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ALEXANDER OF MILETUS (called Polyhistor on account of the number of his writings on geography, history, grammar, natural science, rhetoric, and philosophy):

Flourished between 105 and 40 B.C. He was the author of a book entitled Περὶ Ιονδαίων ("Upon the Jews"). This work, of which only a few fragments have been preserved, quoted in the works of Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria, consisted evidently of excerpts from various Jewish, Samaritan, and heathen authors, touching the earlier history of the Jews, strung together with a pretense of chronological order. Although these excerpts reveal their author as nothing but a compiler without taste or judgment, and bereft of all literary ability, they possess, even in their meagerness, a certain value. In his compilation heathen and Jew are cited indiscriminately side by side; and to Alexander, therefore, the world is indebted for information on the oldest Jewish, Hellenic, and Samaritan elaboration of Biblical history in prose or poetry. The epic poet Philo, the tragic writer Ezekiel, the historian Eupolemus, the chronicler Demetrius, the so-called Artapanus, the historian Aristeas, and the Samaritan Theodotus, as well as an unnamed fellow countryman of the latter often confused with Eupolemus, the rhetorician Molon (an anti-Jewish writer)—all of these authors are known to posterity only through extracts from their works which Alexander embodied verbatim in his. Of some interest for the ancient history of the Jews is his account of Assyria-Babylonia, frequently drawn upon by Jewish and Christian authors; in it extracts are given, especially from Berosus, and also from the "Chronicles of Apollodoros" and the "Third Book of the Sibyllines." Josephus made use of the work (see Freudenthal, "Alexander Polyhistor," p. 25), and likewise Eusebius in his "Chronicles." Probably only Alexander's account of the Flood is taken from Berosus, who is confirmed by the newest Assyrian discoveries, while his account of the Confusion of Tongues is probably of Jewish-Hellenic origin. Another work of his seems to have contained considerable information concerning the Jews. What Eusebius quotes ("Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 20, 3) would seem to have been taken from this work, which is no longer extant, except indirectly through Josephus. It may be noted that Alexander twice mentions the Bible, which, however, he knew only superficially, as appears from his curious statement that the Law of the Jews was given to them by a woman named Moso, and that Judea received its name from Judah and Idumea, children of Semiramis. In his above-mentioned work, specifically devoted to the Jews (Περὶ Ιουδαίων), he furnishes several useful notes touching Jewish history; and its method, or rather want of method, arises entirely from Alexander's lack of literary judgment in compiling haphazard from both heathen and Jewish sources.

The text of the fragments preserved is in very unsatisfactory shape, owing to insufficient collation of the manuscripts. How much of his originals Alexander himself omitted is difficult to say, in view of the corrupt state of the text of Eusebius, where most of his fragments are to be found. Abydenus—the Christian editor of Alexander's works—evidently had a different text before him from that which Eusebius possessed.

Text of the fragments Περὶ Ιουδαίων is to be found in Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 17; Clemens Alexandrinus, "Stromata," i. 21, 130, and Müller, "Fragmenta Historicorum Græcorum," iii. 211-230; prose extracts, from a new collation of the manuscripts, in Freudenthal, "Alexander Polyhistor," pp. 219-236.

Bibliography:
  • Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor, Breslau, 1875 (Hellenistische Studien, i. and ii.);
  • Unger, Wann Schrieb Alexander Polyhistor? in Philologus, xliii. 28-531, ib.xlvii. 177-183;
  • Susemihl, Gesch. der Griechischen Literatur, ii. 356-364;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 346-349. An English translation of the fragments is to be found in Cory's Ancient Fragments, London, 1876;
  • a French translation in Reinach, Textes d'Auteurs Grecs et Romains Relatifs au Judaisme, 1895, pp. 65-68.
L. G.
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