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Richard Carrier Jacoby

Jacoby and Müller on “Thallus” (1999)

Richard Carrier


[This is a translation from the German, Latin, and Greek of Section 256 of F. Jacoby’s Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (Fragments of the Greek Historians, 1923–) and the corresponding section in Carolus Müller’s Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (Fragments of the Greek Historians, 1840–)]


The following is a translation of section 256 (“Thallus”) of F. Jacoby’s Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, which superceded the previous work of Carolus Müller (Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, 1840–). Jacoby’s multi-volume work placed the actual fragments in a volume different from his commentary. His general commentary, rendered from the German, is here placed first. Then are positioned the fragments (originally in Greek and Latin, with notes in German, all translated into English here), and his specific commentary is incorporated where it would have been, had he included all this material in one place. As indicated, where Müller adds comments or material that Jacoby excludes, I have incorporated it in bold (translated from Müller’s Latin). In some places, Jacoby omits (with dots) portions of the Greek or Latin in his cited fragments, but Müller includes it. In such cases, I include the missing material in bold (in some cases this inclusion is from sources other than Müller, in which cases I note the source).

The German commentary (general and specific) can be read from images online of the three relevant pages from the original book, available thanks to Steven Carr:

I would like thank my good friend Reinhold Mitschang for his advice in completing this page. I have also composed briefer and more readable analysis of the Thallus question.




How someone could call Thallus “the most celebrated of the pagan chronographers of the imperial period” is incomprehensible. The man and the book are equally shadowy to us. The latter is even more unclear, because the only useful testimony (T 1) is corrupted in at least one place, and because it is very inconsistent with the fragments cited entirely by Christian authors–by Justin (F 5 b), Theophilus (F 2-3: the author of the text attributed to Malalas? cf. F 8), and as the source for Tertullian, Minucius (F 4: is this Theophilus?) and Africanus (F 1; 5; 8, also F 6?). Those who maintained that Thallus was used by Velleius (Wilhelm von Christ, Philologische Studien zu Clemens Alexandrinus (Philological Studies on Clement of Alexandria), 1901, p. 62) and in Pseudo-Lucian’s Macrobioi (Rühl, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie (Rhenish Museum for Philology), vol. 62, p. 437) have no basis for the claim; on Josephus see T 3.

The fragments consist of a genuine chronical note, which presents both a title and a number of volumes (F 1); of a useless and partly meaningless collection of quotations (F 5-8); and of the remains of an euhemerization (de-mythologization) of the oldest Greek and Eastern histories (F 2-4), in which Jacob Freudenthal (Hellenistische Studien (Hellenistic Studies), vol. I-II, p. 100 ff.) discovered and demonstrated a certain agreement with the Samaritan Pseudo-Eupolemus (F2, cf. Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica (Peparation for the Gospels), 9.17, p. 418 c), though it is of course uncertain who copied who. Against the theory that all these fragments come from the same chronical volume beginning with prehistoric time, there is nothing to say. That it was liked by Christians must be because of its de-mythologizing character; perhaps even more because it was the newest one, as it first appeared in the 2nd century. But the Thallus of T 1 only began with the fall of Troy, and if, as is likely, the whole list in Eusebius (in the Armenian translation, p. 125) was taken from Porphyry, he was probably neither a Jew (or a Samaritan), nor a Christian. And further: the number of Olympiads listed for the end of his work in T 1 is corrupt, if F 1 belongs to the same author. The transmission of the numbers in Eusebius’ list is of course unfortunately generally poor. But is it feasible to also assume an increased corruption of the beginning, so that “from the sack of Troy” as a duplication from p. 125, lines 24 ff. (= 260 T 2) would have to be replaced by “from the reign of Belus” or something similar? We find ourselves on very dangerous ground here; but the idea of an expansion of the genuine work of Thallus, or a forgery in his name (for this, one just can’t ‘recover’ from F 5 the title (As)syriaka) is nevertheless plausible. At any rate, the middle course–to assume that there was a preface on the pre-Trojan time–seems less acceptable. It must have been quite detailed, which doesn’t fit for so meagre a chronicle; and F 2 seems also to indicate a form of chronicle for the older period, which fits more poorly with the idea of an ‘introduction’. It unfortunately also remains doubtful whether F 1 derives from the genuine book, though this is not impossible.

