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The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus, tr. F.C. Conybeare, [1912], at


"And for myself, O man of Tyana," answered Titus, "can you give me any precepts as to how

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to rule and exercise the authority of a sovereign?" "Only such rules," replied the other, "as you have laid upon yourself; for in so submitting yourself to your father's will, it is, I think, certain that you will grow like him. And I should like to repeat to you on this occasion a saying of Archytas, which is a noble one and worth committing to memory. Archytas was a man of Tarentum who was learned in the lore of Pythagoras, and he wrote a treatise on the education of children, in which he says: Let the father be an example of virtue to his children, for fathers also will the more resolutely walk in the path of virtue because their children are coming to resemble them. But for myself, I propose to associate with you my own companion Demetrius, who will attend you as much as you like and instruct you in the whole duty of a good ruler." "And what sort of wisdom, O Apollonius, does this person possess?" "Courage," he replied, "to speak the truth unabashed by anyone, for he possesses the constancy and strength of character of a cynic." And as Titus did not seem very pleased to hear the name of dog 1, he continued: "And yet in Homer, Telemachus, when he was young, required, it appears, two dogs, and the poet sends these to accompany the youth to the market place of Ithaca, in spite of their being irrational animals; but you will have a dog to accompany you who will bark in your behalf not only at other people, but at yourself in case you go wrong, and he will bark withal wisely, and never irrationally." "Well," said the other, "give me your dog to accompany me, and I will even let him bite me, in case he

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feels I am committing injustice." "I will write him a letter, for he teaches philosophy in Rome." "Pray do so," said Titus, "and I wish I could get someone to write to you in my behalf, and induce you to share with me my journey to Rome." "I will come there," said the other, "whenever it is best for both of us."


Then Titus dismissed the company, and said: "Now that we are alone, O man of Tyana, you will allow me perhaps to ask you a question upon matters of grave importance to myself." "Pray do so," said the other, "and do so all the more readily because the matter is so important." "It is about my own life," said the other, "and I would feign know whom I ought most to be on my guard against. That is my question, and I hope you will not think me cowardly for already being anxious about it." "Nay, you are only cautious," said the other, "and circumspect; for a man ought to be more careful about this than about anything else." And glancing at the Sun he swore by that god that he had himself intended to address Titus about this matter even if he had not asked him. "For," he said, "the gods have told me to warn you, so long as your father is alive, to be on your guard against his bitterest enemies, but after his death against your own kith and kin." "And," said Titus, "in what way am I to die?" "In the same way," said the other, "as Odysseus is said to have died, for

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they say that he too met with his death by the sea." Damis interprets the above utterance as follows: Namely, that he was to be on his guard against the cusp of the fish called the trygon, with which they say Odysseus was wounded. Anyhow, after he had occupied the throne for two years, in succession of his father, he died through eating the fish called the sea-hare; and this fish, according to Damis, causes secret humors in the body worse and more fatal than anything else either in the sea or on land. And Nero, he says, introduced this sea-hare in his dishes to poison his worst enemies; and so did Domitian in order to remove his brother Titus, not because he objected to sharing his throne with his brother, but to sharing it with one who was both gentle and good. Such was their conversation in private, after which they embraced one another in public, and as Titus departed Apollonius greeted him with these last words: "Pray you, my King, overcome your enemies by your arms, but your father by your virtues."


But the letter to Demetrius ran as follows: “Apollonius, the Philosopher, sends greeting to Demetrius the cynic.

“I have made a present of you to the Emperor Titus, that you may instruct him how to behave as a sovereign, and take care that you confirm the truth of my words to him, and make yourself, anger apart, everything to him. Farewell.”

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Now the inhabitants of Tarsus had previously detested Apollonius, because of the violent reproaches which he addressed to them, owing to the fact that through their languid indifference and sensual indolence they could not put up with the vigor of his remarks. But on this occasion they became such devoted admirers of our hero as to regard him as their second founder and the mainstay of their city. For on one occasion the Emperor was offering a sacrifice in public, when the whole body of citizens met and presented a petition to him asking for certain great favors; and he replied that he would mention the matter to his father, and be himself their ambassador to procure them what they wanted; whereupon Apollonius stepped forward and said: "Supposing I convicted some who are standing here of being your own and your father's enemies, and of having sent legates to Jerusalem to excite a rebellion, and of being the secret allies of your most open enemies, what would happen to them?" "Why, what else," said the Emperor, "than instant death?" "Then is it not disgraceful," replied Apollonius, "that you should be instant in demanding their punishment, and yet dilatory in conferring a boon; and be ready yourself to undertake the punishment, but reserve the benefaction until you can see and consult your father?" But the king, over-delighted with this remark, said: "I grant the favors they ask for, for my father will not be annoyed at my yielding to truth and to yourself."

