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Apollonius Of Tyana, Letters, 71

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1. Apollonius of Tyana, Letters, 72, 66 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

2. Philostratus The Athenian, Life of Apollonius, 1.1-1.2, 3.15, 3.18, 3.35-3.36, 4.5, 4.21-4.22 (2nd cent. CE - missingth cent. CE)

1.1. The votaries of Pythagoras of Samos have this story to tell of him, that he was not an Ionian at all, but that, once on a time in Troy, he had been Euphorbus, and that he had come to life after death, but had died as the songs of Homer relate. And they say that he declined to wear apparel made from dead animal products and, to guard his purity, abstained from all flesh diet, and from the offering of animals in sacrifice. For that he would not stain the altars with blood; nay, rather the honey-cake and frankincense and the hymn of praise, these they say were the offerings made to the Gods by this man, who realized that they welcome such tribute more than they do the hecatombs and the knife laid upon the sacrificial basket. For they say that he had of a certainty social intercourse with the gods, and learnt from them the conditions under which they take pleasure in men or are disgusted, and on this intercourse he based his account of nature. For he said that, whereas other men only make conjectures about divinity and make guesses that contradict one another concerning it, — in his own case he said that Apollo had come to him acknowledging that he was the god in person; and that Athena and the Muses and other gods, whose forms and names men did not yet know, had also consorted with him though without making such acknowledgment. And the followers of Pythagoras accepted as law any decisions communicated by him, and honored him as an emissary from Zeus, but imposed, out of respect for their divine character, a ritual silence on themselves. For many were the divine and ineffable secrets which they had heard, but which it was difficult for any to keep who had not previously learnt that silence also is a mode of speech.Moreover they declare that Empedocles of Acragas had trodden this way of wisdom when he wrote the lineRejoice ye, for I am unto you an immortal God, and no more mortal.And this also:For erewhile, I already became both girl and boy.And the story that he made at Olympia a bull of pastry and sacrificed it to the god also shows that he approved of the sentiments of Pythagoras. And there is much else that they tell of those sages who observe the rule of Pythagoras; but I must not now enter upon such points, but hurry on to the work which I have set myself to complete. 1.2. FOR quite akin to theirs was the ideal which Apollonius pursued, and more divinely than Pythagoras he wooed wisdom and soared above tyrants; and he lived in times not long gone by nor quite of our own day, yet men know him not because of the true wisdom, which he practiced as sage and sanely; but one man singles out one feature for praise in him and another another; while some, because he had interviews with the wizards of Babylon and with the Brahmans of India, and with the nude ascetics of Egypt, put him down as a wizard, and spread the calumny that he was a sage of an illegitimate kind, judging of him ill. For Empedocles and Pythagoras himself and Democritus consorted with wizards and uttered many supernatural truths, yet never stooped to the black art; and Plato went to Egypt and mingled with his own discourses much of what he heard from the prophets and priests there; and though, like a painter, he laid his own colors on to their rough sketches, yet he never passed for a wizard, although envied above all mankind for his wisdom. For the circumstance that Apollonius foresaw and foreknew so many things does not in the least justify us in imputing to him this kind of wisdom; we might as well accuse Socrates of the same, because, thanks to his familiar spirit, he knew things beforehand, and we might also accuse Anaxagoras because of the many things which he foretold. And indeed who does not know the story of how Anaxagoras at Olympia in a season when least rain falls came forward wearing a fleece into the stadium, by way of predicting rain, and of how he foretold the fall of the house, — and truly, for it did fall; and of how he said that day would be turned into night, and stones would be discharged from heaven round Aegospotami, and of how his predictions were fulfilled? Now these feats are set down to the wisdom of Anaxagoras by the same people who would rob Apollonius of the credit of having predicted things by dint of wisdom, and say that he achieved these results by art of wizardry.It seems to me then that I ought not to condone or acquiesce in the general ignorance, but write a true account of the man, detailing the exact times at which he said or did this or that, as also the habits and temper of wisdom by means of which he succeeded in being considered a supernatural and divine being.And I have gathered my information partly from the many cities where he was loved, and partly from the sanctuaries whose long-neglected and decayed rites he restored, and partly from the accounts left of him by others and partly from his own letters. For he addressed these to kings, sophists, philosophers, to men of Elis, of Delphi, to Indians, and Ethiopians; and in his letters he dealt with the subjects of the gods, of customs, of moral principles, of laws, and in all these departments he corrected the errors into which men had fallen. But the more precise details which I have collected are as follows. 