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Philo of Byblos
The more famous Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE - 40 CE) was an educated Hellenized Jewish philosopher.
Philo of Byblos (Herennios Philon), (ca 64 - 141 CE) was an antiquarian writer of grammatical, lexical and historical works in Greek, whose name "Herennius" makes it appear that he was a client of the Consul suffectus Herennius Severus, through whom Philo could have achieved the status of a Roman citizen. Philo wrote a dictionary of synonyms, a collection of scientific writers and their works organized by category, a catalogue of cities with their famous citizens and a Vita of the Emperor Hadrian. Some of his work is known to us by titles only; others have survived in fragmentary quotes in Christian authors.
Philo's Greek, Phoenician History was so extensively quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in the 4th century, in his Praeparation evangelista, that the fragments have been assembled and translated (see References). But Eusebius' quotations have an agenda that invariably runs counter to Philo's original intentions: the sources of Phoenician religion are quoted simply in order to disparage, jumbling together in ignorant fashion Zoroastrian beliefs, with the Egyptian image of the hawk-headed god, named Taautos (Thoth), who is given, probably by Eusebius himself rather than his sources, characteristics that were much argued in 4th century Christology, "everlasting, unbegotten, undivided" and mixed up with serpent worship and the invention of writing.
Philo, in Eusebius' hands, claimed to have discovered secret mythological writings of the ancient Phoenicians assembled by an apparently fictitious "Sanchuniathon" who had transcribed the sacred lore from pillars in the temples of Byblos. Philo apparently constructed his materials from various traditions available to him, adapted them to suit his purpose, and conjured with the venerable-sounding name to gain credit for his narrative. The work is also known from quotations in Porphyry, who says that Sanchuniathon (here also called a native of Byblos) wrote a history of the Jews, based on information derived from Hierombal (i.e. Jeruba'al), a priest of the god Jevo (i.e. Yahveh, Jehovah), and dedicated it to Abelbal or Abibal, king of Berytus. The story is probably a pure invention. Most historians would willingly have traded this hocus-pocus for a king-list, but that would not have suited Eusebius' plan.
The sequence of the gods and their genealogy among the Phoenicians, as gleaned from Philo's quoted fragments, were for long recognized as supporting the general scheme in Hesiod's Theogony. Names of deities on the cuneiform tablets from Ugarit (Ras Shamra) fall into similar patterns. Compare the genealogical tables at Sanchuniathon.
- Philo Byblius (in German)
- Albert I. Baumgarten, The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos, 1981
- Harold W. Attridge and Robert A. Oden, Philo of Byblos: Phoenician History,Introduction, Critical Text, Translation, Notes, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 1981
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