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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


XXII. 1. Now, since many of such [? tombs] are spoken of and pointed out, those who think these [myths] commemorate the awe-inspiring and mighty works and passions of kings and tyrants who, through surpassing virtue and power, put in a claim for the reputation of divinity, and afterwards experienced reverses of fortune,—employ a very easy means of escape from the [true] reason (logos), and not unworthily transfer the ill-omened [element in them] from Gods to men, and they have the following to help them from the narratives related.

2. For instance, the Egyptians tell us that Hermes had a short-armed 3 body, that Typhon was red-skinned,

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[paragraph continues] Horus white, and Osiris black, as though they were [men] born in the course of nature.

3. Moreover, also, they call Osiris “General” and Kanōbus 1 “Pilot,”—from whom, they say, the star got its name.

And [they say] that the ship which Greeks call Argō is an image of the bark of Osiris, constellated in his honour, and that it sails not far from Ōriōn and Dog, the former of which Egyptians consider the sacred [boat] of Horus and the latter of Isis. 2

XXIII. 1. But I am afraid that this is “moving the immoveable,” and “warring” not only “against many centuries,” according to Simōnidēs, 3 but “against many nations of men” and races held fast by religious feeling towards these Gods—when people let nothing alone but transfer such mighty names from heaven to earth, and [so] banish and dissolve the sense of worship and faith that has been implanted in nearly all [men] from their first coming into existence, opening up wide entrances for the godless folk, 4 and reducing the divine [mysteries] to the level of men’s doings, and giving a splendid licence to the charlatanries of Evemerus 5 the Messenian, who of himself composing the counterpleas of a baseless science of myths unworthy of any credit, flooded the civilised world with sheer atheism, listing off level all those who are looked on as gods into names of generals and admirals and kings, who (he is good enough to say)

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existed in bygone days, and are recorded in letters of gold at Panchōn, 1—which [records] neither any non-Greek nor any Greek has ever come across, but Evemerus alone, when he went his voyage to the Panchoans and Triphyllians, who never have been nor are anywhere on earth.

XXIV. 1. And yet mighty deeds of Semiramis are sung of among Assyrians, and mighty [deeds] of Sesōstris in Egypt. And Phrygians even unto this day call splendid and marvellous doings “manic,” owing to the fact that Manes, one of their bygone kings, proved himself a good and strong man among them—the one whom some call Mazdes. 2 Cyrus led Persians and Alexander Macedonians, conquering to almost the ends of the earth; still they have the name and memory of good kings [only].

2. “And if some elated by vast boastfulness,” as Plato says, 3 “concomitant with youth and ignorance, through having their souls inflamed with pride,” have accepted titles like gods and dedications of temples, their glory has flourished for a short time [only], and afterwards they have incurred the penalty of vanity and imposture coupled with impiety and indecency: 4

Death coming swift on them, like smoke they rose and fell. 5

And now like runaway [slaves] that can be lawfully

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taken, torn from the temples and altars, they have naught but their tombs and graves.

3. Wherefore Antigonus the Elder, when a certain Hermodotus, in his poems, proclaimed him “Son of the Sun and God,” remarked: “My night-stool boy has not so exalted an opinion of me.”

And with reason also did Lysippus, the sculptor, blame Apelles, the painter, for putting a thunderbolt in Alexander’s hand when painting his portrait; whereas he himself gave him a spear-head,—from which not even time itself shall take away the glory, for it is true and really his.


295:3 γαλι-άγκωνα—lit., weasel-armed. Now, as we are told further on (lxxiv. 3) that the weasel (γαλῆ), or marten, was fabled to conceive through the ear and bring forth through the mouth, this animal was evidently a symbol of mind-conception. “Weasel-armed” may thus symbolise some faculty of the interpretative mind (Hermes).

296:1 Canopus was fabled to be the pilot of the bark of Osiris; in Greek mythology he was the pilot of the General Menelaos on his return from Troy.

296:2 Cf. xxi. 2.

296:3 Bergk, iii. 522.

296:4 Or “atheists.” “An evident allusion to the Christians,” says King (in loc.); but we think Plutarch was more impersonal than his commentator.

296:5 E. flourished in the last quarter of the 4th century B.C.

297:1 The capital, presumably, of the mythical island of Panchæa, which was supposed to be somewhere on the southern coast of Asia, and to which Evemerus pretended he had sailed on a voyage down the Red Sea.

297:2 King notes: “The common title of the Sassanean kings was ‘Masdesin’—‘servant of Ormazd.’”

297:3 Legg., 716 A.

297:4 A bold thing to write in an age of Emperor-divinising.

297:5 Apparently from an otherwise unknown poet. See Bergk, iii. 637.

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