The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
NOW the king caught sight of Apollonius approaching, for the vestibule of the Temple was of considerable length, and insisted to those by him that he recognized the sage; and when he came still nearer he cried out with a loud voice and said: "This is Apollonius, whom Megabates, my brother, said he
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saw in Antioch, the admired and respected of serious people; and he depicted him to me at that time just such a man as now comes to us." And when Apollonius approached and saluted him, the king addressed him in the Greek language and invited him to sacrifice with him; and it chanced that he was on the point of sacrificing to the Sun as a victim a horse of the true Nisaean breed, which he had adorned with trappings as if for a triumphal procession. But Apollonius replied: "Do you, O king, go on with your sacrifice, in your own way, but permit me to sacrifice in mine." And he took up a handful of frankincense and said: "O thou Sun, send me as far over the earth as is my pleasure and thine, and may I make the acquaintance of good men, but never hear anything of bad ones, nor they of me." And with these words he threw the frankincense into the fire, and watched to see how the smoke of it curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how many points it shot up; and in a manner he caught the meaning of the fire, and watched how it appeared of good omen and pure. Then he said: "Now, O king, go on with your sacrifice in accordance with your own traditions, for my traditions are such as you see."
AND he quitted the scene of sacrifice in order not to be present at the shedding of blood. But after the sacrifice was over he approached and said: "O king, do you know the Greek tongue thoroughly, or have you a smattering of it perhaps, in order to be able to express yourself and appear polite in
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case any Greek arrives?" "I know it thoroughly," replied the king, "as well as I do my native language; so say you what you like, for this I suppose is the reason why you put the question to me." "It was my reason," said the other; "so listen. The goal of my voyage is India, but I had no intention of passing you by; for I heard that you were such a man as from a slight acquaintance I already perceive you to be, and was desirous also of examining the wisdom which is indigenous among you and is cultivated by the Magi, and of finding out whether they are such wise theologians as they are reported to be. Now my own system of wisdom is that of Pythagoras, a man of Samos, who taught me to worship the gods in the way you see, and to be aware of them whether they are seen or not seen, and to be frequent in my converse with them, and to dress myself in this land-wool; for it was never worn by sheep, but is the spotless product of spotless parents, the gift of water and of earth, namely linen. And the very fashion of letting my hair grow long, I have learnt from Pythagoras as part of his discipline, and also it is a result of his wisdom that I keep myself pure from animal food. I cannot therefore become either for you or for anybody else a companion in drinking or an associate in idleness and luxury; but if you have problems of conduct that are difficult and hard to settle, I will furnish you with solutions, for I not only know matters of practice and duty, but I even know them beforehand." Such was the conversation which Damis declares the sage to have held; and Apollonius himself composed a letter containing them, and has sketched out in his epistles much else of what he said in conversation.
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SINCE the king said that he was more pleased and delighted with his arrival than if he had added to his own possessions the wealth of Persia and India, and added that Apollonius must be his guest and share with him the royal roof, Apollonius remarked: "Supposing, O king, that you came to my country of Tyana and I invited you to live where I live, would you care to do so?" "Why no," answered the king, "unless I had a house to live in that was big enough to accommodate not only my escort and bodyguard, but myself as well, in a handsome manner." "Then," said the other, "I may use the same argument to you; for if I am housed above my rank, I shall be ill at ease, for superfluity distresses wise men more than deficiency distresses you. Let me therefore be entertained by some private person who has the same means as myself, and I will visit with you as often as you like." The king conceded this point, lest he should be betrayed into doing anything that might annoy him, and Apollonius took up his quarters with a gentleman of Babylon of good character and besides high-minded. But before he had finished dinner one of the eunuchs presented himself and addressed him thus: "The king," he said, "bestows upon you ten presents, and leaves you free to name them; but he is anxious that you should not ask for small trifles, for he wishes to exhibit to you and to us his generosity." Apollonius commended the message, and asked: "Then when am I to ask for them?" And the messenger replied: "To-morrow," and at once went off to all the king's friends and kinsmen
