The Treatise of Eusebius Against the Life of Apollonius by Philostratus, by Eusebius, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
CHAP XI. His visits to the MagiAnd in just keeping with his visits to the Arabians were the studies he undertook among the Persians also, according to the account given by the same author. For after forbidding Damis, so we are told, to go to the magi, though Damis was his only pupil and companion, he went alone to school with them at midday and about midnight; alone in order not to have as his companion in the study of magic one who was clearly without a taste for such things. And again when he came to converse with Vardan the Babylonian king, it is related that he addressed him as follows: "My system of wisdom is that of He professed the wisdom of PythagorasPythagoras, a man of Samos, who taught me to worship the gods in this way and to recognize them, whether they are seen or unseen, and to be regular in converse with the gods." Who can possibly allow
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this to be true of him, seeing that Pythagoras himself has left no scripture of the kind, nor any secret writings, such that we can even suspect him to have had such resources at his disposal? As for his teacher of the Pythagorean philosophy, it is testified that he was in no way better than the Epicureans by Philostratus himself, who speaks of him as follows: "He had as a teacher of the system of Pythagoras not a very good man, nor one who put his philosophy into practice; for he was the slave of his belly and his desires and modelled his life on that of Epicurus. And this man was Euxenus of Heraclea in Pontus. But he had a good acquaintance with the tenets of Pythagoras, just as birds have of what they learn to say from men." He learned from no follower of PythagorasWhat ridiculous nonsense to pretend that Apollonius can have derived from this man, his gift of conversing with the gods. But let us for the moment admit that there were other expounders of the system from whom he may have learned, although the author anyhow gives no hint of any such thing. Still we must ask: was there then ever any one of these teachers that professed either to know himself, by having learnt from Pythagoras personally, or to teach others, how to recognize and frequent in their conversations gods, whether seen or unseen? Why, even the famous Plato, although more than anyone else he shared in the philosophy of Pythagoras, and Archytas too, and Philolaus the one man who has handed down to us in writing the conversations of Pythagoras, and any others who were disciples of the philosopher and have handed down to his posterity his opinions and tenets in writing,none of these ever boasted of any such form of wisdom. It follows then that he learnt
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these things not from Pythagoras, but from other sources; and with a wilful affectation of solemnity he only labels himself with the philosopher's name. But admitting, though it is against all probability, that he is not lying, but telling the truth, we are still at a loss to know, how he can pretend to have acquired this lore from the Samian himself above mentioned, inasmuch as the latter deceased some thousand years before him. Therefore we must reckon besides the Arabians this teacher also who communicated to him a knowledge of the gods of so mysterious character as he imagines this to be. If then he was of a divine nature, it follows that the story of his teachers is a pure fiction. On the other hand if the story was true, then the legend was false, and the allegation in the book that he was divine is devoid of all truth.
CHAP XII Eusebius will accept all that is probableI have no wish to enquire curiously about the ghost of Proteus, or to ask for confirmation of it, nor to demand proof of his ridiculous story that swans surrounded his mother and assisted her to bring him into the world; equally little do I ask him to produce evidence of his fairy-tale about the thunderbolt; for as I said before he cannot anyhow claim the authority of Damis for these particulars, inasmuch as the latter joined him much later on in the city of Nineveh of Assyria. I am however quite ready to accept all that is probable and has an air of truth about it, even though such details may be somewhat exaggerated and highly-coloured out of
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compliment to a good man; for I could still bring myself to accept them, as long as they are not bewilderingly wonderful and full of nonsense. I do not therefore mind the author telling us that Apollonius was of an ancient family and lineally descended from the first settlers, and was rich, if it were so, beyond all other people of that region; and that when he was young he not only had the distinguished teachers mentioned, but, if he likes, I will allow that he became himself their teacher and master in learning. I grant too, in addition, that he was skilful in ordinary matters, and so was able by giving the best of advice to rid of his malady one who had come to the temple of Asclepius in order to be healed. For we read that he suggested to a man afflicted with dropsy a régime of abstinence well suited to cure his disease, and in that way restored him to health: and so far we must needs commend the youthful Apollonius for his good sense. On another occasion he very properly excluded from the temple a man who was notorious for his wickedness, although he was prepared to offer the most expensive sacrifices, for he represents the man in question as the richest and most distinguished of all the people of his region. Nor would anyone object to his being classed among the temperate, inasmuch as he repelled with insults a lover who designed to corrupt his youth, and also, as the narrative informs us, kept himself throughout pure of intercourse with women.
We can also believe the story of his keeping silence for five years in the spirit of Pythagoras; and the way moreover in which he accomplished this vow of silence was praiseworthy. All this and the like
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is merely human, and in no way incongruous with philosophy or with truth, and I can therefore accept it, because I set a very high value upon candour and love of truth. Nevertheless to suppose that he was a being of superhuman nature, and then to contradict this supposition at a moment's warning, and to forget it almost as soon as it is madethis I regard as reprehensible and calculated to fasten a suspicion not only on the author, but yet more on the subject of his memoir.
