The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
Next day at dawn Apollonius came to the palace and asked the guards what the emperor was doing; from whom learning that he had long risen and was engaged in his correspondence, he went off and remarked to Damis: "This man shall be sovereign." About sunrise he returned to find Dion and Euphrates already at the door, in return to whose eager inquiries concerning the interview, he repated the defense of his policy which he had heard from the emperor, though at the same time he let no word escape him of his own opinions. But on being summoned to enter in advance of them, he
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said: "O King, Euphrates and Dion, long your acquaintances, are at your door, being highly anxious for your welfare. I pray you, call them in also to join in our conversation, for they are both of them wise men." "I throw my doors open," he replied, "to wise men; but to you I purpose to open my breast as well."
When they had been called in, he continued: "In defense of my own plans, I said, gentlemen, what I had to say, yesterday to Apollonius our esteemed friend." "We have heard that defense," said Dion, "and it was most reasonable." "Well, today," he went on, "my dear Dion, let us concert some wise conclusions in support of the counsels adopted by me, of a kind to ensure my general policy being honorable and salutary to mankind. For I cannot forget how Tiberius was the first to degrade the government into an inhuman and cruel system, of how he was followed by Gaius, who filled with Bacchic frenzy, dressed in Lydian fashion, won sham fights and by his disgraceful revels violated all Roman institutions. There followed the worthy Claudius, and I remember that he was so much the thrall of women as to lose all sense of sovereignty, nay even of self-preservation; for they say he was murdered by them. Nero I hardly need assail, for Apollonius in brief and terse remarks has exposed the faults of over-indulgence and undue severity by which he disgraced his reign. Nor need I dwell on the system of Galba, who was slain in the middle of the Forum in the act of adopting those
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strumpet sons of his Otho and Piso. As for Vitellius, we had rather Nero should come to life again than surrender the empire to him, the most dissolute of all. Perceiving then, my friends, that the throne has fallen into hatred and contempt by reason of the tyrants I have enumerated, I would fain have you advise me how best I can restore it, so that it should not remain what it has become, namely, a stumbling block to mankind." Apollonius replied as follows: "There was a first-rate pipe-player, it is said, who used to send his pupils to much worse players than himself, that they might learn how not to pipe. As then you, my sovereign, have learned from these your good-for-nothing predecessors, how not to rule, let us, then, now turn our attention to the problem, how a sovereign ought to rule."
While Apollonius spoke, Euphrates concealed the jealousy he already felt of one whose utterances clearly interested the emperor hardly less than those of an oracular shrine interest those who repair to it for guidance. But now at last his feelings overcame him, and, raising his voice above its usual pitch, he cried: "We must not flatter men's impulses, nor allow ourselves to be carried away against our better judgment by men of unbridled ambition; but we should rather, if we are enamored of wisdom, recall them to the sober facts of life. Here is a policy about the very expediency of which we should first calmly deliberate, and yet you would have us prescribe a way of executing it, before you know if the measures under discussion are desirable. For myself, I quite
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approve of the deposition of Vitellius, whom I know to be a ruffian drunk with every sort of profligacy; nevertheless, although I know you to be a worthy man and of pre-eminent nobility of character, I deny that you ought to undertake the correction of Vitellius without first establishing an ideal for yourself. I need not instruct you in the excesses chargeable to monarchy as such, for you have yourself described them; but this I would have you recognize, that whereas youth leaping into the tyrant's saddle does but obey its own instincts—for playing the tyrant comes natural to young men as wine or women, and we cannot reproach a young man merely for making himself a tyrant, unless in pursuit of his role he shows himself a murderer, a ruffian, or a debauchee—on the other hand when an old man makes himself a tyrant, the first thing we blame in him is that he ever nursed such an ambition. It is no use his showing himself an example of humanity and moderation, for of these qualities we shall give the credit not to himself, but to his age and mature training. And men will believe that he nursed the ambition long before, when he was still a stripling, only that he failed to realize it; and such failures are partly attributed to ill luck, partly to pusillanimity. I mean that he will be thought to have renounced his dream of becoming a tyrant, because he distrusted his own star, or that he stood aside and made way for another who entertained the same ambition and whose superior manliness was dreaded. As for the count of ill luck, I may dismiss it; but as for that of cowardice, how can you avoid it? How escape the reproach of having been afraid of Nero, the most
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cowardly and supine of rulers? Look at the revolt against him planned by Vindex, you surely were the man of the hour, its natural leader, not he! For you had an army at your back, and the forces you were leading against the Jews, would they not have been more suitably employed in chastising Nero? For the Jews have long been in revolt not only against the Romans, but against humanity; and a race that has made its own a life apart and irreconcilable, that cannot share with the rest of mankind in the pleasures of the table nor join in their libations or prayers or sacrifices, are separated from ourselves by a greater gulf than divides us from Susa or Bactra or the more distant Indies. What sense then or reason was there in chastising them for revolting from us, whom we had better have never annexed? As for Nero, who would not have prayed with his own hand to slay a man well-nigh drunk with human blood, singing as he sat amidst the hecatombs of his victims? I confess that I ever pricked up my ears when any messenger from yonder brought tidings of yourself, and told us how in one hand battle you had slain thirty thousand Jews and in the next fifty thousand. In such cases I would take the courier aside and ask him: 'But what of the great man? Will he not rise to higher things than this?' Since then you have discovered in Vitellius an image and ape of Nero, and are turning your arms against him, persist in the policy you have embraced, for it too is a noble one, only let its sequel be noble too. You know how dear to the Romans are the popular institutions, and how nearly all their conquests were won under a free polity. Put then an end to monarchy, of which you have repeated to us so evil a record; and bestow
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upon Romans a popular government, and on yourself the glory of inaugurating for them a reign of liberty." 1
Throughout Euphrates’ long speech, Apollonius noticed that Dion shared his sentiments, for he manifested his approval both by his gestures and the applause with which he hailed his words; so he asked him he could not add some remarks of his own to what he had just heard. "By heaven, I can," answered Dion, "and I should agree in part and in part disagree with his remarks; for I think I have myself told you that you would have been much better employed deposing Nero than setting Jewry to rights. But your anxiety appeared to be never to have him deposed, for anyone who composed the disorder of his affairs merely strengthened the fellow against all the victims in his power. I approve however of the campaign against Vitellius; for I consider it a greater achievement to prevent a tyranny from ever growing up, than to put an end to it when it is established. And while I welcome the idea of democracy—for though this form of polity is inferior to an aristocracy, nevertheless moderate men will prefer it to tyrannies and oligarchies—I fear lest the servility to which these successive tyrannies have reduced the Romans will render any change difficult to effect; I doubt if they are able to comport themselves as free men or even to lift their
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eyes to a democracy, any more than people who have been kept in the dark are able to look on a sudden blaze of light. I conclude that Vitellius ought to be driven from power, and would fain see this effected as quickly and as well as can be; I think however that though you should be prepared for war, yet you yourself instead of declaring war against him, ought rather to threaten him with condign punishment, in case you capture him, as I believe you will easily do, then I would fain see you give the people of Rome the right to choose their own polity, and, if they choose a democracy, allow it them. For this will bring you greater glory than many tyrannies and many victories at Olympia. Your name will be inscribed all over the city, and brazen statues will be erected everywhere; and you will furnish us with a theme for harangues in which neither Harmodius nor Aristogeiton will bear comparison with you. If however they accept monarchy, whom can they all possibly decree the throne except yourself? For what you already possess, and are about to resign into the hands of the public, they will surely rather confer on yourself than on another."
