The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
After making this remark, he took a short nap, just enough to close his eyes, and when day came he offered his prayers to the Sun, as best as he could in prison, and then he conversed with all who came up and asked him questions; and so about the time when the market fills a notary came and ordered him to repair at once to court, adding: "Lest we should not get there in time for the summons in his presence." And Apollonius said: "Let us go," and eagerly went forth. And on the way four bodyguards followed him, keeping at a greater distance from him than would an escort merely to guard him. And Damis also followed in his train, in some trepidation indeed, but apparently plunged in thought. Now the eyes were all turned upon Apollonius, for not only were they attracted by his dress and bearing, but there was a godlike look in his eyes, which struck them with astonishment; and moreover the fact
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that he had come to Rome to risk his life for his friends conciliated the good wishes even of those who were evilly disposed to him before. When he halted at the Palace and beheld the throng of those who were either being courted or were courting their superiors, and heard the din of those who were passing in and out, he remarked: "It seems to me, O Damis, that this place resembles a bath; for I see people outside hastening in, and those within, hastening out; and some of them resemble people who have been thoroughly washed, and others those who have not been washed at all." This saying is the inviolable property of Apollonius, and I wish it to be reserved to him and not ascribed to this man and that, for it is so thoroughly and genuinely his, that he has repeated it in one of his letters. There he saw a very old man who was trying to get an appointment, and in order to do so was groveling before the Emperor and fawning upon him. "Here is one," he said, "O Damis, whom not even Sophocles so far has been able to run away from a master who is raging mad." "Yes, a master," said Damis, "that we ourselves, Apollonius, have chosen for our own; for that is why we are standing here at such gates as these." "It seems to me, O Damis," said the other, "that you imagine Aeacus to be warden of these gates, as he is said to be of the gates of Hades; for verily you look like a dead man." "Not dead yet," said Damis, "but shortly to be so." And Apollonius answered: "O Damis, you do not seem to me to take very kindly to death, although you have been with me some time, and have studied philosophy from your first youth. But I had imagined that you were prepared
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for it, and had also acquainted yourself with all the strategy and tactical resources that I have at my command; for just as men in battle, no matter how heavily armed they are, require not merely pluck, but also a knowledge of tactics to interpret to them the right opportunities of battle, so also philosophers must wait for the right opportunities when to die; so that they be not taken off their guard, nor like suicides rush into death, but may greet their enemies upon ground of their own good choosing. But that I made my choice well of a moment to die in and found an occasion worthy of a philosopher, supposing anyone wants to kill him, I have both proved to others before whom I defended myself in your presence, and am tired of teaching yourself the same."
So far these matters then; but when the Emperor had leisure, having got rid of all his urgent affairs, to give an audience to our sage, the attendants whose office it was conducted him into the palace, without allowing Damis to follow him. And the Emperor was wearing a wreath of olive leaves, for he had just been offering a sacrifice to Athena in the hall of Adonis and this hall was bright with baskets of flowers, such as the Syrians at the time of the festival of Adonis make up in his honor, growing them under their very roofs. Though the Emperor was engaged with his religious rites, he turned round, and was so much struck by Apollonius’ appearance, that he said: "O Aelian, it
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is a demon that you have introduced to me." But Apollonius, without losing his composure, made free to comment upon the Emperor's words, and said: "As for myself, I imagined that Athena was your tutelary goddess, O sovereign, in the same way as she was Diomede's long ago in Troy; for she removed the mist which dulls the eyes of men from those of Diomede, and endowed him with the faculty of distinguishing gods from men. But the goddess has not yet purged your eyes as she did his, my sovereign; yet it were well, if Athena did so, that you might behold her more clearly and not confuse mere men with the forms of demons." "And you," said the Emperor, "O philosopher, when did you have this mist cleared away from your eyes?" "Long ago," said he, "and ever since I have been a philosopher." "How comes it then," said the Emperor, "that you have come to regard as gods persons who are most hostile to myself?" "And what hostility," said Apollonius, "is there between yourself and Iarchas or Phraotes, both of them Indians and the only human beings that I regard as gods and meriting such a title?" "Don't try to put me off with Indians," said the Emperor, "but just tell me about your darling Nerva and his accomplices." "Am I to plead his cause," said Apollonius, "or—?" "No, you shall not plead it," said the Emperor, "for he has been taken red-handed in guilt; but just prove to me, if you can, that you are not yourself equally guilty as being privy to his designs." "If," said Apollonius, "you would hear how far I am in his counsel, and privy to his designs, please hear me, for why should I conceal the truth?" Now the Emperor imagined that he
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was going to hear Apollonius confess very important secrets, and that whatever transpired would conduce to the destruction of the persons in question.
