Sacred Texts  Classics  Apollonius of Tyana  Index  Previous 
Buy this Book at

The Treatise of Eusebius Against the Life of Apollonius by Philostratus, by Eusebius, tr. F.C. Conybeare, [1912], at


CHAP. XLI Condemns Apollonius’ doctrine of Fate as destructive of responsibilityAlthough then the limits of our discourse are reached in the above, I would yet, if you will allow me, raise a few points in connexion with the Fates and with destiny, in order to ascertain what aim his work has in view, when throughout its argument it sets itself to demolish our responsibility, and to substitute for it necessity, and destiny and the Fates. For in this way we shall finally and completely refute the tenets professed by the author and prove their falsity. If then, according to the views of true philosophy, every soul is immortal, for that which is perpetually moving is immortal, whereas that which moves another, and is itself moved by others, in admitting a cessation of its own movement, admits a cessation of life; and if responsibility depends on personal choice, and God is not responsible, then what reason is there for concluding that the nature, which is ever in movement, is actuated against its will, and not rather in accordance with its own choice and decision; for otherwise it would resemble a lifeless body in being moved by some outside agency, and would be as it were a puppet pulled by strings hither

p. 594 p. 595

and thither. The nature which ever moves itself would, on such an hypothesis, effect nothing of its own initiative and movement, nor could it refer to itself the responsibility of its actions. In such a case, when it reasoned of truth it would surely not be worthy of praise; nor on the other hand be blameworthy, because it was filled with vice and wickedness? Why then, I would ask you, my good fellow, do you revile Euphrates and find fault with him, if it is not of his own initiative, but by the force of destiny, that he devoted himself to gain, as you pretend, and neglected the philosophical ideal? And why do you insult wizards, by calling them false sophists, if they are dragged down by the Fates, as you believe, to their miserable life? And why do you keep in your vocabulary at all such a word as vice, when any evil man is unjustly condemned by you, since it is by necessity that he fulfils his destined term? And again on what principle do you solemnly enroll yourself a disciple of the wonderful teacher Pythagoras, and insist on praising one who, instead of being a lover of philosophy, was a mere toy in the hands of the Fates? And as for Phraotes and Iarchas, the philosophers of the Indians, what have they done to win from you the reputation of being gods, unless the glory they acquired by their culture and virtue was their own? And in the same way with regard to Nero and Domitian, why do you not saddle upon the Fates and on Necessity the responsibility for their unbridled insolence, and acquit them of all responsibility and blame? But if as you say a man who is destined to be a runner, or an archer or a carpenter, cannot avoid being so, surely also if it has been destined that a man should be a wizard, and,

p. 596 p. 597

that being his character, a magician or a murderer and a wicked man and a reprobate, come what will, he must of necessity end by being such a person. Why then do you go wandering about, preaching the virtues to those who are incapable of reform? Why do you blame those who are the monsters they are, not of their own choice, but by predestination? And why too, if it was decreed by fate that you yourself being of a divine nature should transcend the glory of kings, did you visit schools of teachers and philosophers, and trouble yourself about Arabians and about the Magi of Babylon, and the wise men of India? For in any case surely, even without your holding communications with them, the decrees of the Fates were bound to be fulfilled in your case.

And why do you vainly cast before those whom you consider to be gods, your honey-cake and your frankincense, and putting on the cloak of religion encourage your companions to be diligent at their prayers? And what do you yourself in your prayers ask of the gods, inasmuch as you admit that they too are subject to Destiny? Nay you ought to make a clean sweep of all the other gods, and sacrifice to Necessity alone and to the Fates, and pay your respects rather to Destiny than to Zeus himself. In that case no doubt you would have no gods left; and rightly too, seeing that they are not even able to help mankind. And again, if it were decreed by fate that the citizens of Ephesus should be afflicted with pestilence, why did you sanction the opposite and so try to thwart destiny? Nay, why did you dare to transcend destiny, and as it were raise a trophy over her? And again in the case of the maiden raised to life, the thread of Clotho had reached its

p. 598 p. 599

limit, and that being so why did you, when she was dead, bind a fresh thread on the spindle, by coming forward yourself in the rôle of the saviour of her life?

