About Zosimos of Panopolis
Zosimos of Panopolis was an Egyptian or Greek alchemist and Gnostic mystic from the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. He was born in Panopolis, present day Akhmim in the south of Egypt, ca. 300. He wrote the oldest known books on alchemy, of which quotations in the Greek language and translations into Syriac or Arabic are known. He is one of about 40 authors represented in a compendium of alchemical writings that was probably put together in Byzantium (Constantinople) in the 7th or 8th century AD and that exists in manuscripts in Venice and Paris. Stephen of Alexandria is another.
Arabic translations of texts by Zosimos were discovered in 1995 in a copy of the book Keys of Mercy and Secrets of Wisdom by Ibn Al-Hassan Ibn Ali Al-Tughra'i', a Persian alchemist. Unfortunately, the translations were incomplete and seemingly non-verbatim. The famous index of Arabic books, Kitab al-Fihrist by Ibn Al-Nadim, mentions earlier translations of four books by Zosimos, however due to inconsistency in transliteration, these texts were attributed to names "Thosimos", "Dosimos" and "Rimos"; also it is possible that two of them are translations of the same book.
In about 330 ACE, Zosimos provided one of the first definitions of alchemy:
- Alchemy (330) – the study of the composition of waters, movement, growth, embodying and disembodying, drawing the spirits from bodies and bonding the spirits within bodies.
In general, Zosimos' understanding of alchemy reflects the influence of Hermetic and Gnostic spiritualities. He asserted that the fallen angels taught the arts of metallurgy to the women they married, an idea also recorded in the Book of Enoch and later repeated in the Gnostic Apocryphon of John. In a fragment preserved by Syncellus.