But Apollonius seeing him on tip-toe with expectation, merely said: "For myself, I know Nerva to be the most moderate of men and the gentlest and the most devoted to yourself, as well as a good ruler; though he is so averse to meddling in high matters of State, that he shrinks from office. And as for his friends, for I suppose you refer to Rufus and Orphitus—these men also are discreet, so far as I know, and averse from wealth, somewhat sluggish to do all they lawfully may; while as for revolution, they are the last people in the world either to plan it or to take part with another who should do so." But the Emperor was inflamed with anger at what he heard and said: "Then you mean to say that I am guilty of slander in their cases, since you assert that they are good men, only sluggish, whom I have ascertained to be the vilest of man kind and usurpers of my throne. For I can imagine that they too, if I put the question to them about you, would in their turn deny that you were a wizard and a hot-head and a braggart and a miser, and that you looked down on the laws. And so it is, you accursed rascals, that you all hold together like thieves. But the accusation shall unmask everything; for I know, as well as if I had been present and taken part in everything, all the oaths which you took, and the objects for
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which you took them, and when you did it, and what was, your preliminary sacrifice." At all this Apollonius did not even blench, but merely remarked: "It is not creditable to you, O sovereign, nor is it congruous with the law, that you should either pretend to try a case affecting persons about whom you have already made up your mind, or should have made it up before ever you have tried them. But if you will have it so, permit me at once to begin and plead my defense. You are prejudiced against me, my sovereign, and you do me a greater wrong than could any false informer, for you take for granted, before you hear them, accusations which he only offers to prove." "Begin your defense," said the Emperor, "at any point you like, but I know very well where to draw the line, and with what it is best to begin."
From that moment he began to insult the sage, by cutting off his beard, and hair, and confining him among the vilest felons; and as regards his hair being shaved, Apollonius remarked: "It had not occurred to me, O sovereign, that I risked losing my hair." And as regards his imprisonment in bonds, he remarked: "If you think me a wizard, how will you ever fetter me? And if you fetter me, how can you say that I am a wizard?" "Yes," replied the Emperor, "for I will not release you until you have turned into water, or into some wild animal, or into a tree." "I will not turn into these things," said Apollonius, "even if I could, for I will
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not ever betray men who, in violation of all justice, stand in peril and what lam, that I will remain; but I am ready to endure all you can inflict upon my vile body, until I have finished pleading the cause of these persons." "And who," asked the Emperor, "is going to plead your cause?" "Time," replied Apollonius, "and the spirit of the gods, and the passion for wisdom which animates me."
Such was the prelude of his defense, which he made in private to Domitian, as Damis outlines it. But some have, out of malignity, perverted the facts, and say that he first made his defense, and only then was imprisoned, at the same time that he was also shorn; and they have forged a certain letter in the Ionic dialect, of tedious prolixity, in which they pretend that Apollonius went down on his knees to Domitian and besought him to release him of his bonds. Now Apollonius, it is true, wrote his testament in the Ionian style of language; but I never met with any letter of his composed in that dialect, although I have come across a great many of them; nor did I ever find any verbosity in any letter of the sage's, for they are laconically brief as if they had been unwound from the ferule of a herald. Moreover, he won his cause and quitted the court, so how could he ever have been imprisoned after the verdict was given? But I must defer to relate what happened in the law court. I had best narrate first what ensued after he was shaved and what he said in his discourses, for it is worthy of notice.
