The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
Now Damis had arrived the day before and had talked with Demetrius about the preliminaries of the trial; and the account filled the latter, when he listened to it, with more apprehension than you might expect of a listener when Apollonius was in question. The next day also he asked him afresh about the same particulars, as he wandered with him along the edge of the sea, which figures in the fables told about Calypso; for they were almost in despair of their master coming to them, because the tyrant's hand was hard upon all; yet out of respect for Apollonius’ character they obeyed his instructions. Discouraged, then, they sat down in the chamber of the nymphs, where there is the cistern of white marble, which contains a spring of water which neither overflows its edges, nor recedes, even if water be drawn for it. They were talking about the quality of the water in no very serious manner; and presently, owing to the anxiety they felt about the sage, brought back their conversation to the circumstances which preceded the trial.
p. 360 p. 361
Damis’ grief had just broken out afresh, and he had made some such exclamation as the following: "Shall we ever behold, O ye gods, our noble and good companion?" when Apollonius, who had heard him—for as a matter of fact he was already present in the chamber of the nymphs—answered: "Ye shall see him, nay, ye have already seen him." "Alive?" said Demetrius, "For if you are dead, we have anyhow never ceased to lament you." Hereupon Apollonius stretched out his hand and said: "Take hold of me, and if I evade you, then I am indeed a ghost come to you from the realm of Persephone, such as the gods of the underworld reveal to those who are dejected with much mourning. But if I resist your touch, then you shall persuade Damis also that I am both alive and that I have not abandoned my body." They were no longer able to disbelieve, but rose up and threw themselves on his neck and kissed him, and asked him about his defense. For while Demetrius was of opinion that he had not even made his defense—for he expected him to be destroyed without any wrong being proved against him—Damis thought that he had made his defense, but perhaps more quickly than was expected; for he never dreamed that he had made it only that day. But Apollonius said: "I have made my defense, gentlemen, and have gained my cause; and my defense took place this very day not so long ago, for it lasted on even to midday." "How then," said Demetrius, "have you accomplished so long a journey in so small a fraction of the day?" And
p. 362 p. 363
[paragraph continues] Apollonius replied: "Imagine what you will, flying ram or wings of wax excepted, so long as you ascribe it to the intervention of a divine escort."
"Well," said Demetrius, "I have always thought that your actions and words were providently cared for by some god, to whom you owe your present preservation, nevertheless pray tell us about the defense you made, what it consisted of and what the accusation had to say against you, and about the temper of the judge, and what questions he put, and what he allowed to pass of your pleas and what not—tell us at once in order that I may tell everything in turn to Telesinus, for he will never leave off asking me about your affairs; for about fifteen days back he was drinking with me in Antium, when he fell asleep at table, and just as the middle cup in honor of the good genius was being passed round he dreamed a dream; and he saw a fire spreading like a sea over the land, and it enveloped some men, and caught up others as they fled; for it flowed along, he said, exactly like water, but you alone suffered not the fate of the rest, but swam clean through it as it divided to let you through. And in honor of the gods who inspire such happy presages he poured out a libation in consequence of this dream, and he bade me be of good cheer on your account." And Apollonius said: "I am not surprised at Telesinus dreaming about me, for in his vigils, I assure he, he long ago occupied his mind about me; but as regards the trial, you shall learn everything, but not in this place; for it is already evening and it is time for us to proceed to the town; and it is pleasant too to talk as you go along the road, for conversation assists you on your way like an escort.
p. 364 p. 365
[paragraph continues] Let us then start and discuss your questions as we go along, and I will certainly tell you of today's events in the court. For both of you known the circumstances which preceded the trial, the one of you because he was present, and the other because I am sure, by Zeus, he has not heard it once only, but again and again, if I know you well, my Demetrius. But I will relate to you what you do not know yet, beginning with my being summoned into the Emperor's presence, into which I was ushered naked." And he proceeded to detail to them his own words, and above all at the end of them the citation: "For thou shalt not kill me," and he told them exactly how he vanished from the seat of judgment.