Our knowledge of the writer fares no better. The popular opinion of the “Samaritan” Thallus as one who “mixed Hebrew traditions…with Hellenic in a lousy syncretism” and “brought Assyrian, Greek, and Hebrew history into a peculiar connection” (Curt Wachsmuth, Einleitung in das Studium der alten Geschichte (Introduction to the Study of Ancient History), 1895, p. 146, according to Freudenthall, op. cit.; Wilhelm von Christ and Wilhelm Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (History of Greek Literature), 6th ed., vol. 2, pp. 415 ff.; Täubler, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie (Rhenish Museum for Philology), vol. 71 (1916), p. 572, etc.) is, in my opinion, based in part on an incorrect interpretation of F 1-4 (see note below on F 4), and in part on the manufacture of the name in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.167, “for there was also Thallus” (according to John Hudson, The Works of Flavius Josephus, 1762; all the manuscripts actually read “for there was also another” (i.e. ALLOS instead of THALLOS); while an anonymous epitome of Josephus reads “there was in fact someone”), “a Samaritan by race, who happened to be a freedman of Caesar” (from whom Agrippa took out a huge loan in 36 AD).

Even if the name has been restored correctly, the equation of the freedman with the chronicler remains dubious. From what we have we only know that he wrote after 112-109 BC or–if F 1 belongs to him–after 29 AD, which does point us to the time of the Samaritan. But literary activity for this freedman is not documented and is rather unlikely, if Täubler rightly equates the Samaritan of Josephus with an imperial secretary (a manu: Otto Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten bis auf Diocletian (The Imperial Officials up to Diocletian), 1917, 2nd ed., 324.1), whom Augustus punished “by breaking his legs, because he divulged the contents of a letter for five hundred coins” (Suetonius, Life of Augustus, 67), and although the fact that the imperial household bureaucracy was usually literarily active (Chryserus no. 96; Polybius no. 254?; Phlegon no. 257?), this is still not a proof. And the name Thallus, which we find in Attica from the 4th century onward (see Friedrich Bechtel Die historischen Personennamen des Griechischen bis zur Kaiserzeit (Historical Personal Names of the Greeks up to Imperial Times), 1917, p. 592), is common.



(1) Chronicle of Eusebius in Armenian translation (translated into German by Josef Karst, Die Chronik aus dem Armenischen ubers. mit textkritischem Commentar (1911), p. 125, 22) = Müller, vol. 3, p. 517 [fr. German]:

“From the 3 books of Thallus, in which he made a summary in abbreviated fashion from the sack of Troy to the 167th Olympiad (112-109 BC).”

cf. 250 T 2

Notes: “from the sack of Troy” is replaced by “from the reign of Belus” by Curt Wachsmuth. The numeral for 167 would have been rendered in the original Greek as rho-xi-zeta (100+60+7). Müller conjectures that the original numbers were sigma-zeta (200+7), for the 207th Olympiad (49-52 AD). Von Gutschmid conjectures eta-eta-delta-gamma-iota-iota (!) for the 217th Olympiad (89-92 AD).

[Translator’s Note: Gutschmid’s numbers as given here by Jacoby only add up to 25 and make no sense (one possible explanation of Jacoby’s exclamation point). Jacoby does not say where Von Gutschmid makes this conjecture, but I found it in his Kleine Schriften von Alfred von Gutschmid (1889, p. 412). There he does not suggest that the original text read eta-eta-delta-gamma-iota-iota. Gutschmid argues instead that the numeral was not alphanumeric but acrophonic, and what is presented in Jacoby as eta-eta-delta-gamma-iota-iota is actually hekaton-hekaton-deka-pente-iota-iota (100+100+10+5+2 = 217). Gutschmid proposes that the second acrophonic was corrupted from hekaton into pentekonta (50), giving 167 (100+50+10+5+2 = 167). This corruption is possible but unlikely, since the symbols are sufficiently different in the placement of strokes that such a mistake requires an unusual explanation (it would make more sense to miswrite 167 as 217, rather than the other way around). Gutschmid’s entire reasoning, however, requires that Eusebius designated numbers with Athenian acrophonics rather than the more typical practice of alphanumerics, which seems rather improbable–if not impossible, since direct quotations from the work of George Syncellus show Eusebius using alphanumerics (and this is another possible reason for Jacoby’s cryptic exclamation point).

