The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
(i) "My prince, we are at issue with one another concerning matters of grave moment; for you run such a risk as never autocrat did before you, that namely of being thought to be animated by a wholly unjust hatred of philosophy; while I am exposed to a worse peril than was ever Socrates at Athens, for though the accusers taxed him in their indictment with introducing new beliefs about demons, they never went so far as to call him or think him a demon. Since, however, so grave a peril besets us both, I will not hesitate to tender you the advice of
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whose excellence I am myself convinced. For since the accuser has plunged us into this struggle, the many have been led to form a false opinion of both myself and of you. They have come to imagine that you will listen only to the counsels of anger, with the result that you will even put me to death, whatever death means, and that I in turn shall try to evade this tribunal in some of the ways there are—and they were, my prince, myriad—of escaping from it. Though rumors have reached my ears, I have not contracted any prejudice against you, nor have I done you the injury of supposing you will hear my cause otherwise than in accordance with the strictest principles of equity; for in conformity with the laws I submit myself to their pronouncement. And I would advise you also to do the same; for justice demands that you should neither prejudge the case, nor take your seat on the bench with your mind made up to the belief that I have done you any wrong. If you were told that the Armenian, the Babylonian and other foreign potentates were about to inflict some disaster on you, which must lead to the loss of your empire, you would, I am sure, laugh outright; although they have hosts of cavalry, all kinds of archers, a gold bearing soil and, as I know full well, a teeming population. And yet you distrust a philosopher, naked of means of offense, and are ready to believe he is a menace to the autocrat of the Romans—all this on the mere word of an Egyptian sycophant. Never did you here such tales from Athena, whom you allege to be your guardian spirit, unless indeed, great Heavens!, their flattering and falsely accusing others has so increased the influence of
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these miscreants, that you would pretend that whereas in insignificant matters, such as sore eyes, and avoidance of fevers and inflammation of the bowels, the Gods are your apt advisers, manipulating and healing you after the manner of physicians of anyone of these maladies you may be suffering from, they, nevertheless, in matters which imperil your throne and your life, give you no counsel either as to the persons you should guard against or as to the weapons you should employ against them, but, instead of coming to your aid, leave you to the tender mercies of false accusers, whom you regard as the Aegis of Athena or the hand of Zeus, just because they assert that they understand your welfare better even than do the gods, and that they watch over you in the hours of their waking and sleeping, if indeed these wretches can sleep after pouring out such wicked lies and compiling ever and anon whole Iliads such as this one.
That they should keep horses and roll theatrically into the forum in chariots drawn by snowy teams, that they should gorge themselves off dishes of silver and gold, parade favorites that cost them two or three myriad sesterces, that they should go on committing adultery as long as they are not found out and then and not before, marry the victims of their lusts when they are caught red-handed, that their splendid successes should be hailed with applause, as often as some philosopher or consul, absolutely innocent, falls into their toils and is put to death by yourself—all this I am willing to concede to the license of these accursed wretches and to their brazen indifference to the
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public eye and to law; but that they should give themselves the airs of superhuman beings and presume to know better than the gods, I cannot approve or allow; and the mere rumor of it fills me with horror. And if you allow such things to be, they will perhaps accuse even yourself of offending against established religion. I know that my tone is rather that of a censor than that of a defendant; if so, you must pardon me for thus speaking up in behalf of the laws, with the recognition of whose authority by yourself stands and falls that of your own.
(ii) Who then will be my advocate while I am defending myself? For if I called upon Zeus to help me, under whom I am conscious of having passed my life, they will accuse me of being a wizard and of bringing heaven down to earth. Let us then appeal in this matter to one whom I deny to be dead, although the many assert it, I mean your own father, who held me in the same esteem in which you behold him; for he made you, and was in turn made by me. He, my prince, shall assist my defense, because he knows my character much better than yourself; for he came to Egypt before he was raised to the throne, as much to converse with me about the Empire as to sacrifice to the gods of Egypt. And when he found me with my long hair and dressed as I am at this moment, he did not ask me a single question about my costume, because he considered that everything about me was well; but he admitted that he had come thither on my account,
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and after commending me and saying to me things which he would have said to no one else, and having heard from me what he would have heard from no one else, he departed. I most confirmed him in his aspirations for the throne, when others had already sought to dissuade him,—in no unfriendly spirit, I admit, though you anyhow can not agree with them; for those who tried to persuade him not to assume the reins of Empire were assuredly on their way to deprive you of the succession to him by which you now hold. But by my advice he did not hold himself unworthy, he said, of the kingdom which lay within his grasp and of making you the heirs thereto; and he fully acknowledged the entire wisdom of my advice, and he was raised himself to the pinnacle of greatness, as in turn he raised yourselves. Now if he had looked upon me as a wizard, he would never have taken me into his confidence, for he did not come and say such things as this to me: Compel the Fates or compel Zeus to appoint me tyrant, or to work miracles and portents in my behalf, and show me the sun rising in the west and setting at the point where he rises. For I should not have thought him a fit person for empire in he had either considered me as an adept in such art, or resorted to such tricks in pursuit of a crown which it behoved him to win by his virtues alone. More than this my conversation with him was held publicly in a temple, and wizards do not affect temples of the gods as their places of reunion; for such places are inimical to those who deal in magic, and they cloak their art under the cover of night and every sort of darkness, so as to preclude their dupes from the use of their eyes and ears. It is true that he also had a private conversation
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with me, but there were present at it beside myself Euphrates and Dion, one of them my bitter enemy, but the other my firmest friend; for may never come a time when I shall not reckon Dion among my friends. Now I ask you, who would begin to talk wizardry in the presence of wise men or of men anyhow laying claim to wisdom? And who would not be equally on his guard both among friends and among enemies of betraying his villainy? And moreover our conversation on that occasion was directed against wizards; for you surely will not suppose that your own father when he was aspiring to the throne set more confidence in wizards than in himself, or that he got me to put pressure upon heaven, that he might obtain his object, when, on the contrary, he was confident of winning the crown before ever he came to Egypt; and subsequently he had more important matters to talk over with me, namely the laws and the just acquisition of wealth, and how the gods ought to be worshipped, and what blessings they have in store for those monarchs who govern their people in accordance with the laws. These are the subjects which he desired to learn about, and they are all the direct opposite of wizardry; for if they count for anything at all, there will be an end of the black art.
