The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.


a later period of his life : the same cause excluded him at the cave of Trophonius (from whence he pretended to have obtained the sacred books of Pythagoras), and which he entered by force, (viii. 19.) After visiting Lacedaemon, Corinth, and the other towns of Greece, he bent his course towards Rome, and arrived there just after an edict against magicians had been issued by Nero. He was im­mediately brought before Telesinus the consul, and Tigellinus, the favourite of the emperor, the first of whom dismissed him, we are told, from the love of philosophy, and the latter from the fear of a magic power, which could make the letters vanish from the indictment. On his acquittal, he went to Spain, Africa, and Athens, where, on a second ap­plication, he was admitted to the mysteries; and from Athens proceeded to Alexandria, where Ves­pasian, who was maturing his revolt, soon saw the use which might be made of such an ally. The story of their meeting may be genuine, and is cer­tainly curious as exhibiting Apollonius in the third of the threefold characters assumed by Pythagoras —philosopher, mystic, and politician. Vespasian was met at the entrance of the city by a body of magistrates, praefects and philosophers, and hastily asked whether the Tyanean was among the num­ber. Being told that he was philosophizing in the Serapeum, he proceeded thither, and begged Apol­lonius to make him emperor: the philosopher re­plied that "he had already done so, in praying the gods for a just and venerable sovereign;" upon which Vespasian declared that he resigned himself entirely into his hands. A council of philosophers was forthwith held, including Dio and Euphrates, Stoics in the emperor's train, in which the ques-'tion was formally debated, Euphrates protesting against the ambition of Vespasian and the base subserviency of Apollonius, and advocating the restoration of a republic, (v. 31.) This dispute laid the foundation of a lasting quarrel between the two philosophers, to which Philostratus often alludes. The last journey of Apollonius was to Ethiopia, whence he returned to settle in the Ionian cities. The same friendship which his father had shewn was continued towards him by the emperor Titus, who is said to have invited him to Argos in Cilicia, and to have obtained a promise that he would one day visit Rome. On the accession of Domitian, Apollonius endeavoured to excite the pro­vinces of Asia Minor against the tyrant. An order was sent to bring him to Rome, which he thought proper to anticipate by voluntarily surrendering iiimself, to avoid bringing suspicion on his compa-lions. On. being conducted into the emperor's presence, his prudence deserted him : he launched ?orth into the praise of Nerva, and was hurried to orison, loaded with chains. The charges against lim resolved themselves into three heads—the dngularity of his dress and appearance, his being worshipped as a god, and his sacrificing a child vith Nerva for an augury. As destruction seemed mpending, it was a time to display his miraculous jowers : he vanished from his persecutors; and 'fter appearing to Darius at Puteoli at the same lour he disappeared from Rome, he passed over nto Greece, where he remained two years, having ^ven out that the emperor had publicly acquitted lim. The last years of his life were probably pent at Ephesus, where he is said to have pro-laimed the death of the tyrant Domitian at the ustant it took place. Three places—Ephesus,



Rhodes, and Crete, laid claim to the honour of being his last dwelling-place. Tyana, where a temple was dedicated to him, became henceforth one of the sacred cities, and possessed the privilege of electing its own magistrates.

We now proceed to discuss very briefly three questions. I. The historical groundwork on which the narrative of Philostratus was founded. II. How far, if at all, it was designed as a rival to the Gos­pel history. III. The real character of Apollonius himself.

I. However impossible it may be to separate truth from falsehood in the narrative of Philos­tratus, we cannot conceive that a professed histo^, appealed to as such by contemporary authors, and written about a hundred years after the death of Apollonius himself, should be simply the invention of a writer of romance. It must be allowed, that all the absurd fables of Ctesias, the confused false­hoods of all mythologies (which become more and more absurd as they are farther distant), eastern fairy tales, and perhaps a parody of some of the Christian miracles, are all pressed into the service by Philostratus to adorn the life of his hero : it will be allowed further, that the history itself, stripped of the miracles, is probably as false as the miracles themselves. Still we cannot account for the reception of the narrative among the ancients, and even among the fathers themselves., unless there had been some independent tradition of the character of Apollonius on which it rested. Euse-bius of Caesarea, who answered the Afryos <piha-\ridifjs Trpos Xptcrndvovs of Hierocles (in which a comparison was attempted between our Lord and Apollonius), seems (c. v.) to allow the truth of Philostratus's narrative in the main, with the exception of what is miraculous. And the parody, if it may be so termed, of the life of Pythagoras, may be rather traceable to the impostor himself than to the ingenuity of his biographer. Statues and temples still existed in his honour; his letters and supposed writings were extant; the manu­script of his life by Damis the Assyrian was the original work which was dressed out by the rheto­ric of Philostratus ; and many notices of his visits and acts might be found in the public records of Asiatic cities, which would have at once disproved the history, if inconsistent with it. Add to this, that another life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Moe-ragenes, is mentioned, which was professedly dis­regarded by Philostratus, because, he says, it omitted many important particulars, and which Origen, who had read it, records to have spoken of Apollonius as a magician whose imposture had de­ceived many celebrated philosophers. The conclu­sion we seem to come to on the whole is, that at a period when there was a general belief in magical powers Apollonius did attain great influence by pretending to them, and that the history of Philos­tratus gives a just idea of his character and repu­tation, however inconsistent in its facts and absurd in its marvels.

II. We have purposely omitted the wonders with which Philostratus has garnished his narra­tive, of which they do not in general form an essential part. Many of these are curiously co­incident with the Christian miracles. The pro­clamation of the birth of Apollonius to his mother by Proteus, and the incarnation of Proteus himself, the chorus of swans which sung for joy on the oc­casion, the casting out of devils, raising the dead,


About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of