Gutschmid not only offers his own suggestion, he also declares Müller’s suggestion “inadmissable” (unstatthaft), although that is perhaps too extreme a view. However, Gutshmid’s suggestion is a better one, although not for the reasons he gives. 217 would most likely have been represented in the Greek as sigma-iota-zeta, which requires two errors to become 167: mistaking iota as xi and sigma as rho. It is very plausible if we allow that each mistake was made in a different period of transmission. In particular, a sigma with a seraph or blot at the top can be easily mistaken as a rho in the Byzantine minuscule script used in the 9th and 10th centuries. Although iota and xi are unlikely to be confused in this script, they can be confused very easily in the majuscule script used in prior centuries, with which Eusebius himself would have written. Thus the iota-xi mistake could have occurred when a copy was made from a majuscule exemplar, and then the sigma-rho mistake made when when a copy was produced from a minuscule exemplar, possibly by the Armenian translator himself.

Müller’s conjecture (see his own words below) assumes three errors were combined: the addition of a second zeta (duplication being a common scribal mistake), and then the interpretation of the marks later as xi, and the change of sigma to rho, all of which could have happened when copying from the minuscule, although the duplication, or the reading of zeta as xi, could also have happened when reading from a majuscule text. Note that Gutschmid’s proposal above requires only two errors, whereas Müller’s requires three.

The context of Eusebius’ passage is a list of all his references in compiling the chronicle from Olympiad chroniclers, where he states the author, number of books, and the scope of the chronology included, in a long list. See Müller’s commentary, attached (Müller used a Latin translation of the Armenian, p. 195 of Angelo Mai’s edition). Eusebius, a Christian historian, wrote his chronicle between 305 and 326 AD. It does not survive in Greek, but only in an Armenian translation and a Latin translation made by Jerome, and various excerpts and epitomes in other languages, but the introductory chapter in which Eusebius discusses his sources is missing from all copies but the Armenian. Thus, we cannot check the Armenian manuscript (and it is now established that there is only one in existence) against any other translations or copies, but there is no obvious damage to the script or other problems of readability. The notion that the numeral must be “corrupt” is entirely based on the citation by Julius Africanus (F 1).]

MÜLLER: Eusebius wrote his own major chronicle, for which he borrowed from other authors, and in that work he says “from three books of Thallus’ Historical Records from the sack of Troy to the 167th Olympiad” (Ol. 167, 1 = 112 A.D.). But from the third book (fr. 8) an event is reported which pertains to the 203rd Olympiad (33 A.D.). So this passage in Eusebius is corrupt. We are prevented from supposing that sigma-xi-zeta in the original Greek of Eusebius was altered to rho-xi-zeta [267th Olympiad = 299-302 A.D.–tr.] by the fact that Thallus (fr. 2) is already cited by Theophilus [Bishop of Antioch, wrote in 180 A.D.–tr.]. Moreover, Tertullian says: “Juba and Apion and Thallus, and the one who proves or refutes them, Josephus the Jew.” From this it follows that Thallus wrote before Josephus [94 A.D., but see translator’s note on T 3 below–tr.]. But there is no mention of the writer Thallus in the works of Josephus. So we are left to come up with a conjecture. For my part, I think sigma-zeta became rho-xi-zeta, on the idea that xi-zeta arose from from a duplication of the same letter. So the chronicle would have covered the period up to the 207th Olympiad (49 A.D.). If you were to accept this conjecture, it is not too improbable that our Thallus is the freedman of Tiberius, whom Josephus mentions in the time of Tiberius ([Antiquities of the Jews–tr.] 18.6.4): “And in fact there was a certain Thallus, a Samaritan by race, and a freedman of Caesar. From this man Agrippa took out a loan of 20,000 coin, with which he paid back the loan he had taken out from Antonia,” etc. [Müller’s Greek is an amalgamation of an epitome and the actual manuscript of Josephus, in neither of which does the name Thallus appear; see remarks on Josephus at the end of this page–tr.] Plutarch, in his Life of Phocion (13), mentions a certain Thallus, son of Cinea. More importantly, the same name is found in Attic inscriptions, cf. Corpus Inscriptionum (vol. 1, p. 320, 368, 370). An Assyrian history fits well with a Syrian writer (“Castor and Thallus [wrote] on Syrian affairs,” fr. 3), which ought to have been different from a work entitled Historical Records [Müller is referring to the Latin translation of the Armenian, yet Karst’s German translation does not read the phrase as a title, but as a description–tr.], if those “historical records” were in fact only in three books, or if Eusebius has correctly recorded that this work began precisely with the sack of Troy.