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So many were the races which they say Apollonius had visited until then, eager and zealous for others as they for him. But his subsequent journeys abroad, though they were numerous, were yet not so many as before, nor did he go to fresh districts which he was not already acquainted with; for when he came down from Ethiopia he made a long stay on the sea-board of Egypt, and then he returned to Phoenicia and Cilicia, and to Ionia and Achaea, and Italy, never failing anywhere to show himself the same as ever. For, hard as it is to know oneself, I myself consider it still harder for the sage to remain always himself; for he cannot ever reform evil natures and improve them, unless he has first trained himself never to alter in his own person. Now about these matters I have discoursed at length in other treatises, and shown those of my readers who were careful and hard students, that a man who is really a man will never alter his nature nor become a slave. But lest I should unduly prolong this work by giving a minute account of the several teachings which he addressed to individuals, and lest on the other hand I should skip over any important chapter of a life, which I am taking so much pains to transmit to those who never knew Apollonius, I think it time to record more important incidents and matters which will repay the remembering; for we must consider that such episodes are comparable to the visits to mankind paid by the sons of Asclepius.

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There was a youth who, without having any education of his own, undertook to educate birds, which he kept in his home to make them clever; and he taught them to talk like human beings and to whistle tunes like flute-players. Apollonius met him and asked: "How are you occupying yourself?" And when he replied, and told him all about his nightingales and his blackbirds, and how he trained the tongues of stone curlews—as he had himself a very uneducated accent—Apollonius said: "I think you are spoiling the accents of the birds, in the first place because you don't let them utter their own notes, which are so sweet that not even the best musical instruments could rival or imitate them, and in the second place because you yourself talk the vilest Greek dialects and are only teaching them to stutter like yourself. And what is more, my good youth, you are also wasting your own substance; for when I look at all your hangers-on, and at your get-up, I should say that you are a delicately bred and somewhat wealthy man; but sycophants steal honey from people like yourself, being ready with tongue poised against them for a sting. And what will be the use to you of all this bird-fancying when the time comes? For if you collected all the songbirds in the world, it would not help you to shake off the parasites that cling to you and oppress you; nay you are forced to shower your wealth upon them and cast your gold before them, and you scatter tidbits before dogs; and to stop their

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barking you must give again and again, until at last you will find yourself reduced to hunger and to poverty.

"What you want is some splendid diversion which will instantly make some alteration in your character, otherwise you will wake up one day and find that you have been plucked of your wealth as if it were plumage, and that you are a fitter subject to excite the birds to lament than to sing. The remedy you need to effect such a change is not a very great one; for there is in all cities a class of men, whose acquaintance you have never made, but who are called schoolmasters. You give them a little of your substance with the certainty of getting it back with interest; for they will teach you the rhetoric of the Forum, and it is not a difficult art to acquire. I may add that, if I had known you as a child, and come across you then, I should have advised you assiduously to attend at the doors of the philosophers and sophists, so as to be able to hedge round your habitation with a wider learning; but, since it is too late for you to manage that, at any rate learn to plead for yourself; for remember, if you had acquired a more complete training and education, you would have resembled a man who is heavy-armed and therefore formidable; yet, if you thoroughly learn this branch, you will at any rate be equipped like a light-armed soldier or a slinger, for you will be able to fling words at your sycophants, as you would stones at dogs." The young man took to heart this advice, and he gave up wasting his time over birds and betook himself to school, much to the improvement both of his judgment and oh his tongue.

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Two stories are told in Sardes, one that the River Pactolus used to bring down gold dust to Croesus, and the other that trees are older than earth. The former story Apollonius said he accepted because it was probable, for that there had once been a sand of gold on mount Tmolus, and that the showers of rain had swept it down into the river Pactolus; although subsequently, as is generally the case in such matters, it had given out, being all washed away. But the second story he ridiculed and said: "You pretend that trees were created before the earth; well, I have been studying all this time, yet never heard of the stars being created before the heaven." The inference he wished to convey was that nothing could be created as long as that in which it grows does not exist.