(iii) And there is another point, my prince, which merits your attention. The various arts known to mankind, in spite of the differences of their functions and achievements, are yet all concerned to make money, some earning less, some earning more, and some just enough to live upon; and not only the base mechanic arts, but of the rest those which
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are esteemed liberal 1 arts as well as those which only border upon being liberal, and true philosophy is the only exception. And by liberal arts I mean poetry, music, astronomy, the art of the sophist and of the orator, the merely forensic kinds excepted; and by the arts which border upon liberal I mean those of the painter, modeller, sculptor, navigator, agriculturist, in case the latter waits upon the seasons; for these arts are not very inferior to the liberal professions. And on the other hand, my prince, there are the pseudo-liberal arts of jugglers, which I would not have you confuse with divination, for this is highly esteemed, if it be genuine and tell the truth, though whether it is an art, I am not sure. But I anyhow affirm wizards to be professors of a pseudo-liberal art, for they have get men to believe that the unreal is real, and to distrust the real as unreal, and I attribute all such efforts to the imaginative fancy of the dupes; for the cleverness of this art is relative to the folly of the persons who are deceived by them, and who offer the sacrifices they prescribe; and its professors are given up wholly to filthy lucre, for all their parade of skill is devised by them in hope of gain, and they try to persuade people who are passionately attached to something or another that they are capable of getting everything for them. Do you then find me so opulent as to warrant me in supposing that I cultivate the sort of false and illiberal wisdom, the more so as your own father considered me to be above all pecuniary considerations? And to show you that
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[paragraph continues] I speak the truth, here is a letter to me from that noble and divine man, who in it praises me more especially for my poverty. It runs thus:
“The autocrat Vespasian to Apollonius the philosopher sends greetings.
“If all men, Apollonius, were disposed to be philosophers in the same spirit as yourself, then the lot no less of philosophy than poverty would be an extremely happy one; for your philosophy is pure and disinterested, and your poverty is voluntary. Farewell.”
Let this be your sire's pleading in my behalf, when he thus lays stress upon the disinterestedness of my philosophy, and the voluntariness of my poverty. For I have no doubt he had in mind the episode in Egypt, when Euphrates and several of those who pretended to be philosophers approached him, and in no obscure language begged for money; whereas I myself not only did not solicit him for money, but repudiated them as impostors for doing so. And I also showed an aversion from money from my first youth; for realizing that my patrimony, and it was a considerable property, was at best but a transitory toy, I gave it up to my brothers and to my friends and to the poorer of my relatives, so disciplining myself from my very home and hearth to want nothing. I will not dwell upon Babylon and the parts of India beyond the Causasus and the river Hyphasis, through which I journeyed ever true to myself. But in favor of my life here and no less of the fact that I have never coveted money, I will invoke the testimony of the Egyptian here; for he accuses me of every sort of evil deed
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and design, yet we hear nothing from him of how much money I made by these villainies, nor of how much gain I had in view; indeed he thinks me such a simpleton as to practice my wizardry for nothing, and whereas others only commit its crimes for much money, he thinks that I commit them for none at all. It is as if I cried my wares to the public in such terms as the following: Come, O ye Dupes, for I am a wizard; and I practice my art not for money, but free, gratis, and for nothing; and so you shall earn a great reward, for each of you will go off with nothing but dangers and writs of accusation.
(iv) But without descending to such silly arguments, I would like to ask the accuser which of his counts I ought to take first. And yet why need I ask him? for at the beginning of his speech he dwelt upon my dress, and by Zeus, upon what I eat and what I do not eat. O divine Pythagoras, do thou defend me upon these counts; for we are put upon our trial for a rule of life of which thou wast the discoverer, and of which I am the humble partisan. For the earth, my prince, grows everything for mankind; and those who are pleased to live at peace with the brute creation want nothing, for some fruits they can cull from earth, others they win from her furrows, for she is the nurse of men, as suits the seasons; but these men, as it were deaf to the cries of mother earth, whet their knife against her children in order to get themselves dress and food. Here then is something which the Brahmans of India themselves condemned, and which they taught the naked sages of Egypt also to condemn; and from them Pythagoras took his rule of life, and he was the first of Hellenes
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who had intercourse with the Egyptians. And it was his rule to give up and leave her animals to the earth; but all things which she grows, he declared, were pure and undefiled, and ate of them accordingly, because they were best adapted to nourish both body and soul. But the garments which most men wear made of the hides of dead animals, he declared to be impure; and accordingly clad himself in linen, and on the same principles had his shoes woven of byblus. And what were the advantages which he derived from such purity? Many, and before all the privilege of recognizing his own soul. For he had existed in the age when Troy was fighting about Helen, and he had been the fairest of the sons of Panthus, and the best equipped of them all, yet he died at so young an age as to excite the lamentations even of Homer. Well after that he passed into several bodies according to the decree of Adrastea, which transfers the soul from body to body, and then he again resumed the form of man, and was born to Mnesarchides of Samos, this time a sage instead of a barbarian, and an Ionian instead of a Trojan, and so immune from death that he did not even forget that he was Euphorbus. I have then told you who was the begetter of my own wisdom, and I have shown that it is no discovery of my own, but an inheritance come to me from another. And as for myself though I do not condemn or judge those who make it part of their luxury to consume the red-plumaged bird, or the fowls from Phasis or the land of the Paeones, which are fattened up for their banquets by those who can deny nothing to their bellies, and though I have never yet brought an accusation
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against anyone, because they buy fish for their tables at greater prices than grand seigneurs ever gave for their Corinthian chargers, and though I have never grudged anyone his purple garment nor his soft raiment and Pamphylian tissues—yet I am accused and put upon my trial, O ye gods, because I indulge in asphodel and dessert of dried fruits and pure delicacies of that kind.