JACOBY: cf. p. 835, 25ff.

(2) Julius Africanus, as preserved by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospels), 10.10 (p. 489 A) [fr. Greek]:

“Castor and Thallus [recorded] Syrian events”

cf. F 5

[Translator’s Note: Africanus was a Christian apologist who wrote his chronicle sometime around 220 AD. For the context of this quote, cf. F 5.]

JACOBY: it is thought this reference was to Castor. Although he is supposed to have written a Treatise on Babylon (250 T 1), surely the Chronicle is meant; so also for Thallus.

(3) Tertullian in Apologeticus Adversus Gentes (Defensive Arguments Against the Gentiles), 19.5-6 [fr. Latin]:

“The archives of the most ancient races–the Egyptians, Chaldaeans [i.e. Babylonians–tr.], and Phoenicians [i.e. Syrians–tr.]–need to be openned, and their citizens must be called upon, through whom knowledge must be provided–a certain Manetho the Egyptian and Berosus the Chaldaean, but also Jerome the Phoenician king of Tyre; and their followers, too: Ptolemy the Mendesian and Menander the Ephesian and Demetrius the Phalerean [228 F 52] and king Juba and Apion and Thallus and the one who either proves or refutes these men, Josephus the Jew.”

[Translator’s Note: the context of Tertullian’s statement here (written around 197 AD) is his argument that Moses (and thus the Jewish tradition upon which Christianity is based) is dated 500 years earlier than Homer, but he can’t “prove” it at present because such a proof would require too much work: as he says, “the matter is not so difficult as it would be tedious.” The present statement is his explanation of why it would be so tedious. Müller argues from this list that Thallus must have preceded Josephus, but Tertullian’s statement could mean that Josephus proves or refutes only the chronological details, the sort of details which Thallus later wrote, not Thallus in particular, especially since in no extant work of Josephus is Thallus mentioned, not even in the Antiquities of the Jews, to which Tertullian is no doubt referring here.]

JACOBY: Thallus does not appear in Josephus. What caused Alfred Von Gutschmid (Short Writings of Alfred Gutschmid, 1889, 4.412) to recognize in him the opponent of Josephus (Contra Apion 1.59) is not clear. And from where was Tertullian supposed to have learned that? Obviously, Tertullian’s source has added the usual well-known (most recent?) authors to those mentioned by Josephus.


Histories (?) 1–3. Book 3:

(1) Julius Africanus, preserved by George Syncellus (p. 609, 21 Bonn.) = Müller section 8 [fr. Greek]:

[Translator’s Note: Jacoby omits a few sentences containing the paraphrase of Phlegon, since he reproduces that material in his next section dedicated to the fragments of Phlegon (257 F 16). I have inserted the missing text here, and also included the material preceeding and following (in other words, all of section 18.1 of Syncellus’ reproduction of Africanus), so as to reproduce the whole context. For this I used the Greek text of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca checked against the critical text of Dindorf and Niebuhr (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, part 6.1, or vol. 12). The context of this chapter may be hinted at in the final sentence: it seems to be part of a chronological proof of the “seventy sevens” prophency in Daniel 9, showing how secular history aligns with sacred. But Syncellus omits material before and after this chapter, and thus important context may be lost. The title appears to be composed by Syncellus, not Africanus, but this is uncertain.]

