Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review: The Arabic Hermes

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Y. Tzvi Langermann)

Kevin van Bladel, The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science. Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.


Kevin van Bladel has produced an admirable study of the Arabic Hermetic tradition, fleshing out in considerable detail the evolution of Hermes' image, his identification with Qur'anic prophet Idris as well as the forces driving this transformation, and his connections, real, imagined, and still controversial, with the Harranians, the last organized group of astrolators to continue functioning within Islamic civilization. To do this, van Bladel constrains his use "Hermetic" to refer "only to texts attributed by name to Hermes" (p. 21), a definition that he admits is a bit too severe to apply throughout, but which serves well the purpose of weeding out much "Hermetic" nonsense that has no place in his book.

Part One, "Background", comprises three chapters. In the first of these, "Introduction", van Bladel establishes that the Greek Hermetica were produced in Roman Egypt.

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