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The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, [1912], at


MY grandfather was king, and had the same name as myself; but my father was a private person. For he was left quite young and two of his relations were appointed guardians in accordance with the laws of the Indians. But they did not carry on the king's government honestly on his behalf. No, by the Sun, but so unfairly that their subjects found their regime oppressive and the government fell into bad repute. A conspiracy then was formed against them by some of the magnates, who attacked them

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and slew them when they were sacrificing to the river Indus. The conspirators than seized upon the reins of government and took control of the State. Now my father's kinsmen entertained apprehensions of him, because he was not yet sixteen years of age, so they sent him across the Hyphasis to the king there. And he has more subjects than I have, and his country is much more fertile than this one. This monarch wished to adopt him, but this my father declined on the ground that he would not struggle with fate that robbed him of his kingdom; but he besought to allow him to take his way to the sages and become a philosopher, for he said that this would make it easier for him to bear the reverses of his house. The king however being anxious to restore him to his father's kingdom, my father said: "If you see that I am become a genuine philosopher, then restore me; but if not, let me remain as I am." The king accordingly went in person to the sages, and said that he would lie under great obligation to them if they would take care of a youth who had already showed such nobility of character, and they, discerning in him something out of the common run, were delighted to impart to him their wisdom, and were glad to educate him when they saw how addicted he was to learning. Now seven years afterwards the king fell sick, and at the very moment when he was dying, he sent for my father, and appointed him co-heir in the government with his own son, and promised his daughter in marriage to him as she was already of marriageable age. And my father, since he saw that the king's son was the victim of flatterers and of wine and of such like vices, and was also full of suspicions of himself, said to

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him: "Do you keep all this and swill down the whole Empire as your own; for it is ridiculous that one who could not even gain the kingdom which belonged to him should presume to meddle with one which does not; but give me your sister, for this is all I want of yours." So having obtained her in marriage he lived hard by the sage in seven fertile village which the king bestowed upon his sister as her pin-money. I then am the issue of this marriage, and my father after a Greek education brought me to the sages at an age somewhat too early perhaps, for I was only twelve at the time, but they brought me up like their own son; for any that they admit knowing the Greek tongue they are especially fond of, because they consider that in virtue of the similarity of his disposition he already belongs to themselves.


AND when my parents had died, which they did almost together, the sages bade me repair to the villages and look after my own affairs, for I was now nineteen years of age. But, alas, my good uncle had already taken away the villages, and didn't even leave me the few acres my father had acquired; for he said that the whole of them belonged to his kingdom, and that I should get more than I deserved if he spared my life. I accordingly raised a subscription among my mother's freedmen, and kept four retainers. And one day when I was reading the play "The Children of Heracles," a man presented himself from my own country, bringing a letter from a person devoted to my father, who urged me to cross

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the river Hydraotes and confer with him about my present kingdom; for he said there was a good prospect of recovering it, if I did not dawdle. I cannot but think that some god set me on reading this drama at the moment, and I followed the omen; and having crossed the river I learnt that one of the usurpers of the throne was dead, and that the other was besieged in this very palace. Accordingly I hurried forward, and proclaimed to the inhabitants of the villages through which I passed that I was the sons of so and so, naming my father, and that I was come to take possession of my own kingdom; but they received me with open arms and escorted me, recognizing my resemblance to my grandfather, and they had daggers and bows, and our numbers increased from day to day. And when I approached the gates the population received me with such enthusiasm that they snatched up torches off the altar of the Sun and came before the gates and escorted me hither with many hymns in praise of my father and grandfather. But the drone that was within they walled up, although I protested against his being put to such death."


HERE Apollonius interrupted and said: "You have exactly played the part of the restored sons of Heracles in the play, and praised be the gods who have helped so noble a man to come by his own and restored you by their noble intervention. But tell me this about these sages: were they not once actually subject to Alexander, and were they not brought before him