On What Followed the Savior’s Passion and Life-Giving Resurrection

This event followed each of his deeds, and healings of body and soul, and knowledge of hidden things, and his resurrection from the dead, all sufficiently proven to the disciples before us and to his apostles: after the most dreadful darkness fell over the whole world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake and much of Judaea and the rest of the land was torn down. Thallus calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of his Histories, without reason it seems to me. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day, reckoning by the lunar calendar, and the events concerning the savior all occurred before the first day of the passover. But an eclipse of the sun happens when the moon creeps under the sun, and this is impossible at any other time but between the first day of the moon’s waxing and the day before that, when the new moon begins. So how are we to believe that an eclipse happened when the moon was diametrically opposite the sun? In fact, let it be so. Let the idea that this happened seize and carry away the multitude, and let the cosmic prodigy be counted as an eclipse of the sun according to its appearance. Phlegon reports that in the time of Tiberius Caesar, during the full moon, a full eclipse of the sun happened, from the sixth hour until the ninth. Clearly this is our eclipse! What is common about an earthquake, an eclipse, rocks torn apart, a rising of the dead, and such a huge cosmic movement? At the very least, over a long period, no conjunction this great is remembered. But it was a godsent darkness, because the Lord happened to suffer, and the Bible, in Daniel, supports that seventy spans of seven years would come together up to this time.

JACOBY: That Thallus mentioned this solar eclipse “in the context of Jewish history,” as is generally accepted, is entirely doubtful. Africanus polemicizes against the expression and concept of the “eclipse,” i.e. a natural process, explicable through the motion of the celestial bodies, in favor of a supernatural one, of the “god-sent darkness that coincided with the lord’s suffering.” For Thallus there follows nothing more, except that he, as did Phlegon (257 F 16) and probably every other chronicler, noted the eclipse of November 24, 29 AD. He did it concisely, as is natural with only three books. Thallus may be understood as the reference, if in the report of the Canons of Eusebius (the Chronicle of Eusebius as preserved in the Latin rendition of Jerome, p. 172.22, cf. Rudolf Helm, Die Chronik des Hieronymus, 1902; and George Syncellus, p. 614.12) before Phlegon’s work is mentioned “another collection of notes on Hellenic affairs,” in which “as the phrase goes” it is read: “the sun was eclipsed, Bithynia shook, and all of Nicaea fell.”

(2) Theophilus in Ad Autolycum (To Autolycus) 3.29 = Müller section 2 [fr. Greek]:

“For Thallus also remembers Belus the ruler of Assyria and Cronos the Titan, asserting that Belus waged war along with the Titans against Zeus and the select gods who were with him, stating at this point: ‘and defeated, Ogygus fled to Tartessus. While at that time that region was famous as Akte, now it is called Attica, which Ogygus then took over.’ And from whom the rest of the land and city derived its name, we believe it is not necessary to discuss at length, since you are especially versed in history.”

[Translator’s Note: Theophilus was the bishop of Antioch and wrote this around 180 AD.]

MÜLLER: “Ogygus” is an interpretation by Niebuhr (in the collection of his essays, p. 211) of the manuscript which reads HO GYGOS. He bases this on Castor (fr. 1) via Eusebius (p. 36). From this it follows that something is missing from the passage. A lacuna must be completed, and Niebuhr conjectured the following: “and defeated, Ogygus fled to Tartessus, a region that was then called Tartarus, just as that other place was called Acte,” etc. Certainly Thallus explained the story of the Titans being cast into Tartarus by the fact that their king, Ogygus, fled to Tartessus, which was once called Tartarus. In this context, the example of Attica, which was once called Acte, would have illustrated this mutation of a name. By using this example, Ogygus the Titan called to mind Ogygus the man of Attica. I don’t know, but this might be too clever.

