Asclepius (treatise)

The Asclepius, also known as the Perfect Discourse (from the Greek Logos teleios), is a religio-philosophical Hermetic treatise. The original Greek text, which was likely written in Alexandria between 100 CE and 300 CE, is largely lost and only a few fragments remain. However, the full text is extant in an early Latin translation, and fragments from a Coptic translation have also been found among the documents discovered in Nag Hammadi.

Contents

The text takes the form of a dialogue, set in the sanctuary of an Egyptian temple, between Hermes Trismegistus and three of his students: Asclepius (a grandson of the Greek god and physician Asclepius), Tat, and Hammon.

Legacy

Medieval Latin readers had access to many Hermetic treatises of a 'technical' nature (astrological, alchemical, or magical, often translated from the Arabic). However, the Asclepius was the only Hermetic treatise belonging to the 'religio-philosophical' category that was available in Latin before Marsilio Ficino's (1433–1499) and Lodovico Lazzarelli's (1447–1500) translation of the 17 Greek treatises that constitute the Corpus Hermeticum. During the Middle Ages, the Asclepius was falsely attributed to the Middle Platonist philosopher Apuleius (c. 124–after 170).

The text of the Asclepius was used by the philosopher Peter Abelard (1079–1142) and his student Robert of Melun (c. 1100–1167) as a means to prove that knowledge of the Trinity was naturally available to pagans. Albertus Magnus (c. 1200–1280) praised the idea developed in the Asclepius that the human being forms a link between God and the world, uniting in themselves both the spiritual nature of divine beings and the corporeal nature of the material world.


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