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to philosophize about the heavens?" "Those were the Oxydracae," he said, "and a race that has always been independent and well equipped for war; and they assert that they deal in wisdom, though they know nothing of value. But the genuine sages live between the Hyphasis and the Ganges, in a country which Alexander never assailed; not I imagine because he was afraid of what was in it, but, I think, because the omens warned him against it. But if he had crossed the Hyphasis, and had been able to take the surrounding country, he could certainly never have taken possession of their castle in which they live, not even if he had had ten thousand like Achilles, and thirty thousand like Ajax behind him; for they do not do battle with those who approach them, but they repulse them with prodigies and thunderbolts which they send forth, for they are holy men and beloved of the gods. It is related, anyhow, that Heracles of Egypt and Dionysus after they had overrun the Indian people with their arms, at last attached them in company, and that they constructed engines of war, and tried to take the place by assault; but the sages, instead of taking the field against them, lay quiet and passive, as it seemed to the enemy; but as soon as the latter approached they were driven off by rockets of fire and thunderbolts which were hurled obliquely from above and fell upon their armor. It was on that occasion, they say, that Hercules lost his golden shield, and the sages dedicated it as an offering, partly out of respect for Hercules’ reputation, and partly because of the reliefs upon the shield. For in these Hercules is represented fixing the frontier of the world at Gadira, and using

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the mountains for pillars, and confining the ocean within its bounds. Thence it is clear that it was not the Theban Hercules, but the Egyptian one, that came to Gadira, and fixed the limits of the world."


WHILE they were thus talking, the strain of the hymn sung to the pipe fell upon their ears, and Apollonius asked the king what was the meaning of their cheerful ode. "The Indians," he answered, "sing their admonitions to the king, at the moment of his going to bed; and they pray that he may have good dreams, and rise up propitious and affable towards his subjects." "And how," said Apollonius, "do you, O king, feel in regard to this matter? For it is yourself I suppose that they honor with their pipes." "I don't laugh at them," he said, "for I must allow it because of the law, although I do not require any admonition of the kind: for in so far as a king behaves himself with moderation and integrity, he will bestow, I imagine, favors on himself rather than on his subjects."


AFTER this conversation they laid themselves down to repose; but when a new day had dawned, the king himself went to the chamber in which Apollonius and his companions were sleeping, and gently stroking the bed he addressed the sage, and asked him what

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he was thinking about. "For," he said, "I don't imagine you are asleep, since you drink water and despise wine." Said the other: "Then you don't think that those who drink water go to sleep?" "Yes," said the king, "they sleep, but with a very light sleep, which just sits upon the tips of their eyelids, as we say, but not upon their minds." "Nay with both do they sleep," said Apollonius, "and perhaps more with the mind than with the eyelids. For unless the mind is thoroughly composed, the eyes will not admit of sleep either. For note how madmen are not able to go to sleep because their mind leaps with excitement, and their thoughts run coursing hither and thither, so that their glances are full of fury and morbid impulse, like those of the dragons who never sleep. Since then, O king," he went on, "we have clearly intimated the use and function of sleep, and what it signifies for men, let us examine whether the drinker of water need sleep less soundly than the drunkard." "Do not quibble," said the king, "for if you put forward the case of a drunkard, he, I admit, will not sleep at all, for his mind is in a state of revel, and whirls him about and fills him with uproar. All, I tell you, who try to go to sleep when in drink seem to themselves to be rushed up on the roof, and then to be dashed down to the ground, and to fall into a whirl, as they say happened to Ixion. Now I do not put the case of a drunkard, but of a man who has merely drunk wine, but remains sober; I wish to consider whether he will sleep, and how much better he will sleep than a man who drinks no wine."

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APOLLONIUS then summoned Damis, and said: "’tis a clever man with whom we are discussing and one thoroughly trained in argument." "I see it is so, " said Damis, "and perhaps this is what is meant by the phrase 'catching a Tartar'. But the argument excites me very much, of which he has delivered himself; so it is time for you to wake up and finish it." Apollonius then raised his head slightly and said: "Well I will prove, out of your own lips and following your own argument, how much advantage we who drink water have in that we sleep more sweetly. For you have clearly stated and admitted that the minds of drunkards are disordered and are in a condition of madness; for we see those who are under the spell of drink imagining that they see two moons at once and two suns, while those who have drunk less, even though they are quite sober, while they entertain no such delusions as these, are yet full of exultation and pleasure; and this fit of joy often falls upon them, even though they have not had any good luck, and men in such a condition will plead cases, although they never opened their lips before in a law court, and they will tell you they are rich, although they have not a farthing in their pockets. Now these, O king, are the affections of a madman. For the mere pleasure of drinking disturbs their judgment, and I have known many of them who were so firmly convinced that they were well off, that they were unable to sleep, but leapt up in their slumbers, and this is the meaning of the saying that 'good fortune itself is a reason for being anxious.'