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and bade them be present when the sage should prefer his demand and receive the honor. But Damis says that he expected him to ask for nothing, because he had studied his character and knew that he offered to the gods the following prayer: "O ye gods, grant unto me to have little and to want nothing." However, as he saw him much preoccupied and, as it were, brooding, he determined that he was going to ask and anxiously turning over in his mind, what he should ask. But at eventide: "Damis," said Apollonius, "I am thinking over with myself the question of why the barbarians have regarded eunuchs as men sufficiently chaste to be allowed the free entry of the women's apartments." "But," answered the other, "O Apollonius, a child could tell you. For inasmuch as the operation has deprived them of the faculty, they are freely admitted into those apartments, no matter how far their wishes may go." "But do you suppose the operation has removed their desires or the further aptitude?" "Both," replied Damis, "for if you extinguish in a man the unruly member that lashes the body to madness, the fit of passion will come on him no more." After a brief pause, Apollonius said: "To-morrow, Damis, you shall learn that even eunuchs are liable to fall in love, and that the desire which is contracted through the eyes is not extinguished in them, but abides alive and ready to burst into a flame; for that will occur which will refute your opinion. And even if there were really any human art of such tyrannical force that it could expel such feelings from the heart, I do not see how we could ever attribute to them any chastity of character, seeing that they would have
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no choice, having been by sheer force and artificially deprived of the faculty of falling in love. For chastity consists in not yielding to passion when the longing and impulse is felt, and in the abstinence which rises superior to this form of madness." Accordingly Damis answered and said: "Here is a thing that we will examine another time, O Apollonius; but we had better consider now that answer you can make to-morrow to the king's magnificent offer. For you will perhaps ask for nothing at all, but you should be careful and be on your guard lest you should seem to decline any gift the king may offer, as they say, out of mere empty pride, for you see the land that you are in and that we are wholly in his power. And you must be on your guard against the accusation of treating him with contempt, and understand, that although we have sufficient means to carry us to India, yet what we have will not be sufficient to bring us back thence, and we have no other supply to fall back upon."
AND by such devices he tried to wheedle Apollonius into not refusing to take anything he might be offered; but Apollonius, as if by way of assisting him in his argument, said: "But, O Damis, are you not going to give me some examples? Let me supply you with some: Aeschines, the son of Lysanias, went off to Dionysius in Sicily in quest of money, and Plato is said thrice to have traversed Charybdis in quest of the wealth of Sicily, and Aristippus of Cyrene, and Helicon of Cyzicus, and Phyton of Rhegium, when
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he was in exile, buried their noses so deep in the treasure-houses of Dionysius, that they could barely tear themselves away. Moreover they tell of how Eudoxus of Cnidus once arrived in Egypt and both admitted that he had come there in quest of money, and conversed with the king about the matter. And not to take away more characters, they say that Speusippus, the Athenian, was so fond of money, that he reeled off festal songs, when he romped off to Macedonia, in honor of Cassander's marriage, which were frigid compositions, and that he sang these songs in public for the sake of money. Well, I think, O Damis, that a wise man runs more risk than do sailors and soldiers in action, for envy is ever assailing him, whether he holds his tongue or speaks, whether he exerts himself or is idle, whether he passes by anything or takes care to visit anyone, whether he addresses others or neglects to address them. And so a man must fortify himself and understand that a wise man who yields to laziness or anger or passion, or love of drink, or who commits any other action prompted by impulse and inopportune, will probably find his fault condoned; but if he stoops to greed, he will not be pardoned, but render himself odious with a combination of all vices at once. For surely they will not allow that he could be the slave of money, unless he was already the slave of his stomach or of fine raiment or of wine or of riotous living. But you perhaps imagine that it is a lesser thing to go wrong in Babylon than to go wrong at Athens or at the Olympian or Pythian games; and you do not reflect that a wise man finds Hellas everywhere, and that a sage will not regard or consider any place to be a desert or barbarous,
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because he, at any rate, lives under the eyes of virtue, and although he only sees a few men, yet he is himself looked at by ten thousand eyes. Now if you came across an athlete, Damis, one of those who practice and train themselves in wrestling and boxing, surely you would require him, in case he were contending in the Olympic games, or went to Arcadia, to be both noble in character and good; nay, more, of the Pythian or Nemean contest were going on, you would require him to take care of his physique, because these games are famous and the race-courses are made much of in Hellas; would you then, if Philip were sacrificing with Olympic rites after capturing certain cities, or if his son Alexander were holding games to celebrate his victories, tell the man forthwith to neglect the training of his body and to leave off being keen to win, because the contest was to be held in Olynthus or in Macedonia or in Egypt, rather than among the Hellenes, and on your native race-courses?" These then were the arguments by which Damis declares that he was so impressed as to blush at what he had said, and to ask Apollonius to pardon him for having through imperfect acquaintance with him, ventured to tender him such advice, and use such arguments. But the sage caught him up and said: "Never mind, for it was not by way of rebuking and humbling you that I have spoken thus, but in order to give you some idea of my own point of view."
