Cleopatra the Alchemist
Cleopatra the Alchemist (3rd or 4th century), was an Egyptian alchemist and author. The dates of her life and death are unknown, but she was active in Alexandria in the 3rd century or the 4th century.
Cleopatra is a pseudonym for an author, whose real name has been lost. She is not the same person as Cleopatra VII, nonetheless she may be referred to as Cleopatra: Queen of Egypt in some later works. One example of this can be found in Basillica Philosophica by Johann Daniel Mylius (1618), where her seal is pictured alongside the motto: "The divine is hidden from the people according to the wisdom of the Lord". Cleopatra is also used as a character within the dialogue of the alchemical texts themselves.
Cleopatra was a foundational figure in alchemy, pre-dating Zosimos of Panopolis. Michael Maier names her as one of the four women who knew how to make the philosopher's stone, along with Maria the Jewess, Medera, and Taphnutia. Cleopatra was mentioned with great respect in the Arabic encyclopedia Kitab al-Fihrist from 988. She is most noted for the text Chrysopeia of Cleopatra which contains many emblems later developed and used within gnostic and hermetic philosophy. An example is the serpent of Eden as a symbol of knowledge, Ouroborus; and another is the eight-banded star. Her work also contained several descriptions and drawings of the technical process of furnaces. She is sometimes credited with the invention of the alembic.
- Stanton J. Linden. The alchemy reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton Cambridge University Press. (2003)
- Jennifer S. Uglow. The Macmillan dictionary of women's biography (1982)
- Stanislas Klossowski de Rola. The Golden Game: Alchemical Engravings of the Seventeenth Century. 1988. p. 150.
- Raphael Patai. The Jewish Alchemists: A History and Source Book. p.78
- Stanton J. Linden. The alchemy reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton Cambridge University Press. 2003. p.44