The Treatise of Eusebius Against the Life of Apollonius by Philostratus, by Eusebius, tr. F.C. Conybeare, , at sacred-texts.com
CHAP. XXI Folly of questions asked in India by ApolloniusAfter this there was general conversation and some serious discussion among the philosophers, in the course of which Iarchas explained that his own soul had once been in the body of another man who was a king, and that in that state he had performed this and that exploit; while Apollonius told them that he had once been the pilot of a ship in Egypt, and had accomplished all sorts of exploits which he enumerated to them. Then they put questions to each other, and received answers, which in the name of wisdom have scant title to be recorded at all. Thus we learn that Apollonius asked if they had any golden water among them. What a clever and marvellous question! And he also asked about men who live underground, and about others called pigmies, and shadow-footed men, and he asked if they had among them a four-footed animal called a martichora, which has a head like that of a man, but
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rivals a lion in size, while from its tail projects hairs like thorns a cubit long, which it is accustomed to shoot out like arrows at those who hunt it. Such then were the questions which Apollonius put to the sages, and Iarchas instructed him about the pigmies, and told him that they were indeed people dwelling underground, but spent their lives on the other side of the river Ganges; but as to the other things which he asked about, Iarchas said that they never had existed at all.
CHAP. XXII Silly tales of the BrahmansAfter that Philostratus described a wool which the earth grew for them to supply material for their dress, from which we must infer that these philosophers plied the loom and occupied themselves with spinning wool in order to make their raiment, for we do not hear of any woman being smuggled into their community; but perhaps he means that by a miracle the wool grew of its own initiative into their sacred garments. And we hear that each of them carried a staff and a ring which was imbued with mysterious power. Eusebius doubts the miracles of healing wrought by IarchasThere follow a series of miraculous performances on the part of the Brahman,how for example he recalled to his senses by means of a letter one who was possessed with a demon, how by stroking a man who was lame he healed his dislocated hip, how he vouchsafed to restore a man's hand that was withered, and to a blind man gave sight. Our blessings on an author who saves us so much trouble. Can we doubt that these stories are true, when his very insistence on
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the truth of his earlier tales, I refer to those of lightning and wind kept in jars, and of tripods of stone walking about of their own accord and of cup-bearers of bronze passing round the cups in a circle, fully betrays and exposes the mythical character of everything else which he has to tell us. Philostratus moreover declares that Damis related how carefully Apollonius excluded himself from being present at the philosophical sessions which he held with Iarchas; and he says that Apollonius was given by the latter seven rings which were called after the stars, and that he wore these one by one upon the days respectively called by their names.
Though we learn this much on this occasion from a gentleman who is esteemed by the Lover of Truth to have had a respect for facts, further on in his book, as if by way of condemning the wizardry of the Brahmans, and as if he was anxious to acquit Apollonius of the charge of having dabbled therein, he adds the following remark, which I repeat textually: "But when he saw among the Indians the tripods and the cup-bearers and the other figures which I have said entered of their own accord, he did not either ask how they were contrived, or desire to learn; but although he praised them, he disclaimed any wish to imitate them." And how, my good fellow, did he disclaim any wish of the kind? Is this the man who was careful to exclude Damis from the philosophical seances he held with them, and who thought it his duty to conceal from his only companion all that he had done in those seances? And how could he have disclaimed any wish to imitate them when he accepted the seven rings named after the stars, and held it needful to wear these all through the
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rest of his life upon the days severally named after them, and that although, as you say yourself, they had a secret power in them. Even if we grant that he did not aspire to imitate these inventions, it is clear that his disclaimer was not due to their being uncanny. How then could he praise things which he disdained to imitate? If he praised them, as being divinely operated, why did he not imitate things so praiseworthy? To crown all, on his return after he had stayed with them, we learn that he arrived with his companions at the country of the Oritae, where he found the rocks and the sand and the dust which the rivers bring down to the sea, all alike made of bronze.
CHAP. XXIII The predictions of ApolloniusAll this is contained in the third book of Philostratus, and let us now pass on to those which follow. We learn that when he had returned from the country of the Indians to the land of Hellas, the gods themselves proclaimed him to be the companion of the gods, inasmuch as they sent on to him the sick to be healed. And, indeed, as if his visit to the Arabs and to the Magi and to the Indians had turned him into some miraculous and divine being, our author, now that he has got him home again, plunges straight into a lengthy description of his miracles. And yet one might fairly argue that if he had been of a diviner than merely human nature, then he ought long before, and not only now, after entering into relation with other teachers, to have begun his career of wonder-working; and it was
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superfluous for him to take so much trouble to acquire the multifarious lore of Arabs and of Magi and of Indians, if he was really what the initial assumption made by Philostratus assumes him to have been. But anyhow, according to this truth-loving author, we have now got him back again, ready to show off the wisdom which he has acquired from so great masters; and as one fresh from Arabia and equipped with the science of augury in vogue among the inhabitants of that country, he begins by interpreting to the bystanders what the sparrow wanted and intended when it summoned its fellows to their dinner. Next he has a presentiment of the plague in Ephesus, and warns the citizens of what is coming. And he himself sets before us in his Apology to Domitian the explanation of this presentiment. For when the latter asked him what was the ground of his prediction, he answered: "Because, my prince, I use a very light diet, I was the first to scent the danger."