(v) Nor even is my mode of dress protected from their calumnies, for the accuser is ready to steal even that off my back, because it has such vast value for wizards. And yet apart from my contention about the use of living animals and lifeless things, according as he uses one or the other of which I regard a man as impure or pure, in what way is linen better than wool? Was not the latter taken from the back of the gentlest of animals, of a creature beloved of the gods, who do not disdain themselves to be shepherds, and, by Zeus, once held the fleece to be worthy of a golden form, if it was really a god that did so, and if it be not a mere story? On the other hand linen is grown and sown anywhere, and there is no talk of gold in connection with it. Nevertheless, because it is not plucked from the back of a living animal, the Indians regard it as pure, and so do the Egyptians, and I myself and Pythagoras on this account have adopted it as our garb when we are discoursing or praying or offering sacrifice. And it is a pure substance under which to sleep of a night, for to those who live as I do dreams bring the truest of their revelations.
(vi) Let us next defend ourselves from the attack occasioned by the hair which we formerly wore, for one of the counts of the accusation turns upon
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the squalor thereof. But surely the Egyptian is not entitled to judge me for this, but rather the dandies with their yellow and well-combed locks; and let them bring dangling along the company of their lovers and the mistresses of their revels. Let them congratulate and compliment themselves upon their locks and on the myrrh which drips from them; but think me everything that is unattractive, and if a lover of anything, of abstention from love. For I am inclined to address them thus: O ye poor wretches, do not falsely accuse an institution of the Dorians; for the wearing of your hair long has come down from the Lacaedemonians who affected it in the period when they reached the height of their military fame; and a king of Sparta, Leonidas, wore his hair long in token of his bravery, and in order to appear dignified to his friends, yet terrible to his enemies. For these reasons Sparta wears her hair long no less in his honor than in that of Lycurgus and of Iphitus. And let every sage be careful that the iron knife does not touch his hair, for it is impious to apply it thereto; inasmuch as in his head are all the springs of his senses, and all his intuitions, and it is the source from which his prayers issue forth and also his speech, the interpreter of his wisdom. And whereas Empedocles fastened a fillet of deep purple around his hair, and walked proudly about the streets of the Hellenes, composing hymns to prove that he would pass from humanity and become a god, I only wear my hair disheveled, and I have never needed to sing such hymns about it, yet am hailed before the law courts as a criminal. And what shall I say of Empedocles? Which had he most reason to praise,
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the man himself or his contemporaries for their happiness, seeing that they never leveled false accusation against him for such a reason?
(vii) But let us say no more about my hair, for it has been cut off, and the accusation has been forestalled by the same hatred which inspires the next count, a much more serious one from which I must now defend myself. For it is one calculated to fill not only you, my prince, but Zeus himself with apprehension. For he declares that men regard me as a god, and that those who have been thunderstruck and rendered stark-mad by myself proclaim this tenet in public. And yet before accusing me there are things which they should have informed us of, to wit, by what discourses, or by what miracles of word or deed I induced men to pray to me; for I never talked among Hellenes of the goal and origin of my soul's past and future transformations, although I knew full well what they were; nor did I ever disseminate such opinions about myself; nor came forth with presages and oracular strains, which are the harvest of candidates for divine honors. Nor do I know of a single city in which a decree was passed that the citizens should assemble and sacrifice in honor of Apollonius. And yet I have been much esteemed in the several cities which asked for my aid, whatever the objects were for which they asked it, and they were such as these: that their sick might be healed of their diseases, that both their initiations and their sacrifices might be rendered more holy, that insolence and pride might be extirpated, and the laws strengthened. And whereas the only reward which I obtained in all this was that men were made much better than they were before, they were
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all so many boons bestowed upon yourself by me. For as cow-herds, if they get the cows into good order earn the gratitude of their owners, and as shepherds fatten the sheep for the owner's profit, and as bee-keepers remove diseases from the hive, so that the owner may not lose his swarm, so also I myself, I think, by correcting the defects of their polities, improved the cities for your benefit. Consequently if they did regard me as a god, the deception brought profit to yourself; for I am sure they were the more ready to listen to me, because they feared to do that which a god disapproved of. But in fact they entertained no such illusion, though they were aware that there is between man and God a certain kinship ,which enables him alone of the animal creation to recognize the Gods, and to speculate both about his own nature and the manner in which it participates in the divine substance. Accordingly man declares that his very form resembles God, as it is interpreted by sculptors and painters; and he is persuaded that his virtues come to him from God, and that those who are endowed with such virtues are near to God and divine.