In my opinion, Thallus wrote that Saturn, not Ogygus, fled to Tartessus and ruled this region in the West (cf. Diodorus 5.56, Cicero De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) 3.17, Pindar Olympian Odes 2.70), and it is quite certain that this region was named Saturnia after him. Ogygus, on the other hand, fled to a region then called Acte, which was renamed Ogygia (Charax via Stephanus Byzantinus, sv. “Ogygia”), but later called Attica. So I would reconstruct this passage thus: “stating at this point: ‘and defeated, Cronus [i.e. Saturn–tr.] fled to Tartessus, but Ogygus fled to the place named after him, Ogygia, which was previously called Acte (but is now known as Attica), which Ogygus took over.”

(3) As above (also cited by Lactantius in Divinae Institutiones (Divine Institutions) 1.23.2) = Müller section 2 [fr. Greek]:

“For according to the history of Thallus, we find that Belus was born 322 years prior to the Trojan War.”

Lactantius (fr. Latin): “Theophilus, in a book on historical matters written to Autolycus, says that in his own history Thallus says that Belus, whom the Babylonians and Assyrians worshipped, is found to predate the Trojan War by 322 years.”

[Translator’s Note: Lactantius wrote his massive defense of Christianity, which is quoted here, between 303 and 313 AD.]

JACOBY: Here, too (2 and 3), Thallus is cited only for the particulars of Greek myth-history, not for the older age of the Jews. What Freudenthal (Hellenistische Studien (Hellenistic Studies) I-II, pp. 92ff.) finds in this account with regard to its Samaritan character and its agreement with Pseudo-Eupolemus so far escapes us, for the most part or entirely, because it is limited to this: that Thallus makes Belus one of the Titans, whereas Pseudo-Eupolemus equates Belus with Cronus and reports that the oldest occupants of Babylon were giants (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica (Peparation for the Gospel), 9.17). That proves no more than an acquaintance of Pseudo-Eupolemus with “euhemeristic” transformations of the oldest myth-histories; and this was spread around. Much larger is the similarity of F 2 with Castor 250 F 1; this is probably the original model, as it explains the position of Ogygus (cf. Wörner Roscher, Ausführliches Lexicon d. griechischen u. römischen Mythologie (Detailed Lexicon of Greek and Roman Mythology), (1884–), vol. 3, p. 689) and gives the starting point for F 6. No conclusion is possible from F 2 on the nationality of Thallus, no more than on the question of genuineness. However, the chronology now deviates: Belus reigned according to Castor before the series of kings beginning with Ninus up to 2124-2123 B.C., but according to F 3 about 1506-1505. But that is approximately the time of Beloch of Castor’s list. If the number is not corrupt, one can pose the question whether “the Samaritan {I shall say Pseudo-Thallus} abridged the pagan chronicle” (Heinrich Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus, (1889-98), vol. 2, pp. 96 ff.) or deliberately confused Beloch and Belus. I prefer not to approve of either, because we do not find the assumed tendency in Pseudo-Thallus to prove the greater age of the Jewish culture (cf. F 5).

[Translator’s Note: Müller comments here at length in confusing fashion about the lineages of Assyrian kings, and the confusion between Belus and Beloch, which is not only uninteresting, but is also hard to follow without a good background in Assyrian chronology. Consequently, I omit it here. Note that the nature of this quote above from Thallus (whether the proposed reconstructed version of Müller or the original) is such that it is very unlikely to have come from a tiny, three-book chronicle (as Jacoby observed in his general commentary). Theophilus does not name the work he is quoting, and this opens up the possibility that Thallus wrote more than one work, all the titles of which are lost, and the contents only vaguely conjectured. But also note that this quote shows that Thallus appeared to euhemerize myths, i.e. he found or created a naturalistic explanation for fantastic claims.]


(a) Tertullian in Apologeticus Ad Nationes (Defensive Arguments Addressed to the Nations) 10 (2.12) = Müller section 1 [fr. Latin]:

“And so, as many experts as there are in letters, neither Diodorus the Greek nor Thallus, neither Cassius Severus nor Cornelius Nepos, nor any commentator on such ancient matters, prints that Saturn was anything but a man.”

(b) Lactantius in Divinae Institutiones (Divine Institutions) 1.13 = Müller section 1 [fr. Latin]:

“Therefore not only all poets, but even all historians and all writers on ancient matters, who have published for posterity his deeds done in Italy, agree he was a man: in Greek, Diodorus and Thallus, and in Latin, Nepos and Cassius and Varro.”

