Plague Refugees: Kadmos, Danaus and Moses

This passage is interesting for the motif that famous founders of Greece were from Egypt (present in mythographical texts like Apollodorus’ LibraryIt also integrates Jewish origins into the same narrative.

Photios, Bibliotheca, 3801-381b [=Diodorus Siculus Histories 40.3]

“Since we are about to go over the Jewish War, I think this is a good time to go through the origins of the people from the beginning along with their customs.

When a deadly plague happened in ancient Egypt, many laid blame on the divine for their suffering. For there were many foreigners from every place living there, practicing diverse customs concerning religion and sacrifices, and the traditional religious rites were being destroyed. For these reasons, the indigenous people supposed that if they did not get rid of the foreign peoples then there would be no end to their suffering.

The different ethnic groups were expelled immediately. Some who were the most famous and eager for action gathered to leave together, as some claim, to Greece and other places, since they had leaders worthy of repute, among whom the most famous were Kadmos and Danaos. A great number of people fled to the land now called Judea, which is not far from Egypt and was completely deserted at the time. The leader of those refugees was named Moses, distinct from all by his intelligence and bravery.”

ἡμεῖς δὲ μέλλοντες ἀναγράφειν τὸν πρὸς ᾽Ιουδαίους πόλεμον, οἰκεῖον εἶναι διαλαμβάνομεν προδιελθεῖν ἐν κεφαλαίοις τήν τε τοῦ ἔθνους τούτου ἐξ ἀρχῆς κτίσιν καὶ τὰ παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς νόμιμα.  κατὰ τὴν Αἴγυπτον τὸ παλαιὸν λοιμικῆς περιστάσεως γενομένης, ἀνέπεμπον οἱ πολλοὶ τὴν αἰτίαν τῶν κακῶν ἐπὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον· πολλῶν γὰρ καὶ παντοδαπῶν κατοικούντων ξένων καὶ διηλλαγμένοις ἔθεσι χρωμένων περὶ τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ τὰς θυσίας, καταλελύσθαι συνέβαινε παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς τὰς πατρίους τῶν θεῶν τιμάς· ὅπερ οἱ τῆς χώρας ἐγγενεῖς ὑπέλαβον, ἐὰν μὴ τοὺς ἀλλοφύλους μεταστήσωνται, κρίσιν οὐκ ἔσεσθαι τῶν κακῶν.

εὐθὺς οὖν ξενηλατουμένων τῶν ἀλλοεθνῶν, οἱ μὲν ἐπιφανέστατοι καὶ δραστικώτατοι συστραφέντες ἐξερρίφησαν, ὥς τινές φασιν εἰς τὴν ῾Ελλάδα καί τινας ἑτέρους τόπους, ἔχοντες ἀξιολόγους ἡγεμόνας(?), ὧν ἡγοῦντο Δαναὸς καὶ Κάδμος τῶν ἄλλων ἐπιφανέστατοι· ὁ δὲ πολὺς λεὼς ἐξέπεσεν εἰς τὴν νῦν καλουμένην ᾽Ιουδαίαν, οὐ πόρρω μὲν κειμένην τῆς ᾽Αἰγύπτου, παντελῶς δὲ ἔρημον οὖσαν κατ᾽ ἐκείνους τοὺς χρόνους. ἡγεῖτο δὲ τῆς ἀποικίας ὁ προσαγορευόμενος Μωσῆς, φρονήσει τε καὶ ἀνδρείαι πολὺ διαφέρων.

Print, Cadmus Building Thebes, MET

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