But we need not hail the Athenians as the teachers of this opinion, because they were the first to apply to men the titles of just and Olympic beings and the like, though they are too divine, in all probability, to be applicable to man, but we must mention the Apollo in the Pythian temple as their author. For when Lycurgus from Sparta came to his temple, having just penned his code for the regulation of the affairs of Lacedaemon, Apollo addressed him, and weighed and examined the reputation
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he enjoyed; and at the commencement of his oracle the god declares that he is puzzled whether to call him a god or a man, but as he advances he decides in favor of the former appellation and assigns it to him as being a good man. And yet the Lacedaemonians never forced a lawsuit on this account upon Lycurgus, nor threatened him on the ground that he claimed to be immortal; for he never rebuked the Pythian god for so addressing him, but on the contrary the citizens agreed with the oracle, for I believe they were already persuaded of the fact before ever it was delivered.
And the truth about the Indians and the Egyptians is the following: The Egyptians falsely accuse the Indians of several things and in particular find fault with their ideas of conduct; but though they do so, they yet approve of the account which they have given of the creator of the Universe, and even have taught it to others, though originally it belonged to the Indians. Now this account recognizes God as the creator of all things, who brought them into being and sustains them; and it declares further that his motive in designing was his goodness. Since then these notions are kindred to one another, I carry the argument further and declare that good men have in their composition something of God. And by the universe which depends upon God the creator we must understand things in heaven and all things in the sea and on earth, which are equally open to all men to partake of, though their fortunes are not equal. But there is also a universe dependent on the good man which does not transcend the limits of wisdom, which I imagine you yourself, my prince, will allow stands
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in need of a man fashioned in the image of God. And what is the fashion of this universe? There are undisciplined souls which in their madness clutch at every fashion, and in their eyes laws are out of date and vain; and there is no good sense among them, but the honors which they pay to the gods really dishonor them; and they are in love with idle chatter and luxury which breed idleness and sloth, the worst of all practical advisers. And there are other souls which are drunken and rush in all directions at once, and nothing will repress their antics, nor could do so, even if they drank all the drugs accounted, as the Mandragoras is, to be soporific. Now you need a man to administer and care for the universe of such souls, a god sent down by wisdom. For he is able to wean them from the lusts and passions, which they rush to satisfy with instincts too fierce for ordinary society, and from their avarice, which is such that they deny they have anything at all unless they can hold their mouths open and have the stream of wealth flow into it. For perhaps such a man as I speak of could even restrain them from committing murder; however, neither I myself nor even the God who created all things, can wash off them the guilt of that.
(viii) Let me now, my prince, take the accusation which concerns Ephesus, since the salvation of that city was gained; and let the Egyptian be my judge, according as it best suits his accusation. For this is the sort of thing the accusation is. Let us suppose that among the Scythians or Celts, who live along the river Ister and Rhine, a city has been founded every whit as important as Ephesus in Ionia. Here you have a sally-port of barbarians, who refuse
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to be subject to yourself; let us then suppose that it was about to be destroyed by a pestilence, and that Apollonius found a remedy and averted it. I imagine that a wise man would be able to defend himself even against such a charge as that, unless indeed the sovereign desires to get rid of his adversaries, not by use of arms, but by plague; for I pray, my prince, that no city may ever be wholly wiped out, either to please yourself or to please me, nor may I ever behold in temples a disease to which those who lie sick should succumb in them. But granted that we are not interested in the affairs of barbarians, and need not restore them to health, since they are our bitter enemies, and not at peace with our race; yet who would desire to deprive Ephesus of her salvation, a city which took the basis of its race from the purest Attic source, and which grew in size beyond all other cities of Ionia and Lydia, and stretched herself out to the sea outgrowing the land on which she is built, and is filled with studious people, both philosophers and rhetoricians, thanks to whom the city owes her strength, not to her cavalry, but to the tens of thousands of her inhabitants in whom she encourages wisdom? And do you think that there is any wise man who would decline to do his best in behalf of such a city, when he reflects that Democritus once liberated the people of Abdera from pestilence, and when he bears in mind the story of Sophocles of Athens, who is said to have charmed the winds when they were blowing unseasonably, and who has heard how Empedocles stayed a cloud in its course when it would have burst over the heads of the people of Acragas?
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(ix) The accuser here interrupts me, you hear him yourself do so, my prince, and he remarks that I am not accused for having brought about the salvation of the Ephesians, but for having foretold that the plague would befall them; for this, he says, transcends the power of wisdom and is miraculous, so that I could never have reached such a pitch of truth if I were not a wizard and an unspeakable wretch. What then will Socrates say here of the lore which he declared he learned from his demonic genius? Or what would Thales and Anaxagoras, both Ionians, say, of whom one foretold a plenteous crop of olives, and the other not a few meteorological disturbances? Why, is it not a fact that they were brought before the law-courts upon other charges, but that no one ever heard among their accusations that of their being wizards, because they had the gift of foreknowledge? For that would have been thought ridiculous, and it would not have been a plausible charge to bring against men of wisdom even in Thessaly, where the women had a bad reputation for drawing the moon down to earth.