The ruler of Syria had plunged into a feud, by disseminating among the citizens suspicions such that when they met in assembly they all quarreled with one another. But a violent earthquake happening to occur, they were all cowering, and as is usual in the case of heavenly portents, praying for one another. Apollonius accordingly stepped forward and remarked: "It is God who is clearly anxious to reconcile you to one another, and you will not revive these feuds since you cherish the same fears." And so he implanted in them a sense of what was to happen to them, and made each faction entertain the same fears as the other.

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Here is another incident worth recording. A certain man was sacrificing to mother Earth in hope of finding a treasure, and he did not hesitate to offer a prayer to Apollonius with that intent. He, perceiving what he was after, said: "I see that you are a formidable man in business." "Nay, but an unlucky one," remarked the other, "that have nothing except a few pence, and not enough to feed my family." "You seem," said the other, "to keep a large household of idle servants, for you yourself seem not to be wanting in wits." But the man shed a quiet tear and answered: "I have four daughters, who want four dowries, and, when my daughters have had their dowries assigned to them, my capital, which is now only 20,000 drachmas, will have vanished; and they will think that they have got all too little, while I shall perish because I shall have nothing at all." Therefore Apollonius took compassion on him and said: "We will provide for you, myself and mother Earth, for I hear that you are sacrificing to her." With these words he conducted the man into the suburbs, as if he were going to buy some fruit, and there he saw an estate planted with olive-trees; and being delighted with the trees, for they were very good ones and well grown, and there was a little garden in the place, in which he saw bee-hives and flowers, he went into the garden as if he had important business to examine into, and then, having put up a prayer to Pandora, he returned to the city. Then he proceeded to the owner of the field, who had

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amassed a fortune in the most unrighteous manner, by informing against the estates of Phoenicians, and said: "For how much did you purchase such and such an estate, and how much labor have you spent upon it?" The other replied that he had bought the estate a year before for the sum of 15,000 drachmas, but that as yet he had spent no labor upon it, whereupon Apollonius persuaded him to sell it to him for 20,000 drachmas, which he did, esteeming the 5,000 a great windfall. Now the man who wanted to find the treasure did not in the least understand the gift that was made him, indeed he hardly considered it a fair bargain, because, whereas he might have kept the 20,000 drachmas that he had in hand, he now reflected that the estate which he purchased for the sum might suffer from frost and hailstorms and from other influences ruinous to the crops. But when he found a jar almost at once in the field containing 3,000 darics, close by the beehive in the little garden, and when he got a very large yield from the olive-trees, when everywhere else the crops had failed, he began to hymn the praises of the sage, and his house was crowded with suitors for the hand of his daughters urging their suits upon him.


Here is another story which I came upon about Apollonius, and which deserves to be put upon record: There was a man who was in love with a nude statue of Aphrodite which is erected in the

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island of Cnidus; and he was making offerings to it, and said that he would make yet others with a view to marrying the statue. But Apollonius, though on other grounds he thought his conduct absurd, yet as the islanders were not averse of the idea, but said that the fame of the goddess would be greatly enhanced if she had a lover, determined to purge the temple of all this nonsense; and when the Cnidians asked him if he would reform their system of sacrifice or their litanies in any way, he replied: "I will reform your eyes, but let the ancestral service of your temple as it is." Accordingly he called to him the languishing lover and asked him if he believed in the existence of the gods: and when he replied that he believed in their existence so firmly that he was actually in love with them, and mentioned a marriage with one of them which he hoped to celebrate shortly, Apollonius replied: "The poets have turned your poor head by their talk of unions of Anchises and Peleus and other heroes with goddess; but I know this much about loving and being loved: gods fall in love with gods, and human beings with human beings, and animals with animals, and in a word like with like, and they have true issue of their own kind; but when two beings of different kinds contract a union, there is no true marriage or love. And if only you would bear in mind the fate of Ixion, you would never have dreamed of falling in love with beings so much above you. For he, you remember, is portrayed across the heaven tortured upon a wheel; and you, unless you get out of this shrine, will perish wherever you are upon earth, nor will you be able to say that the gods have been unjust in their sentence upon

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you." Thus he put a stop to this mad freak, and the man went away who said he was in love, after sacrificing in order to gain forgiveness.


2:117:1 A cynic means literally a canine philosopher.

Next: Chapters 41-43