Wondrous Wednesday: The Wandering Soul of Hermotimos

Apollonios Paradoxographus,  Historiae Mirabiles 3

3 “The following kinds of stories are told about Hermotimos of Klazomenae. For they say that his soul went out wandering from his body for many years and once it went to many places it foretold the things that would happen, for example, periods of great rain and rainlessness, or also earthquakes and famines and similar things. The body would remain there just like a husk over time, but the soul woke it when it entered.

When he was doing this for a long time, his wife had instructions for him about when he would be gone, that none could touch his body, not even some citizen or other person. After some people came to his house and begged his wife earnestly, they saw Hermotimos lying motionless and naked on the ground. Then they got fire and burned him because they believed that since his soul was no longer present and had no way to enter he would be completely deprived of access to living, under which conditions he died.

The Klazomenians honor him even to this day and had a shrine built for him. No woman is allowed to enter it because of the blame I just mentioned.”

Περὶ δὲ ῾Ερμοτίμου τοῦ Κλαζομενίου τοιαῦτά τινα μυθολογεῖται. φασὶ γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος πλαζομένην ἀποδημεῖν ἐπὶ πολλὰ ἔτη καὶ κατὰ τόπους γινομένην προλέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα ἀποβήσεσθαι, οἷον ὄμβρους μεγάλους καὶ ἀνομβρίας, ἔτι δὲ σεισμούς τε καὶ λοιμοὺς καὶ <τὰ> παραπλήσια, τοῦ σωματίου κειμένου, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν καθάπερ εἰς ἔλυτρον διὰ χρόνων τινῶν εἰσερχομένην διεγείρειν τὸ σῶμα.

τοῦτο δὲ αὐτοῦ πολλάκις ποιοῦντος καὶ τῆς γυναικὸς ἐντολὰς ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐχούσης, ὅτε μέλλοι χωρίζεσθαι, μηδένα θιγεῖν τοῦ σωματίου μηδέ τινα τῶν πολιτῶν μηδ’ ἄλλον ἀνθρώπων, εἰσελθόντες τινὲς εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν καὶ ἐκλιπαρήσαντες τὸ γύναιον ἐθεώρησαν χαμαὶ κείμενον γυμνὸν τὸν ῾Ερμότιμον ἀκίνητον.

οἱ δὲ πῦρ λαβόντες κατέκαυσαν αὐτόν, οἰόμενοι τῆς ψυχῆς παραγενομένης καὶ μηκέτι ἐχούσης ὅπου εἰσδύσεται παντελῶς στερήσεσθαι τοῦ ζῆν, ὅπερ καὶ συνέπεσεν.

 τὸν μὲν οὖν ῾Ερμότιμον Κλαζομένιοι τιμῶσι μέχρι τοῦ νῦν καὶ ἱερὸν αὐτοῦ καθίδρυται, εἰς ὃ γυνὴ οὐκ εἰσέρχεται διὰ τὴν προειρημένην αἰτίαν.

The Suda lists Hermotimos as one of the lives of Pythagoras, which is recorded as well in Diogenes Laertius’ story of the Life of Pythagoras (8.1). Pliny the Elder repeats much of this tale (Nat. Hist. 7.174-175). Aristotle lists him with Anaxagoras as an early philosopher who believed that there is a form of mind organizing nature (Metaphysics 1.984b). Various details exist in other ancient authors too.

Image result for hermotimus of clazomenae
Anaxagoras is also from Clazomenae

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