How then did I get my sense of the coming disaster at Ephesus? You have listened to the statement made even by my accuser, that instead of living like other people, I keep to a light diet of my own, and prefer it to the luxury of others, and I began by saying so myself. This diet, my king, guards my senses in a kind of indescribable ether or clear air, and forbids them to contract any foul or turbid matter, and allows me to discern, as in the sheen of a looking glass, everything that is happening
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or is to be. For the sage will not wait for the earth to send up its exhalations, or for the atmosphere to be corrupted, in case the evil is shed from above; but he will notice these things when they are impending, not so soon indeed as the gods, yet sooner than the many. For the gods perceive what lies in the future, and men what is going on before them, and wise men what is approaching. But I would have you, my prince, ask of me in private about the causes of pestilence; for they are secrets of a wisdom which should not be divulged to the many. Was it then my mode of living which alone develops such a subtlety and keenness of perception as can apprehend the most important and wonderful phenomena? You can ascertain the point in question, not only from other considerations, but in particular from what took place in Ephesus in connection with that plague. For the genius of the pestilence—and it took the form of a poor old man—I both detected, and having detected took it captive: and I did not so much stay the disease as pluck it out. And who the god was to whom I had offered my prayers is shown in the statue which I set up in Ephesus to commemorate the event; and it is a temple of the Heracles who averts disease, for I chose him to help me, because he is the wise and courageous god, who once purged of the plague the city of Elis, by washing away with the river-tide the foul exhalations which the land sent up under the tyranny of Augeas.
Who then do you think, my prince, being ambitious to be considered a wizard, would dedicate his personal achievement to a god? And whom would he get to admire his art, if he gave the credit of the miracle
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to God? And who offer his prayers to Heracles, if he were a wizard? For in fact these wretches attribute such feats to the trenches they dig and to the gods of the under-earth, among whom we must not class Heracles, for he is a pure deity and kindly to men. I offered my prayer to him once on a time also in the Peloponnese, for there was an apparition of a lamia there too; and it infested the neighborhood of Corinth and devoured good-looking young men. And Heracles lent me his aid in my contest with her, without asking of me any wonderful gifts—nothing more than honey-cake and frankincense, and the chance to do a salutary turn to mankind; for in the case of Eurystheus also this was the only guerdon which he thought of for his labors. I would ask you, my prince, not to be displeased at my mention of Heracles; for Athena had him under her care because he was good and kind and a Savior of man.
(x) But inasmuch as you bid me vindicate myself in the matter of the sacrifice, for I observe you beckoning with your hand for me to do so, hear my defense. It shall set the truth before you. In all my actions I have at heart the salvation of mankind, yet I have never offered a sacrifice in their behalf, nor will I ever sacrifice anything, nor touch sacrifices in which there is blood, nor offer any prayer with my eyes fixed upon a knife or the kind of sacrifice that he means. It is no Scythian, my prince, that you have got before you, nor a native of some savage and inhospitable land; nor did I ever mingle with Massagetae or Taurians, for in that case I should have reformed even them and altered their sacrificial custom. But to what depth of folly and inconsequence
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should I have descended if, after talking so much about divination and about the conditions under which it flourishes or does not flourish, I, who understand better than anyone that the gods reveal their intentions to holy and wise men even without their possessing prophetic gifts, made myself guilty of bloodshed, by meddling with the entrails of victims, as unacceptable to myself as they are ill-omened? In that case the revelation of heaven would surely have abandoned me as impure.
However, if we drop the fact that I have a horror of any such sacrifice, and just examine the accuser in respect to the statements which he made a little earlier, he himself acquits me of this charge. For if, as he says, I could foretell the Ephesians the impending pestilence without use of any sacrifice whatever, what need had I of slaying victims in order to discover what lay within my cognizance without offering any sacrifice at all? And what need had I of divination in order to find out things of which I myself was already assured as well as another? For if I am to be put upon my trial on account of Nerva and his companions, I shall repeat what I said to you the day before yesterday when you accused me of such matters. For I regard Nerva as a man worthy of the highest office and of all the consideration that belongs to a good name and fame, but as one ill-calculated to carry through any difficult plan; for his frame is undermined by a disease which fills his soul with bitterness, and incapacitates him even for his home affairs. As to yourself, certainly he admires your vigor of body no less than he admires your judgment; and in doing so I think he is not singular, because men are by nature more
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prone to admire what they themselves lack the strength to do. But Nerva is also animated towards myself by feelings of respect; and I never saw him in my presence laughing or joking as he is accustomed to do among his friends; but like young men towards their fathers and teachers, he observes a reverence in every thing that he says in my presence, nay he even blushes; and because he knows that I appreciate and set so high a value upon modesty, he therefore so sedulously cultivates that quality, as sometimes to appear even to me humbler than beseems him. Who then can regard it as probable that Nerva is ambitious of Empire, when he is only too glad if he can govern his own household; or that a man who has not the nerve to discuss with me the greatest of all, or would concert with me plans which, if he thought like myself, he would not even concert with others? How again could I retain my reputation for wisdom and interpreting a man's judgment, if I believed overmuch in divination, yet wholly distrusted wisdom? As for Orphitus and Rufus, who are just and sensible men though somewhat sluggish, as I well know to be the case, if they that they are under suspicion of aspiring to become despots, I hardly know over which they make the greater mistake, over them or over Nerva; if however they are accused of being his accomplices, then I ask, which you would most readily believe, that Nerva was usurping the throne, or that they had conspired with him.
