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"Greek master" topos
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Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Thu Oct 7th, 2010 10:07 am
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In the anonymous Vita Sendivogii Poloni the author says that Sendivogius was initiated in alchemy by a Greek Patriarch. I wonder if anyone can recall other instances of such references to (real or imaginary) Greek alchemical masters of late medieval or early modern periods (i.e. not to the Greek alchemical authors of late antiquity). I find two other examples: (1) the Greek monk Lascaris; (2) Cagliostro's master Althotas (though he is sometimes identified as an Armenian).

There are also some references in Ben Jonson to "heathen Greek" but it is not exactly what I am looking for.

Best regards,
Rafał

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Thu Oct 7th, 2010 04:43 pm
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Rafal T. Prinke wrote:
In the anonymous Vita Sendivogii Poloni the author says that Sendivogius was initiated in alchemy by a Greek Patriarch. I wonder if anyone can recall other instances of such references to (real or imaginary) Greek alchemical masters of late medieval or early modern periods (i.e. not to the Greek alchemical authors of late antiquity). I find two other examples: (1) the Greek monk Lascaris; (2) Cagliostro's master Althotas (though he is sometimes identified as an Armenian).

There are also some references in Ben Jonson to "heathen Greek" but it is not exactly what I am looking for.

Best regards,
Rafał



1. Johannes Archipresbyter
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1094&letter=A (under 'An Important manuscript')

2. Hieronymus Makropulos
Pops up in an opera by Janáček (actually existed or just legendary?)

3. Was not Berthold Schwarz the gunpowder man half-Greek?

4. Michael Psellos.

Last edited on Thu Oct 7th, 2010 05:06 pm by Paul Ferguson

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Fri Oct 8th, 2010 06:08 am
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.

Hi Rafał,

I found two mentions while skimming Figuier (L’Alchimie et les alchimistes, Bibliotheca Hermetica, 1970). Needless to say, you’ll have to check out with the ‘real’ authors.

 

Bernard Trévisan (pp. 201-202, in Figuier) :

Il séjourna particulièrement dans la Grèce méridionale, parce que les autres parties de ce pays était continuellement inquiétées par l’invasion des troupes turques. S’attachant surtout à visiter les couvents, il travaillait à la préparation de l’œuvre avec les moines que leur renommée désignait à son attention. Il ne dédaignait pas cependant le savoir des laïques. […]

En 1472, il arriva à Rhodes […]

A Rhodes habitait « un grand clerc et religieux » que l’on reconnaissait dans tout l’Orient, comme ayant le bonheur d’être en possession de la pierre philosophale. C’est pour se mettre en rapport avec lui que Bernard s’était arrêté dans cette île.

 ........................................................................

 

The other one is Denis Zachaire (p. 187) :

Il fallait cependant faire un choix parmi un si grand nombre d’opérateurs. Zachaire se décida à accorder sa confiance à un Grec arrivé pendant l’été, et qui prétendait savoir changer en argent le cinabre mis en forme de clous.

 

 

And there’s even a kind of link with Sendivogius : the murder  of Zachaire has been retold by Mardochée de Delle ...

 Cet événement [the murder] fit beaucoup de bruit en Allemagne mais on ne put retrouver les traces de l’assassin. Mardochée de Delle, le poète de la cour de Rodolphe II, composa plus tard sur ce sujet une pièce de vers

 

... who also wrote about Sendivogius’ success. (Lives of the Alchemistical Philosophers, article ‘Michael Sendivogius’) :

 

A marble tablet with the inscription―

Faciat hoc quispiam alius


Quod fecit Sendivogius Polonus,


Was set up in the chamber where the transmutation had been performed, and the occasion was celebrated in verse by the court poet, Mardochie de Delle.

.

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Fri Oct 8th, 2010 09:11 pm
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Hi Paul and Carl,

Thanks a lot for those references, they are all helpful.

I think Makropulos was invented by Capek -- but will try to check.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Sat Oct 9th, 2010 01:15 am
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Possibly also of interest: Michèle Mertens's paper on the Byzantine reception of ancient Greek alchemy is available in its entirety on Google books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=muGVUiKEYccC&pg=PA205&lpg=PA205&dq=%22alchemy+in+byzantium%22&source=bl&ots=q5Y5gVImf7&sig=p8nM7aX9qlOpI0mZe4xzYdD1dds&hl=en&ei=o8CvTK7-O9jPjAeSqoRG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&sqi=2&ved=0CDAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22alchemy%20in%20byzantium%22&f=false

Alan Pritchard may also want to note this one.

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Sat Oct 9th, 2010 09:03 pm
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Thanks, Paul. Actually, I have that book but forgot about it :-)
But I am more interested in the "archetype" of a Greek alchemical master in the West than genuine Greek alchemy. Still, it is important for background and comparison (reality check).

Alan Pritchard
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 Posted: Mon Oct 11th, 2010 02:11 pm
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Yes, got that one, Paul. Thanks

Note that a downloadable copy of the paper is available from

http://orbi.ulg.ac.be/bitstream/2268/14188/1/205-230%20M.%20Mertens1.pdf

Alan

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Oct 13th, 2010 12:27 pm
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Salut Rafał,


Maybe this one too, from the Compass of the Wise, by Adam Michael/Melchior BIRKHOLZ :

 

"To carry out my duty also in this regard and upon the express order from high Superiors, I have dealt with the beautiful, thorough and clear, hitherto secret writings of one of our worthy dear Brethren who, although he has at present incurred in a certain punishment constitutional in our Order by his undutiful conduct, he has nevertheless so clearly discovered the great secret of the Philosophers' Stone, according to the most ancient, best, and surest way of the Patriarchs, Egyptians, and the other ancient Oriental and southern countries, that nothing like it has never been seen. I have put his writings in order from a rather faulty copy and provided them with notes and preface in which I have completely truthfully presented the history of our great Order. "

.

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Mon Oct 25th, 2010 07:39 pm
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Delayed thanks, Carl!


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