The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
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And when he had sailed as far as Chios, without even setting foot on the shore, he leapt across into another ship hard by, which was advertised to go to Rhodes; and without a word his companions jumped after him, for it was an essential part of their philosophic discipline to imitate his every word and action. With a favorable wind Apollonius made the passage and held the following conversation in Rhodes. As he approached the statue of the Colossus, Damis asked him, if he thought anything could be greater than that; and he replied, "Yes, a man who loves wisdom in a sound and innocent spirit." At that time Canus was living in Rhodes, who was esteemed to be the best of all pipe-players of his age. He therefore called him and said: "What is the business of a pipe-player?" "To do," replied the other, "everything which his audience wants him to." "Well, but many," replied Apollonius, "in the audience want to be rich rather than to hear a pipe played; I gather then that what you find them desiring this, namely to be rich, you turn them into rich men." "Not at all," replied the other, "though I would like to do so." "Well, then, perhaps you make the young people in your audience good-looking? For all who are still enjoying youth wish to be handsome." "Nor that either," replied the other, "although I can play many an air of Aphrodite on my instrument." "What then is it," said Apollonius, "which you think your audience want?" "Why, what else," replied Canus, "except that the mourner
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may have his sorrow lulled to sleep by the pipe, and that they that rejoice may have their cheerfulness enhanced, and the lover may wax warmer in his passion, and that the lover of sacrifice may become more inspired and full of sacred song?" "This then," he said, "O Canus, "would you allow to be the effect of the pipe itself, because it is constructed of gold or brass and of the shin of a stag, or perhaps of the shin of a donkey, or is it something else which has these effects?" "It is something else," he replied, "O Apollonius; for the music and the modes and the blending of strains and the easy variations of the pipe and the characters of the harmonies, it is all this that composes the souls of listeners and brings them to such a state of contentment as they want." "I understand," he replied, "O Canus, what it is that your art performs; for you cultivate and exhibit to those who come to learn of you the changefulness of your music and the variety of its modes. But as for myself, I think that your pipe wants other resources in addition to those you have mentioned, namely reserves of breath, and a right use of the lips, and manual skill on the part of the player; and facility of breath consists in its being clear and distinct, unmarred by any husky click in the throat, for that would rob the sound of its musical character. And facility with the lips consists in their taking in the reed of the pipe and blowing without blowing out the cheeks; and manual skill I consider very important, for the wrist must not weary from being bent, nor must the fingers be slow in fluttering over the notes, and manual skill is especially shown in the swift transition from mode to mode. If then you have
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all these facilities, you may play with confidence, O Canus, for the Muse Euterpe will be with you."
It happened that a young man was building a house in Rhodes who was a nouveau riche without any education, and he collected in his house rare pictures and gems from different countries. Apollonius then asked him how much money he had spent upon teachers and education. "Not a farthing," he replied. "And how much upon your house?" "Twelve talents," he replied, "and I mean to spend as much again upon it." "And what," said the other, "is the good of your house to you?" "Why, as a residence, it is splendidly suited to my bodily training, for there are colonnades in it and groves, and I shall seldom need to walk out into the market place, but people will come in and talk to me with all the more pleasure, just as if they were visiting a temple." "And," said Apollonius, "are men to be valued more for themselves or for their belongings?" "For their wealth," said the other, "for wealth has the most influence." "And," said Apollonius, "my good youth, which is the best able to keep his money, an educated person or an uneducated?" And as the other made no answer, he added: "My good boy, it seems to me that it is not you that own the house, but the house rather that owns you. As for myself I would far rather enter a temple, no matter how small, and behold in it a statue of ivory and gold, than behold one of pottery and bad workmanship in a vastly larger one."
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And meeting a young man who was young and fat and prided himself upon eating more than anybody else, he remarked: "Then you, it seems are the glutton." "Yes, and I sacrifice to the gods out of gratitude for the same." "And what pleasure," said Apollonius, "do you get by gorging yourself in this way?" "Why, everyone admires me and stares at me; for you have probably heard of Heracles, how people took as much pains to celebrate what he ate as what labors he performed." "Yes, for he was Heracles," said Apollonius; "but as for yourself, you scum, what good points are there about you? There is nothing left for you but to burst, if you want to be stared at."
Such were his experiences in Rhodes, and others ensued in Alexandria, so soon as his voyage ended there. Even before he arrived Alexandria was in love with him, and its inhabitants longed to see Apollonius with the unique devotion of one friend for another; and as the people of Upper Egypt are intensely religious they too prayed him to visit their several societies. For owing to the fact that so many come hither and mix with us from Egypt, while an equal number pass hence to visit Egypt, Apollonius was already celebrated among them and the ears of the Egyptians were literally pricked up to hear him. It is no exaggeration to say that, as he advanced from
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the ship into the city, they gazed upon him as if he was a god, and made way for him in the alleys, as they would for priests carrying the sacraments. As he was being thus escorted with more pomp than if he had been a governor of the country, he met twelve men who were being led to execution on the charge of being bandits, he looked at them and said: "They are not all guilty, for this one," and he gave his name, "has been falsely accused and will escape." And to the executioners by whom they were being led, he said: "I order you to relax your pace and bring them to the ditch a little more leisurely, and to put this one to death last of all, for he is guiltless of the charge; but you would anyhow act with more piety, if you spared them for a brief portion of the day, since it were better not to slay them at all." And withal he dwelt upon this theme at what was for him unusual length. And the reason for his doing so was immediately shown; for when eight of them had had their heads cut off, a man on horseback rode up to the ditch, and shouted: "Spare Pharion; for," he added, "he is no robber, but he gave false evidence against himself from fear of being racked, and others of them in their examination under torture have acknowledged that he is guiltless." I need not describe the exultation of Egypt, nor how the people, who were anyhow ready to admire him, applauded him for this action.