(xi) I must confess that there are also other points which the accuser who brings me to the bar on these accounts should have entertained and considered:
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[paragraph continues] What sense was there in my aiding these revolutionists? For he does not say that I received any money from them, nor that I was tempted by presents to commit these crimes. But let us consider the point whether I might not have advanced great claims, but have deferred their recognition of them until the time came at which they expected to win the throne, when I might have demanded much and have obtained still more as my due. But how can you prove all this? Call to mind, my prince, your own reign and the reigns of your predecessors, I mean of your own brother, and of your father, and of Nero under whom they held office; for it was under these princes chiefly that I passed my life before the eyes of all, the rest of my time being spent on my visit to India. Well, of these thirty-eight years, for such is the period which has elapsed since then up to your own day, I have never come near the court of princes, except that once in Egypt, and then it was your father's, though he was not at that time actually Emperor; and he admitted that he came there on my account. Nor have I ever uttered anything base or humiliating either to emperors, or in behalf of emperors to peoples; nor have I made a parade of letters either when princes wrote them to me or otherwise by pretending that they wrote; nor have I ever demeaned myself by flattery of princes in order to win their largess. If then after long consideration of rich and poor, you should ask me in which class I register myself, I should say among the very rich, for the fact that I want nothing is worth to me all the wealth of Lydia and of Pactolus. Is it likely then that I who never would take presents from yourself whose
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throne I regarded as perfectly secure, should either have gone cadging to mere pretenders, and have deferred the receipt of my recompense from them until such time as I thought would find them emperors; or that I should plan a change of dynasty, who never once, for purposes of my advancement, resorted to that which was already established? And yet if you want to know how much a philosopher may obtain by flattery of the mighty, you have only got to look at the case of Euphrates. For why do I speak of his having got mere money out of them? Why, he has perfect fountains of wealth, and already at the banks he discusses prices as a merchant might, or a huckster, a tax-gatherer, a low money-changer, for all these roles are his if there is anything to buy or sell; and he clings like a limpet to the doors of the mighty, and you see him standing at them more regularly than any doorkeeper, indeed he has often been shut away by the doorkeepers as greedy dogs are; but he never yet bestowed a farthing upon any philosopher, but he walls up all his wealth within his own house, only supporting this Egyptian out of the money of others, and whetting against me a tongue which ought to have been cut out.
(xii) However I will leave Euphrates to yourself; for unless you approve of flatterers you will find the fellow worse than I depict him; and I only ask you to listen to the rest of my apology. What then is it to be, and from what counts is to defend me? In the act of the accusation, my prince, a regular dirge is chanted over an Arcadian boy, whom I am accused of having cut up by night, perhaps in a dream, for I am sure I do not know. This child is said to be of respectable parentage and to have possessed all the
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good looks which Arcadians wear even in the midst of squalor. They pretend that I massacred him in spite of his entreaties and lamentations, and that after thus imbruing my hands in the blood of this child I prayed the gods to reveal the truth to me. So far they only attack myself in their charges, but what follows is a direct assault upon the gods; for they assert that the gods heard my prayers under such circumstances, and vouchsafed to me victims of good omen, instead of slaying me for my impiety. Need I say, O my prince, it is defiling even to listen to such stuff?
But to confine my pleadings to the counts which affect myself, I would ask who is this Arcadian? For since he was not of nameless parentage, and by no means slave-like in appearance, it is time for you to ask what was the name of those who begot him and of what family he was, and what city in Arcadia had the honor of rearing him, and from what alters he was dragged away in order to be sacrificed here. My accuser does not supply this information, in spite of his ingenuity in the art of lying. Let us then suppose it was only a slave in whose behalf he accuses me. For by heaven, we surely must class among slaves one who had neither name of his own, nor parentage, nor city, nor inheritance, must we not? For not a name is supplied anywhere. In that case who was the slave merchant who sold him? Who was it that bought him from the Arcadians? For if this breed is specially suitable for the butchering kind of diviners, he must surely have purchased the boy for much money. And some messenger must have sailed straight to the Peloponnese in order to fetch this Arcadian and conduct him to us. For though one can buy here on the spot slaves from Pontus or
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[paragraph continues] Lydia or Phrygia—for indeed you can meet whole droves of them being conducted hither, since these like other barbarous races have always been subject to foreign masters, and as yet see nothing disgraceful in servitude; anyhow with the Phrygians it is a fashion even to sell their children, and once they are enslaved, they never think any more about them—yet the Hellenes retain their love of liberty, and no man of Hellas will ever sell a slave out of his country; for which reason kidnappers and slave-dealers never resort thither, least of all Arcadia; for in addition to the fact that they are beyond all other Hellenes jealous of liberty, they also require a great number of slaves themselves. For Arcadia contains a vast expanse of grass land and of timber, which covers not only the highlands, but all the plains as well. Consequently they require a great many laborers, many goat-herds and swineherds, and shepherds and drivers either for the oxen or for the horses; and there is much need in the land of woodcutters, a craft to which they are trained from boyhood. And even if the land of Arcadia were not such as I have described, so that they could in addition afford like other nations to sell their own slaves abroad, what advantage could the wisdom the accuser babbles of derive by getting a child from Arcadia to murder and cut up? For the Arcadians are not so much wiser than other Hellenes, that their entrails should convey more bowel-lore than those of other people. On the contrary they are the most boorish of men, and resemble hogs in other ways and especially that they can stomach acorns.
