C. Josephus Flavius and Philo of Alexandria, as well as the Roman naturalist and historian Pliny the Elder. The scrolls of the caves would have belonged to this sect which would have hidden them to preserve them from destruction and attacks by enemies. According to de Vaux, this happened in 68 A.D., when the Jews had already had the worst in the war against the Romans and Khirbet Qumran was abandoned following a military attack. This, with few variations, is the theory accepted today by the majority of Qumranists. The corpus of manuscripts found in the eleven caves is made up of biblical works (both canonical and apocryphal and pseudo-epigraph), non-biblical sectarian works, or original products previously unknown to scholars (documents such as the Community Rule, the War Scroll, various commentaries – or pesher – in a historical political key of the Old Testament such as the pesher of Habakkuk, etc …) and non-sectarian works such as some calendar tables, the Scroll of the Temple, the Copper Scroll, the Damascus Document, etc … some documents such as the Community Rule and the Damascus Document, which describe the rules that govern a mysterious Community, perhaps the one that composed the manuscripts, seem to support the thesis of R. de Vaux. But one of the most ancient testimonies on the Essenes, that of the Roman historian and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), seems in part to disagree with the conclusions of de Vaux. In his work entitled Natural History (Naturalis historia in Latin) Pliny writes:
Pliny, in describing some places in Judea, places the territory of the Essenes just west of the Dead Sea, not very far from the coast. Since according to Pliny the city of Engedi was located below (i.e. south) of the place where the Essenes lived (infra hos Engada oppidum fuit in the original Latin text) de Vaux thought that Khirbet Qumran, which is located about 50 km north of Engedi and along the western shore of the Dead Sea, was the place where the mysterious Jewish sect had settled. In support of this geographical location we also point out the minor, but no less important testimony of Dio of Prusa, a Greek intellectual and philosopher who lived between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD:
Unfortunately, this sentence of Dio is second-hand, having reached us from Synesius of Cyrene (approx. 370-413 AD), the biographer of Dio of Prusa. The description provided by Pliny alludes – albeit vaguely – to a community structure whose characteristics could precisely coincide with what is reported in some sectarian documents found in the caves of Qumran. Unfortunately the analogies end here and instead the discrepancies with the archaeological reconstructions begin when an attempt is made to apply to Khirbet Qumran what was written by Pliny (and by Dione). Pliny the Elder, in fact, visited Palestine around 75 AD after the first Jewish revolt, when de Vaux assumes that Khirbet Qumran had already been destroyed by the Romans and then abandoned by the Essenes. But Pliny clearly speaks of the Essenes as a community still alive and present at the time he writes and the fact that he speaks of Engedi as a city now destroyed at the time he writes confirms that the story was really written at the end of the Jewish revolt. of 66-74 after Christ. Therefore either Khirbet Qumran was never destroyed in 68 after Christ and was still inhabited by the Essenes at the time of Pliny the Elder, against the theories of de Vaux, or it is not to be considered the place where Pliny places the community of the Essenes. A solution that would reconcile de Vaux’s theory and Pliny’s description is to suppose that the Essenes lived near Khirbet Qumran and were helped by the inhabitants of Khirbet Qumran – possibly occupied by the Jewish army at the time of the revolt against the Romans – hiding manuscripts in caves to protect them from enemies; if so, a part of the Essenes would have survived the war and would have continued to inhabit the areas surrounding Khirbet Qumran even at the time of Pliny.