The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
These words impressed Aelian as very sensible; and he bade him be of good courage, while he himself formed the conviction that here was a man whom nothing could terrify or startle, and who would not flinch, even if the head of the Gorgon were brandished over him. He accordingly summoned the
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jailors who had charge of such cases and said: "My orders are to detain this man, until the Emperor be informed of his arrival and learn from his lips all he has said to me." And he said this with the air of a man very much enraged; and then he went into the palace and began to attend to the duties of his office.
At this point Damis records an incident which in a way resembles and in a way is unlike the episode related of Aristides long ago at Athens. For they were ostracizing Aristides because of his virtue, and he had no sooner passed the gates of the city than a rustic came up to him and begged him to fill up his voting sherd against Aristides. This rustic knew no more to whom he was speaking than he knew how to write; he only knew that Aristides was detested because he was so just. Now on this occasion a tribune who knew Apollonius perfectly well, addressed him and asked him in an insolent manner, what had brought him to such a pass. Apollonius replied that he did not know. "Well," said the other, "I can tell you: for it is allowing yourself to be worshipped by your fellow-men that has led you to be accused of setting yourself on a level with the gods." "And who is it," asked the other, "that has paid me this worship?" "I myself," said the other, "when I was still a boy in Ephesus, at a time when you stayed our epidemic." "Lucky it was both for you," and for the city of Ephesus that was saved." "Well this is a reason," said the other, "why I have prepared a method of defense for yourself, which will rid you of the charge against you. For let us go outside
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the gates, and if I cut of your head off with my sword, the accusation will have defeated itself and you will go scot free; but if you terrify me to such an extent that I drop my sword, you must needs be thought a divine being, and then it will be seen that there is a basis of truth in the charges made against you." So much coarser and ruder was this fellow than the man who wished to banish Aristides, and he uttered his words with grimace and mocking laughter, but Apollonius affected not to have heard him, and went on with his conversation with Damis about the delta, about which they say the Nile is divided into two branches.
Aelian next summoned him and ordered him into prison, where the captives were not bound, "until," he said, "the Emperor shall have leisure, for he desires to talk with you privately before taking any further steps." Apollonius accordingly left the law-court and passed into the prison, where he said: "Let us talk, Damis, with the people here. For what else is there for us to do until the time comes when the despot will give me such audience as he desires?" "Will they not think us babblers," said Damis, "and bores, if we interrupt them in the preparation of their defense, and moreover, it is a mistake to talk philosophy with men so broken in spirit as they." "Nay," said Apollonius, "they are just the people who most want someone to talk to them and comfort them. For you may remember the verses of Homer in which he relates how Helen
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mingled in the bowl of wine certain drugs from Egypt to drown the heartache of the heroes; well, I think that Helen must have picked up the lore of the Egyptians, and have sung spells over the dejected heroes through their bowl of wine, so healing them by a blending of words and wine." "And that is likely enough," said Damis, "seeing that she came to Egypt and was escorted by Proteus; or, if we prefer Homer's account, was well acquainted with Polydamna, the daughter of Thon. However let us dismiss these topics for the moment, for I want to ask you something." "I know," said Apollonius, "what you are going to ask me, for I am sure you wish me to tell you what my conversation was about with the consul, and what he said, and whether he was formidable and severe or gentle to me." And forthwith he told Damis all that had passed. Thereupon Damis prostrated himself before him and said: "Now I am ready to believe that Leucothea did really once give her veil to Odysseus, after he had fallen out of his ship and was paddling himself over the sea with his hands. For we are reduced to just as awful and impossible a plight, when some god, as it seems to me, stretches out his hand over us, that we fall not away from all hope of salvation." But Apollonius disapproved of the way he spoke, and said: "How long will you continue to cherish these fears, as if you could never understand that wisdom amazes all that is sensible of her, but is herself not amazed by anything." "But we," said Damis, "are brought here before one who is quite insensible, and who not only cannot be amazed by us, but would not allow anything in the world to amaze him." "Seest thou not," said Apollonius, "O
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[paragraph continues] Damis, that he is maddened with pride and vanity?" "I see it, how can I not?" said the other. "Well," said Apollonius, "you have just got do despise the despot just in proportion as you get to know him."