It is possible that I have conducted my defense on more rhetorical lines than is my custom, in thus
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characterizing the habits of the Arcadians and digressing into the Peloponnese. What however is my right line of defense? This I think: I never sacrificed blood, I do not sacrifice it now, I never touch it, not even if it be shed upon an altar; for this was the rule of Pythagoras and likewise of his disciples, and in Egypt also of the Naked sages, and of the sages of India, from whom these principles of wisdom were derived by Pythagoras and his school. In adhering to this way of sacrifice they do not seem to the gods to be criminal; for the latter suffer them to grow old, sound in body and free from disease, and to increase in wisdom daily, to be free from tyranny of others, to be wanting in nothing. Nor do I think that it is absurd to ask the gods for benefits in exchange for pure sacrifices. For I believe that the gods have the same mind as myself in the matter of sacrifice, and that they therefore place those parts of the earth which grow frankincense in the purest region of the world, in order that we may use their resources for purposes of sacrifice without drawing the knife in their temples or shedding blood upon altars. And yet, it appears, I so far forgot myself and the gods as to sacrifice with rites which are not only unusual with myself, but which no human being would employ.
(xiii) Let me add that the very hour which my accuser alleges acquits me of this charge. For on that day, the day on which he says I committed this crime, I allow that, if I was in the country, I offered sacrifice, and that if I sacrificed, I ate of the victim. And yet, my prince, you repeatedly ask me if I was not staying in Rome at that time? And you too, O best of princes, were staying there; and
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yet you would not on that account admit you offered such a sacrifice; and my false accuser was there likewise, but he will not own on that account that he committed murder, just because he was living in Rome. And the same is the case of thousands of people, whom you would do better to expel as strangers, than expose to acts of accusation, if in these the mere fact of their having been in Rome is to be held to be a proof of their guilt. On the hand, the fact of my coming to Rome is in itself a disproof of the charge of revolutionary plotting; for to live in a city, where there are so many eyes to see and so many ears to hear things which are and which are not, is a serious handicap for anyone who desires to play at revolution, unless he be wholly intent upon his own death. On the contrary it prompts prudent and sensible people to walk slowly even when engaged in wholly permissible pursuits.
(xiv) What then, O sycophant, was I really doing on that night? Suppose I were yourself and was being asked this question, inasmuch as you are come to ask questions, why then the answer would be this: I was trumping up actions against decent and respectable people, and I was trying to ruin the innocent, and to persuade the Emperor by dint of hard lying, in order that while I myself climbed to fame, I might soil him with the blood of my victims. If again you ask me as a philosopher, I was praising the laughter with which Democritus laughed at all human affairs. But if you asked me as being myself, here is my answer: Philiscus of Melos, who was my fellow-pupil in philosophy for four years, was ill at the time; and
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[paragraph continues] I was sleeping out at his house, because he was suffering so terribly that he died of his disease. Ah, many are the charms I would have prayed to obtain, if they could have saved his life. Fain would I have known of any melodies of Orpheus, if any there are, to bring back the dead to us. Nay I verily think I would have made a pilgrimage even to the nether world for his sake, if such things were feasible; so deeply attached was I to him by all his conduct, so worthy of a philosopher and so much in accord with my own ideals. Here are facts, my prince, which you may learn also from Telesinus the consul; for he too was at the bedside of the man of Melos, and nursed him by night like myself. But if you do not believe Telesinus, because he is of the number of philosophers, I call upon the physicians to bear me witness, and they were the following: Seleucus of Cyzicus and Stratocles of Sidon. Ask them whether I tell the truth. And what is more, they had with them over thirty of their disciples, who are ready, I believe, to witness to the same fact; for if I were to summon hither the relatives of Philiscus, you might probably think that I was trying to interpose delays in the case; for they have lately sailed from Rome to the Melian country in order to pay their last sad respects to the dead. Come forward, O ye witnesses, for you have been expressly summoned to give your testimony upon this point."
"With how little regard then for the truth this accusation has been drawn up, is clearly proved by the testimony of these gentlemen; for it appears that it was not in the suburbs, but in the city, not
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outside the wall, but inside a house, not with Nerva, but with Philiscus, not slaying another, but praying for a man's life, not thinking of matters of State, but of philosophy, not choosing a revolutionist to supplant yourself, but trying to save a man like myself.
(xv) What then is the Arcadian doing in this case? What becomes of the absurd stories of victims slain? What is the use of urging you to believe such lies? For what never took place will be real, if you decide that it did take place. And how, my prince, are you to rate the improbability of the sacrifice? For of course there have been long ago soothsayers skilled in the art of examining slain victims, for example I can name Megistias of Acarnania, Aristandrus of Lycia, and Silanus who was a native of Ambracia, and of these the Acarnanian was sacrificer to Leonidas the king of Sparta, and the Lycian to Alexander of Macedonia, and Silanus to Cyrus the Pretender; and supposing there had been found stored in the entrails of a human being some information truer or more profound or surer than usual, such a sacrifice was not difficult to effect; inasmuch as there were kings to preside over it, who had plenty of cup-bearers at their disposal, besides plenty of prisoners of war as victims; and moreover these monarchs could violate the law with impunity, and they had no fear of being accused, in case they committed so small a murder. But I believe, these persons had the same conviction which I also entertain, who am now in risk of my life of such accusation, namely that the entrails of animals which we slay while they are ignorant of death, are for that reason, and just because the animals lack all understanding of
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what they are about to suffer, free from disturbance. A human being however has constantly in his soul the apprehension of death, even when it does not as yet impend; how therefore is it likely that when death is already present and stares him in the face, he should be able to give any intimation of the future through his entrails, or be a proper subject for sacrifice at all?
