Podcast episode

Episode 159: Metals, Temples, and Living Statues: Shannon Grimes on Zosimus’ Egyptian Context

Shannon Grimes was studying ancient alchemy, but when she asked herself ‘What were these people actually doing?’ found herself drawn into the study of ancient Egyptian society, its temple-cults, metallurgical trade-guilds of the Roman period, and much more. We discuss her findings on the temple- and guild-context of ancient Egyptian alchemy, and parse out the relevance of living temple-statues for Zosimus’ alchemical project and religious beliefs (if indeed the alchemy and religion are separate things).

Interview Bio:

Shannon Grimes is Professor of Religion at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her first book, Becoming Gold: Zosimos of Panopolis and the Alchemical Arts in Roman Egypt, was published by Rubedo Press in December 2018. Her Academia page has some great stuff on it.

Works Cited in this Episode:


The Suda‘s entry for Zosimus (ζ 168), translation from the Suda Online project: Of Alexandria, philosopher. [He wrote] Matters Alchemical, addressed to his sister Theosebia; it is alphabetically arranged in 28 volumes, and known by some as Things Wrought By Hand; and the Life of Plato [sc. is by him].

The first-century CE ‘Gnomon of the Idios Logos’ (in P.Oxy. XLII 3014) and the 196 BCE ‘Memphis Decree’ are discussed at Dielemann 2005 (see below), pp. 206-8.


Episode 85 with Laurence Principe can be found here.

Grimes 2018 and articles [see below].

Recommended Reading:

By Our Guest

Defining Greco-Egyptian Alchemy. Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies, 7:70–80, 2022a.

Zosimus and Theosebia: An Erotics of Alchemical Pedagogy. Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies, 7:1–16, 2022b.

Secrets of the God Makers: Re-thinking the Origins of Greco-Egyptian Alchemy. Syllecta Classica, 29:67–89, 2018a.

Becoming Gold: Zosimos of Panopolis and the Alchemical Arts in Roman Egypt, Panopolis Series Vol. 1. Rubedo Press, 2018b.

Generally Relevant

Christian H. Bull. The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: the Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom. Brill, Leiden, 2018.

P. Derchain. L’Atelier des Orfevres à Dendara et les origins de l’Alchimie. Chronique d’Egypte, LXV:219–42, 1990.

Jacco Dieleman. Priests, Tongues, and Rites: The London-Leiden Magical Manuscripts and Translation in Egyptian Ritual (100–300 CE). Brill, Leiden, 2005.

Marina Escolano-Poveda. The Egyptian Priests of the Graeco-Roman Period. An Analysis on the Basis of the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman Literary and Paraliterary Sources. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2020.

Idem. Zosimos Aigyptiakos. Identifying the Imagery of the ”Visions” and Locating Zosimos of Panopolis in his Egyptian Context. Arys, 20:77–134, 2022.

Susan La Niece, Fleur Shearman, John Taylor, and Antony Simpson. Polychromy and Egyptian Bronze: New Evidence for Artificial Coloration. Studies in Conservation, 47 (2):95–108, 2002.

D. Schorsch. The Manufacture of Metal Statuary: ‘Seeing the Workshops of the Temple’. In M. Hill and D. Schorsch, editors, Gifts for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples, pages 189–200. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2007.


, , , , , , , , ,