Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Byblos

The more famous Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE-40 CE) was an educated Hellenized Jewish philosopher.

Philo of Byblos (Herennios Philon), (c. 64-141 CE) was an antiquarian writer of grammatical, lexical and historical works in Greek. 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.

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.

Philo's Greek Phoenician History was so extensively quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in his 4th century work Praeparatio Evangelica that the fragments have been assembled and translated (see References). 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 claimed to have discovered secret mythological writings of the ancient Phoenicians assembled by a potentially fictitious "Sanchuniathon" who, according to Eusebius/Philo, transcribed the sacred lore from pillars in the temples of Byblos. The work is also known from quotations in Porphyry, who says that Sanchuniathon (here also called a native of Byblos) wrote a history of the Jews, based on information derived from Hierombal (i.e. Jeruba'al), a priest of the god Jevo (i.e. Yahweh, Jehovah), 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 (Ras Shamra) fall into similar patterns. Compare the genealogical tables at Sanchuniathon.

External links


  • Albert I. Baumgarten, The Phoenician History of Philo of Byblos, 1981
  • Harold W. Attridge and Robert A. Oden, Philo of Byblos: Phoenician History, Introduction, Critical Text, Translation, Notes, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 1981

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