And when he had gone up into the temple, he was struck by the orderliness of its arrangements, and
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thought the reason given for everything thoroughly religious and wisely framed. But as for the blood of bulls and the sacrifices of geese and other animals, he disapproved of them nor would he bring them to repasts of the gods. And when a priest asked him what induced him not to sacrifice like the rest: "Nay, you," he replied," should rather answer me what induces you to sacrifice in this way." The priest replied: "And. who is so clever that he can make corrections in the rites of the Egyptians?" "Anyone," he answered, "with a little wisdom, if only he comes from India." "And," he added, "I will roast a bull to ashes this very day, and you shall hold communion with us in the smoke it makes; for you cannot complain, if you only get the same portion which is thought enough of a repast for the gods." And as his image 1 was being melted in the fire he said: "Look at the sacrifice." "What sacrifice," said the Egyptian, "for I do not see anything there." And Apollonius said: "The Iamidae and the Telliadae and the Clytiadae and the oracle of the black-footed ones, have they talked a lot of nonsense, most excellent priest, when they went on at such length about fire, and pretended to gather so many oracles from it? For as to the fire from pine wood and from the cedar, do you think it is really fraught with prophecy and capable of revealing anything, and yet not esteem a fire lit from the richest and purest gum to be much preferable? If then you had really any acquaintance with the lore of fire worship, you would see that many things are revealed in the disc of the sun at the moment of its rising."
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With these words he rebuked and silenced the Egyptian, showing that he was ignorant of religion. But because the Alexandrians are devoted to horses, and flock into the racecourse to see the spectacle, and murder one another in their partisanship, he therefore administered a grave rebuke to them over these matters, and entering the temple, he said: "How long will you persist in meeting your deaths, not in behalf of your families or of your shrines, but because you are determined to pollute the sacred precincts by entering them reeking with gore and to slaughter one another within the walls? And Troy it seems was ravaged and destroyed by a single horse, which the Achaeans of that day had contrived; but your chariots and horses are yoked to your own despite and leave you no chance of living in submission to the reins of law. You are being destroyed therefore not by the sons of Atreus nor by the sons of Ajax, but by one another, a thing that the Trojans would not have done even when they were drunk. At Olympia, however, where there are prizes for wrestling and boxing and for the mixes athletic contests, no one is slain in behalf of the athletes, though it were quite excusable if one should show an excess of zeal in the rivalry of human beings like himself. But here I see you rushing at one another with drawn swords, and ready to hurl stones, all over a horse race. I would like to call down fire upon a city as this, where amidst the groans and insulting shouts 'of the destroyers and the destroyers the earth runs with blood.' Can you not
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feel reference for the Nile, the common mixing bowl of Egypt? But why mention the Nile to men whose gauges measure a rising tide of blood rather than of water?" And many other rebukes of the same kind he addressed to him, as Damis informs us.
Vespasian was harboring thoughts of seizing the absolute power, and was at this time in the countries bordering upon Egypt; and when he advanced as far as Egypt, people like Dion and Euphrates, of whom I shall have something to say lower down, urged that a welcome should be given to him. For the first autocrat, by whom the Roman state was organized, was succeeded for the space of fifty years by tyrants so harsh and cruel, that not even Claudius, who reigned thirteen years in the interval between them, could be regarded as a good ruler, and that, although he was fifty years of age when he succeeded to the throne, an age when a man's judgment is most likely to be sane, and though he had the reputation of being fond of culture of all kinds; nevertheless he too in spite of his advanced age committed many youthful follies, and gave up the empire to be devoured, as sheep devour a pasture, by silly women, who murdered him, because he was so indolent that, though he knew beforehand what was in store for him, he would not be on his guard even against what he foresaw. Apollonius no less than Euphrates and Dion rejoiced in the new turn of events; but he did not make use of them as a theme in his public utterances,
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because he considered such an argument too much in the style of a rhetor. When the autocrat approached the city, the priests met him before the gates, together with the magistrates of Egypt and the representatives of the different provinces into which Egypt is divided. The philosophers also were present and all their schools. Apollonius however did not put himself forward in this way, but remained conversing in the temple. The autocrat delivered himself of noble and gentle sentiments, and after making a short speech, said: "Is the man of Tyana living here?" "Yes," they replied, "and he has much improved us thereby." "Can he then be induced to give us an interview?" said the emperor. "For I am very much in want of him." "He will meet you," said Dion, "at the temple, for he admitted as much to me when I was on my way here." "Let us go on," said the king, "at once to offer our prayers to the gods, and to meet so noble a man." This is how the story grew up, that it was during his conduct of the siege of Jerusalem that the idea of making himself emperor suggested itself to him; and that he sent for Apollonius to ask his advice on the point; but that the latter declined to enter a country which its inhabitants polluted both by what they did and by what they suffered, which was the reason why Vespasian came in person to Egypt, as well because he now had possession of the throne, as in order to hold with our sage the conversations which I shall relate.