They were talking like this, when someone, a Cilician I think, came up and said: "I, gentlemen, am brought to this pass by my wealth." And Apollonius replied: "If your wealth was acquired by other than holy methods, for example by piracy and administration of deadly drugs, or by disturbing the tombs of ancient kings which are full of gold and treasure, you deserve not only to be put on your trial, but also to forfeit your life; for these things are wealth no doubt, but of an infamous and inhuman kind. But if you acquired your wealth by inheritance or by commerce such as befits free men and not by petty traffic, who could be so cruel as to deprive you under color of law of what you have acquired with its venerable sanction?" “My property," said the other, has accrued to me from several of my relations, and has centered itself in my single household; and I use it, not as if it belonged to other people, for it is my own; yet not as my own, for I share it freely with all good men. But the informers accused me of having acquired my wealth to the prejudice of the despot; for they say that, if I attached myself to another as his accomplice, my wealth would weigh heavily in his favor. And there is actually an
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oracular air about the charges made against us, such as that all excess of wealth engenders insolence, or that more than ordinary wealth makes its owner carry his head too high and rouses in him a spirit of pride; and that it prevents him from being a good subject and obeying the laws and rulers who are sent to the provinces; they say indeed that it is very nearly tantamount to giving them a box on the ears, because they grovel to wealthy men or connive at their crime, on account of the influence which wealth gives.
“Now when I was a stripling, before I had as much as a hundred talent to call my own, I used to think such apprehensions as ridiculous and I had small anxiety on the score of my property; but when my paternal uncle died and in a single day I came in for a reversion of five hundred talents, my mind underwent such a change as those who break horses effect, when they cure them of being unruly and intractable. And as my riches increased and flowed in to me by land and by sea, I became so much the slave of anxiety about them, that I poured out my substance, partly upon sycophants whom I had to flatter in order to stop their mouths by means of such blackmail, and partly upon governors whose influence I wished to enlist on my side against those who plotted against me, and partly on my kinsmen, to prevent them being jealous of my wealth, and partly on my slaves for fear they should become worse than they were and complain of being neglected. And I also had to support a magnificent flock of friends, for the latter were full of solicitude for me; and some insisted on helping me with their own hands, and
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others with their warnings and advice. But although I thus fenced my wealth about, and surrounded myself so securely with fortifications, I now am imperiled by it, and I am not yet sure that I shall escape with my life.” And Apollonius answered: "Take heart, for you have your wealth to go surety for your life; for if it is your wealth which has led to your being confined in bonds, it is your wealth also which, when it is dissipated, will not only release you from this prison, but from the necessity of cherishing and flattering those sycophants and slaves whose yoke it has imposed upon your neck."
Another man came and said that he was being prosecuted, because at a public sacrifice in Tarentum, where he held office, he had omitted to mention in the public prayers that Domitian was the son of Athena. Said Apollonius: "You imagined that Athena could not possibly have a son, because she is a virgin for ever and ever; but you forgot, methinks, that this goddess once on a time bore a dragon to the Athenians."
Another man was confined in the prison on the following charge: He had a property in Acarnania near the mouth of the Achelous; and he had been in the habit of sailing about the islands called the Echinades in a small boat, and he noticed that one of them was already joined to the mainland;
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and he planted it all over with fruitful trees and vines producing sweet wine. So he made it a convenient habitation for himself, for he also brought in water in sufficient quantities for the island from the mainland. In consequence, an accusation was trumped up against him, that he had a guilty conscience, and that it was because he was conscious of having committed crimes beyond description, that he transported himself and quitted all other land, feeling that he polluted it, and at the same time had chosen for himself the same form of release as Alcmaeon the son of Amphiareus had done, when after his mother's murder he went and lived on the delta of the Achelous. Even if he had not committed the same crime as Alcmaeon, he must yet, they said, have on his conscience horrible deeds, not falling short of his. Although he denied these insinuations, and declared that he only went to live there for the sake of peace and quiet, he had nevertheless, they said, been accused and brought to justice, and for this reason he was cast into prison.
