"the sign of Aries, as described by the ancient philosopher Hermes Trismegistus"
Hermes Trismegistus
Public DomainHermes Trismegistus - Credit: wikimedia commons

  Hermes Trismegistus was believed to be the author of the Corpus Hermeticum, a collection of writings dealing with Hermetic knowledge and practices. Hermes Trismegistus was actually not an ancient philosopher, but the syncretism of the Greek god Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth in Hellenistic Egypt. Both were gods of writing and magic, both bearers of wisdom, and both were guides of the dead. Combined as Hermes Trismegistus, this god was believed to be the author of forty-two sacred writings which summed up the teachings of Egyptian priests. These contained philosophy, alchemy and magic, such as the animating of statues to speak prophecy. The epithet ‘Trismegistus’ means ‘thrice-great’ or ‘thrice-wise.’


In 1460, Cosimo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence, acquired several lost Hermetic books. At the time the texts were thought to be the work of an ancient historical figure called Hermes Trismegistus, who was believed to be a contemporary of Moses. The Hermetic texts attracted much interest from scholars and learned men, and even some members of the Catholic Church, who considered Hermes to have been a pious sage who received revelations from God. Others looked on the teachings with a more suspicious or sceptical eye.


Image of Aries, the Ram, from an old astrology chart
Public DomainImage of Aries, the Ram, from an old astrology chart - Credit: wikimedia commons
In 1614, the scholar Isaac Casaubon showed, through an analysis of the Greek language found in the texts, that they were not as ancient as had been believed. He dated them to around 300 AD. This view was later challenged, but at the time it caused a collapse in the popularity of Hermeticism. The texts were most likely the work of a number of different writers.


In astrology, Aries is the first sign in the zodiac, named after the star constellation Aries, also called the Ram.