3.15. APOLLONIUS himself describes the character of these sages and of their settlement upon the hill; for in one of his addresses to the Egyptians he says, I saw Indian Brahmans living upon the earth and yet not on it, and fortified without fortifications, and possessing nothing, yet having the riches of all men. He may indeed be thought to have here written with too much subtlety; but we have anyhow the account of Damis to effect that they made a practice of sleeping the ground, and that they strewed the ground with such grass as they might themselves prefer; and, what is more, he says that he saw them levitating themselves two cubits high from the ground, not for the sake of miraculous display, for they disdain any such ambition; but they regard any rites they perform, in thus quitting earth and walking with the Sun, as acts of homage acceptable to the God. Moreover, they neither burn upon an altar nor keep in stoves the fire which they extract from the sun's rays, although it is a material fire; but like the rays of sunlight when they are refracted in water, so this fire is seen raised aloft in the air and dancing in the ether. And further they pray to the Sun who governs the seasons by his might, that the latter may succeed duly in the land, so that India may prosper; but of a night they intreat the ray of light not to take the night amiss, but. to stay with them just as they have brought it down. Such then was the meaning of the phrase of Apollonius, that the Brahmans are upon earth and yet not upon earth. And his phrase fortified without fortifications or walls, refers to the air or vapor under which they bivouac, for though they seem to live in the open air, yet they raise up a shadow and veil themselves in it, so that they are not made wet when it rains and they enjoy the sunlight whenever they choose. And the phrase without possessing anything they had the riches of all men, is thus explained by Damis: All the springs which the Bacchanals see leaping up from the ground under their feet, whenever Dionysus stirs them and earth in a common convulsion, spring up in plenty for these Indians also when they are entertaining or being entertained. Apollonius therefore was right in saying that people provided as they are with all they want offhand and without having prepared anything, possess what they do not possess. And on principle they grow their hair long, as theLacedaemonians did of old and the people of Thurium and Tarentum, as well as the Melians and all who set store by the fashions of Sparta; and they bind a white turban on their heads, and their feet are naked for walking and they cut their garments to resemble the exomis [ 1]. But the material of which they make their raiment is a wool that springs wild from the ground, white like that of the Pamphylians, though it is of softer growth, and a grease like olive oil distills from off it. This is what they make their sacred vesture of, and if anyone else except these Indians tries to pluck it up, the earth refuses to surrender its wool. And they all carry both a ring and a staff of which the peculiar virtues can effect all things, and the one and the other, so we learn, are prized as secrets. 3.18. And when he had taken his seat, he said: Ask whatever you like, for you find yourself among people who know everything. Apollonius then asked him whether they knew themselves also, thinking that he, like the Greeks, would regard self-knowledge as a difficult matter. But the other, contrary to Apollonius' expectations, corrected him and said: We know everything, just because we begin by knowing ourselves; for no one of us would be admitted to this philosophy unless he first knew himself. And Apollonius remembered what he had heard Phraotes say, and how he who would become a philosopher must examine himself before he undertakes the task; and he therefore acquiesced in this answer, for he was convinced of its truth in his own case also. He accordingly asked a fresh question, namely, who they considered themselves to be; and the other answered We consider ourselves to be Gods. Apollonius asked afresh: Why? Because, said the other, we are good men. This reply struck Apollonius as so instinct with trained good sense that he subsequently mentioned it to Domitian in his defense of himself. 3.35. And the subject is so vast and so far transcends our mental powers, that I do not know any example adequate to illustrate it; but we will take that of a ship, such as the Egyptians construct for our seas and launch for the exchange of Egyptian goods against Indian wares. For there is an ancient law in regard to the Red Sea, which the king Erythras laid down, when he held sway over that sea, to the effect that the Egyptians should not enter it with a vessel of war, and indeed should employ only a single merchant ship. This regulation obliged the Egyptians to contrive a ship equivalent to several at once of those which other races have; and they ribbed the sides of this ship with bolts such as hold a ship together, and they raised its bulwarks and its mast to a great height, and they constructed several compartments, such as are built upon the timber balks which run athwart a ship, and they set several pilots in this boat and subordinated them to the oldest and wisest of their number, to conduct the voyage; and there were several officers on the prow and excellent and handy sailors to man the sails; and in the crew of this ship there was a detachment of armed men, for it is necessary to equip the ship and protect it against the savages of the Gulf that live on the right hand as you enter it, in case they should ever attack and plunder it on the high seas. Let us apply this imagery to the universe, and regard it in the light of a naval construction; for then you must apportion the first and supreme position to God the begetter of this animal, and subordinate posts to the gods who govern its parts; and we may well assent to the statements of the poets, when they say that there are many gods in heaven and many in the sea, and many in the fountains and streams, and many round about the earth, and that there are some even under the earth. But we shall do well to separate from the universe the region under the earth, if there is one, because the poets represent it as an abode of terror and corruption. 