In proof that my conjecture is right and consonant with nature, I would ask you, my prince, to consider the following points. The liver, in which adepts at this art declare the tripod of their divination to reside, is on the one hand not composed of pure blood, for all unmixed blood is retained by the heart which through the blood-vessels sends it flowing as if through canals over the entire body; the bile on the other hand lies over the liver, and whereas it is excited by anger, it is on the other hand driven back by fear into the cavities of the liver. Accordingly if, on the one hand, it is caused to effervesce by irritants, and ceases to be able to contain itself in its own receptacle, it overflows the liver which underlies it, in which case the mass of bile occupies the smooth and prophetic parts of the bowels; on the other hand, under the influence of fear and panic it subsides, and draws together into itself all the light which resides in the smooth parts; for in such cases even that pure element in the blood recedes to which the liver owes its spleen-like look and distension, because the blood in question by its nature drains away under the membrane which encloses the entrails and floats upon the muddy surface. Of what use then, my
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prince, is it to slay a human victim, if the sacrifice is going to furnish no presage? And human nature does render such rites useless for purposes of divination, because it has a sense of impending death; and dying men themselves meet their end, if with courage, then also with anger, and, if with despondency, then also with fear. And for this reason the art of divination, except in the case of the most ignorant savages, while recommending the slaying of kids and lambs, because these animals are silly and not far removed from being insensible, does not consider cocks an pigs and bulls worthy vehicles of its mysteries, because these creatures have too much spirit. I realize, my prince, that my accuser chafes at my discourse, because I find so intelligent a listener in yourself, for indeed you seem to me to give your attention to my discourse; and if I have not clearly enough explained any point in it, I will allow you to ask me any questions about it.
(xvi) I have then answered this Egyptian's act of accusation; but since I do not think I ought altogether to pass by the slanders of Euphrates, I would ask you, my prince, to judge between us, and decide which of us is more of a philosopher. Well then, whereas he strains every nerve to tell lies about myself, I disdain to do the like about him; and whereas he looks upon you as a despot, I regard you as a constitutional ruler; and while he puts the sword into your hand for use against me, I merely supply you with argument.
But he makes the basis of his accusation the discourses which I delivered in Ionia, and he says that they contain matter much to your disadvantage. And yet what I said concerned the topic of the
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[paragraph continues] Fates and of Necessity, and I only used as an example of my arguments the affairs of kings, because of your rank is thought to be the highest of human ranks; and I dwelt upon the influence of the Fates, and argued that the threads which they spin are so unchangeable, that, even if they decreed to someone a kingdom which at the moment belonged to another, and even it that other slew the man of destiny, to save himself from ever being deprived by him of his throne, nevertheless the dead man would come to life again in order to fulfill the decree of the Fates. For we employ hyperbole in our arguments in order to convince those who will not believe in what is probable, and it is just as if I had used such an example as this: He who is destined to become a carpenter, will become one even if his hands have been cut off: and he who has been destined to carry off the prize for running in the Olympic games, will not fail to win even if he broke his leg: and a man to whom the Fates have decreed that he shall be an eminent archer, will not miss the mark, even though he has lost his eyesight. And in drawing examples from Royalty I had reference I believe to the Acrisii and the house of Laïus, and to Astyages the Mede, and to many other monarchs who thought that they were well-established in their kingdoms, and of whom some slew their own children as they imagined and others their descendants, and yet were subsequently deprived by them of their thrones when they issued forth from obscurity in accordance with the decrees of fate. Well, if I were inclined to flattery, I should have said that I had your own history in my mind, when you were
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blockaded in this city by Vitellius, and the temple of Jupiter was burnt on the brow of the hill overlooking the city, and Vitellius declared that his own fortune was assured, so long as you did not escape him, this although you were at the time quite a stripling and not the man you are now; and yet, because the Fates had decreed otherwise, he was undone with all this counsels, while you are now in possession of his throne. However, since I abhor the concords of flattery, for it seems to me that they are everything that is out of time and out of tune, let me cut the string out of my lyre, and request you to consider that on that occasion I had not your fortunes in my mind, but was talking exclusively of questions of the Fates and of Necessity for it was in speaking of them that they accused me of having assailed yourself. And yet such an argument as mine is tolerated by most of the gods; and even Zeus himself is not angry when he hears from the poet in "the story of Lycia" this language:—
And there are other such strains referring to himself, such as those in which he declares that he yields the cause of his son to the Fates; and in the weighing of souls again the poets tell you that, although after his death he presented Minos the brother of Sarpedon with a golden scepter, and appointed him judge in the court of Aidoneus, yet he could not exempt him from the decree of the Fates. And you, my prince, why should you resent my argument when the gods put up with it, whose fortunes are
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forever fixed and assured, and who never slew poets on that account? For it is our duty to follow the Fates and obey them, and not take offense with the changes of fortune, and to believe in Sophocles when he says:—
No man ever put the truth so well. For the prosperity of men runs in a circle, and the span of happiness, my prince, lasts for a single day. My prosperity belongs to another and his to another, and his again to a third; and each in having hath not. Think of this, my prince, and put a stop to your decrees of exile, stay the shedding of blood, and have recourse to philosophy in your wishes and plans; for true philosophy feels no pangs. And in doing so wipe away men's tears; for at present echoes reach us from the sea of a thousand sighs, and they are redoubled from the continents, where each laments over his peculiar sorrows. Thence is bred an incalculable crop of evils, all of them due directly to slanderous tongues of informers, who render all men objects of hatred to yourself, and yourself, O prince, to all."
2:299:1 I translate the same word σοφός in this passage by liberal, wise, and clever according to the context.