Tag Archives: alchemy

Khalid ibn Yazid (Calid)

Our podcast on him:

Khalid (known as Calid in the West), in addition to being a prince of the Umayyad caliphate, was also interested in alchemy and is responsible for translating many works into arabic.

Calid – Khalid Ibn Yazid

Summarized Greek knowledge to date. This is more of a myth than reality, but this myth had an influence on later writers, who took it for fact. So let’s explain the legend:

In alchemy, Kalid refers to a historical figure, Khalid ibn Yazid (died 704). He was an Umayyad prince, a brother of Muawiyah II who was briefly caliph.

Umayyad Caliphate: all the way from Spain to Persia

Prince Khalid lost the chance of inheriting the title, but took an interest in the study of alchemy, in Egypt.

He was also a book collector, he facilitated translations into Arabic of the existing literature. It is to this Khalid that later allusions to Calid rex (King Calid) refer.

This is an important note, because of his collecting and translations he has the reputation of summarizing all Greek knowledge at the time.. which is a big step in the road to the Arabic and Persian alchemists we looked at. Again, it’s almost certainly not true, or at least up for serious scrutiny. But that’s the story.

Attributions to Calid

So, there’s no agreement whether the books attributed to him were actually his works. So keep that in mind, as we go through them.

A popular legend has him consulting a Byzantine monk Marianos (Morienus the Greek).

The Liber de compositione alchimiae, which was the first alchemical work translated from Arabic to Latin (by Robert of Chester in 1144) was purportedly an epistle of Marianos to Khalid.

Flamel (pseudo-Flamel, really) Arnauld of Villanova, and many others all cited Calid in their writings.

Another note regarding the imporance of astrology in alchemy:

” Many people make mistakes and fail to completion. As in any experiment, it should be noted the progress of the moon and the sun. we must know the time when the sun enters the sign of Aries, the sign of Leo, or Sagittarius that; because it is from these signs is accomplished the great work. “

Even Fulcanelli mentions him.

Philosopher’s stone:

MORIEN(Morienus Romanus). This stone is soft to the touch; and it is softer than is his Body. But it is very heavy, and it is very sweet to the taste, and its nature is air.

Calid. It is the smell before it is made, and after it is made?

MORIEN. Before it is made, it has a strong smell, and it smells bad but after it is done, it has a good smell. What did say Sage: This water removes the smell of the dead body, which has already lost its soul; because the body feels very bad this state, having an odor such as is that of tombs

I read through one of the recipes as Morienus was describing it to Calid. Interesting stuff, since it was written as a dialog between the two. Calid would ask questions and Morienus would answer.

Otherwise pretty normal alchemical steps. Like the green dragon and black, white yellow red.. if you recall from our recipe episode.

Morienus Romanus

I might take a closer look at this Morienus Romanus, or Morian the Monk (or Morian the Greek, etc.) although it’s hard to find stuff on him that doesn’t relate back to Calid.

he was a student of stephanos of alexandria… also someone to look at

work by khalid (from secreta alchymie), originally in hebrew-then arabic-latin-now english

  • by god’s will
  • philosopher’s have partly hidden the meaning and way
  • mineral elixir, animal elixir, acids (wash)
  • elixir to make gold from mercury
  • equipment – knowlrdge of math is necessary
  • dissolve, congea;, make white, then red
  • …rest of recipe
  • fire size/heat
  • quotes hermes
  • in hot horse dung for forty days.. renewing the dung..
  • 250 to 1 copper or steel/phil stone to silver
  • for gold bury the stone in dung and water for 40 days.

Flattr this!

Fulcanelli and Caseliet

Our podcast on him:

<iframe width=”400″ height=”400″ src=”http://embed.acast.com/historyofalchemy/fulcanelli-and-caseliet” scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ style=”border:none;overflow:hidden;”></iframe>

We take a look at a mysterious 20th century French alchemist: Fulcanelli and his student, Caseliet.