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For after the sage had been confined for two days in prison, some one came to the prison, and said that he had purchased the right to visit him, and that he was come to advise him how to save his life. This person then was. a native of Syracuse, and was mind and mouthpiece of Domitian; and he had been suborned, like the earlier one, by him. But he had a more plausible mission; for whereas the first one beat about the bush, this one took up his parable straight from what he saw before him, and said: "Heavens, who would ever have thought of Apollonius being thrown into chains?" "The person who threw him," said Apollonius, "for surely he would not have done so, if he had not thought of it." "And who ever thought that his ambrosial locks could be cut off?" "I myself," said Apollonius, "who wore them." "And how can you endure it?" said the other. "As a man well may bear it who is brought to this pass neither with nor without his will." "And how can your leg endure the weight of the fetters?" "I don't know," said Apollonius, "for my mind is intent upon other matters." "And yet the mind," said the other, "must attend to what causes pain." "Not necessarily," said Apollonius, "for if you are a man like myself, your mind, will either not feel the pain or will order it to cease." "And what is it that occupies your mind?" "The necessity," answered Apollonius, "of not noticing such things." Then the other reverted to the matter of his locks and led the conversation round to them again, whereupon Apollonius remarked,
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[paragraph continues] "It is lucky for you, young man, that you were not one of the Achaeans long ago in Troy; for it seems to me that you would have raised a terrible hullabaloo over the locks of Achilles, when he cut them off in honor of Patroclus, supposing he really did so, and you would at least have swooned at such a spectacle. For if as you say, you are full of pity for my locks which were all grey and frowzy, what would you not have felt over those of Achilles which were nicely curled and auburn?"
The other of course had only made his remarks out of malice, in order to see what would make Apollonius wince, and, by Heaven, to see whether he would reproach his sovereign on account of his sufferings. But he was so shut up by the answers he got that he said: "You have incurred the royal displeasure on several grounds, but in particular on those for which Nerva and his friends are being prosecuted, namely of injuring the government. For certain informations have been conveyed to him about your words in Ionia, when you spoke of him in hostile and embittered tones. But they say that he attaches little importance to that matter, because his anger is whetted by the graver charges, and this although the informer from whom he learnt those first charges is a very distinguished person of great reputation." "A new sort of Olympic winner is this you tell me of," said Apollonius, "that pretends to win distinction by the weightiness of his slanders. But I quite realize that he is Euphrates, who, I know, does everything against me which he can; and these are far from being the worst injuries which he has done me. For hearing once on a time that I was about to visit the naked sages of Ethiopia, he set himself to poison
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their minds against me and if I had not seen through his malignant designs, I should probably have gone away without even seeing their company." The Syracusan then, much astonished at this remark, said: "Then you think it a much lesser thing to be traduced to the Emperor than to forfeit your good repute in the eyes of the naked sages owing to the insinuations dropped against you by Euphrates?" "Yes, by Heaven," he said, "for I was going there as a learner, whereas I am come here with a mission to teach." "And what are you going to teach?" said the other. "That I am," said Apollonius, "a good and honorable man, a circumstance this of which the Emperor is not yet aware." "But you can," said the other, "get out of your scrape if you only will teach him things, which if you had told him before you came here, you would never have been cast into prison." Now Apollonius understood that the Syracusan was trying to drive him into some such admission as the Emperor had tried to get out of him, and that he imagined that out of sheer weariness of his imprisonment he would tell some falsehood to the detriment of his friends, and, accordingly he answered: "My excellent friend, if I have been cast into prison for telling Domitian the truth, what would happen to me if I refrained from telling it? For he apparently regards truth as something to be punished with imprisonment, just as I regard falsehood."
The Syracusan was so much struck with the superiority of his philosophical talent (for after
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saying this he went away), that he promptly left the prison; but Apollonius glancing at Damis said: "Do you understand this Python?" "I understand," said he, "that he has been suborned to trip you up; but what you mean by Python, and what is the sense of such a name, I do nor know." "Python," replied Apollonius, "of Byzantium, was, they say, a rhetor skillful to persuade men to evil courses. He was sent in the interests of Philip, son of Amyntas, on an embassy to the Hellenes to urge their enslavement, and though he passed by other states, he was careful to go to Athens, just at a time when rhetoric most flourished there. And he told them that they did a great injury to Philip, and made a great mistake trying to liberate the Hellenic nation. Python delivered these sentiments, as they say, with a flood of words, but no one save Demosthenes of the Paeanian deme spoke to the contrary and checked his presumption; and he reckons it amongst his achievements that he bore the brunt of his attack unaided. Now I would never call it an achievement that I refused to be drawn into the avowals which he wanted. Nevertheless I said that he was employed on the same job as Python, because he has come here as a despot's hireling to tender me monstrous advice."