(c) Minucius Felix in his Octavius 21.4 = Müller section 1:

“All writers of Greek and Roman antiquities tell us that Saturn, the first of his kind, was a man: Nepos knows this, and Cassius in his history, as well as Thallus and Diodorus, say this.”

[Translator’s Note: Marcus Minucius Felix is a Christian apologist who wrote between 200 and 240 AD.]

MÜLLER: I don’t know who this Cassius was (or Cassius Severus, as Tertullian writes). Perhaps he is to be understood as Cassius Hemina, about whom the historical annalists of Rome have consistently written [Hemina wrote on Roman history from the Trojan War to the Second Punic War, c. 146 B.C.–tr.]. He also could be known as Cassius Longinus, whom Eusebius includes among his sources as an author of a chronicle (p. 195). The same name of Thallus is included by Tertullian in another list [T 3, above–tr.]. [Translator’s Note: this may also be, in fact, the orator Cassius Severus exiled by Augustus, whose “books were burned” (Tacitus, Annals 1.72, 4.21). One or more of his works may have survived this burning, or he may have written others before his death in 35 AD (in fact, composing a chronicle would have been a good way to pass his time in exile). But this is just a speculation.]


(a) Julius Africanus, preserved by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospels), 10.10 (p. 488 D to 489 A) = Müller section 3 [fr. Greek]:

Regarding the events before the Olympiads, consider how the Attic chronologers reckon: from the time of Ogygus, during whose tenure the first great flood occurred in Attica, while Phoroneus was ruling the Argives, as Acusilaus records, up to the time of the first year of the first Olympiad, the point after which the Greeks consider time to be reckoned more accurately, 1020 years passed [i.e. 1796 to 776 BC], which agrees with those mentioned earlier [see F 7] and with those who were listed in order. For the writers on Athenian history, Hellanicus and Philochorus (who wrote Atthis) and writers on Syrian affairs, Castor and Thallus, and writers on world affairs, Diodorus (who wrote the Library) and Alexander Polyhistor, and some of our contemporaries record these events even more accurately than all the Attic historians.

MÜLLER: From this passage, where authors are listed at random, absolutely nothing can be deduced.

(b) Justin Martyr [Pseudo–tr.] in Cohortatio ad Graecos (Encouragement to the Greeks) 9 = Müller section 5:

So know this: of all those among us [the Jews] happen to be more ancient than many: [for instance] … Moses … as is clear to us in the histories of the Greeks. … For in the times of Ogygus and Inachus … they record Moses … so does Polemon in his first book of his History of the Greeks, and Apion … and Ptolemaeus the Mendesian, who wrote a history of Egypt, all these men agree. And the writers on Athenian history, Hellanicus and Philochorus (who wrote Atthis), Castor and Thallus and Alexander Polyhistor, and also those most wise of men, Philo and Josephus … [all these men] mention Moses, as they do the very old and ancient origin of the Jews.

[Translator’s Note: Justin Martyr was a Christian apologist who wrote two famous apologies in 152 and 163 AD, respectively, but the Cohortatio ad Graecos is a later forgery whose true date and author are unknown, but the text postdates Julius Africanus (220 AD) and Porphyry (270-305 AD), cf. Christoph Riedweg, PS.-Justin (Markell von Ankyra?) Ad Graecos de vera religione (bisher “Cohortatio ad Graecos”). As is clear even from this passage, the author has copied Julius Africanus word for word (see F 5 a). Being a late work written by a forger and a plagiarist, we can see why this passage is of little use.]

JACOBY: This and the following collection of citations are as good as worthless. That Thallus had not named Moses at all (least of all, that this cannot be taken from b), was already seen by Alfred von Gutschmid (Kleine Schriften von Alfred Gutschmid (Short Writings of Alfred Gutschmid), 1889, 2.201).

MÜLLER: cf. Castor fr. 16, 17. In this passage, too, the names of authors are thrown together at random like before.