Whereupon Demetrius cried out: "I thought you had come hither because you were saved; but this is only the beginning of your dangers, for he will proscribe you, seize your person, and cut off all means of escape." Apollonius, however, told Demetrius not to be afraid and encouraged him by saying; "I only wish that you were both no more easy for him to catch than I am. But I know exactly in what condition of mind the tyrant is at this moment; hitherto he has never heard anything except the utterances of flatterers, and now he had had to listen to the language of rebuke; such language breaks despotic natures down and enrages them. But I require some rest, for I have not bent the knee since I had this struggle." And Damis said: "Demetrius, my own attitude towards our friend's affairs was such
p. 366 p. 367
that I tried to dissuade him from taking the journey which he has taken, and I believe you too gave him the same advice, namely that he should not rush of his own accord into dangers and difficulties; but when he was thrown into fetters, as I saw with my own eyes, and I was perplexed and in despair of his case, he told me that it rested with himself to release himself and he freed his leg from the fetters and showed it to me. Well, it was then for the first time that I understood our master to be a divine being, transcending all our poor wisdom and knowledge. Consequently, even if I were called upon to expose myself to still greater risks than these, I should not fear anything, as long as I was under his protection. But since the evening is at hand, let us go into the inn and minister to and take care of him." And Apollonius said: "Sleep is all I want, and everything else is a matter of indifference to me, whether I get it or whether I do not." And after that, having offered a prayer to Apollo and also to the Sun, he passed into the house in which Demetrius lived, and having washed his feet, and instructed Damis and his friend to take their supper, for he saw that they were fasting, he threw himself upon the bed, and having intoned some verses of Homer as a hymn to sleep, he took his repose, as if his circumstances gave him no just cause whatever for anxiety.
About dawn Demetrius asked him where on earth he would turn his steps, for there resounded in his ears the clatter of imaginary horsemen who he thought were already in hot pursuit of
p. 368 p. 369
[paragraph continues] Apollonius on account of the rage of the tyrant, but Apollonius merely replied: "Neither he nor anyone else is going to pursue me, but as for myself I shall take sail for Hellas." "That is anyhow a dangerous voyage," said the other, "for the region is most exposed and open; and how are you going to be hid out in the open from one whom you cannot escape in the dark?" "I do need to lie hid," said Apollonius; "for if, as you imagine, the entire earth belongs to the tyrant, it is better to die out in the open than to live in the dark and in hiding." And turning to Damis he said: "Do you know of a ship that is starting for Sicily?" "I do," he replied, "for we are staying on the edge of the sea, and the crier is at our doors, and a ship is just being got ready to start, as I gather from the shouts of the crew, and from the exertions they are making over weighing anchor." "Let us embark," said Apollonius, "upon this ship, O Damis, for we will now sail to Sicily, and thence on to the Peloponnese." "I am agreeable," said the other; "so let is sail."
