Byzantine Hermetists

Byzantine Hermetists were native speakers of Greek language and they viewed hermetic knowledge as a direct link to the Greek ancient wisdom. There were times in the history of Byzantine Orthodox Church when it was more relaxed and open-minded towards free thinking philosophers. Alongside with their Arabic brothers, Byzantine Hemetists used the time of more freedom to research and explore the hermetic wisdom, which seemed to them to be exceptionally rich.

Hermes-Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus appears as an author of numerous ancient texts on magic, astrology, alchemy and medicine. His name was a stamp used by the ancients to stress out to a reader that it was a hermetic book in his or her hands.

There had been many such books, but just a few survived. Byzantine and Arab scholars knew that most of those books had been destroyed in the Alexandrian library during the great fire and they were also aware that many other books had been burned by different religious fanatics. But they hoped that it still might be possible to discover some of the old Hermetic books in Egypt, Greece or elsewhere.

And ancient authors confirmed that once upon a time there had been many Hermetic scripts. Egyptian priest and historian Maneto (3rd century before Christ) mentions that Hermes wrote 36.525 books. Other authors calculated that Hermes was an author of 20.000 books.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215) says that Hermes wrote 42 books. Clement writes that Hermetists had to learn 36 books of Hermes Trismegistus by heart, because they revealed ”the whole wisdom of the Egyptians.” The remaining 6 books had to be learned by heart by physicians because they consisted of the topics like: illness, organs, medicine, eyes and female issues.

Alongside with those 42 books, there were also two additional books on music, 10 on ceremonies and 10 on laws.

No book from Clement’s list survived.

Other books of Hermes Trismegistus were lost as well, with a few exceptions.

Luckily, there were 17 ancient texts by Hermes Trismegistus that survived. They were written in Egypt and in Greek during the first three centuries after Christ. They emerged from some older unknown sources.

Those 17 ancient texts were discovered and interpreted by Byzantine scolars during 11th century. The historian R. Schuler suggests that it was the work of Michael Psellos (1017-1078), one of the greatest Byzantine philosophers. Psellos’ best student Johannes Itallos was anatemised in 1086 for his teaching of


Michael Psellos, Johannes Itallos and other scholars organized 17 of surviving Hermetic text into Corpus Hermeticum, which remained unknown in the West for the next three centuries.

George Gemistos Pleto (about 1355-1452) thought that Byzantines could defend against the Turks only if they would go back to their pagan traditions. Pliton went as a very old man to Florence where he attracted many students who called him the Second Plato. Among his students, there was also Cosimo Medici, the ruler of Florence.

Опис фотографије није доступан.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *