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


MY argument does not allow me to pass over the accounts written of this Porus. For when the Macedonian was about to cross the river, and some of Porus' advisers wished him to make an alliance with the kings on the other side of the Hyphasis and the Ganges, urging that the invader would never face a general coalition against him of the whole of India, he replied: "If the temper of my subjects is such that I cannot save myself without allies, then for me it is better not to be king." And when someone announced to him that Alexander had captured Darius, he remarked, "a king but not a man." And when the mule driver had caparisoned the elephant on which he meant to fight, he replied: "Nay, I shall carry him, if I prove myself the same man I used to be." And when they counseled him to sacrifice to the river, and induce it to reject the rafts of the Macedonians, and make it impassable to Alexander, he said: "It ill befits those who have arms to resort to imprecation." And after the

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battle, in which his conduct struck Alexander as divine and superhuman, when one of his relations said to him: "If you had only paid homage to him after he had crossed, O Porus, you would not yourself have been defeated in battle, nor would so many Indians have lost their lives, nor would you yourself have been wounded," he said: "I knew from my report that Alexander was so fond of glory that, if I did homage to him, he would regard me as a slave, but if I fought him, as a king. And I much preferred his admiration to his pity, not was I wrong in my calculation. For by showing myself to be such a man as Alexander found me, I both lost and won everything that day." Such is the character which historians give to this Indian, and they say that he was the handsomest of his race, and in stature taller than any man since the Trojan heroes, but that he was quite young, when he went to war with Alexander.


WHILE he was waiting in the Temple,—and it took a long time for the king to be informed that strangers had arrived,—Apollonius said: "O Damis, is there such a thing as painting?" "Why yes," he answered, "if there be any such thing as truth." "And what does this art do?" "It mixes together," replied Damis, "all the colors there are, blue with green, and white with black, and red with yellow." "And for what reason," said the other, "does it mix these? For it isn't merely to get a color, like dyed wax." "It is," said Damis, "for the sake of imitation, and

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to get a likeness of a dog, or a horse, or a man, or a ship, or of anything else under the sun; and what is more, you see the sun himself represented, sometimes borne upon a four horse car, as he is said to be seen here, and sometimes again traversing the heaven with his torch, in case you are depicting the ether and the home of the gods." "Then, O Damis, painting is imitation?" "And what else could it be?" said he: "for if it did not effect that, it would voted to be an idle playing with colors." "And," said the other, "the things which are seen in heaven, whenever the clouds are torn away from one another, I mean the centaurs and stag-antelopes, yes, and the wolves too, and the horses, what have you got to say about them? Are we not to regard them as works of imitation?" "It would seem so," he replied. "Then, Damis, God is a painter, and has left his winged chariot, upon which he travels, as he disposes of affairs human and divine, and he sits down on these occasions to amuse himself by drawing these pictures, as children make figures in the sand." Damis blushed, for he felt that his argument was reduced to such an absurdity. But Apollonius, on his side, had no wish to humiliate him, for he was not unfeeling in his refutations of people, and said: "But I am sure, Damis, you did not mean that; rather that these figures flit through the heaven not only without meaning, but, so far as providence is concerned, by mere chance; while we who by nature are prone to imitation rearrange and create them in these regular figures." "We may, he said, "rather consider this to be the case, O Apollonius, for it is more probable, and a much sounder idea." "Then, O Damis, the mimetic art is

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twofold, and we may regard the one kind as an employment of the hands and mind in producing imitations, and declare that this is painting, whereas the other kind consists in making likenesses with the mind alone." "Not twofold," replied Damis, "for we ought to regard the former as the more perfect and more complete kind, being anyhow painting and a faculty of making likenesses with the help both of mind and hand; but we must regard the other kind as a department that, since its possessor perceives and imitates with the mind, without having the delineative faculty, and would never use his hand in depicting its objects." "Then," said Apollonius, "you mean, Damis, that the hand may be disabled by a blow or by disease?" "No," he answered, "but it is disabled, because it has never handled pencil nor any instrument or color, and has never learned to draw." "Then," said the other, "we are both of us, Damis, agreed that man owes his mimetic faculty to nature, but his power of painting to art. And the same would appear to be true of plastic art. But, methinks, you would not confine painting itself to the mere use of colors, for a single color was often found sufficient for this purpose by our older painters; and as the art advanced, it employed four, and later, yet more; but we must also concede the name of a painting to an outline drawn without any color at all, and composed merely of shadow and light. For in such designs we see a resemblance, we see form and expression, and modesty and bravery, although they are altogether devoid of color; and neither blood is represented, nor the color of a man's hair or beard; nevertheless these compositions in monochrome are likenesses of people either tawny

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or white, and if we drew one of these Indians with a pencil without color, yet he would be known for a negro, for his flat nose, and his stiff curling locks and prominent jaw, and a certain gleam about his eyes, would give a black look to the picture and depict an Indian to the eyes of all those who have intelligence. And for this reason I should say that those who look at works of painting and drawing require a mimetic faculty; for no one could appreciate or admire a picture of a horse or of a bull, unless he had formed an idea of the picture represented. Nor again could one admire a picture of Ajax, by the painter Timomachus, which represents him in a state of madness, unless one had conceived in one's mind first an idea or notion of Ajax, and had entertained the probability that after killing the flocks in Troy he would sit down exhausted and even meditate suicide. But these elaborate works of Porus we cannot, Damis, regard as works of brass founding alone, for they are cast in brass; so let us regard them as the chefs d’ œuvre of a man who is both painter and brass-founder at once, and as similar to the work of Hephaestus upon the shield of Achilles, as revealed in Homer. For they are crowded together in that work too men slaying and slain, and you would say that the earth was stained with gore, though it is made of brass."

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WHILE the sage was engaged in this conversation, messengers and an interpreter presented themselves from the king, to say that the king would make him his guest for three days, 1 because the laws did not allow of strangers residing in the city for a longer time; and accordingly they conducted him into the palace. I have already described the way in which the city is walled, but they say that it was divided up into narrow streets in the same irregular manner as in Athens, and that the houses were built in such a way that if you look at them from outside they had only one story, while if you went into one of them, you at once found subterranean chambers extending as far below the level of the earth as did the chambers above.


AND they say that they saw a Temple of the Sun in which was kept loose a sacred elephant called Ajax, and there were images of Alexander made of gold, and others of Porus, though the latter were of black bronze. But on the walls of the Temple there were red stones, and gold glittered underneath, and gave off a sheen as bright as sunlight. But the statue was compacted of pearls arranged in the symbolic manner affected by all barbarians in their shrines.

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AND in the palace they say that they saw no magnificent chambers, nor any bodyguards or sentinels, but, considering what is usual in the houses of magnates, a few servants, and three or four people who wished, so I suppose, to converse with the king. And they say that they admired this arrangement more than they did the pompous splendor of Babylon, and their esteem was enhanced when they went within. For the men's chambers and the porticoes and the whole of the vestibule were in a very chaste style.


SO the Indian was regarded by Apollonius as a philosopher, and addressing him through an interpreter, he said: "I am delighted, O king, to find you living like a philosopher." "And, I" said the other, "am delighted that you should think of me thus." "And," said Apollonius, "is this customary among you, or was it you yourself established your government on so modest a scale?" "Our customs," said the king, "are dictated by moderation, and I am still more moderate in my carrying them out; and though I have more than other men, yet I want little, for I regard most things as belonging to my own friends." "Blessed are you then in your treasure," said Apollonius, "if you rate your friends more highly than gold and silver, for out of them grows up for you a harvest of blessings." "Nay more," said the king, "I share my wealth also with my enemies. For the barbarians who live on the