There followed a spell of silence during which the emperor's countenance betrayed contending emotions; for though he was an absolute ruler both in title and fact, it looked as if they were trying to divert him from his resolution to remain such; and accordingly Apollonius remarked:
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"It seems to me you are mistaken in trying to cancel a monarchical policy when it is already a foregone conclusion; and that you indulge a garrulity as childish as it is in such a crisis idle. Were it I that had stepped into such a position of influence as he has, and were I, when taking counsel about what good I could do to the world, treated to such advice as you now give, your arguments would carry some force, for philosophic aphorisms might amend the philosophically-minded of your listeners; but as it is a consul and a man accustomed to rule, whom you pretend to advise, one moreover over whom ruin impends if he fall from power, need we carp, if instead of rejecting the gifts of fortune, he welcomes them when they come, and only deliberates how to make a discreet use of what is his own? Let us take a similar case. Suppose we saw an athlete well endowed with courage and stature, and by his well-knit frame marked out as a winner in the Olympic contest, suppose we approached him when he was already on his way thither from Arcadia, and, while encouraging him to face his rivals, yet insisted that, in the event of his winning the prize, he must not allow himself to be proclaimed the victor, nor consent to wear the wreath of wild olive—should we not be set down as imbeciles, mocking at another's labors? Similarly when we regard the eminent man before us, and think of the enormous army at his disposal, of the glint of their brazen arms, of his clouds of cavalry, of his own personal qualities, of his generosity, self-restraint, of his fitness to attain his object—ought we not to send him forward on the path that leads to his goal, with favoring encouragement, and with more auspicious
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pledges for his future than these you have recorded? For there is another thing you have forgotten, that he is the father of two sons who are already in the command of armies, and whose deepest enmity he will incur if he does not bequeath the empire to them. Is he not confronted by the alternative of embroiling himself in hostilities with his own family? If however he accepts the throne, he will have the devoted service of his own children, they will lean on him and he on them, using them as his bodyguard, and, by Zeus, as a bodyguard not hired by money, nor levied by force nor feigning loyalty with their faces only, but attached to him by bonds of natural instinct and true affection.
"For myself I care little about constitutions, seeing that my life is governed by the Gods; but I do not like to see the human flock perish for want of a shepherd at once just and moderate. For just as a single man pre-eminent in virtue transforms a democracy into the guise of a government of a single man who is the best; so the government of one man, of it provides all round for the welfare of the community, is popular government. You did not, we are told, help to depose Nero. And did you, Euphrates, or you, Dion? Did I myself? However, no one finds fault with us for that, nor regards us as cowardly, because, after philosophers have destroyed a thousand tyrannies, we have missed the glory of string a blow for liberty. Not but that, as regards myself, I did take the field against Nero, and besides frequent aspersions in my lectures assailed his cut-throat Tigellinus to his face; and the aid I rendered to Vindex in the western half of the empire was, I hardly need say, in the nature of a redoubt raised
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against Nero. But I should not on that account claim for myself the honor of having pulled down that tyrant, any more than I should regard yourselves as falling short of the philosopher's ideal of courage and constancy, because you did nothing of the sort. For a man then of philosophic habit it is enough that he should say what he really thinks; but he will, I imagine, take care not to talk like a fool or a madman. For a consul, on the other hand, who designs to depose a tyrant, the first requisite is plenty of deliberation, with a view to conceal his plans till they are ripe for action; and the second is a suitable pretense to save him from the reproach of breaking his oath. For before he dreams of resorting to arms against the man who appointed him general and whose welfare he swore to safeguard in the council-chamber and on the field, he must surely in self-defense furnish heaven with proof that he perjures himself in the cause of religion. He will also need many friends, if he is not to approach the enterprise unfenced and unfortified, and also all the money he can get so as to be able to win over the men in power, the more so as he attacks a man who commands the resources of the entire earth. All this demands no end of care, no end of time. And you may take all this as you like, for we are not called upon to sit in judgment on ambitions which he may possibly have entertained, but in which fortune resolved to second him, ere ever he came to fight for them. What answer, however, will you make to the following proposition? Here is one who yesterday assumed the throne, who accepted the crown offered by the cities here in the temples around us, whose rescripts are as brilliant as they are ungrudging: do you bid him
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issue a proclamation today to the effect that for the future he retires into private life, and only assumed the reigns of government in an access of madness? As, if he carries through the policy on which he is resolved, he will confirm the loyalty of the guards relying on whom he first entertained it; so, if he falters and departs from it, he will find an enemy in everyone whom from that moment he must mistrust."
