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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 3

by G.R.S. Mead

p. 89



(Title in Patrizzi (p. 45) is “The Likeness of Children,” followed by: “From Aphrodite.”

Text: Stob., Phys., xxxvi. 2, under heading: “Of Hermes from ‘Aphrodite’”; G. pp. 297, 298; M. i. 207, 208; W. i. 295, 296.

Ménard, Livre IV., No. iii. of “Fragments Divers,” p. 273.)

[——] How, [then,] are offspring born like to their parents? Or how are they returned 1 to [their own] species 2?

[Aphrodite.] I will set forth the reason. When generation stores up seed from the ripe blood being sweated forth, 3 it comes to pass that somehow there’s exhaled from the whole mass 4 of limbs a certain essence, following the

p. 90

law of a divine activity, as though the man himself were being born; the same thing also in the woman’s case apparently takes place.

When, then, what floweth from the man hath the ascendancy, and keeps intact, the young one’s brought to light resembling its sire; contrary wise, in the same way, [resembling] its dam.

Moreover, if there should be ascendancy of any part, [then] the resemblance [of the young] will favour that [especial] part.

But sometimes also for long generations the offspring favoureth the husband’s form, because his decan has the greater influence 1 at that [particular] moment when the wife conceives.


This fragment belongs to a type of Hermetic literature of which it is the sole surviving specimen. It is in form identical with the Isis and Horus type; but what the name of the questioner of Aphrodite could have been is difficult to say.


89:1 ἀποδίδοται,—referring, presumably, to the idea of metempsychosis.

89:2 Or families.

89:3 ἐξαφεδρουμένου. But W. has ἐξαφρουμένου (turned into foam), following the emendation of Usener, based on Clem. Al. Pædagog., I, vi. 48.

89:4 Lit. body.

90:1 λόγον.

Next: Excerpt XXIV. A Hymn of the Gods