Corpus Hermeticum, t. II, Traités XII-XVIII, Asclepius, text établi par A.D. Nock, cinquième tirage revue, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1992.
A typo in chapter 34 has been corrected: inpossible has been replaced with inpossibile.
The Asclepius is preserved among the philosophical works of Apuleius. Apuleius, however, cannot be its author, and his name does not in fact appear in either the title or subscriptio. This is the translation of a text greek (Λόγος τέλειος) of the beginning of the fourth century, as evidenced by the presence of the final prayer of the Logos in the Mimaut magical papyrus (about 300 AD), and by the presence of numerous references to Lactantius. The Latin translation is used also by Augustine in De civitate Dei. Scott tried to attribute this work to Marius Victorinus, but this attribution is excluded for linguistic reasons. Nock suggests that it was written by a pagan author of the late period, active in Rome, in Africa or in Egypt, and using a language very close to that of the Christian translations, while retaining a classic sensibility and a strong sense of rhythm, including the use of clausulae (dactylic endings are frequent). The original of which the Asclepius is a translation is known to us from the Mimaut papyrus, from Lactantius, Cyril, John Lidus and Stobaeus. These citations are in sufficient agreement with the Latin text to confirm that they are taken from the original; they cannot however be considered as representing the original. Moreover, the Latin translation is a free version, seeking solemnity more than precision (Nock). The original title Λόγος τέλειοςis transmitted in Lattanzio and Ps.-Augustine, who translate it respectively as sermo perfectus and verbum perfectum. The treatise opens with an invocation to Asclepius and presents itself as a dialogue between Asclepius and Trismegistus, in the presence of Tat and Ammon. The characters do not participate actively in the dialogue and the nature of the work is eminently that of a treatise. The aim of the work, defined in the initial invocation divinus sermo superior to all its predecessors for religious piety, is the teaching of mysteria, which will lead the disciple to knowledge. It covers a number of subjects of very different extent, which in any case make a unitary treatise, written perhaps by a single compiler, well versed in Hermetic literature (A. S. Ferguson). The unity of the treatise is apparently confirmed by a series of repetitions. textual references, and allusions to other parts of the work (D. Nock). There are many parallels between the original Greek of the Asclepius and Corpus Hermeticum IX, which presents itself as its continuation. In addition to themes that are common in this literary genre (the soul, man, God, the world, evil), a development of particular interest is the 'little apocalypse' (24-26), which contains allusions to Christian persecution against pagans and presents itself as a combination of the Stoic doctrine of periodic cosmic catastrophes and the myth of Plato's Republic with Egyptian-style prophecy and the Sibylline Oracles. These are eschatological commonplaces which should not be given too precise a content (see Ferguson, against Scott, who dates the prophecy to the years 268-273); they seem to indicate that the Asclepius is based on a Jewish text, transmitted from hand to hand or orally (Nock). [S. Rota; transl. L. Battezzato]]