Flattr this!

Johann Conrad Dippel

Our episode on him:


Johann Conrad Dippel is the man behind Frankenstein, Prussian Blue, and an energy drink.

Johann Conrad Dippel (August 10, 1673 – April 25, 1734) was a German pietist theologian, alchemist and physician.

This guy is basically the real-life Dr. Frankenstein, so hold onto your seats.

but was he really? was Dr. Frankenstein a real person? Let’s take a look at Dippel and see.


Dippel was born at Castle Frankenstein which is near Mühltal and Darmstadt,

For those that aren’t aware: Castle Frankenstein is a real place about 5km south of Darmstadt. It was built around 1250.

Being born there was enough for him to get the addnendum at school: Franckensteinensis

and at his university: Franckensteina-Strataemontanus.

..so “Frankenstein was (sorta) part of him name.

Okay, so the name is one thing.. what about the “trying to bring people back from the dead” thing? and townsfolk with torches and pitchforks chasing him out of town? Does Dippel meet the critearia?

In fact he was banned from a few countries, for instance Sweden and Russian. But more because of his theology.

Dippel studied theology, philosophy and alchemy at the University of Giessen, obtaining a master’s degree in theology in 1693. He published many theological works under the name Christianus Democritus, and most of them are still preserved.

Circa 1700 he turned to Hermetic studies and alchemy as a key to nature.

His views often didn’t jive with more mainstream theologians. And this is what actually got him banned from whole countries, not anything to do with creating monsters in a lab.. but still. Some thinkers did compare him to the devil, or say he was in league with the devil.

In fact he started to get quite a reputation. And him being pretty secretive, he either encouraged it, or didn’t exactly fight against it.

He was eventually imprisoned for heresy, serving a 7 year sentence.

…okay so he had some weird ideas.

Let’s take a look at his connection to alchemy, because that’s what we do.

Dippel created something called “Dippel’s Oil”, which he claimed was basically the Elixir of Life.

He tried to buy Castle Frankenstein for the formula.

..the offer was turned down.

Dippel’s Oil is basically just a snake oil. Some concoction he threw together from animal parts.

…we’ll get back to “animal parts” in a second.

He did help discover Prussian Blue, a famous pigment, with his oil and potassium carbonate. So it wasn’t totally useless.

And some even claimed that his oil gave an energy boost.. so that’s something.


Okay. Animal Parts.

In addition to alchemy, he was also into anatomy. And here’s where we may get the strongest Frankenstein connection.

Although some myths about him are pretty modern, like blowing up one of the towers of Frankenstein Castle (didn’t happen) and attempting to transfer the soul of one cadaver into another.. which was actually a pretty common experiment at the time.

..So that one is at least possible.

Again, he didn’t dispel any of these rumors and was a recluse. But he wasn’t driven out of town by the townfolk.

But he did disect animals. Avidly.

He made claims of potions for exorcisms.

And that it was possible to transfer the soul from one body to another with a funel.

..so there’s something to the madness.

Later in life he became more and more withdrawn as he became more engrossed and secretive in his experiments, and switched most of his attention to alchemy. Money always being a problem for him.

Which just fed the rumors.

Which he may have wanted because:

rumors that he had sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for secret knowledge, ..since relying on his reputation as a dark sorcerer better enabled him to find audiences with those willing to pay for his knowledge of the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life.

He died at Wittgenstein Castle near Bad Laasphe, probably from a stroke, though some contemporaries suspected poisoning.[12]Ironically, a year before his death, he wrote a pamphlet in which he claimed to have discovered an elixir that would keep him alive until the age 135.

Okay, so how could this have entered Mary Shelley’s mind as she wrote Frankenstein?

  • Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin visited the castle during her travels on the Rhine with Percy Shelley, where they might have heard local stories about Dippel, which by then would have grown legendary and notorious.

  • Shelley references a brief interaction while touring the countryside around Castle Frankenstein with students of the University of Strasbourg, of which Dippel was once a student; these students could have told them stories about the infamous alumnus.

