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Phlegon

PHLEGON, (*Xtywv), a native of Tralles in Lydia (Suidas), a freedman of the emperor Hadrian. (Vopiscus, in Saturnino, p. 245; Spartianus, in Hadriann, p. 8, et in Scvero, p. 71,ed. Salmas., Par., 1620; Photii Biblioth., cod. !)7, p. 83, ed. Bekker.) Nothing is known of the events of bis life, and the date of his death is uncertain: however, as one of his chronological works, which is no longer extant, carried the history down to 01. 229.2—A.D. 141 (Suidas), he probably lived to the middle of the second century A.D. Some fragments of his works are all that remain; the longest belongs to a treatise jrepi Oavpaoiuiv, 'De Mirabilibus.' It is a curious work, divided into thirty-five chapters (some of which are very short), and containing (as might be expected from the title) a great many absurd fables. The same may be said of a shorter fragment of four chapters, s-fpi ^a/cpo^iiiv, 'De Longcevis.' The third fragment that remains is a chapter jrep! Twv 'OXvpnluiv, ' De Olympiis,' which is supposed by Salmasius (Ad Spartian., p. 43) to bo the preface to a lost work, 'De Olympionicis.' He mentions (De Mirab., capp. 6-10) several curious cases of hermaphrodites (avSpoyvvoi), or persons supposed to be women who afterwards turned out to be men. (For similar instances see Cyclop, of Anat. and Physiol., art. 'Hermaphroditism,' p. 692, &c.) He quotes Craterus, the brother of King Antigonus (De Mirab., cap. 32), as saying that he had known a person who, within seven years, was an infant, a youth, an adult, a father, an old man, and a corpse. (For similar instances see Good's Study of Med., cl. v., ord. 2, gen. 2, sp. 1.) He gives several instances of monstrous births, and of three, four, and five children being born at once, and says, on the authority of Megasthenes, that the women at Palaea become mothers at six years old. (Ibid., cap. 33.) He gives a list of persons who had lived more than a hundred years, but says that the Erythraean sibyl attained nearly the age of one thousand. (De Longcev., cap. 4.) He speaks of a child who was able to converse with others when only nine-and-forty days old. (Steph. Byzant., De Urb. in Tappaxi'v»».)

But what has made Phlegon's name more familiar among the moderns is his being cited, though a heathen, as bearing witness to the accomplishment of Christian prophecies. (Origen, Cont. Cels., lib. ii., J 14, p. 69, cd. Spencer., Cantab., 1677.) The passage referred to is as follows :—' Phlegon, in the thirteenth, or, as I think, the fourteenth book of his Chronicles, ascribes to Christ the knowledge of some future things, though he makes a mistake in the person, naming Peter instead of Jesus; and he allows that the things foretold came to pass.' Upon this Lardner remarks (Credibility, Pt. II., 'Heathen Testimonies,' ch. 13)—1, that Origen seems to have trusted to his memory in this quotation; 2, that if Phlegon named Peter instead of our Lord, it is a mark of carelessness and inaccuracy; 3, that, for want of seeing the passage more at length, we cannot form any clear judgment about it; 4, that Phlegon was so credulous, that his testimony concerning things of a marvellous nature must be of little weight; and 5, that Origen is the only person that has mentioned this. He concludes therefore that 'upon the whole this citation is of no great moment.' But there is another passage of this author which may be reckoned more material, as it has been supposed to relate to the miraculous darkness which prevailed at the time of our Lord's crucifixion. In St. Jerome's Latin version of the ' Chronicle' of Eusebius (p. 155, ed. Pont., Burdig., 1604), the passage occurs as follows:—'And so writes Phlegon, an excellent compiler of the Olympiads, in his thirteenth P.C, No. 1115. fifing, "In the fourtn year of the two hundred and second Olympiad there was a great and extraordinary eclipse of the Sun, distinguished among all that had happened before. At the sixth hour the day was turned into dark night, so that the stars in the heavens were seen, and there was an earthquake in Bithvnia whieh overthrew many houses in the city of Nice."* (Compare Origen, Cont. Cels., lib. ii., $ 33, p. 80; lb., $ 59, p. 96; and other authorities quoted by Lardner.) This passage was the origin of a controversy in England in the early part of the last century between Mr. Whiston, Dr. Sykes, Mr. Chapman, and others, a long and complete account of which may be found in the English translation of Bayle's Dictionary, and in Chaufepie's Supplement to it. The immediate cause of the controversy was the omission of the passage in the eighth edition of Dr. S. Clarke's 'Boyle Lectures,' published soon after his death in 1732, although it had been inserted in the first edition, which came out in 1706. This wis done at the persuasion of Dr. Sykes, who had suggested to Clarke that an undue stress had been laid upon the passage. But besides these, other and greater names are to ere found in direct opposition to each other upon this question. The testimony of Phlegon is highly valued by Colonia (La Relig. ChrU. autoriste par les Aut. Pay., vol. i., ch. 1, pp. 1-44); by Huet (Demonstr. Evang., prop. 3, $9, pp. 25-6); by Fabricius (Bibliog. Gr* torn, iii., p. 403); by Petavius (De Docir. Temp., lib. xii., cap. 21, p. 458): on the other hand, it is rejected by G. J. Yossius (Harm. Evang., lib. ii., cap. 10); by Scaliger (in Euseb. Chron. pp. 185-6); by Kepler (Eel. Chron* pp. 87, 126); by Tillemont (Mem. Eccles., Note xxxv., sur N. S. Jesus Christ, p. 449); byBayle (Diet. Hist, and O il., art. ' Phlegon'); and by Lardner (loco cit.). The principal objections against the authority of the passage in question are thus briefly summed up by Dr. Adam Clarke (Comment, on Matth. xxvii. 45):—1, All the authors who quote Phlegon differ and often very materially, in what they say was found in him; 2, He says nothing of Judcea: what he says is, that in such an Olympiad (some say the 102nd, others the 202nd) there was an eclipse in Bithynia, and an earthquake at Nice; 3, He does not say that the earthquake happened at the time of the eclipse; 4, He does not intimate that this darkness was extraordinary, or that the eclipse happened at the full of the Moon, or that it lasted three hours; all of which circumstances could not have been omitted by him if be had known them; 5, He speaks merely of an ordinary though perhaps total eclipse of the Sun, and cannot mean the darkness mentioned by the Evangelists; and 6, He speaks of an eclipse that happened in some year of the 102nd or 202nd Olympiad, and therefore, upon the whule, little stress can be laid on what he says as applying to this event.

The three remaining fragments of Phlegon were first published in 1568, Basil., 8vo., Gr. ct Lat., by Xylander, together with Antonini Liber alia Transform. Conger.; Apollonii Hist. Mirab.; Antigoni Carystii Hist. Mirab.; and M. Antoninus, De Vita sua. An improved edition, with notes by Meursius, appeared in 1620, Lugd. Bat, 4to., Gr. et Lat., which is reprinted by Gronovius, in his 'Thesaur. Antiquit. Grtec.,' vol. viiL, p. 2690, sq, and p. 2727, and vol. ix., p. 1289, sq.; and also inserted among the works of Meursius, vol. viL, p. 77, so. This was republished with notes by J. G. Franzius, and an ' Epistola de Longeevis,' by Meibomius, Halee, 1775, 8vo., and lastly, with additional observations, by J. Bastius, Halse, 1822, 8vo., Gr. et. Lat.

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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