(6) George Syncellus (p. 172, 17) = Müller section 4:

“41 Assyrian kings ruled the kingdom of the Arabs, who also ruled from the [?] year of the world to the [?] year of the world, enduring all of [?] years from the first of them, Belus, until the 41st king, Macoscolerus, the son of Sardanapallus, as most noted historians agree, including Polybius [254 F 1], Diodorus, Cephalion [93 F 2], Castor [250 F 1 b], Thallus and others.

[Translator’s Note: George the Syncellus wrote a chronology around 809 AD, by copying or quoting many prior chroniclers. The numerals are nonsensical in this passage.]

MÜLLER: This cannot be credited to Thallus any more than it can to anyone else, even though Syncellus relates it with the usual pretension.

(7) Julius Africanus, preserved by Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospels), 10.10 (p. 488 C) = Müller section 6:

After the 70th year of the captivity, Cyrus was king of the Persians in the first year of the 55th Olympiad [554 BC–tr.], as we find in the Library of Diodorus and the Histories of Thallus and Castor [250 F 6], and also in the works of Polybius [254 F 3] and Phlegon [257 F 8], but also in those of others who concern themselves with Olympiads: they are all in agreement about the date.

[Translator’s Note: bold text is omitted by Jacoby and Müller, but provided here for context, drawing from the Greek edition of Thomas Gaisford, Eusebeii Pamphili Evangelicae Praeparationis Libri XV.]

(8) Chronicle of Malalas 6 (p. 157, 18 Bonn) = Müller section 7:

“Those most wise men, Thallus, Castor [259 F 11], and Polybius [254 F 4]…and among others, Herodotus…and the wise Theophilus, all recorded the chronology of the reign of Croesus.”

[Translator’s Note: John Malalas finished his Christian world-chronicle in the 570’s AD. Thallus is here spelled Thales in the manuscript, who was also a Greek chronologer living at the very time of Croesus, but it is believed that Thallus is meant, due to a difference of dialect.]

MÜLLER: We read the same story in Castor fr. 5.a. But I strongly doubt the rightness of saying that Thallus and Castor told the story this way. It is possible that Herodotus happened to be consulted as a witness. Malalas himself derived this from Theophilus, whom he cites most often.

TRANSLATOR’S ENDNOTE: Is Thallus Mentioned by Josephus?

The passage in question (Antiquities of the Jews 18.167) does not have the word THALLOS in any extant manuscript or translation, but ALLOS. The addition of the letter theta was conjectured by Hudson in 1720, on the argument that ALLOS didn’t make sense, and that Thallus was the attested name of an imperial freedman of Tiberius in inscriptions (“I put ‘Thallos’ in place of ‘allos’ by conjecture, as he is attested to have been among the freedmen of Tiberius, going by the inscriptions of Gruter,” p. 810, translated from Hudson’s Latin). But there is no good basis for this conjecture. First, the Greek actually does makes sense without the added letter (it means “another”), and all extant early tranlsations confirm this reading, and second, an epitome of this passage does not give a name but instead the generic “someone” and this suggests that no name was mentioned in the epitomizer’s copy. But finally, the most likely name, if one were needed here at all, would be HALLOS, requiring no added letters, since an imperial freedman by this name is also known in the time of Tiberius from inscriptions. For a full discussion of these facts and many other details, see Horace Rigg, “Thallus: The Samaritan?” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 34 (1941), pp. 111-9. For the clever but unneccessary possibility that ALLOS is a corruption for ANOS, the contracted form of the sacrum nomen ANTHROPOS, see Ida Miévis, “A Propos de la Correction ‘Thallos’ dans les ‘Antiquités Judaïques’ de Flavius Josèphe,” Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire, vol. 13 (1934), pp. 733-740.

For additional studies on Thallus in general, see M. Eisler, “Un Nouveau Témoignage Non-Chrétien sur la Tradition évangelique,” Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, vol. 98 (1928), P. Prigent, “Thallos, Phlégon et le Testimonium Flavianum Témoins de Jésus?” Paganisme, Judaïsme, Christianisme: Influences et Affrontements dans le Monde Antique, ed. Frederick Bruce, 1978, and the entry for “Thallos” in Pauly’s Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumwissenschaft.

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