  • In addition, the Shelleys knew several members of the so-called “”Kreis der Empfindsamen,” a literary circle that met in Darmstadt from 1769 to 1773; Castle Frankenstein was frequently used as a location for their public readings, thus making it possible that Dippel’s legends could have come up during conversations between those in the circle and the Shelleys.

  • Miranda Seymour finds it curious that Mary speaks of “gods [making entirely] new men” in her journal so soon after her travels through the regions surrounding Castle Frankenstein; if rumors indeed existed throughout the area that Dippel experimented on cadavers in an attempt to create life, Seymour argues, Mary’s phrasing could be more than merely coincidental. For now, however, the connection remains a subject of an ongoing debate.

There are other arguments for and against Dippel being the source for Frankenstein. I think there’s too much of a correlation to totally ignore it, but I think Shelley also used a mix of stories for her Dr. Frankenstein.

..so there you have it. Dr. Frankenstein was an alchemist… which kinda makes Frankensteins Monster a humonculus. And makes me happy. And that’s it.

Flattr this!

Marie Curie

Our podcast on her:

Marie Curie isn’t really an alchemist, but she did show that “transmutation” does happen in nature. Normally this is out of the scope of The History of Alchemy Podcast, but we took the opportunity to compare modern atomic theory to the one of alchemists.

To make up for us going out of scope we tell how to make gold at the end of the episode. No tricks, really turning mercury into gold using modern science!

Flattr this!

Paul of Taranto

Listen to our podcast episode here:

Paul of Taranto may have been one of the the “Pseudo-Gebers” and had an interesting theory of the composition of metals (basically mercury and sulphur) that would become canon to alchemical theory. It’s interesting for us to see a monk in the 13th century sitting in a lab going for reproducibility.

Sulphur-Mercury theory of metals.

Flattr this!

Baru Urbigerus

Our podcast episode on Urbigerus:

We take a look at one of the alchemical ciphers to understanding Baru Urbigerus’ works.

Baro or Baru Urbigerus was a seventeenth-century writer on alchemy.

He is known for his Aphorismi Urbigerani (1690) This collection of 100aphorisms claims to set out completely the theory of the alchemical work, the preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone.

A shorter collection of 31 aphorisms, contained in it, is known as the Circulatum Minus Urbigeranum

I couldn’t find much of anything of his life, but noted some interesting things in his writings.

For one he was toward the end – or after – the golden age of alchemy, so if anyone would have a chance to summarize all alchemical knowledge – as he claims to do – he’d be in the right time period.

Another thing is that he’s dropped the “al” in alchemy and says chymistry (with a ‘y’.) Not the first, I just wanted to point out that “chymistry” in this case specifically talking about making the philosopher’s stone.

He still talks in the language of alchemy: “Universal Elixir,” “Diana’s Tears,” “The Three Elements”

I wanted to point out that alchemists were alive and well in the so-called “scientific revolution” he stills refer to his process as “hermetic philosophy”

On the other hand his recipe seems to have a fewer metaphors and with some understanding of the vocabulary the directions seem to be more precise and he gives clearer signs along the way that you’ve failed in your experiment. That’s just an impression of mine, but I would make that argument.

Inside the cover of his 100 Aphorisms, there’s a picture.. basically of a few people standing around a tree.

He says that his book can’t be understood by the uninitiated. And since Urbigerus is in a good position at the tail end of the alchemic golden age to wrap up all alchemical knowledge to date, we’ll read you his description of his figure. Urbigerus says that by making the figure of the tree clear, it should be easy to understand his aphorisms.

