Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius

The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius is a collection of aphorisms attributed to the legendary Hellenistic figure Hermes Trismegistus (a syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth).

It has mainly been preserved in a sixth-century CE Armenian translation, but the Greek original likely goes back to the first century CE. As such, it is the oldest of the religio-philosophical Hermetica (writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus), which were mainly written between c. 100 and c. 300 CE. The main argument for the early dating of the Definitions is the fact that some of its aphorisms are cited in multiple independent Greek Hermetic works.

According to Jean-Pierre Mahé, these aphorisms contain the core of the teachings which are found in the later Greek religio-philosophical Hermetica.

Text and translation

  • Mahé, Jean-Pierre 1978-1982. Hermès en Haute-Egypte. Vol. I-II. Quebec: Presses de l'Université Laval. (critical edition of the Armenian text)
  • Mahé, Jean-Pierre 1999. "The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius" in: Salaman, Clement et al. (eds.). The Way of Hermes. London: Duckworth, pp. 99–122. (English translation)

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