Several prisoners, for there were about fifty of them in this prison, approaches Apollonius inside it, and uttered such lamentations as the above. Some of them were sick, some of them had given way to dejection, some of them expected death with certainty and with resignation, some of them bewailed and called upon their children and their parents and their wives. Whereupon, "O Damis," said Apollonius,
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affected by the spectacle, "it seems to me that these people need the drug which I alluded to when I first entered. Whether it be an Egyptian remedy, or whether it grows in every land and only needs wisdom enough to cut it from its root out of her own gardens, let us administer some of it to these poor people, lest their own feelings destroy them before Domitian can do it." "Let us do so," said Damis, "for they seem in need of it." Accordingly Apollonius called them all together and said: “Gentlemen, who are sharing with me the hospitality of this poor roof, I am wrung with pity for you, because I feel that you are undoing yourselves, before you know in the least whether the accuser will undo you. For it seems to me that you are ready to put yourselves to death and anticipate the death sentence which you expect will be pronounced against you; and so you show actual courage where you should feel fear, and fear where you should be courageous. This should not be; but you should bear in mind the words of Archilochus of Paros who says that the patience under adversity which he called endurance was a veritable discovery of the gods; for it will bear you up in your misery, just as a skillful pilot carries the bow of his ship above the wash of the sea, whenever the billows are raised higher than his bark. Nor should you consider as desperate this situation into which you have been brought against your wills, but I myself of my own accord.
“For if you admit the charges brought against you, you ought rather to deplore the day when your judgment and impulses betrayed you into unjust and cruel courses of action. But if you, my friend yonder, deny that you took up your residence
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in the island of Achelous for the reason which your accuser alleges; and you there, that you ever raised your wealth to the peril and endangering of the sovereignty; and you again that you of set purpose deprived the sovereign of his pretension to be called the son of Athena,—if, I say, you can prove that the several reasons alleged for your being, each of you, here in such parlous plights, are unfounded, what then is the meaning of all this lamentation about things which have no existence or reality? For instead of crying after your friends and relatives, you ought rather to feel just as much courage as you now feel despair; for such I imagine are the rewards of the endurance I have described. But perhaps you would argue that confinement here and life in a prison are hard to bear in themselves? Or do you look upon them as the mere beginning of what you expect to suffer? Or do you think that they are punishment sufficient in themselves, even if you are exposed to nothing else in the way of penalty? Well, I understand human nature, and I will preach you a sermon which is very unlike the prescriptions of physicians, for I shall implant strength in you and will avert death from you. We men are in a prison all that time which we choose to call life. For this soul of ours, being bound and fettered in a perishable body, has to endure many things, and be the slave of all the affections which visit humanity; and the men who first invented a dwelling seem to me not to have known that they were only surrounding their kind in a fresh prison; for, to tell you the truth, all those who inhabit palaces and have established themselves securely in them, are, I consider, in closer bonds in them than any whom they may throw into bonds.
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“And when I think of cities and walls, it seems to me that these are common prisons, so that the merchants are in chains, in chains no less than the members of the Assembly, and the frequenters also of spectacles, as well as those who organize public processions. Then there are the Scythians who go about upon wagons; they are just as much in chains as ourselves; for rivers like the Ister and the Thermodon and the Tanais hem them in, and they are very difficult to cross, except when they are hard frozen; and they fix up their houses on their wagons, and they imagine they are driving about, when they are merely cowering in them. And if you don't think it too silly a thing to say, there are those who teach that the ocean also encompasses the earth in order to chain it in. Come, O ye poets, for this is your domain. Recite your rhapsodies to this despondent crowd, and tell them how Kronos was once put in bonds by the wiles of Zeus; and Ares, the most warlike of gods, was first enchained in heaven by Hephaestus, and later upon earth by the sons of Aloeus. When we think of these things, and reflect on the many wise and blessed men who have been thrown into prison by wanton mobs, or insulted by despots, let us accept our fate with resignation, that we may not be found inferior to those who have accepted the same before us.” Such were the words which he addressed to his companions in the prison, and they had such an effect upon them that most of them took their food and wiped away their tears, and walked in hope, believing that they could never come to harm as long as they were in his company.
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On the next day he was haranguing them in a discourse of the same tenor, when a man was sent into the prison privately by Domitian to listen to what he said. In his deportment this person had a downcast air and, as he himself admitted, looked as if he ran a great risk. He had great volubility of speech, as is usually the case with sycophants who have been chosen to draw up eight or ten informations. Apollonius saw through the trick and talked about themes which could in no way serve his purpose; for he told his audience about rivers and mountains, and he described wild animals and trees to them, so that they were amused, while the informer gained nothing to his purpose. And when he tried to draw him away from these subjects, and get him to abuse the tyrant, "My good friend," said Apollonius, "you say what you like, for I am the last man in the world to inform against you; but if I find anything to blame in the Emperor, I'll say it to his face."
