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

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Princeton University Press, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 244 pages
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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.Garth Fowden is a research fellow at the Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity of the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens, and the author of Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity.
 

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Contents

PART I MODES OF CULTURAL INTERACTION
13
The gods of Egypt
14
Hermes Trismegistus
22
The Hermetica
31
Translation and interpretation
45
Manetho and Chaeremon
52
Books of Thoth and technical Hermetica
57
Instructions and philosophical Hermetica
68
PreIamblichan theurgy
126
lamblichus of Apamea
131
Hermetism and theurgy
142
Bitys
150
THE MILIEU OF HERMETISM
155
The evidence of the Hermetica
156
Firstcentury Alexandria and beyond
161
Temples and priests
166

THE WAY OF HERMES
75
Magic
79
Occult properties and alchemy
87
Astrology
91
Religio mentis
95
The philosophical paideia
97
Gnosis
104
Towards a via universalis
116
Zosimus of Panopolis
120
Upper Egypt
168
Late antique Alexandria
177
a sociointellectual description
186
Aegypti sacra deportata1
196
Conclusion
213
Earliest testimonies to the name Hermes Trismegistus
216
Bibliography
218
Index
237
Copyright

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About the author (1993)

Garth Fowden is Research Director at the Institute of Historical Research, National Research Foundation, Athens, and Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at the University of Cambridge. His books include "Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity" and "The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind" (both Princeton).

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