The emperor listened gladly to the above and remarked: "If you were the tenant of my breast, you could not more accurately report my inmost thoughts. ’tis yourself then I will follow, for every word which falls from your lips I regard as inspired; therefore instruct me, I pray, in all the duties of a good king." Apollonius answered: "You ask of me a lore which cannot be imparted by any teacher; for kingship is at once the greatest of human attainments, and not to be taught. However, I will mention you all the things which, if you do them, you will in my opinion do wisely. Look not on that which is laid by as wealth—for how is it better than so much sand drifted no matter whence—nor on what flows into your coffers from populations racked by the tax-gatherer, for gold lacks luster and is mere dross, if it be wrung from men's tears; you will make better use of your wealth than every sovereign did if you employ it in succoring the poor, at the same time that you render their wealth secure for the rich. Tremble before the very absoluteness of your prerogative, for so you will exercise it with the greater moderation. Mow
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not down the loftier stalks which overtop the rest, for this maxim of Aristotle's is unjust; but try rather to pluck disaffection out of men's hearts, as you would tares out of your cornfields; and inspire awe of yourself in revolutionists less by actual punishment than by showing them that they will not go unpunished. Let the law govern you as well as them, O king; for you will be all the wiser as a legislator for so holding the laws in respect. Reverence the gods more than ever before, for you have received great blessings at their hands and have still great ones to pray for. In what appertains to your prerogative, act as a sovereign; in what to your own person, as a private citizen. About dice and drink and dissipation and the necessity of abhorring these vices, why need I tender you any advice, who, they say, never approved of them even in youth. You have, my sovereign, two sons, both, they say, of generous disposition. Let them before all obey your authority, for their faults will be charged to your account. Let your disciplining of them even proceed the to length of threatening not to bequeath them your throne, unless they remain good men and honest; otherwise they will be prone to regard it not as a reward of excellence so much as a mere heritage. As for the pleasures which have made of Rome their home and residence—and they are many—I would advise you, my sovereign, to use much discretion in suppressing them; for it is not easy to convert an entire people on a sudden to wisdom and temperance; but you must feel your way and instill order and rhythm in their characters step by step, partly by open, partly by secret correction. Let us put an end to pride and luxury on the part of the freedmen and slaves whom
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your high position assigns to you, by accustoming them to think all the more humbly of themselves, because their master is so powerful. There remains only one topic to address you on; it concerns the governors sent out to rule the provinces. Of those you will yourself select, I need say nothing, for I am sure you will assign commands by merit; I only refer to those who will acquire them by lot. In their case too, I maintain, those only should be sent out to the various provinces so obtained who are in sympathy, so far as the system of appointing by lot allows of it, with the populations they will rule. I mean, that over Hellenes should be set men who can speak Greek, and Romans over those who speak that language or dialects allied to it. I will tell you what made me think of this. During the period in which I lived in the Peloponnese Hellas was governed by a man who knew as little of the Hellenes and their tongue as they understood of his. What was the result? He was in his mistakes as much sinned against as sinner, for his assessors and those who shared with him judicial authority trafficked in justice, and abused his authority as if he had been not their governor but their slave. This, my sovereign, is all that occurs to me today; but if anything else should come into my mind, we can hold another interview. So now apply yourself to the duties of your throne, lest your subjects accuse you of indolence."
Euphrates declared his assent to all these conclusions, "For," said he, "what can I gain by
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continuing to oppose such teaching? But, O my sovereign, as henceforth we must address you, I have only one thing left to say, and that is that while you approve and countenance that philosophy which accords with nature, you should have nothing to do with that which affects a secret intercourse with the gods, for we are easily puffed up by the many absurdities this lying philosophy falsely ascribes to providence." The above remark was aimed at Apollonius, who, however, without paying any attention to it, departed with his companions as soon as he had ended his discourses. And Euphrates would have taken further liberties with his character, only the emperor noticed it and put him aside by saying: "Call in those who have business with the government, and let my council resume its usual form."