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border of this country were perpetually quarreling with us and making raids into my territories, but I keep them quiet and control them with money, so that my country is patrolled by them, and instead of their invading my dominions, they themselves keep off the barbarians that are on the other side of the frontier, and are difficult people to deal with." And when Apollonius asked him, whether Porus also had paid them subsidy, he replied: "Porus was as fond of war as I am of peace." By expressing such sentiments he quite disarmed Apollonius, who was so captivated by him, that once, when he was rebuking Euphrates for his want of philosophic self-respect, he remarked: "Nay, let us at least reverence Phraotes the Indian," for this was the name of the Indian. And when a satrap, for the great esteem in which he held the monarch, desired to bind on his brow a golden mitre adorned with various stones, he said: "Even if I were an admirer of such things, I should decline them now, and cast them off my head, because I have met with Apollonius. And how can I now adorn myself with ornaments which I never before deigned to bind upon my head, without ignoring my guest and forgetting myself?" Apollonius also asked him about his diet, and he replied: "I drink just as much wine as I pour out in libation to the Sun; and whatever I take in the chase I give to others to eat, for I am satisfied with the exercise I get. But my own meal consists of vegetables and of the pith and fruit of date palms, and of all that a well-watered garden yields in the way of fruit. And a great deal of fruit is yielded to me by the trees which I cultivate with these hands." When Apollonius heard this, he was more than gratified, and kept glancing at Damis.

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AND when they had conversed a good deal about which road to take to the Brahmans, the king ordered the guide from Babylon to be well entertained, as it was customary so to treat those who came from Babylon; and the guide from the satrap, to be dismissed after being given provisions for the road. Then he took Apollonius by the hand, and having bidden the interpreter to depart, he said: "You will then, I hope, choose me for your boon companion." And he asked question of him in the Greek tongue. But Apollonius was surprised, and remarked: "Why did you not converse with me thus, from the beginning?" "I was afraid," said the king, "of seeming presumptuous, seeming, that is, not to know myself and not to know that I am a barbarian by decree of fate; but you have won my affection, and as soon as I saw that you take pleasure in my society, I was unable to keep myself concealed. But that I am quite competent in the Greek speech I will show you amply." "Why then," said Apollonius, "did you not invite me to the banquet, instead of begging me to invite you?" "Because," he replied, "I regard you as my superior, for wisdom has more of the kingly quality about it." And with that he led him and his companions to where he was accustomed to bathe. And the bathing-place was a garden, a stade in length, in the middle of which was dug out a pool, which was fed by fountains of water, cold and drinkable; and on each side there were exercising places, in which he was accustomed to practice himself after the manner

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of the Greeks with javelin and quoit-throwing; for physically he was very robust, both because he was still young, for he was only seven-and-twenty years old, and because he trained himself in this way. And when he had had enough exercise, he would jump into the water and exercised himself in swimming. But when they had taken their bath, they proceeded into the banqueting chamber with wreaths upon their heads; for this is the custom of the Indians, whenever they drink wine in the palace.


AND I must on no account omit to describe the arrangement of the banquet, since this has been clearly described and recorded by Damis. The king then banquets upon a mattress, and as many as five of his nearest relations with him; but all the rest join in the feast sitting upon chairs. And the table resembles an altar in that it is built up to the height of a man's knee in the middle of the chamber, and allows rooms for thirty to dispose themselves around it like a choir in a close circle. Upon it laurels are strewn, and other branches which are similar to the myrtle, but yield to the Indians their balm. Upon it are served up fish and birds, and there are also laid upon it whole lions and gazelles and swine and the loins of tigers; for they decline to eat the other parts of this animal, because they say that, as soon as it is born, it lifts up its front paws to the rising Sun. Next, the master of ceremonies rises and goes to the table, and he selects some of the viands for himself, and cuts off other portions, and then he goes

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back to his own chair and eats his full, constantly munching bread with it. And when they all have had enough, goblets of silver and gold are brought in, each of which is enough for ten banqueters, and out of these they drink, stooping down like animals that are being watered. And while they are drinking, they have brought in performers of various dangerous feats, not undeserving of serious study. For a boy, like one employed by dancing-girls, would be tossed lightly aloft, and at the same moment an arrow is aimed at him, up in the air, and when he was a long way from the ground, the boy would, by a tumblers’ leap, raise himself above the weapon, and if he missed his leap, he was sure to be hit. For the archer, before he let fly, went round the banqueters and showed them the point of his weapon, and let them try the missile themselves. Shooting through a ring, too, or hitting a hair with an arrow, or for a man to mark the outline of his own son with arrows, as he stands in front of a board, keeps them occupied at their banquets, and they aim straight, even when they are drinking.