For after he had sacrificed, and before he gave official audiences to the cities, he addressed himself
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to Apollonius, and as if making prayer he said to him: "Do thou make me king." And he answered: "I have done so already, for I have already offered a prayer for a king who should be just and noble and temperate, endowed with the wisdom of grey hairs, and the father of legitimate sons; and surely in my prayer I was asking from the gods for none other but thyself." The emperor was delighted with this answer, for the crowd too in the temple shouted their agreement with it. "What then," said the emperor, "did you think of the reign of Nero?" And Apollonius answered: "Nero perhaps understood how to tune a lyre, but he disgraced the empire both by letting the strings go too slack and by drawing them too tight." "Then," said the other, "you would like a ruler to observe the mean?" "Not I," said Apollonius, "but God himself, who has defined equity as consisting in the mean. And these gentlemen here, they too are good advisers in this matter," he added, pointing to Dion and Euphrates, for the latter had not yet quarreled with him. Thereupon the king held up his hand and said: "O Zeus, may I hold sway over wise men, and wise men hold sway over me." And turning himself round towards the Egyptians he said: "You shall draw as liberally upon me as you do upon the Nile."
The result as that the Egyptians regained their prosperity, for they were already exhausted by the oppressions they suffered; but as he went down
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from the temple he grasped the hand of Apollonius, and taking him with him into the palace, said: "Perhaps some will think me young and foolish because I assume the reins of kingship nigh on the sixtieth year of my life. I will then communicate to you my reasons for doing so, in order that you may justify my actions to others. For I was never the slave of wealth that I know of, even in my youth; and in the matter of the magistracies and honors in the gift of the Roman sovereign, I bore myself with so much soberness and moderation as to avoid being thought either overbearing or, on the other hand, craven and cowardly. Nor did I cherish any but loyal feelings towards Nero; but, inasmuch as he had received the crown, if not in strict accordance with the law, at any rate from an autocrat, I submitted to him for the sake of Claudius, who made me consul and sharer of his counsels. And, by Athena, I never saw Nero demeaning himself without shedding tears, when I thought of Claudius, and contrasted with him the wretch who had inherited the greatest of his possessions. And now when I see that even the disappearance from the scene of Nero has brought no change for the better in the fortunes of humanity, and that the throne has fallen into such dishonor as to be assigned to Vitellius, I boldly advance to take it myself; firstly, because I wish to endear myself to men and win their esteem, and secondly, because the man I have to contend with is a mere drunkard. For Vitellius uses more ointment in his bath than I do water, and I believe that if you ran a sword into him, more ointment would issue from the wound than blood; and his continuous bouts of drinking have made him mad, and one who were he
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dicing would be full of apprehension lest the pieces should play him false, is yet hazarding the empire in play; and though he is the slave of mistresses, he nevertheless insults married women, and says that he likes to spice his amours with a little danger. His worst excesses I will not mention for I would rather not allude to such matters in your presence. May I then never submit tamely, while the Romans are ruled by such a man as he; let me rather ask the gods to guide me so that I may be true to myself. And this, Apollonius, is why I, as it were, make fast my cable to yourself, for they say that you have the amplest insight into the will of the gods, and why I ask you to share with me in my anxieties and aid me in my plans on which rests the safety of sea and land; to the end that, supposing the goodwill of heaven show itself on my side, I may fulfill my task; but if heaven opposes and favors neither myself nor the Romans, that I may not trouble the gods against their wills."
Apollonius clinched his words with an appeal to heaven: "O Zeus," said he, "of the Capitol, for thou art he whom I know to be the arbiter of the present issue, do thou preserve thyself for this man and this man for thyself. For this man who stands before thee is destined to raise afresh unto thee the temple which only yesterday the hands of malefactors set on fire." And on the emperor expressing astonishment at his words: "The facts themselves," he said, "will reveal, so do thou ask nothing of me; but continue and
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complete that which thou hast so rightly purposed." Now it happened that just then as a matter of fact that in Rome Domitian, the son of Vespasian, was matched with Vitellius in the struggle to gain the empire for his father, and was besieged in the Capitol, with the result that although he escaped the fury of the besiegers, the temple was burnt down; and all this was revealed to Apollonius more quickly than if it had taken place in Egypt. When they had held their conversation, he left the emperor's presence, saying that it was not permitted him by the religion of the Indians to proceed at midday in any other way than the Indians do themselves; at the same time the emperor brightened up, and with fresh enthusiasm, instead of allowing matters to slip through his hands, persevered in his policy, convinced by Apollonius’ words that his future was stable and assured to him by heaven.
1:519:1 A frankincense model of a bull.