CHAP. XIII Criticisms of the second book of PhilostratusThese particulars we have taken from the first book of Philostratus; and let us now go on to consider the contents of the second. The story takes him on his travels and brings him from Persia to India. He next shows a want of good taste by relating, as if it were a miracle, how Apollonius and his companions saw some sort of demon, to which he gives the name of Empusa, along the road, and of how they drove it away by dint of abuse and bad words. And we learn that when some animals were offered them for food, he told Damis that he was quite willing to allow him and his companions to eat the flesh, for as far as he could see their abstinence from meat had in no way advanced their moral development, though in his own case it was imposed by the philosophic profession he had made in childhood. And yet is it not incredible to anyone that he should not have hindered Damis, as his best friend, and as the only disciple and follower of his life that he had, and the
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only one whom he was trying to convert to his philosophy, that he should not, I repeat, have tried to hinder him from consuming the flesh of living animals, that being an unholy food according to Pythagoras, and that instead of doing so, he should tell him for reasons inexplicable to me that it will do no good to himself, and admit that he saw no moral advantage in them produced by such abstinence?
CHAP. XIVIn the next place I would have you notice what sort of samples of truth are set before us by this Philostratus to whose truthfulness Hierocles the self-styled Lover of Truth bears witness. For we are told that when Apollonius was among the Indians, he employed an interpreter, and through him held the conversation with Phraotes, for that was the name of the king of the Indians. Thus he, who just before, according to Philostratus, had an understanding of all languages, now on the contrary, according to the same witness, is in need of an interpreter. And again, he who read the thoughts of men, and almost like their god Apollo
has to ask, by means of an interpreter, what was the king's way of life, and he asks him to supply him with a guide on his journey to the Brahmans. And after an interval the other, who is king of the Indians, and a barbarian to boot, gets rid of the interpreter, and addresses Apollonius in Greek; and speaking in that language details to him his education and
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his wealth of learning. But Apollonius none the less neglected on this occasion to display, as he should have done, his own perfect acquaintance with their tongue.
CHAP. XV Eusebius ridicules the prescience of ApolloniusOn the contrary he is astonished to find the Indian talking Greek, as Philostratus consistently, it would seem, with himself, tells us in his book. For how could he be astonished thereat, unless he had regarded him as a barbarian? And in spite of his having admired him for what he was, he could never have expected him to talk Greek. In the sequel, as if he were astonished at some exhibition of the miraculous and were still unable to explain it, Apollonius says: "Tell me, O king, how you came to have such facility in the Greek tongue? And where did you get hereabouts the philosophy you possess? For I do not think that you can say you owe it to teachers anyhow, for it is not likely that the Indians have any teachers of this." Such are the wonderful utterances to which one, whose prescience included everything, gives vent; and the king answers them by saying that he had had teachers, and he tells him who they were, and relates all the particulars of his own history on his father's side.
Next we are told that the Indian had to judge between certain parties about a treasure which had been hunted up in a field, the question at issue being whether this field ought to be assigned to the seller or buyer of the place. Our supreme philosopher and darling of heaven is asked his opinion, and awards it to the purchaser, assigning his reason in these words:
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[paragraph continues] "That the gods would never have deprived the one of the land, if he had not been a bad man; nor would ever have given the other riches under the soil, unless he had been better than the seller." We must conclude then, if we are to believe him, that men who are comfortably off and richer than their neighbours, are to be esteemed thrice happy and beloved of the gods, even though they should be the most shameless and abandoned of mankind; on the other hand only the poorest, say, even a Socrates, or a Diogenes, or the famous Pythagoras himself, or any other of the most temperate and fairest-minded of men, are to be esteemed ill-starred wretches. For if one follows the reasoning here used, one must allow that on its showing the gods would never have deprived the poor, that is to say, the very men who excel others, if judged by the standard of philosophy, even of a bare living and of the necessities of life, unless they had been utterly vile in character, and at the same time they have endowed those who are abandoned in their character with a plenty even of things that were not necessary to them, unless they proved themselves better than the others just mentioned; from which the absurdity of the conclusion is manifest to everyone.
CHAP. XVI Absurdities in the third bookAfter setting before you these incidents out of the second book, let us pass on to the third, and consider the stories told of the far-famed Brahmans. For here we shall have to admit that the tales of Thule, and any other miraculous legends ever invented
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by any story-tellers, turn out to be by comparison with these quite reliable and perfectly true. It is anyhow worth our while to examine these, because this self-styled lover of truth has not scrupled to fasten on ourselves a charge of reckless credulity and levity of character, while claiming for himself and for those like him an accurate judgment, well based on an understanding of the fact. Note then the sort of miracles on which he prides himself, when he prefers Philostratus to our own divine evangelists, on the ground that he was not only a most highly educated man, but most attentive to the truth.
