Procopius’ Phoenician inscriptions: Never lost, not found

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History and Philosophy


Procopius of Caesarea, a Byzantine writer, claimed to have seen two stelae inscribed with Phoenician letters at Tigisis, in Numidia. His translation of the Phoenician text links these documents with the biblical story of the expulsion of Canaanites by Joshua. Anthony J. Frendo has recently argued that Procopius' account is independently confirmed by the Armenian historian Moses Khorenats'i in a passage that, in Frendo's view, predates Procopius. Frendo concludes that Procopius may confirm the biblically attested tradition that military operations underlay the emergence of earliest Israel. However, current Armenian historiography places Moses Khorenats'i later than Procopius. What is more, Procopius' 'translation' of the Phoenician text appears to be dependent on a lost passage of Sextus Julius Africanus, itself reflecting the diction of the Septuagint (Josh 10.10 and 5.1). Procopius probably acquired the passage from Hippolytus of Rome, adding a tendentious interpolation.

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