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NOW when the eunuch arrived and summoned him before the king, he said: "I will come as soon as I have duly discharged my religious duties." Accordingly he sacrificed and offered his prayer, and then departed, and everyone looked at him and wondered at his bearing. And when he had come within, the king said: "I present you with ten gifts, because I consider you such a man as never before has come hither from Hellas." And he answered and said: "I will not, O king, decline all your gifts; but there is one which I prefer to may tens of gifts, and for that I will most eagerly solicit." And he at one told the story of the Eretrians, beginning it from the time of Datis. "I ask then," he said, "that these poor people should not be driven away from their borders and from the hill, but should be left to cultivate the span of earth, which Darius allowed them; for it is very hard if they are not to be allowed to retain the land which was substituted for their own when they were driven out of the latter." The king then consented and said: "The Eretrians were, until yesterday, the enemies of myself and of my fathers; for they once took up arms against us, and they have been neglected in order that their race might perish; but henceforth they shall be written among my friends, and they shall have, as a satrap, a good man who will judge their country justly. But why," he said, "will you not accept the other nine gifts?" "Because," he answered, "I have not yet, O king, made any friends
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here." "And do you yourself require nothing?" said the king. "Yes," he said, "I need dried fruits and bread, for that is a repast which delights me and which I find magnificent."
WHILE they were thus conversing with one another a hubbub was heard to proceed from the palace, of eunuchs and women shrieking all at once. And in fact an eunuch had been caught misbehaving with one of the royal concubines just as if he were an adulterer. The guards of the harem were now dragging him along by the hair in the way they do royal slaves. The senior of the eunuchs accordingly declared that he had long before noticed he had an affection for this particular lady, and had already forbidden him to talk to her or touch her neck or hand, or assist her toilette, though he was free to wait upon all the other members of the harem; yet he had now caught him behaving as if he were the lady's lover. Apollonius thereupon glanced at Damis, as if to indicate that the argument they had conducted on the point that even eunuchs fall in love, was now demonstrated to be true; but the king remarked to the bystanders: "Nay, but it is disgraceful, gentlemen, that, in the presence of Apollonius, we should be enlarging on the subject of chastity rather than he. What then, O Apollonius, do you urge us to do with him?" "Why, to let him live, of course," answered Apollonius to the surprise of them all. Whereon the king reddened, and said: "Then you do not
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think he deserves to die may times for thus trying to usurp my rights?" "Nay, but my answer, O king, was suggested not by any wish to condone his offense, but rather to mete out to him a punishment which will wear him out. For if he lives with this disease of impotence on him, and can never take pleasure in eating or drinking, nor in the spectacles which delight you and your companions, and if his heart will throb as he often leaps up in his sleep, as they say is particularly the case of people in love,—is there any form of consumption so wasting as this, any form of hunger so likely to enfeeble his bowels? Indeed, unless he be one of those who are ready to live at any price, he will entreat you, O king, before long even to slay him, or he will slay himself, deeply deploring that he was not put to death straight away this very day." Such was the answer rendered on this occasion by Apollonius, one so wise and humane, that the king was moved by it to spare the life of his eunuch.