I’ll read it to you, since we haven’t really gone over many alchemical writings in themselves before, and I’ll let you be the judge of how understandable it is to the unanitiated:

The Tree is a Supporter of the Motto, ‘Virtus unita fortior’: which, being to be read from the side of the Serpent, representing by the Half-Moon on its Head the Planet, under whose Influence it is born, is to be referred to it according to its particular Motto, which signifies, that, if you take it alone, it can do little or Nothing in our Art, as wanting the Assistance of others. By the Green Dragon is to be understood our first undetermined Matter, comprehending all our Principles, (as is demonstrated by the Half-Moon on its Head, the Sun in its Body, and the Cross on its Tail,) and denoting by its Motto, that it can perform the whole work without being joined with any other created or artificially prepared thing: which is our first way. But this our Dragon, when copulating with our Serpent, is forced to comply with her, degrading it self from its undetermined Being for the production of our second way. Apollo with the Sun on his head, and Diana with the Half-Moon, embracing each other, shew our third way, and the Continuation of our first and second. The River, into which they descend, signifies the State, they must be reduced into, before they can be in a Capacity of being born again, and before in any of our three ways they can be brought to a perfect Spiritualization and Union. Apollo and Diana, coming out of the River in one wonderful Body, Diana having obtained all, represent our Herculean works, ready finished and the beginning of their Conjunction, and by their going to set their foot on firm ground, where she is to sow the noble Fruits for the Procreation, is to be understood the Continuation of their Conjunction, till they are fully united and perfected. In this Scheme also, as well as in our Aphorisms, are mystically exhibited all the principal Points of Faith and Religion, comprised in the Volumes of the Old and New Testament: whence it manifestly appears, that the Contemplation of Nature truly leads to the Comprehension of those heavenly Verities, by which alone we can expect to arrive at the Enjoyment of that blessed Immortality, to which, as to the true and ultimate End of our Creation, all our Endeavours are to be directed.

As you see, many allegories and allusions to religious and mythical figures, but they all stand for ingredients or steps in creating the elixir of life, or the philosopher’s stone. It’s a great example of an alchemical text with all kinds of hidden meaning. We’ll go over some of those symbols in another episode.


Flattr this!

Theory of the Elements

The Greek classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Aether. These were considered the building blocks of all matter. It’s also the bases of much of medieval understanding of how matter works and interacts. Add onto that hot, dry, wet, and cold. Aristotle put it like this:

  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot.
  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.

Aristotle added Aether to the four classics, since the stars don’t change, and the four classics do. Now (because we’re into alchemy) we’ll add Geber’sulphur, salt, and mercury (also Paracelsus’tria prima) on top of the original 4. Now we have 7 items in our list, which is significant. In the time frame we look at, they thought there were 7 heavenly bodies besides the stars. They associated those 7 heavenly bodies with 7 metals (see astrology).. and now we have the bases for their understanding of matter, how it interacts and how we can transmutate it into something else.

The Four Humors

The theory of the 4 (or 5) elements directly ties in with the theory of the 3 humors (or three essentials). All matter was considered a mixture of the 4 elements. Likewise Hippocrates considered a correlation with 4 bodily fluids (humors)

  • Fire was associated with the Choleric humor of yellow bile. Choleric people are sort-of hyperactive. Aristotle considered them hot and dry
  • Water was associated with phlegm. Cold and wet. Moody and quiet folk.
  • Air – blood changeable and flighty people, but also have integrity. Hot and wet.
  • Earth – black bile (what else?). Apathetic and passive, stubborn and sluggish. Cool and dry.

Before Paracelsus (thought not to give him too much credit) it was mainly believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of the 4 humors, and therefore the cure was to drain the excess one(s). That’s where we get leaches, etc. from as medicine. Alchemists (both European and Muslim) played an important role is switching this thinking to one where outside forces can be to blame, and therefore outside substances (medicine, tonics, elixirs, etc.) can be the cure. The balance of humors went beyond physical illness though. It was also thought to impact mental health and personality types.


Newton, Pythagoras and Paracelsus (among many others) had theories on exactly what it was. It could be the neoplatonic idea of the world soul, of which a part is in everything and all of us. It could be a light outside of the visible spectrum, or the stuff stars are made of. This is important in alchemy because it’s this quintessence that they were often after when distilling stuff down for the philosopher’s stone.