Story of the Ephesian plagueAnd then he relates a third miracle of him, which was nothing less than that of his averting the plague. Although the author has been careful not to include this story in the final counts retained against Apollonius, probably because it was impossible for him to rebut a charge founded upon it by any defence which he could offer, we nevertheless will, if you will allow us, publish the story and give it full publicity, because our doing so will render needless any further criticism of it. For if anybody feels the shadow of doubt about the matter, the very manner in which the story is told will convince him that fraud and make-believe was in this case everything, and that if
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ever anything reeked of wizardry this did. For he pretends that the plague was seen in the form of an aged man, a beggar and dressed in rags; who, when Apollonius ordered the mob to stone him, began by shooting fire from his eyes, but afterwards, when he had been overwhelmed by the stones thrown at him, he appeared as a dog all crushed and vomiting foam, as mad dogs do. And he writes that Apollonius mentioned this episode also in the defence he addressed to the autocrat Domitian, as follows: "For the form of the plagueand it resembled an aged beggarwas both seen by me, and when I saw it I overcame it, not by staying the course of the disease, but by utterly destroying it." Who, I would ask, after reading this would not laugh heartily at the miracle-mongering of this thaumaturge? For we learn that the nature of the plague was a living creature and as such exposed at once to the eyes of the bystanders and to the showers of stones they hurled at it, and that it was crushed by men, and vomited foam, when all the time a plague is nothing in the world but a corruption and vitiation of the atmosphere, the circumambient air being changed into a morbid condition composed of noxious and evil exhalations, as medical theory teaches us. And on other grounds, too, this story of the phantom plague can be exploded; for the story tells us that it only afflicted the city of Ephesus, and did not visit the neighbouring populations; and how could this not have been the case, if the surrounding atmosphere had undergone vitiation? for the infection could not have been confined to one spot, nor have beset the air of Ephesus alone.
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CHAP XXIV The ghost of AchillesThe fourth wonder which he relates is how the soul of Achilles appeared close by his own sepulchre, dressed the first time in a tunic, and five cubits high, and subsequently growing till it was twelve cubits in stature, and accusing the Thessalians for not continuing according to custom to offer him the due funeral rites, and furthermore still nursing wrath against the Trojans for the wrongs which they had committed against him, and bidding Apollonius ask him questions on five topics, such as he himself might desire to learn about, and the Fates permit him to know of. We next learn that the omniscient one, who boasted of his prescience of future events, was still ignorant of whether Achilles had been buried, and of whether the Muses and Nereids had bestowed their dirges upon him. And accordingly he asked Achilles about these matters, and enquires most earnestly whether Polyxena had been slain over his tomb, and whether Helen had really come to Troy,questions surely of a most solemn kind, and such as to stimulate others to lead the philosophical life of the hero, besides being in themselves of much importance. Thereupon he falls to wondering if there had ever been among the Hellenes so many heroes all at one time, and whether Palamedes had ever reached Troy. Surely it was disgraceful in the extreme that one who was the companion of gods, whether seen or unseen, should know so little of such matters as to need to ask questions again and again about them? Unless, indeed, because in this scene he is introduced as associating with the dead, the
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author intentionally gives a frigid turn to his questions, in order to avert the suspicion of his having irreligiously pryed into the secrets of magic. For we may notice he represents him as arguing in his Apology that there was no colour of necromancy in the manner in which the spectre appeared to him, and says: "For without digging any trench like Odysseus, and without tempting the souls of the dead with the blood of lambs, I managed to converse with Achilles, merely by using the prayers which the Indians declare we ought to make use of in addressing heroes." This is how Apollonius now brags to his companion, although our author testifies that he had learned nothing from the Indians nor felt attracted by their wisdom.