WELL, the companions of Damis marveled at the accuracy of their eye, and were surprised at the exactness with which they aimed their weapons; but Apollonius, who ate with the king, since they agreed in diet, was less interested in these feats and said to the king: "Tell me, O King, how you acquired such a command of the Greek tongue,

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and whence you derived all your philosophical attainments in this place? For I don't imagine that you owe them to teachers, for it is not likely that there are, in India, any who could teach it." The king smiled and said: "In old days they would ask men who arrived by sea whether they were pirates, so common did they consider that way of living, hard though it is; but so far as I can make out, you Greeks ask your visitors whether they are not philosophers, so convinced you are that everyone you meet with must needs possess the divinest of human attainments. And that philosophy and piracy are one and the same thing among you, I am well aware; for they say that a man like yourself is not to be found anywhere; but that most of your philosophers are like people who have despoiled another man of his garment and then have dressed themselves up in it, although it does not fit them, and proceed to strut about trailing another man's garment. Nay, by Zeus, just as robbers live in luxury, well knowing that they lie at the mercy of justice, so are they, it is said, addicted to gluttony and riotous living and to delicate apparel. And the reason is this: you have laws, I believe, to the effect that if a man is caught forging money, he must die, and the same if anyone illegally enrolls a child upon the register, or there is some penalty, I know not what; but people who utter counterfeit philosophy or corrupt her are not, I believe, restrained among you by any law, nor is there any authority set to suppress them.

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NOW among us few engage in philosophy, and they are sifted and tried as follows: A young man so soon as he reaches the age of eighteen, and this I think is accounted the time of full age among you also, must pass across the river Hyphasis to the men who you are set upon visiting, after first making a public statement that he will become a philosopher, so that those who wish to may exclude him, if he does not approach the study in a state of purity. And by pure I mean, firstly, in respect of his parentage, that no disgraceful deed can be proved against either his father or his mother; next that their parents in turn, and the third generation upwards, are equally pure, that there was no ruffian among them, no debauchee, nor any unjust usurer. And when no scar or reproach can be proved against them, nor any other stain whatever, then it is time narrowly to inspect the young man himself and test him, to see firstly, whether he has a good memory, and secondly, whether he is modest and reserved in disposition, and does not merely pretend to be so, whether he is addicted to drink, or greed, or a quack, or a buffoon, or rash, or abusive, to see whether he is obedient to his father, to his mother, to his teachers, to his school-masters, and above all, if he makes no bad use of his personal attractions. The particulars then of his parents and of their progenitors are gathered from witnesses and from the public archives. For whenever an Indian dies, there visits his house a particular authority charged by the law to make a record of him, and of how he

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lived. And if this officer lies or allows himself to be deceived, he is condemned by the law and forbidden ever to hold another office, on the ground that he has counterfeited a man's life. But the particulars of the youths themselves are duly learnt by inspection of them. For in many cases a man's eyes reveal the secrets of his character, and in many cases there is material for forming a judgment and appraising his value in his eyebrows and cheeks, for from these features the dispositions of people can be detected by wise and scientific men, as images are seen in a looking-glass. For seeing that philosophy is highly esteemed in this country, and it is held in honor by the Indians, it is absolutely necessary that those who take to it should be tested and subjected to a thousand modes of proof. Well then, that we study philosophy under direction of teachers, and that admission to philosophy is by examination among us, I have clearly explained; and now I will relate to you my own history.


1:181:1 Compare the proverb "Saepe dies post tres vilescit piscis et hospes," and cp. W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 1901, p. 270.

Next: Chapters 31-40