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Lascaris (fl. eighteenth century)

Lascaris (fl. eighteenth century)

Legendary alchemist about whom limited facts are known. He was commonly supposed to have been active in Germany at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but everything recorded concerning him reads like a romance and suggests the Middle Ages.

According to popular belief, he claimed to be of Oriental origin, a native of the Ionian Isles, and a scion of the Greek royal house of Lascaris, while on other occasions he declared himself to be an archimandrite of a convent in the Island of Mytilene. His reason for coming to Europe was to solicit alms for the ransom of Christian prisoners in the East, but the alchemical achievements credited to him make this purpose unlikely. He began his wanderings in Germany around 1700. While staying in Berlin, Lascaris fell ill and sent for medical aid. It happened that Johann Friedrich Bötticher, the young apothecary who provided medical care, was deeply interested in alchemy. A friendship sprang up between physician and patient, and when Lascaris left the Prussian capital, he gave Bötticher a packet of transmuting powder and instructed him how to use it successfully, although he refrained from telling him how to manufacture the powder itself.

Bötticher set to work speedily, concocted considerable quantities of gold and silver, grew rich, was raised to the peer-age, and began to mingle and be courted by kings and nobles, especially for his services as a scientist. The title of baron was conferred on him. When his supply of the precious powder ran short, and being unable to make more, he found his reputation waning rapidly. Because he had spent all his newly acquired wealth, Bötticher found himself reduced to penury. He was placed under house arrest, and when he attempted to escape he was removed to prison. During his detention he was allowed to experiment with chemistry. Bötticher discovered a process for the manufacture of red porcelain, and by the sale of this he eventually restored his fallen fortunes.

Why the alchemist gave the powder to Bötticher is unknown, as is the reason he made an analogous present to someone else at a later date. The second recipient was Schmolz de Dierbach, a lieutenant colonel in the Polish Army. Like the German apothecary, Schmolz succeeded in making a quantity of gold, although no more is known about him after this transmutation. A certain Baron de Creux was likewise favored by Lascaris, the baron's experiments proving just as successful as those of the others.

The alchemist bestowed his transmutatory powder on others as well, such as on Domenico Manuel, the son of a Neopolitan mason. Manuel then wandered through Spain, Belgium, and Austria, performing alchemical operations before princes and noblemen, and reaping wealth accordingly.

Soon Manuel began styling himself Comte Gautano, then Comte di Ruggiero, and in one town he maintained that he was a Prussian major general. Elsewhere he declared that he was field marshal of the Bavarian forces. In Berlin he offered to make gold in the presence of the king, but when he failed, the king had him hanged as a charlatan.

That was in 1709, and in the same year, according to tradition, Lascaris himself performed some successful transmutations before a German politician named Liebknech, a citizen of Wurtembourg. Nothing further was ever heard of the mysterious alchemist, and his generosity had no parallel in the whole history of hermetic philosophy.

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Lascaris

Lascaris (lăs´kərĬs), family name of the Greek emperors of Nicaea (see Nicaea, empire of). The empire was founded in 1204 by Theodore I, a son-in-law of Alexius III (Alexius Angelus). Theodore I was succeeded (1222) by his son-in-law, John III (John Ducas Vatatzes). John's son Theodore II (1254–58) assumed the family name Lascaris. He was succeeded by his son John IV, who was forced (1259) to share his throne with Michael VIII, founder of the Palaeologus dynasty. John was deposed in 1261.

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"Lascaris." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Lascaris." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lascaris