Pliny the Elder on the Essenes

            Pliny the Elder described the location of the Essenes: Natural History, 5.15.73 (translation by H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library Pliny vol.2; London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1944–, 277).

            On the west side of the Dead Sea, but out of range of the noxious exhalations of the coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes, which is remarkable beyond all the other tribes in the whole world, as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money and has only palm trees for company. Day by day the throng of refugees is recruited to an equal number by numerous accessions of persons tired of life and driven thither by ways of fortune to adopt their manners. Thus, through thousands of ages—incredible to relate—a race in which no-one is born lives on forever. So prolific for their advantage is other men’s weariness of life.

            Lying below (infra hos) them was formerly the town of Ein Gedi, second only to Jerusalem in the fertility of its land and in its groves of palm trees, but now like Jerusalem a heap of ashes. Next comes Masada, a fortress on a rock, itself not far from the Dead Sea. This is the limit of Judea.