order, but that does not imply chronological sequence (τὸν μὲν… τὸν ἕτερον δὲ), and the sequence is likely, as in Life of Adam and Eve 49–50, first the flood, and in the future a conflagration. In his Appendix I, p. 124, Klijn briefly mentions the stelae of Hermes, and considers an Egyptian source for Josephus likely.
85. But cf. Birger Pearson, Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 73; William Adler, “Materials Relating to Seth in an Anonymous Chronographer (‘Pseudo-Malalas’) and in the Chronography of George Syncellus,” in SBL Seminar Papers, 1977 (ed. Paul J. Achtemeier; Chico: Scholars Press, 1977), 13–15. Adler suggests that Land of the Seiriad refers to the “mountain of Siris” (τὸ Σίριδος ὄρος) of Malalas (Chron. 1.5) and Georgius Monachus (Chron. 10.12–24). However, both these authors explicitly rely on Josephus. Mount Sir is also mentioned in Hyp. Arch. (NHC II 92,8–14) as the place Noah lands his ark. Pearson, ibid., adds the possibilities of the flood mountain in Gilgamesh, Nisir, which is however not mentioned by Berossus, and “the biblical mountain of the Edomites, Σηιρ.” Pearson seems to prefer Reitzenstein’s Egyptian thesis, but draws no further consequences from it. Stroumsa, Another Seed, 118–19, plausibly suggested that Josephus referred to Num 24:17–18, in which the sons of Seth are connected to the land of Seir (‫)שעיר‬, an option discounted by Reinink (“Seir,” 72–73) because of the Ayin. Against the elegant solution of Stroumsa would be that Josephus relies heavily on the Septuagint, where Seir is not mentioned, that Seir is named after a Horite chief long postdating Seth, and that the Masoretic Numbers passage has Seir and the sons of Seth crushed by Israel.
86. Plut., Is. Os. 38 (365F): τῶν τ’ ἄστρων τὸν σείριον Ἴσιδος νομίζουσιν; 53 (372D): εἰσὶ γὰρ οἱ τὸν Ὄσιριν ἄντικρυς ἥλιον εἶναι καὶ ὀνομάζεσθαι Σείριον ὑφ’ Ἑλλήνων λέγοντες. Trans. John Gwyn Griffiths, Plutarch: De Iside et Osiride (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1970). Cf. ibid., 444.
87. Apud Euseb., Praep. ev. 9.27.6–7: διὰ ταῦτα οὖν τὸν Μώϋσον ὑπὸ τῶν ὄχλων ἀγαπηθῆναι καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἱερέων ἰσοθέου τιμῆς καταξιωθέντα προσαγορευθῆναι Ἑρμῆν, διὰ τὴν τῶν ἱερῶν γραμμάτων ἑρμηνείαν. Cf. John G. Gager, Moses in Greco-Roman Paganism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972), 77.
88 Klijn, Seth, 123; Gerald P. Verbrugghe and John M. Wickersham, Berossus and Manetho, introduced and translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1996), 66.

Bentley Layton, The Rediscovery of Gnosticism [1980], p.93:
The stone stele, Josephus reports, still survives “in the land of Seiris” (κατά γήν την Σειρίδα). The reference in the Apocalypse of Adam to angelic revelations written on stone on a high mountain reflects this tradition found in in Josephus and Adam and Eve. “The land of Seiris” in Josephus is probably to be understood as the land Egypt, 70 but other testimonies to the tradition refer to “Mount Sir.”

Mount Seir was at southeastern border of Egyptian Canaan in the Late Bronze Age; the 'land of Seiris' might refer to where the Edomites settled in Egypt, the Siriad.

Albertus Frederik Johannes Klijn, Seth in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Literature [1977], p.24:
Since Adam had predicted that the universe would be destroyed by a violent fire and a mighty deluge of water, the Sethites erected two pillars, one of brick and one of stone , on which their discoveries were inscribed. If the pillar of brick disappeared in the deluge, that of stone would remain, so that men would know from it what was carved on it both their scientific discoveries and that they had also erected a pillar of brick, Josephus knew that the stone pillar still existed in the land of Seiris. The brick pillar was obviously destroyed during the flood at the time of Noah.”

Period sources may give more information about the Sethrum c.40 AD, see Alexander Fuks, "The Jewish Revolt in Egypt (A.D. 115-117) in the light of the papyri" in Aegyptus, Anno 33, No.1, [1953], Link.


The Siriad was the Sethrum, 'Eastern Egypt' and the land where the Seir-people (Edomites, Semites from Sinai) settled.
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