Phlegon of Tralles (Ancient Greek: Φλέγων ὁ Τραλλιανός) was a Greek writer and freedman of the emperor Hadrian, who lived in the 2nd century AD.
His chief work was the Olympiads, an historical compendium in sixteen books, from the 1st down to the 229th Olympiad (776 BC to AD 137), of which several chapters are preserved in Eusebius' Chronicle, Photius and George Syncellus.
Two short works by him are extant:
- On Marvels
- On Long-Lived Persons, a list of Italians who had passed the age of 100, taken from the Roman censuses.
Other works ascribed to Phlegon in the Suda are a description of Sicily, a work on the Roman festivals in three books, and a topography of Rome:
- "Phlegon of Tralles, freedman of Augustus Caesar, but some say of Hadrian: historian. He wrote Olympiads in 16 books. Up to the 229th Olympiad they contain what was done everywhere. And these in 8 books: Description of Sicily; On long-lived and marvelous persons, On the feasts of the Romans 3 books, On the places in Rome and by what names they are called, Epitome of Olympic victors in 2 books, and other things.
- "Of this Phlegon, as Philostorgius says, to relate fully in detail what befell with the Jews, while Phlegon and Dio mentioned [these events] briefly and made them an appendix to their own narrative. Since this man does not exhibit at all prudently those who would lead to piety and other virtues, as those others do not either. Josephus, on the contrary, is like one who fears and takes care not to offend the [sc.pagan] Greeks."
Reference to Jesus
Origen of Alexandria (182-254 AD), in Against Celsus (Book II, Chap. XIV), wrote that Phlegon, in his "Chronicles", mentions Jesus: "Now Phlegon, in the thirteenth or fourteenth book, I think, of his Chronicles, not only ascribed to Jesus a knowledge of future events (although falling into confusion about some things which refer to Peter, as if they referred to Jesus), but also testified that the result corresponded to His predictions." He referred to a description by Phlegon of an eclipse accompanied by earthquakes during the reign of Tiberius (probably that of 29 AD): that there was "the greatest eclipse of the sun” and that “it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.” Origen mentions that Phlegon also wrote that "Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails".
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Phlegon". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 447.
- Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller, Frag. hist. graec., iii
- O Keller, Rerum naturalium scriptores, i. (1877)
- H Diels, "Phlegons Androgynenorakel" in Sibyllinische Bücher (1890).
- Phlegon of Tralles' Book of Marvels. Translated with an introduction and commentary by William Hansen. University of Exeter Press (1996) pp.xvi + 215. Review.