There followed other episodes in this prison, some of them insidiously contrived, and others of mere chance, and not of sufficient importance to merit my notice. But Damis, I believe, has recorded them in his anxiety to omit nothing; I only give what is to the point. It was evening, and it was already the fifth day of his imprisonment, when a certain person entered the prison, who spoke the
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Hellenic tongue, and said: "Where is the man of Tyana?" And taking Apollonius aside he said: "It is tomorrow that the Emperor will give you an audience." And this he appeared to have heard direct from Aelian. "I will keep your secret," said Apollonius, "for it is only Aelian, I think, who can know so much." "Moreover," said the other, "word has been given to the chief jailer to supply you with everything which you may want." "You are very kind," said Apollonius, "but I lead exactly the same life here as I would outside; for I converse about casual topics, and I do not need anything." "And do you not, O Apollonius, need someone to advise you how to converse with the Emperor?" "Yes by heaven," he replied, "if only he will not try to get me to flatter him." "And what if he merely advised you not to slight him nor flout him?" "He could give no better advice," said Apollonius, "and it is what I have made up my own mind to do." "Well, it was about this that I am come," said the other, "and I am delighted to find you so sensibly disposed; but you ought to be prepared for the way in which the Emperor speaks, and also for the disagreeable quality of his face; for he talks in a deep voice, even if he is merely engaged in a gentle conversation, and his eyebrows overhang the sockets of his eyes and his cheeks are so bloated with bile, that this distinguishes him more than anything else. We must not be frightened, O man of Tyana, by these characteristics, for they rather belong to nature than to anything else, and they always are the same." And Apollonius replied:
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[paragraph continues] "If Odysseus could go into the cave of Polyphemus, without having been informed beforehand either of the giant's size, or what he ate, or of how he thundered with his voice, and yet did not lose his presence of mind, though he was in some trepidation to begin with; and if he left his cave after acquitting himself like a man, I too shall be quite satisfied if I get off with my own life and with that of my companions, in whose behalf I incur this risk." Such were the words that passed between him and his visitor, and after reporting them to Damis he went to sleep.
And about dawn a notary came from the Royal court, and said: "It is the Emperor's orders, O Apollonius, that you should repair to his court at the time when the market-place is full; not indeed as yet to make your defense, for he wants to see you and find out who you are, and to talk with you alone." "And why," said Apollonius, "do you trouble me with these details?" "Are you not then Apollonius?" said the other. "Yes, by Heaven," he said, "and of Tyana too." "To whom then," said the other, "should I give this message?" "To those who will take me thither," he replied, "for I suppose that I shall have to get out of this prison somehow." "Orders have already been given," replied the other, "to them, and I will come here in good time, and I only came to give you the message now, because the orders were issued late last night."
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He accordingly went away: but Apollonius after resting himself a little while on his bed said, "Damis, I need sleep, for I have had a bad night trying to remember what Phraotes once told me." "Well," said the other, "if you had to keep awake, you had much better have occupied yourself in preparing for so great an occasion as now is announced to you." "And how could I prepare myself," said Apollonius, "when I do not even know what questions he will ask of me?" "Then are you going to defend your life extempore?" said Damis. "Yes, by Heaven," he replied, "for it is an extempore life that I have always led. But I want to tell you what I could remember of the conversation with Phraotes, for I think you will find it very profitable under the circumstances. Phraotes enjoined the tamers of lions not to strike them, for he said that they bear you a grudge if they are struck; but also not to flatter them, because that tends to make them proud and fierce; but he advised them rather to stroke them with the hand at the same time that they threatened them, as the best way of reducing them to obedience and docility. Well, he made these remarks not really about lions—for we were not interested about how to keep lions and wild beasts—but he was really supplying a curb and rein for tyrants of such a kind as he thought would in practice keep them within the lines of good sense and moderation." "This story," said Damis, "is indeed most apposite to the manners of tyrants; but there is also a story in Aesop about a certain lion
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who lived in a cave, and Aesop says that he was not sick, but only pretended to be so, and that he seized on other wild animals who went to visit him; and accordingly the fox made the remark: 'What are we to do with him, for no one ever quits his residence, nor are any tracks to be seen of his visitors going out again?'" And Apollonius remarked: "Well, as for myself I should have regarded your fox as a cleverer animal, if he had gone in to see the lion, and instead of being caught had issued from the cave safely and left clear tracks behind him."