They then said farewell to Demetrius, who was despondent about them, but they bade him hope for the best, as one brave man should for others as brave as himself, and then they sailed for Sicily with a favorable wind, and having passed Messina they reached Tauromenium on the third day. After that they arrived at Syracuse and put out for the Peloponnese about the beginning of the autumn;
p. 370 p. 371
and having traversed the gulf they arrived after six days at the mouth of the Alpheus, where that river pours its waters, still sweet, into the Adriatic and Sicilian Sea. Here then they disembarked, and thinking it well worth their while to go to Olympia, they went and stayed there in the temple of Zeus, though without ever going further away than Scillus. A rumor as sudden as insistent now ran through the Hellenic world that the sage was alive and had arrived at Olympia. At first the rumor seemed unreliable; for besides that they were humanly speaking unable to entertain any hope for him inasmuch as they heard that he was cast into prison, they had also heard such rumors as that he had been burnt alive, or dragged about alive with grapnels fixed in his neck, or cast into a deep pit, or into a well. But when the rumor of his arrival was confirmed, they all flocked to see him from the whole of Greece, and never did any such crowd flock to any Olympic festival as then, all full of enthusiasm and expectation. People came straight from Elis and Sparta, and from Corinth away at the limits of the Isthmus; and the Athenians too, although they are outside the Peloponnese; nor were they behind the cities which are at the gates of Pisa, for it was especially the most celebrated of the Athenians that hurried to the temple, together with the young men who flocked to Athens from all over the earth. Moreover there were people from Megara just then staying at Olympia, as well as many from Boeotia, and from Argos, and all the leading people of Phocis and Thessaly. Some of them had already made Apollonius’ acquaintance anxious to pick up his wisdom afresh, for they were convinced that there
p. 372 p. 373
remained much to learn, more striking than what they had so far heard; but those who were not acquainted with him thought it a shame that they should seem never to have heard so great a man discourse. In answer to their questions then, of how he had escaped the clutches of the tyrant, he did not deem it right to say anything boastful; but he merely told them that he had made his defense and got away safely. However when several people arrived from Italy, who bruited abroad the episode of the lawcourt, the attitude of Hellas came near to that of actual worship; the main reason why they thought him divine was this, that he never made the least parade about the matter.
Among the arrivals from Athens there was a youth who asserted that the goddess Athena was very well disposed to the Emperor, whereupon Apollonius said to him: "In Olympia please to stop your chatter of such things, for you will prejudice the goddess in the eyes of her father." But as the youth increased their annoyance by declaring that the goddess was quite right, because the Emperor was Archon Eponym of the city of Athens, he said: "Would that he also presided the Panathenaic festival." By the first of his answers he silenced him, for he showed that he held a poor opinion of the gods, if he considered them to be well disposed to tyrants: by his second he showed that the Athenians would stultify the decree which they passed in honor of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, if after seeing fit to honor these
p. 374 p. 375
two citizens with statues in the market place for the deed they committed at the Panathenaic festival, they ended by conferring on tyrants the privilege of being elected to govern them.
Damis approached him at this time to ask him about money, because they had so very little left to defray the expense of their journey. "Tomorrow," said Apollonius, "I will attend to this." And on the next day he went into the temple and said to the priest: "Give me a thousand drachmas out of the treasury of Zeus, if you think he will not be too much annoyed." And the priest answered: "Not at that; what will annoy him will be if you do not take more."
There was a man of Thessaly, named Isagoras, whom he met in Olympia and said: "Tell me, Isagoras, is there such a thing as a religious fair or festival?" "Why yes," he replied, "and by heaven there is nothing in the world of men, so agreeable and so dear to the gods." "And what is the material of which it is composed?" asked Apollonius; "It is as if I asked you about the material of which this image is made, and you answered me that it was composed of gold and ivory." "But," said the other, "what material, Apollonius, can a thing which is incorporeal be composed of?" "A most important material," replied Apollonius, "and
p. 376 p. 377
most varied in character; for there are sacred groves in it, and race-courses and, of course, a theater, and tribes of men, some of them from neighboring countries, and others from over the borders, and even from across the sea. Moreover," he added, "many arts go to make up such a festival, and many designs, and much true genius, both of poets, and of civil counselors, and of those who deliver harangues on philosophic topics, and contests between naked athletes, and contests of musicians, as is the custom in the Pythian festival." "It seems to me," said the other, "O Apollonius, that the festival is not only something corporeal, but is made up of more wonderful material than are cities; for there is summoned together into one community on such occasions the best of the best, and the most celebrated of the celebrated."