Damis says that though Apollonius uttered many more discourses of the same kind, he was himself in despair of the situation, because he saw no way out of it except such as the gods have vouchsafed to some in answer to prayer, when they were in even
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worse straits. But a little before midday, he tells us that he said: "O man of Tyana,"—for he took a special pleasure, it appears, in being called by that name,—"what is to become of us?" "Why what has become of us already," said Apollonius, "and nothing more, for no one is going to kill us." "And who," said Damis, "is so invulnerable as that? But will you ever be liberated?" "So far as it rests with the verdict of the court," said Apollonius, "I shall be set at liberty this day, but so far as depend upon my own will, now and here." And with these words he took his leg out of the fetters and remarked to Damis: "Here is proof positive to you of my freedom, to cheer you up." Damis says that it was then for the first time that he really and truly understood the nature of Apollonius, to wit that it was divine and superhuman, for without sacrifice—and how in prison could he have offered any?—and without a single prayer, without even a word, he quietly laughed at the fetters, and then inserted his leg in them afresh, and behaved like a prisoner once more.
Now simple-minded people attribute such acts as this to wizardry, and they make the same mistake in respect of many purely human actions. For athletes resort to this art, just as do all who have to undergo a contest in their eagerness to win; and although it contributes nothing to their success, nevertheless these unfortunate people, after winning by mere chance as they generally do, rob themselves of the credit and attribute it to this art of wizardry. Nor
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does any amount of failure in their enterprises shake their faith in it, they merely say such things as this: "If I had only offered this sacrifice or that, if I had only burnt that perfume in place of another, I should not have failed to win." And they really believe what they say. Magic also besieges the doors of merchants no less, for we shall find them too attributing their successes in trade to the wizard or magician, no less than they ascribe their losses to their own parsimony and to their failure to sacrifice as often as they should have done. But is especially lovers who are addicted to this art; for as the disease which they suffer from in any case renders them liable to be deluded, so much so that they go to old hags to talk about it, it is no wonder, I think, that they resort to these impostors and give ear to their quackeries. They will accept from them a magic girdle to wear, as well as precious stones, some of the bits of stone having come from the depths of the earth and others from the moon and stars; and then they are given all the spices which the gardens of India yield; and the cheats exact vast sums of money from them for all this, and yet do nothing to help them at all. For let their favorites only give them the least encouragement, or let the attractions of the lover's presents advance his suit in the very least, and he at once sets out to laud the art as able to achieve anything; while if the experiment does not come off, he is as ready as ever to lay the blame on some omission, for he will say that he forgot to burn the spice, or to sacrifice or melt up that, and that everything turned upon that and it was impossible to do without it. Now the various devices and artifices by which they work signs from heaven
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and all other miracles on a wide scale, have been actually recorded by certain authors, who laugh outright at the art in question. But for myself I would gladly denounce such arts in order to prevent young men from resorting to its professors, lest they become accustomed to such things even in fun. This digression has led me far enough from my subject; for why should I attack any further a thing which is equally condemned by nature and by law?
After Apollonius had thus revealed himself to Damis, and held some further conversation, about midday someone presented himself to them and made the following intimation verbally: "The Emperor, Apollonius, releases you from these fetters by the advice of Aelian; and he permits you to take up your quarters in the prison where criminals are not bound, until the time comes for you to make your defense, but you will probably be called upon to plead your cause five days from now." "Who then," said Apollonius, "is to get me out of this place?" "I," said the messenger, "so follow me." And when the prisoners in the free prison saw him again, they all flocked round him, as around one restored to them against all expectations; for they entertained the same affectionate longing for Apollonius as children do for a parent who devotes himself to giving them good advice in an agreeable and modest manner, or who tells them stories of his own youth; nor did they try to hide their feelings; and Apollonius continued incessantly to give them advice.