CHAP. XXV Eusebius suggests that an evil spirit appeared to ApolloniusWhat then is the reason, my good fellow, supposing that there was no devilish curiosity here at work, why he would not allow Damis, whom you admit to have been his sole and genuine and single companion, to share with him in this marvellous vision and interview? And why, too, was he not able to do all this by daytime, instead of doing it in the dead of night and alone? Why, too, did the mere cry of the cocks drive away the soul of the hero? For he says, "It vanished with a mild flash of lightning, for indeed the cocks were already beginning to crow." I cannot but think that evil demons would have found such an hour seasonable and appropriate for their devilish interviews, rather than the soul of a hero which, having been freed from the
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crass matter of the body, must necessarily be good and unsullied. In any case the demon conjured up on this occasion is represented as of a malignant and envious disposition, both rancorous and mean in humour. For how else can we characterise one who drove away Antisthenes, a poor youth so serious that he was endeavouring to become a follower of the philosopher Apollonius? For Achilles insists that he shall not initiate him in his philosophy, and he adds the reason: "For," says he, "he is too much of a descendant of Priam, and the praise of Hector is never out of his mouth." And how could he be other than rancorous and mean, if he was wrath with the Thessalians for not sacrificing to him, and still refused to be reconciled, to the Trojans, because thousands of years before they had sinned against him, and that although the latter were continually sacrificing and pouring out libations to him? The only exception is that he ordered Apollonius to restore the tomb of Palamedes, which together with his statue had fallen into decay.
CHAP. XXVIThe fifth and sixth miracles however in this book do not stand in need of much argument and discussion, so thoroughly do they prove our writer's easy credulity. For Apollonius, as they say, drives out one demon with the help of another. The first of the demons is expelled from an incorrigible youth, while the second disguises itself by assuming the form of a woman: and the latter our clever author
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The girl raised from the dead in Romecalls by no other names than those of Empusa and Lamia. As for the damsel whom he is said subsequently to have brought back again to life in Rome after she had died, the story clearly impressed Philostratus himself as being extremely incredible, and we may safely reject it. Anyhow he hesitates and doubts, whether after all a spark of life might have not lingered on in the girl unnoticed by her attendants. For he says that according to report "it was raining at the time, and a vapour exhaled from the face of the girl." Anyhow if such a miracle had really been wrought in Rome itself, it could not have escaped the notice first of the emperor and after him of his subordinate magistrates, and least of all of the philosopher Euphrates who at the time was in the country and was staying in Rome, who indeed, as we learn later on, is related to have launched against Apollonius the accusation of being no other than a wizard. It would certainly too, had it actually occurred, have been included by the accuser among the other charges levelled against him. Well, just these and no more are the more particular and special achievements of Apollonius, although there are a myriad other cases in the book in which his Booth-sayings and prophecies are set down to his gift of foreknowledge; and we learn that at Athens, when he desired to be initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, the priest there would not admit him, and declared that he would never initiate a wizard nor throw open the Eleusinian mysteries to a man who was addicted to impure rites. We also hear about a lewd fellow who went begging about Rome, rehearsing the songs of Nero on his lyre for pay; and we are told that
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this most philosophic of teachers out of fear of Nero ordered his companions to bestow alms on him in recognition of his clever accomplishments.
CHAP. XXVII The charge of wizardry trueSuch are the contents of the fourth book, and in the fifth book of his history, after a few remarks about his gift of prescience, our author is so lost in admiration as to add the following remark, which I repeat textually. "That then he was enabled to make such forecasts by some divine impulse, and that it is no sound inference to suppose, as some people do, that Apollonius was a wizard, is clear from what I have said. But let us consider the following facts: wizards, whom for my part I reckon to be the most unfortunate of mankind, claim to alter the course of destiny, either by tormenting the ghosts whom they encounter, or by means of barbaric sacrifices, or by means of certain incantations or anointings. But Apollonius himself submitted to the decrees of the Fates, and foretold that they must needs come to pass; and his foreknowledge was not due to wizardry, but derived from what the gods revealed to him. And when among the Indians he beheld their tripods, and their dumb waiters and other automata which I described as entering the room of their own accord, he neither asked how they were contrived, nor wished to learn. He only praised them, but did not aspire to imitate them." Such a passage as the above clearly exhibits in the light of wizards the famous philosophers of India.
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[paragraph continues] For notice that when he is arguing about wizards, he mentions them too and says that their marvels were cleverly contrived indeed, but that his hero held himself carefully aloof from such their contrivances, on the ground that they were not moral. If therefore we find Apollonius calling these Indians gods, and enrolling himself as their disciple, we have no alternative but to bring him also under the imputation under which his teachers lay. And accordingly he is introduced as saying among the so-called Naked sages of the Egyptians, the following,I quote his very words: "It is then not unreasonable on my part, I think, to have yielded myself to a philosophy so highly elaborated, to a philosophy which, if I may use a metaphor from the stage, the Indians mount, as it deserved to be mounted, upon a lofty and divine mechanism before they wheel it out upon the stage. And that I was right to admire them, and that I am right in considering them wise and blessed, it is now time to learn." And after a little he says: "For they are not only gods, but are adorned with all the gifts of the Pythian prophetess." And he is introduced to Domitian with these words on his lips: "What war have you with Iarchas or with Phraotes, both of them Indians, whom I consider to be the only men that are really gods and that deserve this appellation?" And there are other passages also in which this history of Philostratus recognises the persons above mentioned as gods and teachers of the sage, and admits him to have accepted rings from them, but now he forgets all about it, and does not see that in maligning the teachers, he maligns the disciple.