Una Res

According Paracelsus this “una res” is a similar idea as quntessence—a sort of universal spiritual “indestructible essence”. This was first passed to Adam, and it’s what enabled Moses to build the golden vessels in the Ark, and gave King Solomon his riches (through the “wisdom”).

Flattr this!

Thaumaturgy, Theurgy, and Theosophy

God’s miracles seen as a sort of magic. We discuss some of the debates alchemists had and break down some ways they may have gotten supernatural help. For instance using the bible as a base for magic. In this system biblical miracles are seen as a form of magic.

Theurgy and Thaumaturgy

We’ve been holding off on this show for a while. There are too many related areas of philosophy, theology and the occult to just have this show in a vacuum.

To get the whole picture it helps to have a basic understanding of qabalah and hermeticism. We’ve covered those, so we think you’re ready.

At the center of what we’ll talk about today is the debate on whether alchemy somehow involved magic or was purely a natural process. Opinions of this varied, but before we get into the different views on alchemy, let’s get through some definitions:

Thaumaturgy can be thought of as a sort of magic. But to some folks in history so can mathematics be thought of as a sort of magic. They can go hand in hand with qabalistic theories.

At it’s simplest definition Thaumaturgy can be thought of as performing miracles. There’s a strong theological aspect to it, and if you’re religious you probably wouldn’t think of someone who does thaumaturgy as a magician or thaumaturgist, you’d probably call them a “wonderworker.” Like a saint performing miracles through God’s help. Or maybe the belief of healing by the laying on of hands.

From (from the Greek words θαῦμα thaûma, meaning “miracle” or “marvel” and ἔργον érgon, meaning “work”)

John Dee anglicized the word, and Dee’s mathematics could be the layman’s miracles.

If we talk of qabalistic alchemists, an understanding of thaumaturgy help to understand them. There’s just a correlation there, qabbalah is not thaumaturgy, but theosophy (more to that in a second)

Theurgy is perhaps related, but thought of as more of a way to connect to God. When Christians fast or pray to get God’s favor; that’s theurgy. So is a rain dance. Or sacrifice.

We we talk of alchemy, theurgy is an important aspect of neoplatonic alchemists.

In neo-platonism, theurgy was a form of mediation to be closer to God, who was unobtainable. We talked about this in several shows: alchemists contemplating God in the lab and meditating over their incubator. That’s theurgy.

Another reason I wanted them both together on one show is that Theurgy isn’t just praying for say, a better crop and hoping. Iamblichus and other neo-platonists thought that theurgy was strong enough of a force to do things like make statues talk. So -to some- clearly in the realm of magic (while to others not.)

It’s basically like asking for devine intervention, whereas thaumaturgy is more like using God’s power to create miracles yourself.

I’ll throw in Theosophy too. This is wisdom received from God. Maybe on the nature of God. Could be through qabalah. Or through divination. Edward Kelley supposedly got an alchemical recipe from the angels he was talking to… which he did using theurgy and goetia (summoning angels/demons) They would pray and fast before using their scrying glass to summon the angels.

We talked about theosophy in our hermeticism episode. Now we’re just tying it all together.

So let’s look at some examples:

Using qabbalistic methods to find hidden meaning, or finding hidden meanings in scripture, or even divinely inspired scriptures are all examples of theosophy.


So was alchemy done through magic, or some sort of divine intervention?

Or was it just imitating some natural process.. something akin to science?

We have philosophers and alchemists who debated on these topics for centuries and the full discourse would cover books, so let’s distill this all down a little:

First we had people that would argue whether transmutation is possible at all. Examples on both sides would be given, quoting Avicenna, Aristotle, etc.

On one side it would be argued that alchemy is an art, and like art it imitates nature, but the gold created is not really gold. Even if you can’t tell the difference, and it passes all the tests. It still wouldn’t have the healing effects (for example) that people thought gold had.