ONE day the king was going to hunt the animals in the parks in which the barbarians keep lions and bears and leopards, and he asked Apollonius to accompany him on the chase, but the latter replied: "You have forgotten, O king, that I never attend you, even when you are sacrificing. And moreover, it is no pleasure to me to attack animals that have been ill-treated and enslaved in violation of their nature." And the king asking him what was the most stable and secure way of governing, Apollonius answered:
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[paragraph continues] "To respect many, and confide in few." And on one occasion the governor of Syria sent a mission about two villages, which, I think, are close to the Bridge, alleging that these villages had long ago been subject to Antiochus and Seleucus, but at present they were under his sway, and belonged to the Romans, and that, whereas the Arabians and Armenians did not disturb these villages, yet the king had traversed so great a distance in order to exploit them, as if they belonged to himself, rather than to the Romans. The king sent the embassy aside, and said: "O Apollonius, these villages were given to my forefathers by the kings whom I mentioned, that they might sustain the wild animals, which are taken by us in our country and sent to theirs across the Euphrates, and they, as if they had forgotten this fact, have espoused a policy that is new and unjust. What then do you think are the intentions of the embassy?" Apollonius replied: "Their attention, O king, is moderate and fair, seeing that they only desire to obtain from you, with your consent, places which, as they are in their territory, they can equally well retain without it." And he added his opinion that it was a mistake to quarrel with the Romans over villages so paltry that probably bigger ones were owned even by private individuals; he also said that it was a mistake to go to war even over large issues. And when the king was ill he visited him, and discoursed so weightily and in such a lofty strain of the soul, that the king recovered, and said to his courtiers, that Apollonius had so wrought upon him that he now felt a contempt, not only for his kingdom, but also for death.
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ONE day the king was showing to him the grotto under the Euphrates, and asked him what he though of so wonderful a thing. Apollonius in answer belittled the wonder of the work, and said: "It would be a real miracle, O king, if you went dry-shod through a river as deep as this and as unfordable." And when he was shown the walls of Ecbatana, and was told that they were the dwelling-place of gods, he remarked: "They are not the dwelling place of gods at all, and I am not sure that they are of real men either; for, O king, the inhabitants of the city of Lacedaemon do not dwell within walls, and have never fortified their city." Moreover, on one occasion the king had decided a suit for some villages and was boasting to Apollonius of how he had listened to the one suit for two whole days. "Well," said the other, "you took a mighty long time, anyhow, to find out what was just." And when the revenues from the subject country came in on one occasion in great quantities at once, the king opened his treasury and showed his wealth to the sage, to induce him to fall in love with wealth; but he admired nothing that he saw and said: "This, for you, O king, represents wealth, but to me it is mere chaff." "How, then," said the other, "and in what manner can I best make use of it?" "By spending it," he said, "for you are king."
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HE had addressed many such sayings to the king, and found him ready to do what he advised him; when finding out that he had enough of the society of the Magi, he said to Damis: "Come, let us start for India. For the people who visited the lotus-eaters in their ships were seduced from their own home-principles by the food; but we, without tasting any of the victuals of this land, have remained here a longer time than is right and fitting." "And I," said Damis, "am more than of your opinion; but as I bore in mind the period of time which you discovered by the help of the lioness, I was waiting on for it to be completed. Now it has not yet all of it expired, for we have so far only spent a year and four months; however, if we can depart at once, would it be as well?" "But," said the other, "the king will not let us go, O Damis, before the eighth month has passed; for you, I think, see that he is a worthy man and too superior a person to be ruling over barbarians."
WHEN at last they were resolved on their departure and the king had consented that they should go away, Apollonius remembered the presents, which he had put off till he should have acquired friends, and he said: "O excellent king, I have in no way remunerated my host and I owe a great reward to the Magi; do you therefore attend to them, and oblige me by bestowing your favors on men who are both wise and wholly devoted to yourself." The king then
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was more than delighted, and said: "For you I will to-morrow make their estate enviable and will see that they have been granted great favors; but since you ask for nothing that is mine, I hope you will at least allow these gentlemen to accept from me money and what else they like," and he pointed to Damis and his companions. And when they too declined the offer, Apollonius said: "You see, O king, how many hands I have, and how closely they resemble one another." "But do you anyhow take a guide," said the king, "and camels on which to ride; for the road is too long by far for you to walk the whole of it." "Be it so," said Apollonius, "O king: for they say that the road is a difficult one for him who is not mounted, and moreover this animal is easily fed and finds his pasture easily where there is no herbage. And, methinks, we must lay in a supply of water also, and take it in bottles, like wine." "Yes," said the king, "for three days the country is waterless, but after that there are plenty of rivers and springs; but you must take the road over the Caucasus, for there you will find plenty of the necessities of life and the country is friendly." And the king then asked him what he would bring back to him from his destination; and he answered: "A graceful gift, O king, for if I am turned into a wiser man by the society of people yonder, I shall return to you here a better man than I now am." When he said this the king embraced him and said: "May you come back, for that will indeed be a great gift."