"Then," said Apollonius, "O Isagoras, are we to consider the people we meet there in the same light as some people regard walls and ships, or do you need some other opinion of the festival?" "The opinion," answered the other, "which we have formulated, is quite adequate and complete, O man of Tyana, and we had better adhere to it." "And yet," said the other, "it is neither adequate nor complete to one who considers about is as I do; for it appears to me that ships are in need of men and men of ships, and that men would never have thought about the sea at all if they had not had a ship; and men are kept safe by walls and walls by men; and in the same way I consider a festival to be not only the meeting of human beings, but also the place itself in which they have to meet, and the more so, because walls and ships would never have
p. 378 p. 379
come into being, unless there had been men's hands to build them, while these places, so far forth as they are deprived of their natural and original characteristics, are by the hands of men spoiled; for it was owing to their natural advantages that they were held worthy of being made their meeting-places; for though the gymnasiums and porticoes and fountains and houses have been all created by human art, just like the walls and the ships, yet this river Alpheus with the hippodrome and the stadium and the groves, existed, I suppose, before men came here, the one providing water for drinking and for the bath, and the second a broad plain for the horses to race in, and the third provided just the space required fro the athletes to raise the dust in as they run along in their races, namely a valley a stadium in length, and the groves supplied wreaths for the winners and served the athletes who were runners as a place to practice in. For I imagine that Heracles considered these facts, and because he admired the natural advantages of Olympia, he found the place worthy of the festival and games which are still held here."
After forty days, given up to discussions in Olympia, in which many topics were handled, Apollonius said: "I will also, O men of Hellas, discourse to you in your several cities, at your festivals, at your religious processions, at your mysteries, your sacrifices, at your public libations, and they require the services of a clever man; but for the present I must go down to Lebadea, for I have never yet had
p. 380 p. 381
an interview with Trophonius, although I once visited his shrine." And with these words he at once started for Boeotia attended by every one of his admirers. Now the cavern in Lebadea is dedicated to Trophonius, the son of Apollo, and it can only be entered by those who resort thither in order to get an oracle, and it is not visible in the temple, but lies a little above it on a mound; and it is shut in by iron spits which surround it, and you descend into it as it were sitting down and being drawn down. Those who enter it are clad in white raiment, and are escorted thither with honey-cakes in their hands to appease the reptiles which assail them as they descend. But the earth brings them to the surface again, in some cases close by, but in other cases a long way off; for they are sent up to the surface beyond Locri and beyond Phocis, but most of them about the borders of Boeotia. Accordingly Apollonius entered the shrine and said: "I wish to descend into the cave in the interests of philosophy."
But the priests opposed him and though they told the multitude that they would never allow a wizard like him to examine and test the shrine, they pretended to the sage himself that there were forbidden days and days unclean for consulting. So on that day he delivered a discourse at the springs of Hercyne, about the origin and conduct of the shrine; for it is the only oracle which gives responses through the person himself who consults it. And when the evening approached, he went to the mouth of the cave with his train of youthful followers, and having pulled up four of the obelisks, which constitute a bar to the passage, he went down below
p. 382 p. 383
ground wearing his philosopher's mantle, having dressed himself as if he were going to deliver an address upon philosophy—a step which the god Trophonius so thoroughly approved of, that he appeared to the priests and not only rebuked them for the reception they had given Apollonius, but enjoined them all to follow him to Aulis, for he said it was there that he would come to surface in such a marvelous fashion as no man before. And in fact he emerged after seven days, a longer period than it had taken anyone of those who until then had entered the oracle, and he had with him a volume thoroughly in keeping with the questions he had asked: for had gone down saying: "What, O Trophonius, do you consider the most complete and purest philosophy?" And the volume contained the tenets of Pythagoras, a good proof this, that the oracle was in agreement with this form of wisdom.
This book is preserved in Antium, and the village in question, which is on the Italian seaboard, is much visited for the purpose of seeing it. I must acknowledge that I only heard these details from the inhabitants of Lebadea; but in regard to the volume in question I must set on record my conviction, that it was subsequently conveyed to the Emperor Hadrian at the same time as certain letters of Apollonius, though by no means all of them; and it remained in the palace at Antium, which was that one of his Italian palaces in which this Emperor took most pleasure.