On the other hand, people would give examples of transmutations carried out by humans all the time, with the help of nature. A farmer planting seeds to raise crops. People burning ferns to ash (and I guess add sand) to create glass. Those are some examples given where humans are using nature in a way to transmute one thing into another.

Alchemists would often (but not always) -depending on the time period- try to stay clear of the reputation of being a sorcerer. They would insist that in a lab they are replicating the natural process in which the earth transmutates different metals into higher ones.

In this way the furnace and sulphur and mercury were thought to be a replication of what happens in nature.

This was argued back and forth.

But then we also have people in the camp that insist that gold can only be created with god’s help. We see this a lot. So -in a way- that’s at the very least theurgy. The recipe itself can be gotten from theosophy – Edward Kelley got a recipe from angels, for example.

We saw in Zosimos’ episode that higher beings help, so it’s just a matter of astronomy to determine whether it’s God, or demons that are helping.

To summarize the debate in magic vs. nature:

It was debated whether transmutation was possible at all, whether it was possible to create something real or only an imitation.

And then it was debated whether the transmutation was possible without God’s help and will.

And again, there were always those who knowingly made fake gold and tried to sell it as something else.

But even leaving charlatans out of this for a minute, the genuine belief and and arguments for or against alchemy varied over the centuries.

Was the gold created genuine, or an imitation?

Was alchemy dabbling with evil forces – or done by the pious, with the will of God?

Or were people imitating nature and therefore simply perfecting a science?

The answers are more various than the number of alchemists we’ll probably ever cover on this show, but interesting questions to ask about each person we discuss in our show.

Throughout the span of alchemy these questions were at the center of the debate of its merits, and I think spending some time on the subject should clarify how alchemy was viewed through it’s history.


Flattr this!


To not confuse Democritus and Pseudo-Democritus (who lived some 600 years apart) we break down the difference between the two and go into the works of Pseudo-Democritus, a 2nd century Alchemist.

Here’s our podcast on him:

To talk about Pseudo-Democritus, let’s first discuss Democritus, so that you can easily tell the difference when you hear the name in the future.


Democritus (not Pseudo-Democritus) was from Abdera in Thrace, an Ionian colony of Teos (modern day Turkey) although some called him a Milesian (like many Philsophers) He was born in the 80th Olympiad (460–457 BC) according to Apollodorus of Athens.

So a pre-Socratic philosopher, if you’re keeping track.

Democritus was a philosoper and a student of Leucippus who came up with the idea of atoms… that everything is made up of tiny indestructible, uhm, things. I want to say “elements” because that’s what we would call them, but “atoms” and “elements” were very different to ancient greeks.

One might think that discussing the guy who came up with the concept of atoms might be significant to the history of chemistry, and therefore alchemy; but their concept of “Atomic Theory” and the modern atomic theory is very different, and only superficially uses some of the same terminology.

As mentioned he didn’t come up with atoms as a part of molecules and chemical reactions. It was more of a thought experiment to refute previous philosophers saying that motion was impossible. This is a side bar and not really pertinent, so I don’t want to get into it too much, but for the curious:

Before Democrus philosophers argued you could cut something in infinite parts, as in, you can cut the object in half infinity times. Likewise, to cross a room you first need to cross half the room, and to do that you first need to cross half of the half, but before that you need to cross an eighth of the room, ad infinitum.

But eventually one would argue that because of that, movement was actually impossible, you can’t cross an infinite points. Democritus said cutting the object would eventually get you to the atomic level.. at which point you can no longer cut. This avoids the idea that something has infinite slices, which must not be true.

I’m not going to talk about Democritus much, and this is just so you get a handle on who Pseudo Democritus was not. For now I just want to point out a few things:

  • It was said that Democritus’ father was so wealthy that he received Xerxes on his march through Abdera.

  • He traveled to Asia, and was even said to have reached India and Ethiopia.

