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Philo of Byblos (Ancient Greek: Φίλων Βύβλιος, Phílōn Býblios; Latin:


Philo Byblius; c. 64 – 141 CE), also known as Herennius Philon, was
an antiquarian writer of grammatical, lexical and historical works in
Greek. He is chiefly known for his Phoenician history assembled from
the writings of Sanchuniathon.[1]

Life

Philo was born in the first century in Byblos in Lebanon. "He lived into
the reign of Hadrian, of which he wrote a history, now lost."[1] His
name "Herennius" suggests that he was a client of the consul suffectus
Herennius Severus, through whom Philo could have achieved the status
of a Roman citizen.

Works

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. Among his works were:
From the
On the Acquisition and Choice of Books WebAds by
On Cities and their Famous Men, epitomized by the grammarian
Aelius Serenus, and one of the chief authorities used by Hesychius
and Stephanus of Byzantium
On Synonyms, of which there is extant an epitome by Ammonius
Grammaticus.[1]

"But he is chiefly known for his translation of the Phoenician history of


Sanchuniathon, who was said to have lived before the Trojan war. Of
this work considerable fragments have been preserved, chiefly by
Eusebius in the Praeparatio evangelica (i.9; iv.16). They present a
euhemeristic rechauffe of Phoenician theology and mythology, which is
represented as translated from the original Phoenician. Sanchuniathon
was thought by some scholars to be an imaginary personage, whose
name is formed from that of the Phoenician god Sanchon.[1] However
Edinburgh Professor P. B. R. Forbes wrote that 14th century BC
documents from Ras Shamra (Ugarit), published since 1929, have
"proved conclusively that Sanchuniathon is doubtless a verity in view of
the many correspondences between him and these fresh texts".[2]

Philo's Greek Phoenician History was so extensively quoted by Eusebius


of Caesarea in his 4th century work Praeparatio Evangelica that the

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fragments have been assembled and translated. Eusebius's quotations


often have an agenda contrary to Philo's original intentions: the sources
of Phoenician religion are quoted simply in order to disparage. Philo's
passages show a jumbling together of Phoenician lore with Greek
mythology, Zoroastrian beliefs and ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning
the ibis-headed god, Thoth, who in Philo is called Taautos or Tauthos.
In Philo as among the ancient Egyptians, Taautos/Thoth is given
characteristics that were much argued in 4th century Christology:
"everlasting, unbegotten, undivided". Allusions to serpent veneration
mingled with the cult of Thoth are also found.

According to Eusebius, Philo discovered secret mythological writings of


the ancient Phoenicians assembled by the Phoenician writer
Sanchuniathon who, according to Eusebius/Philo, transcribed the
sacred lore from pillars in the temples of Byblos. Philo also translated all
(or some) parts of the work in his Phoenician History. According to
Porphyry, Sanchuniathon wrote a history of the Jews, based on
information derived from Hierombal (i.e. Jeruba'al), a priest of the god
Jevo, and dedicated it to Abelbal or Abibal, king of Berytus.

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 (modern Ras Shamra, Syria) fall
into similar patterns. Compare the genealogical tables at
Sanchuniathon.

Notes

1. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a


publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911).
"Philo, Herennius" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press. p. 413.
2. Forbes, Peter Barr Reid, "Philon of Byblos" in The Oxford Classical
Dictionary, New York, New York.: Oxford University Press, 1991,
p.823.

References

Harold W. Attridge and Robert A. Oden, Philo of Byblos:


Phoenician History, Introduction, Critical Text, Translation,
Notes, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 1981.
Albert I. Baumgarten, The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos,
1981.
Peter Barr Reid Forbes, "Philon of Byblos" in The Oxford Classical
Dictionary, New York, New York.: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Pedro Pablo Fuentes González, "Philon de Byblos", in R. Goulet
(ed.), Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques, vol. Va, Paris, CNRS,
2012, p. 392-399.

External links

Adolf Lumpe (1994). "Philo Byblius, Herennius (Herennios Philon

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von Byblos)". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-


Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 7.
Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 518–521. ISBN 3-88309-048-4.
"Philo Byblius, Herennius" . Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.

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