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Hermias: Satire on pagan philosophers -- preface to the online edition 

Very little is known about this obscure little work in Greek, the Irrisio Gentilium Philosophorum.  The author is styled 'Hermias the philosopher' in his own work, but cannot be identified with any other figure of antiquity.  The date at which he wrote is uncertain.  His work contains no allusions by which to date it, and is not explicitly cited by any other writer in antiquity.  A number of parallels have been seen in works from Tatian onwards, from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD.  But none is compelling, and in any case each parallel can mean either that Hermias used that work, or equally that the other author knew Hermias.

Biblical citations are few.  The work opens with a quotation from 1 Corinthians 3:19.  The only other reference is in chapter 17:12-20, where the discussion is based closely on Isiah 40:12 in the Septuagint version.

The best manuscript is the codex Patmiacus 202, belonging to the library of the monastery of St. John, Patmos.  It is a parchment Ms. of the 11th-12th centuries, and became known to scholars only in 1890 when Sakkelion published a catalogue of that library.  Harnack then signalled some of the variants in 1893.  15 others exist, all later.  These belong to a different and inferior family, but which still has a role to play.  Three of the later ones were copied by a notorious copyist, Andreas Damarios, who made around 7-8 errors in each copy he made.  The work was first printed in 1553 by Ralph Seiler.

The first edition to make full use of the Patmiacus is that by a group of English scholars led by the late R.P.C. Hanson.  This does not seem to have been published in English: a French translation appeared  in 1993 in the Sources Chrétiennes series.   This contains a very full discussion of all the issues surrounding this work, and tentatively concludes that Hermias is most safely dated to around 200 AD.  

The only English translation is that by J.A. Giles, which appears here.  For some reason this work was not included in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and has not been included in any other collection of the second century writers.

29th March 2003


R.P.C. HANSON, Hermias. Satire des Philosophes Païens.  Introduction, texte critique, notes, appendices et index.  Sources Chrétiennes 388.  Paris: Cerf (1993).  ISBN 2-204-04857-7.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2003.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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