Apollonius of Tyana
Apollonius of Tyana
1st Century CE
Biographical Sketch by Universal Theosophy
It is said that at a very young age Apollonius became set upon living what he referred to as the Pythagorean Life. This included a high code of non-violence and asceticism, such that “he remained a vegetarian the whole of his long life, fed only on fruit and herbs, drank no wine, wore vestments made only of plant-fibres, walked barefooted, and let his hair grow to its full length, as all the Initiates before and after him” 1, and in the Pythagorean tradition, he began this life by undertaking a vow of silence for 5 years.
In Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius, we read of Apollonius’ famous journey to India, wherein he was directed to the “abode of the sages” by an Indian King. It is reported by his traveling companion Damis that he remained with these sages for some time, being instructed by them in their mysteries before beginning the long return journey to his homeland. His instruction is the culmination of a life devoted wholly to philosophy and the practice of the core virtues of discipleship, and from this instruction he emerges a sage himself.
It is following his return from this journey that our western historical accounts of Apollonius begin. He is shown to have traveled extensively through Greece and surrounding nations, teaching philosophy, producing phenomena and prophesying many notable events. It is related that “The writings of Apollonius show him to have been a man of learning, with a consummate knowledge of human nature, imbued with noble sentiments and the principles of a profound philosophy,” and that “the wonderful things done by Apollonius, thought to be miraculous . . . were extensively believed in, in the second century, and hundreds of years subsequent; and by Christians as well as others.” 2 Of Apollonius’ deeds, the early Church Father Justin Martyr asks: “How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power over certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts. And whilst Our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts … ?” 3 Indeed of all historical figures, the phenonema of Apollonius are as well attested to as any.
Apollonius moved not only with the regular classes of men, but in the company of Emperors and Kings, instructing all in matters of philosophy and ethics; he faced his enemies with courage and conviction, as demonstrated by his appearance before the Emperor of Rome and his defense against spurious accusations, and everywhere he went he taught the age-old morality of Man, leaving behind him a well-respected and highly revered name. Of his mission, a biographer relates:
“He maintained that the only good was moral excellence, the only true satisfaction, independence of external circumstances, and consequently held that wealth was an obstacle to the development of virtue. The whole of his life was spent, the whole of his teachings are founded, on the idea that all men are called to receive and practice truth. He speaks and acts as a reformer everywhere. He had no narrow notions of nationality, no local clique to serve. He came to no chosen people, but to all mankind.”4
It is reported that “for several centuries after his death Apollonius was worshiped as a god, in many parts of the world” 5
Yet on the subject of his status as a god, Philostratus relates that before the court of the Emperor, Apollonius’ accuser posed to him the following question:
“Why is it that men call you a god?”
To which Apollonius replied:
“Because, every man that is thought to be good, is honored by the title of god.”
Indeed Apollonius was a good man, and in his deeds we see this goodness demonstrated, time and time again. If modeling our moral life upon some historical figure, we could do no better than Apollonius of Tyana.
1. Theosophical Glossary, H.P. Blavatsky, 1892
2. Article “Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophist, June, 1881
3. Quaest, XXIV
4. Apollonius of Tyana, Daniel M. Tredwell
5. History of the Christian religion: to the year two hundred, Charles Burlingame Waite
Biography from Theosophical Glossary
Apollonius of Tyana (Gr.)
A wonderful philosopher born in Cappadocia about the beginning of the first century; an ardent Pythagorean, who studied the Phœnician sciences under Euthydemus; and Pythagorean philosophy and other studies under Euxenus of Heraclea. According to the tenets of this school he remained a vegetarian the whole of his long life, fed only on fruit and herbs, drank no wine, wore vestments made only of plant-fibres, walked barefooted, and let his hair grow to its full length, as all the Initiates before and after him. He was initiated by the priests of the temple of Æsculapius (Asciepios) at Ægae, and learnt many of the “miracles” for healing the sick wrought by the god of medicine. Having prepared himself for a higher initiation by a silence of five years, and by travel, visiting Antioch, Ephesus, Pamphylia and other parts, he journeyed via Babylon to India, all his intimate disciples having abandoned him, as they feared to go to the “land of enchantments”. A casual disciple, Damis, however, whom he met on his way, accompanied him in his travels.