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[paragraph continues] Men have also devised sleeping draughts, by drinking or anointing themselves with which, people at once stretch themselves out and go to sleep as if they were dead; but when they wake up from such sleep it is with a sort of forgetfulness, and they imagine that they are anywhere rather than where they are. Now these draughts are not exactly drunk, but I would rather say that they drench the soul and body; for they do not induce any sound or proper sleep, but the deep coma of a man half dead, or the light and distracted sleep of men haunted by phantoms, even though they be wholesome ones; and you will, I think, agree with me in this, unless you are disposed to quibble rather than argue seriously. But those who drink water, as I do see things as they really are, and they do not record in fancy things that are not; and they were never found to be giddy, nor full of drowsiness, or of silliness, nor unduly elated; but they are wide awake and thoroughly rational, and always the same, whether late in the evening or early in the morning when the market is crowded; for these men never nod, even though they pursue their studies far into the night. For sleep does not drive them forth, pressing down like a slave-holder upon their necks, that are bowed down by the wine; but you find them free and erect, and they go to bed with a clear, pure soul and welcome sleep, and are neither buoyed up by the bubbles of their own private luck, nor scared out of their wits by any adversity. For the soul meets both alternatives with equal calm, if it be sober and not overcome by either feeling; and that is why it can sleep a delightful sleep untouched by the sorrows which startle others from their couches.

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AND more than this, as a faculty of divination by means of dreams, which is the divines and most godlike of human faculties, the soul detects the truth all the more easily when it is not muddied by wine, but accepts the message unstained and scans it carefully. Anyhow, the explains of dreams and visions, those whom the poets call interpreters of dreams, will never undertake to explain any vision to anyone without having first asked the time when it was seen. For if it was at dawn and in the sleep of morning tide, they calculate its meaning on the assumption that the soul is then in a condition to divine soundly and healthily, because by then it has cleansed itself of the stains of wine. But if the vision was seen in the first sleep or at midnight, when the soul is still immersed in the lees of wine and muddied thereby, they decline to make any suggestions, and they are wise. And that the gods also are of this opinion, and that they commit the faculty of oracular response to souls which are sober, I will clearly show. There was, O king, a seer among the Greeks called Amphiaros." "I know," said the other; "for you allude, I imagine, to the son of Oecles, who was swallowed up alive by the earth on his way back from Thebes." "This man, O king," said Apollonius, "still divines in Attica, inducing dreams in those who consult him, and the priests take a man who wishes to consult him, and they prevent his eating for one day, and from drinking wine for three, in order that he may imbibe the oracles with his soul in a condition of utter transparency. But if wine were

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a good drug of sleep, then the wise Amphiaros would have bidden his votaries to adopt the opposite regimen, and would have had them carried into his shrine as full of wine as leather flagons. And I could mention many oracles, held in repute by Greeks and barbarians alike, where the priest utters his responses from the tripod after imbibing water and not wine. So you may consider me also as a fit vehicle of the god, O king, along with all who drink water. For we are rapt by the nymphs and are bacchantic revelers in sobriety." "Well, then," said the king, "you must make me too, O Apollonius, a member of your religious brotherhood." "I would do so," said the other, "provided only you will not be esteemed vulgar and held cheap by your subjects. For in the case of a king a philosophy that is at once moderate and indulgent makes a good mixture, as is seen in your own case; but an excess of rigor and severity would seem vulgar, O king, and beneath your august station; and, what is more, it might be construed by the envious as due to pride."


WHEN they had thus conversed, for by this time it was daylight, they went out into the open. And Apollonius, understanding that the king had to give audience to embassies and such-like said: "You then, O king, must attend to the business of state, but let me go and devote this hour to the Sun, for I must needs offer up to him my accustomed prayer." "And I pray he may hear your prayer," said the king, "for he will bestow his grace on all who find pleasure

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in your wisdom; but I will wait for you until you return, for I have to decide some cases in which your presence will very greatly help me."


