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Storytime: Reading Zosimus of Panopolis On the Letter Omega

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Zosimus has a lot of writings which are mainly of interest to historians of science. We won’t be doing Storytime episodes of those. But there are a few treatises – like On the Letter Omega – which bring together the alchemical stuff with an entire worldview – Hermetic? Gnostic Christian? Egyptian? All of the above? – which just blows your mind. You have to read through these with an eye to the details, and that’s what we do in this rather long episode.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Irenæus on the seven vowels: Adv. hær. I.14.7 (in the context of Marcosian belief): ‘And the first heaven indeed pronounces Alpha, the next to this Epsilon, the third Eta, the fourth, which is also in the midst of the seven, utters the sound of Iota, the fifth Omicron, the sixth Upsilon, the seventh, which is also the fourth from the middle, utters the elegant Omega.’ [unattributed trans. online — sorry about that, but you get the idea]. On omega and Kronos/Saturn, see Franz Dornseiff. Das Alphabet in Mystik und Magie. Number 7 in Studien zur Geschichte des antiken Weltbildes und der griechischen Wissenschaft. Teubner, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 82-3.

Olympiodorus, Maria, and The Book on Furnaces: Olympiodorus (CAG II.90.19) refers to a καμινογραφία written by Maria.

Porphyry on Nicotheos: Plot. 16: ‘Many Christians of this period—amongst them sectaries who had abandoned the old philosophy, men of the schools of Adelphius and Aquilinus—had possessed themselves of works by Alexander of Libya, by Philocomus, by Demostratus, and by Lydus, and exhibited also Revelations [sc. apokalypseis] bearing the names of Zoroaster, Zostrianus, Nicotheus, Allogenes, Mesus, and others of that order. Thus they fooled many, themselves fooled first; Plato, according to them, had failed to penetrate into the depth of Intellectual Being.’ [MacKenna’s translation].

Βίτυς chez Iamblichus: De myst. VIII.5 and X.7.

The Sibylline Oracles on the four letters of Adam: Orac. Sibyl. III 24-26 = p. 47-48 Geffcken.

The ‘inner man’ in Paul: Rom. 7, 22-23; II Cor. 4, 16; Eph. 3, 16.

In Plato’s Republic: R. 589a.


Olivier Dufault. Was Zosimus of Panopolis Christian? Arys, 20:135–70, 2022; we cite the abstract, p. 135.

Festugière 1967, see below; we cite p. 301.

Fowden 1986, see below; we cite p. 88.

Recommended Reading:

André-Jean Festugière. La révélation d’Hermes Trismegiste. J. Gabalda, Paris, 1944- 1954. 4 vols.

André-Jean Festugière. Hermétisme et mystique paı̈enne. Aubier-Montaigne, Paris, 1967.

Howard M. Jackson. Zosimus of Panopolis on the Letter Omega, volume 14 of Texts and Translations. Society of Biblical Literature, Missoula, MT, 1978.

Michèle Mertens, editor. Zosime de Panopolis: mémoires authentiques. Number IV, 1 in Les Alchemistes Grecs. Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 3rd edition, 2019.

Richard Reitzenstein. Poimandres: Studien zur griechisch-ägyptischen und fruhchristlichen Literatur. Teubner, Leipzig, 1904.