The Cleopatra fragments
The Dialogue of Cleopatra and the Philosophers is considered to be among the earliest
alchemical writings, probably of the second century A.D. The work is only a fragment, and
of this only a part is here quoted. There is also a page of symbolic drawings called the
Gold-making of Cleopatra, which is also here.
The Gold-making of Cleopatra is a single page of drawings. In the center of the Serpent Ouroboros who eats his tail are the words 'One is All'. Another emblem contains the symbols for gold, silver, and mercury enclosed in two concentric circles, within which appear the words 'One is the serpent which has its poison according to two compositions' and 'One is All and through it is All and by it is All and if you have not All, All in Nothing.' A distillation apparatus is shown, and also other alchemical apparatus and symbols not clearly understood.
From the Dialogue of Cleopatra and the Philosophers:
... Then Cleopatra said to the philosophers, "Look at the nature of plants, whence they come. For some come down from the mountains and grow out of the earth, and some grow up from the valleys and some come from the plains. But look how they develop, for it is at certain seasons and days that you must gather them, and you take them from the islands of the sea, and from the most lofty places. And look at the air which ministers to them and the nourishment circling around them, that they perish not nor die. Look at the divine water which gives them drink and the air that governs them after they have been given a body in a single being."
Ostanes and those with him answered Cleopatra. "In thee is concealed a strange and terrible
mystery. Enlighten us, casting your light upon the elements. Tell us how the highest descends
to the lowest and how the lowest rises to the highest, and how that which is in the midst
approaches the highest and is united to it, and what is the element which accomplishes these
things. And tell us how the blessed waters visit the corpses lying in Hades fettered and
afflicted in darkness and how the medicine of Life reaches them and rouses them as if wakened
by their possessors from sleep; and how the new waters, both brought forth on the bier and
coming after the light penetrate them at the beginning of their prostration and how a cloud
supports them and how the cloud supporting the waters rises from the sea."
And the philosophers, considering what had been revealed to them, rejoiced.
Cleopatra said to them, "The waters, when they come, awake the bodies and the spirits which
are imprisoned and weak. For they again undergo oppression and are enclosed in Hades, and
yet in a little while they grow and rise up and put on divers glorious colors like the flowers in
springtime and the spring itself rejoices and is glad at the beauty that they wear.
"For I tell this to you who are wise: when you take plants, elements, and stones from their places, they appear to you to be mature. But they are not mature until the fire has tested them. When they are clothed in the glory from the fire and the shining color thereof, then rather will appear their hidden glory, their sought-for beauty, being transformed to the divine state of fusion. For they are nourished in the fire and the embryo grows little by little nourished in its mother's womb, and when the appointed month approaches is not restrained from issuing forth. Such is the procedure of this worthy art. The waves and surges one after another in Hades wound them in the tomb where they lie. When the tomb is opened they issue from Hades as the babe from the womb."
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Last Updated January 7, 2001 by Sylvia