3.36. AS the Indian concluded this discourse, Damis says that he was transported with admiration and applauded loudly; for he could never have thought that a native of India could show such mastery of the Greek tongue, nor even that, supposing he understood that language, he could have used it with so much ease and elegance. And he praises the look and smile of Iarchas, and the inspired air with which he expressed his ideas, admitting that Apollonius, although he had a delivery as graceful as it was free from bombast, nevertheless gained a great deal by contact with this Indian, and he says that whenever he sat down to discuss a theme, as he very often did, he resembled Iarchas. 4.5. But when he came to Smyrna the Ionians went out to meet him, for they were just celebrating the pan-Ionian sacrifices. And he there read a decree of the Ionians, in which they besought him to take part in their solemn meeting; and in it he met with a name which had not at all an Ionian ring, for a certain Lucullus had signed the resolution. He accordingly sent a letter to their council expressing his astonishment at such an instance of barbarism; for he had, it seems, also found the name Fabricius and other such names in the decrees. The letter on this subject shows how sternly he reprimanded them. 4.21. And he is said to have rebuked the Athenians for their conduct of the festival of Dionysus, which they hold at the season of the month Anthesterion. For when he saw them flocking to the theater he imagined that the were going to listen to solos and compositions in the way of processional and rhythmic hymns, such as are sung in comedies and tragedies; but when he heard them dancing lascivious jigs to the rondos of a pipe, and in the midst of the sacred epic of Orpheus striking attitudes as the Hours, or as nymphs, or as bacchants, he set himself to rebuke their proceedings and said: Stop dancing away the reputations of the victors of Salamis as well as of many other good men deported this life. For if indeed this were a Lacedaemonian form of dance, I would say, “Bravo, soldiers; for you are training yourselves for war, and I will join in your dance'; but as it is a soft dance and one of effeminate tendency, what am I to say of your national trophies? Not as monuments of shame to the Medians or Persians, but to your own shame they will have been raised, should you degenerate so much from those who set them up. And what do you mean by your saffron robes and your purple and scarlet raiment? For surely the Acharnians never dressed themselves up in this way, nor ever the knights of Colonus rode in such garb. A woman commanded a ship from Caria and sailed against you with Xerxes, and about her there was nothing womanly, but she wore the garb and armor of a man; but you are softer than the women of Xerxes' day, and you are dressing yourselves up to your own despite, old and young and striplings alike, all those who of old flocked to the shrine of Agraulus in order to swear to die in battle on behalf of the fatherland. And now it seems that the same people are ready to swear to become bacchants and don the thyrsus in behalf of their country; and no one bears a helmet, but disguised as female harlequins, to use the phrase of Euripides, they shine in shame alone. Nay more, I hear that you turn yourselves into winds, and wave your skirts, and pretend that you are ships bellying their sails aloft. But surely you might at least have some respect for the winds that were your allies and once blew mightily to protect you, instead of turning Boreas who was your patron, and who of all the winds is the most masculine, into a woman; for Boreas would never have become the lover of Oreithya, if he had seen her executing, like you, a skirt dance. 4.22. He also corrected the following abuse at Athens. The Athenians ran in crowds to the theater beneath the Acropolis to witness human slaughter, and the passion for such sports was stronger there than it is in Corinth today; for they would buy for large sums adulterers and fornicators and burglars and cut-purses and kidnappers and such-like rabble, and then they took them and armed them and set them to fight with one another. Apollonius then attacked these practices, and when the Athenians invited him to attend their assembly, he refused to enter a place so impure and reeking with gore. And this he said in an epistle to them; he said that he was surprised that the goddess had not already quitted the Acropolis, when you shed such blood under her eyes. For I suspect that presently, when you are conducting the pan-Athenaic procession, you will no longer be content with bull, but will be sacrificing hecatombs of men to the goddess. And thou, O Dionysus, dost thou after such bloodshed frequent their theater? And do the wise among the Athenians pour libations to thee there? Nay do thou depart, O Dionysus. Holier and purer is thy Cithaeron.Such were the more serious of the subjects which I have found he treated of at that time in Athens in his philosophical discourses.

Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
aegae Demoen and Praet (2009) 326
anatolia Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
aphrodisias Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
apollonius (pre-philostratean) Demoen and Praet (2009) 333
apollonius of tyana Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
asceticism Demoen and Praet (2009) 326
asia minor Demoen and Praet (2009) 260; Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
augustus Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
aulus gellius Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
corinth Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
greece Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
habitus Lieu (2004) 150
identity,in contemporary debate Lieu (2004) 150
italica Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
magic(ian),see also goäs/goäteia Demoen and Praet (2009) 326
moeragenes Demoen and Praet (2009) 333
neopythagoreanism Demoen and Praet (2009) 333
plutarch Demoen and Praet (2009) 260
pythagoras Demoen and Praet (2009) 333
rhodes Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
samos Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114
socrates' Demoen and Praet (2009) 333
spain Price Finkelberg and Shahar (2021) 114