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CHAP. XXVIII Apollonius the kingmakerAnd a little lower down in the book he brings a flute-player upon the stage, and he relates at length how Apollonius delivered himself with great gravity of long essays upon the different modes of playing the flute, as if it were the most important and clever of the sciences. And he relates how the Emperor Vespasian offered him prayers just as if he were a god, for we learn that Vespasian said in a tone of prayer: "Do thou make me Emperor," whereupon Apollonius answered: "I have made you so." What else can anyone do but loathe this utterance for its boastfulness, so nearly does it approach downright madness, for one who was the pilot of a ship in Egypt to boast of being himself a god already and a maker of kings? For Apollonius himself has informed us a little before in the course of his conversation with the Indian that his soul had previously been that of a pilot.
CHAP. XXIX Relations with EuphratesAnd to the same Emperor, when the latter asks him to notify to him those whom he most approved of among philosophers as advisers and counsellors of his policy, Apollonius replies in these words: "'These gentlemen here are also good advisers in such matters,' and he pointed to Dion and to Euphrates, because he had not yet quarrelled with the latter." And again, he said, "My sovereign, Euphrates and Dion have long been known to you
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and they are at your door, and are much concerned for your welfare. Summon them also therefore to your conference, for they are both of them wise." Whereupon Vespasian answered: "I throw my doors open wide to wise men." What can we think of the prescience of our hero? On this occasion Euphrates is both good and wise, because he has not yet quarrelled with him; but when he has,and before long he is going to, then see how the same person writes to the Emperor Domitian: "And yet if you want to know how much a philosopher may attain by flattery of the mighty you have only to look at the case of Euphrates. For in his case why do I speak of wealth from that source? Why, he has perfect fountains of wealth, and already at the banks he discusses prices as a merchant might or a huckster, or a tax-gatherer or a low money-changer; for all these rôles 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 would do; indeed he is often caught by the doorkeepers, just as greedy dogs might be. But he never yet bestowed a farthing on a philosopher, but he walls up all his wealth within his house; only supporting this Egyptian out of other people's money, and sharpening his tongue against me, when it ought to be cut out. However I will leave Euphrates to yourself: for unless you approve of flatterers, you will find the fellow worse than I represent him." Surely one who first bears witness to Vespasian the father that Euphrates is a wise and good man, and then inveighs against him in this style to his son, is openly convicted of praising
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and blaming the same person. Was it then the case that this man, who was endowed with knowledge of the future, did not know what the character of Euphrates was, nor what it was going to be? For it is not now the first time, but already in the case of Vespasian himself he is inclined to accuse him of being the worst of characters. How then is it that he recommended such a person to the sovereign so warmly, that in consequence of his recommendation the latter threw open wide the doors of his palace to him? Why, is it not clear to a blind man, as they say, that in the matter of foreknowledge the fellow is traduced by his own historian; though on other ground he might be regarded as an honest man, if we could suppose that originally, and before he learned by experience, he wished to gain access to the palace as freely for his friends, Euphrates included, as for himself, but was afterwards moved by his quarrel to use such language of him. I have no wish in thus arguing to accuse Apollonius of having falsely blamed Euphrates, who was the most distinguished philosopher of all the men of his age, so much so that his praises are still on the lips of students of philosophy. Not but what anyone who was minded to do so could take this as a palmary example of slander and back-biting and use it against Apollonius. For if Euphrates be really by their admission a leader in all philosophy, it is proper to credit him with aversion to knavery when he denounces the strange performances of his rival, and proper for the latter to be invested with an evil reputation because he was thus attacked by him for pursuing,that was the accusation,a life so little satisfactory to a philosopher.
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CHAP. XXX The visit to the Naked Sages of EthiopiaIn the sixth book our story-teller resumes his tale of miracles; for he brings his hero, together with his companions, on camel-back to see those whom he calls the Naked philosophers of Egypt. Here then at the bidding of one of these sages an elm-tree, we are told, spoke to Apollonius in an articulate but feminine voice, and this is the sort of thing which the Lover of Truth expects us to believe. Then he has a story of pigmies who live on the other side of their country and of man-eaters and of shadow-footed men and of a satyr whom Apollonius made drunk. From these sages Apollonius is brought back again to Hellas, where he renews his interviews and his prophesies to Titus. Then we hear about a youth who was bitten by a mad dog. He is rescued from his distress by Apollonius, who forthwith proceeds to divine whose soul it was that the dog had inside him; and we learn that it was that of Amasis, a former king of Egypt, for the sage's humanity extended to dogs. 1
565:1 Eusebius confuses the mad dog of VI 43 with the tame lion of V 42.