Pliny the Elder on the Essenes

         Pliny, Natural History, 5.15.17. Edited and translated by John Bostock and H. T. Riley. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1855. Text from the Perseus Digital Library Project. Ed. Gregory R. Crane. Tufts University.

         5.15.17) Lying on the west of Asphaltites [the Dead Sea], and sufficiently distant to escape its noxious exhalations, are the Essenes, a people that live apart from the world, and marvellous beyond all others throughout the whole earth, for they have no women among them; to sexual desire they are strangers; money they have none; the palm-trees are their only companions. Day after day, however, their numbers are fully recruited by multitudes of strangers that resort to them, driven thither to adopt their usages by the tempests of fortune, and wearied with the miseries of life. Thus it is, that through thousands of ages, incredible to relate, this people eternally prolongs its existence, without a single birth taking place there; so fruitful a source of population to it is that weariness of life which is felt by others. Below this people was formerly the town of Engedi, second only to Jerusalem in the fertility of its soil and its groves of palm-trees; now, like it, it is another heap of ashes. Next to it we come to Masada, a fortress on a rock, not far from Lake Asphaltites. Thus much concerning Judea.