APOLLONIUS then returned, when the day was already for advanced and asked him about the cases which he had been judging; but he answered: "Today I have not judged any, for the omens did not allow me." Apollonius then replied and said: "It is the case then that you consult the omens in such cases as these, just as you do when you are setting out on a journey or a campaign." "Yes, by Zeus," he said, "for there is a risk in this case, too, of one who is a judge straying from the right line." Apollonius felt that what he said was true, and asked him again what the suit was which he had to decide; "For I see," he said, "that you have given your attention to it and are perplexed what verdict to give." "I admit," said the king, "that I am perplexed; and that is why I want your advice; for one man has sold to another land, in which there lay a treasure as yet undiscovered, and some time afterwards the land, being broken up, revealed a certain chest, which the person who sold the land says belongs to him rather than the other, for that he would never have sold the land, if he had known beforehand that he had a fortune thereon; but the purchaser claims that he acquired everything that he found in land, which thenceforth was his. And, both their contentions are just; and I shall seem ridiculous if I order them

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to share the gold between them, for any old woman could settle the matter in that way." Apollonius thereupon replied as follows: "The fact that they are quarreling about gold shows that these two men are no philosophers; and you will, in my opinion, give the best verdict if you bear this in mind, that the gods attach the first importance and have most care for those who live a life of philosophy together with moral excellence, and only pay secondary attention to those who have committed no faults and were never found unjust. Now they entrust to philosophers the task of rightly discerning things divine and human as they should be discerned, but to those who merely are of good character they give enough to live upon, so hat they may never be rendered unjust by actual lack of the necessaries of life. It seems then to me, O king, right to weight these men in the balance, as it were, and to examine their respective lives; for I cannot believe that the gods would deprive the one even of his land, unless he was a bad man, or that they would, on the other hand, bestow on the other even what was under the land, unless he was better than the man who sold it." The two claimants came back the next day, and the seller was convicted of being a ruffian who had neglected the sacrifices, which it was his bounden duty to sacrifice to the gods on that land 1; but the other was found to be a decent man and a most devout worshipper of the gods. Accordingly, the opinion of Apollonius prevailed, and the better of the two men quitted the court as one on whom the gods had bestowed this boon.

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WHEN the law-suit had been thus disposed of, Apollonius approached the Indian, and said: " This the third day, O king, that you have made me your guest; and at dawn to-morrow I must quit your land in accordance with the law." "But," said the other, " the law does not yet speak to you thus, for you can remain on the morrow, since you came after midday." "I am delighted," said Apollonius, "with your hospitality, and indeed you seem to me to be straining the law for my sake." "Yes indeed, and I would I could break it," said the king, "in your behalf; but tell me this, Apollonius, did not the camels bring you from Babylon which they say you were riding?" "They did," he said, "and Vardanes gave them us." "Will they then be able to carry you on, after they have come already so many stades from Babylon?" Apollonius made no answer, but Damis said: "O king, our friend here does not understand anything about our journey, nor about the races among which we shall find ourselves in future; but he regards our passage into India as mere child's play, under the impression that he will everywhere have you and Vardanes to help him. I assure you, the true condition of the camels has not been acknowledged to you; for they are in such an evil state that we could carry them rather than they us, and we must have others. For if they collapse anywhere in the wilderness of India, we," he continued, "shall have to sit down and drive off the vultures and wolves from the camels, and as no one will drive them off from

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us we shall perish too." The king answered accordingly and said: "I will remedy this, for I will give you other camels, and you need four I think, and the satrap ruling the Indus will send back four others to Babylon. But I have a herd of camels on the Indus, all of them white." "And," said Damis, "will you not also give us a guide, O king?" "Yes, of course," he answered, "and I will give a camel to the guide and provisions, and I will write a letter to Iarchas, the oldest of the sages, praying him to welcome Apollonius as warmly as he did myself, and to welcome you also as philosophers and followers of a divine man." And forthwith the Indian gave them gold and precious stones and linen and a thousand other such things. And Apollonius said that he had enough gold already, because Vardanes had given it to the guide on the sly; but that he would accept the linen robes, because they were like the cloaks worn by the ancient and genuine inhabitants of Attica. And he took up one of the stones and said: "O rare stone, how opportunely have I found you, and how providentially!" detecting in it, I imagine, some secret and divine virtue. Neither would the companions of Damis accept for themselves the gold; nevertheless they took good handfuls of the gems, in order to dedicate them to the gods, whenever they should regain their own country.


1:221:1 Or render: the gods of the underworld.

Next: Chapters 41-43