Thus Euphrates failed to see that he only prejudiced himself, and gained with the emperor the reputation of being a jealous and insolent fellow, who aired these sentiments in favor of democracy, not because he really entertained them, but only by way of contradicting the opinions Apollonius held in regard to the empire. Notwithstanding, the emperor did not cast him off or shew any resentment at his opinions. As for Dion, he did not cease to be fond of him, though he regretted his seconding the opinions of Euphrates. For Dion was a delightful conversationalist and always declined to quarrel. He moreover imparted to his discourses that sort of charm which exhales from the perfumes at a sacrifice; and he had also, better than any living man, the talent of extempore oratory. Apollonius the emperor nor merely loved for his own sake, but was ever ready to listen to his accounts of antiquity,
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to his descriptions of the Indian Phraotes, and to his graphic stories of the rivers of India, and of the animals that inhabit it; above all to the forecasts and revelations imparted to him by the gods concerning the future of the empire. On quitting Egypt, after settling and rejuvenating the country, he invited Apollonius to share his voyage; but the latter declined, on the ground that he had not yet visited or conversed with the naked sages of that land, whose wisdom he was very anxious to compare with that of India. "Nor," he added, "have I drunk of the sources of the Nile." The emperor understood that he was about to set out for Ethiopia and said: "Will you not bear me in mind?" "I will indeed," replied the sage, "if you continue to be a good sovereign and mindful of yourself."
Thereafter the emperor offered his sacrifice in the temple and publicly promised him presents. But Apollonius, as if he had a favor to ask, said: "And what presents, O king, will you give me?" "Ten," he replied, "now; and when you come to Rome everything I have." And Apollonius answered: "Then I must husband your riches as if they were my own, and squander in the present what is hereafter to be reserved to me in its entirety. But I pray you, O king, to attend rather to these gentlemen here, for they look as if they wanted something." And suiting his words, he pointed to Euphrates
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and his friends. The emperor accordingly pressed them to ask boldly what they desired, whereupon Dion with a blush said: "Reconcile me, O king, with Apollonius my teacher for that I lately ventured to oppose him in argument; for never till now have I ventured to contradict him." The emperor, approving, said: "As long ago as yesterday I asked for this favor, and it is already granted. But do you ask for some gift." "Lasthenes," replied Dion, "of Apamea, a Bithynian city, who was my companion in philosophy, fell in love with the uniform and took to a soldier's life. Now, he says, he longs afresh to wear the sage's cloak, so would you let him out from the service, for that is the extent of his own request; and you will confer on me the privilege of turning him into a saint, and on him the liberty of living as he wishes to." "Let him be released," said the emperor, "but I confer on him the rights of a veteran, since he is equally fond of wisdom and of yourself." Next the emperor turned to Euphrates, who had drawn up a letter embodying his requests, and held it out in expectation that his sovereign would peruse it in private. But the latter was determined to expose him to criticism, so he read it out loud before everyone; and it was found to contain various petitions, some for himself, some for others; and of the presents asked some consisted of cash down and others of credit notes. Whereupon Apollonius with a laugh remarked: "Then your intention of asking a monarch for all this did not prevent you from giving him that good advice in favor of democracy."
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Such I find was the occasion of the quarrel between Apollonius and Euphrates; and after the emperor had departed they openly attacked one another, Euphrates in his anger resorting to coarse insults, which his antagonist met in a philosophical spirit, only refuting him. His accusations, I may remark, of Euphrates to the effect that his conduct violated the decencies of philosophical life, can be learned from the epistles Apollonius addressed to him, for they are not a few. For myself I herewith dismiss this gentleman; for it is not part of my scheme to say ill of him, but only to furnish with a life of Apollonius those who were as yet ignorant. As to the tale of the stick, which he is said to have brandished against Apollonius when he was discoursing, though without applying it—most people attribute his having so refrained to the skill at single-stick of the man he was about to strike; but I prefer to set it down to the good sense of the would-be striker, and to think that it was that which enabled him to overcome an angry impulse which had all but overmastered him.
Dion's philosophy struck Apollonius as being too rhetorical and overmuch adapted to please and flatter, an that is why he addressed to him by way of correction the words: "You should use a pipe and a lyre, if you want to tickle men's senses, not a speech." And in many passages of his letters to Dion he censures his use of words to captivate the crowd.
1:543:1 Cp. Tacitus, Hist. i. 16: dignus eram a quo respublica inciperet.