CHAP XVII Ridicules the tales of the BrahmansTo begin with then, on the way to the Brahmans, Philostratus introduces us to a lady who met Apollonius, and who, from her head down to her loins, was wholly white in colour, while the rest of her person was black. The mountains again, as they went forward on the road to the Brahmans, were planted with pepper trees, and the apes cultivated the same; and then there were certain dragons of extraordinary size, from whose heads were thrown off sparks of fire, and if you slew one of them, he says that you found marvellous stones upon the head rivalling the gem of Gyges, as mentioned in Plato. And all this was before they reached the hill on which the Brahmans lived. And when they reached this, we read that they saw there a well of sandarac, full of wonderful water, and hard by a crater of fire, from which there arose a lead-coloured flame; and
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there were two jars there of black stone, the one of which contained rain, and the other winds, from which the Brahmans supply such people of the country as they are pleased to favour. Besides this they found among them images of Athene Polias and of Apollo Pythius, and of Dionysus of the Lake and of certain other Hellenic gods. And the master of them all was named Iarchas, and they saw him sitting on a very lofty throne in a state of pomp that was far from philosophic, but rather appropriate to a satrap. And this throne was made of black bronze and was decorated with golden images, such as we might of course expect philosophers to fabricate when they take to working like base mechanics at forge and steel, even if they do not like conjurers make their handiwork to move by itself. But the thrones upon which the rest of them, who were inferior teachers to him, were sitting, were, he says, of bronze, but not incised and not so high. For I suppose they could not help bestowing upon the teacher of so divine a philosophy the privilege of having images and gold on his throne, just as if he were a tyrant.
CHAP. XVIII Prescience and pride of IarchasAnd we are told that Iarchas, the moment he saw Apollonius, addressed him by name in the Greek tongue, and asked him for the letter which he brought from Phraotes, for he had already received this by dint of his foreknowledge; and by way of parading the inspired character of his prescience, he told him before he set eyes on the epistle, that it was one letter short, namely of a delta; and he began
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at once in a vulgar manner in that very first interview, like a man who has got wealth for the first time and does not know how to use it, to show off his superiority as a seer, by running off the names of Apollonius father and mother, and telling him all about his family and upbringing and education, and about his periodical voyages abroad, and about his journey thither to himself, and about what he had done himself or said to his companions on the road. And next this wonderful author tells us that the Brahmans, after anointing themselves together with Apollonius with an amber-like drug, took a bath, and then standing round as if in chorus, struck the earth with their staves, and the earth arched itself up and elevated them some two cubits into the air, so that they stood there levitated up in the air itself for some considerable length of time. And he relates that they drew down fire from the sun without any effort on their part and whenever they chose. And the miracle-monger adds another marvel to these, when he tells that there were four tripods like those of Pytho which wheeled themselves forth, moving of their own accord; and he goes so far as to compare these to the tripods in Homer, and he says that there were set upon them cup-bearers to serve in the banquet, four in number and made of bronze. And in addition he tells us that the earth too strewed grass beneath them of her own accord and unasked. And of these tripods two, he says, ran with wine, and of the other two, the one supplied hot water and the other cold. And the cup-bearers of bronze drew for the guests in due mixture both the wine and the water, and pushed round the cups in a circle, just as they are handed round in a symposium.
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CHAP. XIX Credulity of HieroclesSuch are the stories which Hierocles, who has, been entrusted to administer the supreme courts of justice all over the province, finds true and reliable after due enquiry, at the same time that he condemns us for our excessive credulity and frivolity; and after himself believing such things when he finds them in Philostratus, he proceeds to brag about himself and says (I quote his very words): "Let us anyhow observe how much better and more cautiously we accept such things, and what opinion we hold of men gifted with such powers and virtues."
CHAP XX Drinking bouts of the BrahmansIt was after such a symposium, according to the same Philostratus, that a king who was sojourning in India is introduced to drink with the philosophers; and we hear that he took occasion to insult philosophy with drunken jests, and that he got so tipsy in their presence as to hurl defiance at the Sun and brag about himself. All this we learn, and that Apollonius once more, by means of an interpreter, learned his history from him and conversed in turn with him, Iarchas interpreting between them. Surely it may well excite our wonder that so insolent a fellow and so great a buffoon was allowed to get drunk and show off his tipsy wit among such great philosophers, when he was unworthy even to be present at a meeting of philosophers, much less at the hearth of men who were equal to gods? But what possesses me to call them the peers of gods and
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chaff them about their dignity? Why, when Apollonius asked them whom they considered themselves to be, The peers the gods."Gods," answered Iarchas; who, I suppose in his quality as god, as little as could be in the style of philosopher, save the mark, nay, surely betraying an equally scant respect for the dignity of the god whom he professed himself to be, set the example of drinking to his fellow-banqueters by stooping down over the bowl, which, as our author is careful to tell us, supplied plenty of drink for all of them, and refreshed itself, as do holy and mysterious well for those who fill their pitchers from them.