  • His philosophy was based on materialism and mechanistic.

We know that he wrote on Babylon and Meroe; he visited Egypt, maybe even living there for 5 years.

During his travels, according to Diogenes Laërtius, he became acquainted with the Chaldean magi. “Ostanes” (who we’ve also done a show on)

Diogenes Laertius says that he was friends with Hippocrates

Plato hated him so much he wanted his books burned.

Pliny the elder deplored him as a student of Ostanes and magic.

Other legends and anecdotes about him:

  • attest to his disinterest, modesty, and simplicity, and show that he lived exclusively for his studies.
  • Domacritus deliberately blinded himself in order to be less disturbed in his pursuits – in fact he may have just lost his sight in old age.
  • He was cheerful, and was always ready to see the comical side of life, which later writers took to mean that he always laughed at the foolishness of people. Popularly known as the Laughing Philosopher (for laughing at human follies), the terms Abderitan laughter, which means scoffing, incessant laughter, and Abderite, which means a scoffer, are derived from Democritus. To his fellow citizens he was also known as “The Mocker”.

Some people liked him because of his seeming prophetic abilities; which may refer to his knowledge of natural phenomena.

Some sources have his him living to 90, which would put his death around 370 BC, but other writers have him living to 104, or even 109.


In contrast Pseudo-Democritus was an alchemist mentioned by Zosimos of Panopolis.. I just wanted to avoid confusion.

Pseudo-Democritus was a 2nd-century AD Greek philosopher, and the second most respected writer on alchemy (after Hermes Trismegistus). Two of his works survive, Physical and Mystical Matters, and Book addressed to Leukippos. He wrote many other books that are quoted extensively by Zosimos of Panopolis. He is mentioned in the Stockholm papyrus.

Physical and Mystical Matters describes “An art, purporting to relate to the transmutation of metals, and described in a terminology at once Physical and Mystical”, branding him as an alchemist for all time and provides straightforward recipes for making imitation gold and silver (alloys).

He describes how to make metals appear gold:

  • whiten copper by using arsenic and then gold powder

  • silver sulphide with lead sulphide turns gold

  • copper pyrite with salt and silver or gold

  • alloy of tin & lead etc with sulphur or arsenic on gold

  • silver or bronze with an amalgum of iron

  • whiten copper, then yellow it with the bile of a calf

  • silver with sulfur

  • copper and lead

  • copper & silver with sulphate of iron

  • using wine and rhubarb to varnish silver to look like gold

  • or crocus flower

  • or varnish lead from dirt from chios (aegean island)

how to “make” silver

  • same sort of thing as above

So Democritus was a pre-socratic philosopher, Pseudo-Democritus was an alchemist some 700 years later that wrote using the same name. The reason we know less about him is because all we have are quotes by Zosimos, who lived some 100 years later.


Flattr this!


Here’s my podcast on him:

Agathodaimon was an alchemist that lived around (c. 300) in Roman Egypt.

Works: Anepigraphos Supposedly from the 3rd century, but all we have are medieval fragments of this work. It describes elements and minerals.

A way to produce silver


…and poison “fiery poison” possibly arsenic trioxide, or possibly amphoteric oxide.

When this poison was dissolved into water, it stayed clear, and copper dunked into it turned deep green (which arsenic trioxide would do)

His methods can be considered the basis of future poison “experiments” and were often used for murder

History of his texts If it wasn’t for the few writing we have mentioning him, we wouldn’t even know he existed. Alchemy was in decline at his time, BUT Nestorian christians fled to persia around 400. ..this is one way (the conquest of Alexandria being another) some of the later knowledge got to the arabs later on. And possibly directly contributed to the rise of alchemy in the middle east.

We talked about greek influence on arabs influence, and in turn their influence on medieval europeans (and especially after the fall of Constantinople and reconquest of spain) .. so it’s interesting to take a look at how some of that knowledge got to the persians even before the arabs arrived.

Flattr this!