The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind

The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind

by Garth Fowden
     
 

Sage, scientist, and sorcerer, Hermes Trismegistus was the culture-hero of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. A human (according to some) who had lived about the time of Moses, but now indisputably a god, he was credited with the authorship of numerous books on magic and the supernatural, alchemy, astrology, theology, and philosophy. Until the early seventeenth century,

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Overview

Sage, scientist, and sorcerer, Hermes Trismegistus was the culture-hero of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. A human (according to some) who had lived about the time of Moses, but now indisputably a god, he was credited with the authorship of numerous books on magic and the supernatural, alchemy, astrology, theology, and philosophy. Until the early seventeenth century, few doubted the attribution. Even when unmasked, Hermes remained a byword for the arcane. Historians of ancient philosophy have puzzled much over the origins of his mystical teachings; but this is the first investigation of the Hermetic milieu by a social historian.

Starting from the complex fusions and tensions that molded Graeco-Egyptian culture, and in particular Hermetism, during the centuries after Alexander, Garth Fowden goes on to argue that the technical and philosophical Hermetica, apparently so different, might be seen as aspects of a single "way of Hermes." This assumption that philosophy and religion, even cult, bring one eventually to the same goal was typically late antique, and guaranteed the Hermetica a far-flung readership, even among Christians. The focus and conclusion of this study is an assault on the problem of the social milieu of Hermetism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691024981
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
06/01/1993
Series:
Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology Series
Edition description:
With a New preface by the author
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
778,151
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.42(h) x 0.69(d)

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Preface to the 1993 edition
Preface (1986)
Introduction: The texts1
Pt. IModes of Cultural Interaction
1The durability of Egypt13
The gods of Egypt14
Hermes Trismegistus22
The Hermetica31
2Translation and interpretation45
Aretalogies of Isis and Asclepius45
Manetho and Chaeremon52
Books of Thoth and technical Hermetica57
Instructions and philosophical Hermetica68
Pt. IIThe Way of Hermes
3Magister omnium physicorum75
Sympatheia75
Magic79
Occult properties and alchemy87
Astrology91
4Religio mentis95
The philosophical paideia97
Gnosis104
5Towards a via universalis116
Technique and philosophy: interactions116
Zosimus of Panopolis120
Pre-Iamblichan theurgy126
Iamblichus of Apamea131
6Hermetism and theurgy142
The role and understanding of ritual142
Bitys150
Pt. IIIThe Milieu of Hermetism
7Hermetism in Egypt155
The evidence of the Hermetica156
First-century Alexandria - and beyond161
Temples and priests166
Upper Egypt168
Late antique Alexandria177
The milieu of Hermetism: a socio-intellectual description186
8Aegypti sacra deportata196
Conclusion213
Appendix: Earliest testimonies to the name 'Hermes Trismegistus'216
Bibliography218
Index237

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