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Zosimos the Alchemist

Zosimos of Panopolis was a Greco-Egyptian alchemist and Gnostic mystic who lived at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century CE. Zosimos provided one of the first definitions of alchemy as the study of "the composition of waters, movement, growth, embodying and disembodying, drawing the spirits from bodies and bonding the spirits within bodies.”


According to Lawrence Principe in his book Greco-Egyptian Chemeia: The Secrets of Alchemy, Zosimos viewed metals as consisting of two parts: the body and the spirit. The spirit carries the properties of the metal and can be transferred to the body of another metal. Thus, the body of a new metal, such as silver or gold, is created.


Zosimos like the other mystics of his time, believed that this spiritual transformation of a base metal like lead and copper into silver and gold was a metaphor for the processes in the human soul of purification and redemption. It is through his writings that we learn of the work of first century CE Maria Hebrea.


My novels feature the alchemist and amateur detective I’ve called Miriam bat Isaac. I’ve based her personage on Maria Hebrea. So while Miriam bat Isaac is fictive, her personage is based on the once-famous but now little-known alchemist extolled by Zosimos.


To find out more about Maria Hebrea as my source for Miriam bat Isaac, click here.


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