But perhaps you will say the Fates drove you also on to these courses. Yet you cannot say that they did so out of respect to your merits; far from it, seeing that before you passed into this body of yours, you were yourself, by your own account, a sea-faring man who spent his life upon the waves, and that of necessity, for even this could not have been otherwise. There is therefore nothing remarkable about your earliest birth, or your upbringing, or your education in the circle of arts, or in your wise self-discipline in the prime of your life, or of your training in philosophy; for it was after all some necessity of the Fates that led you to Babylon, and you were as it were driven on to associate with the sages of India; and it was not your own will and choice, nor a love of philosophy either, but Fate that led you in her noose to the Naked sages of the Egyptians, and to Gadeira and to the pillars of Hercules; and it was she who forced you to wander about the eastern and western oceans, and along with her spindles whirled you idly around. But if anyone admits, as they must, that his endowment with wisdom was due to these causes, then it was destiny that was responsible for them; and we must no longer reckon your hero among those who are fond of learning, nor can we with any pretence of reason admire a philosophy which was provided, not intentionally, but by necessity, for him. And we shall have to class on one and the same level, according to him, Pythagoras himself with any pretentious and abject slave, and

p. 600 p. 601

[paragraph continues] Socrates himself, who died in behalf of philosophy with those who accused him and clamoured for his death, Diogenes, too, with the golden youth of Athens; and, to sum up, the wisest man will not differ from the most imprudent, nor the unjustest from the justest, nor the most abandoned from the most temperate, nor the worst of cowards from the greatest of heroes; for they have all been demonstrated to be playthings of destiny and of the Fates.


CHAP. XLIIHowever, the herald of truth will raise his voice against such arguments, and say: O ye men, mortal and perishable race, whither are you drifting, after drinking the unmixed cup of ignorance? Be done with it at last, wake up and be sober; and, raising the eyes of your intelligence, gaze upon the august countenance of truth. It is not lawful for truth to be in conflict and contradiction with herself; nor that of two pronounced opposites there should exist but one and the same ground and cause. The universe is ordered by the divine laws of the providence of God that controls all things, and the peculiar nature of man's soul renders him master of himself and judge, ruler and lord of himself; and it teaches him through the laws of nature, and the tenets of philosophy, that of things which exist some are within our own control, but others not; and within our control is everything which comes into being in accordance with our will and choice and action, and these are naturally free, unhindered and unimpeded. But such

p. 602 p. 603

things as are not in our control are weak and servile, restrained and alien to ourselves; for example, our bodily processes and external objects which are both lifeless and destitute of reason, and in their manner of existence wholly foreign to the proper nature of a reasonable living creature. As for things which are in our control, each one of us possesses in the will itself alternative impulses of virtue and vice; and while the principle which controls the universe and governs it executes its rounds in direct accordance with nature, it is at the same time always accompanied by a justice which punishes infractions of the divine law; but for the motives on which we act the responsibility lies not with destiny nor fate, nor with necessity. It lies with him who makes the choice, and God is not to be blamed. If therefore anyone is so foolhardy as to controvert the fact of our responsibility, let him be duly exposed; and let him openly proclaim that he is an atheist, seeing that he does not recognise either providence or God or anything else except the Fates and necessity. And let him bare-headed enumerate the consequences of these doctrines, let him cease to call anyone wise or foolish, just or unjust, virtuous or vicious, or charlatan; let him deny that anyone is divine in our humanity, that there is any philosophy, any education, in a word any art of any kind, or science, let him not call anyone else by nature good or evil, but admit that everything whatever is whirled round in an eddy of necessity by the spindles of the Fates. Let such a person then be registered as an atheist and impious man in the tribunal of the pious and of philosophers. And if anyone under the cloak of other opinions undertakes

p. 604 p. 605

to entertain ideas of Providence and of the gods, yet in addition to these champions the cause of Destiny and Fate, so upholding conflicting and opposed opinions, let hint be classed among the senseless and condemned to pay the penalty of his folly. This then is so. But if after this there still remain those who are disposed to register this man's name in the schools of philosophers, it shall be said that, even if they succeed in clearing him from the filth thrown by others, nay in disentangling him from the pinchbeck properties in which the author of this book has wheeled him in upon the stage, we shall raise no objection to their doing so. At the same time if anyone ventures to overpass the limits of truth and tries to deify him as no other philosopher has been deified, he will at the best, though unawares, be rubbing into him the accusation of wizardry; for this work of pretentious sophistry can only serve, in my opinion, to convict him, and lay him open in the eyes of all men of sense to this terrible accusation.