At Babylon he was initiated by the Chaldees and Magi, according to Damis, whose narrative was copied by one named Philostratus a hundred years later. After his return from India, he showed himself a true Initiate, in that the pestilences and earthquakes, deaths of kings and other events, which he prophesied duly happened. At Lesbos, the priests of Orpheus, being jealous of him, refused to initiate him into their peculiar mysteries, though they did so several years later. He preached to the people of Athens and other cities the purest and noblest ethics, and the phenomena he produced were as wonderful as they were numerous and well attested. “How is it”, enquires Justin Martyr in dismay—“how is it that the talismans (telesmata) of Apollonius have power, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves and the violence of the winds, and the attacks of the wild beasts; and whilst our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous and actually manifested in present facts?”… (Quaest, XXIV.).
But an answer is easily found to this in the fact that after crossing the Hindu Kush, Apollonius had been directed by a king to the abode of the Sages, whose abode it may be to this day, by whom he was taught unsurpassed knowledge. His dialogues with the Corinthian Menippus indeed give us the esoteric catechism and disclose (when understood) many an important mystery of nature. Apollonius was the friend, correspondent and guest of kings and queens, and no marvellous or “magic” powers are better attested than his. At the end of his long and wonderful life he opened an esoteric school at Ephesus, and died aged almost one hundred years. — Theosophical Glossary
Life of Apollonius by Philostratus
The Life of Apollonius of Tyana
The Epistles of Apollonius and the Treatise of Eusebius
With an English Translation
By F.C. Conybeare, M.A.
Apollonius of Tyana, from Theosophy Magazine
Apollonius of Tyana
The great Theosophist of the first century B.C. was Jesus the Christ. The great Theosophist of the first century A.D. was Apollonius of Tyana. The lives of these two men are marked by striking similarities and by equally striking differences. The similarities are found in their aim, purpose and teaching, and are explained by the fact that both were members of that great Fraternity of Perfected Men who stand behind the Theosophical Movement. The differences are found in their personal lives and in the way they presented their philosophy.
Jesus is not an historical character. The great historians of the first two centuries do not mention him. As Moncure D. Conway says in Modern Thought:
“The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus. In the fourth gospel it is said: ‘There are also many other things that Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.’ The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information — not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.”
Apollonius of Tyana was, on the contrary, a well-known historical figure. The parents of Jesus — whoever they were — were obscure and humble people. Apollonius belonged to a prominent and well-known family, whose ancestors had founded the city of Tyana where he was born.
The friends and disciples of Jesus were drawn from the poorer classes. Apollonius was the friend of Kings and Emperors. He was at one time the personal adviser of the Emperor Vespasian, and the great Emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius admitted that he owed his philosophy to Apollonius.
“From Apollonius I have learned freedom of will and understanding, steadiness of purpose, and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason.” (Marcus Aurelius).
Jesus was not one of the travelling Adepts. There is no record of his having been in any country save his own native Judea and Egypt. Apollonius was the most famous traveller of his day. He visited every country in the then known world with the exception of Britain, Germany and China. He travelled extensively through Italy, Greece, Spain, Africa, Asia Minor, Persia and India, teaching wherever he went.
In Athens, Apollonius taught from the same porch which had once echoed to the wisdom of Socrates. He lectured on the island of Samos, where Pythagoras had conducted his school. He spoke in the grounds where Plato’s Academy had stood. He taught in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, above the entrance of which were engraved those immortal words: Man, know thyself! He was teaching in Crete on the day of the great eruption of Vesuvius, when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed. He taught in Italy, Spain and northern Africa, which was then called Mauretania. He lived for a long time in the city of Alexandria, holding his classes in the Temple of Serapis. He went up the Nile as far as Thebes and Karnak. He celebrated the festival of Neith in the ancient city of Saïs, where stands the ever-veiled statue of this goddess with its inscription: I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my veil no mortal has withdrawn. And all of these travels were carefully recorded and preserved.
Jesus left nothing in writing. Apollonius was the author of a voluminous philosophical literature. All of his works were collected by the Emperor Hadrian, and preserved in his palace at Antium. The records of Apollonius’ life in Greece are so important that, were it not for the works of Apollonius and the books of Pausanius, we would have had no history of Greece between the year 52 B.C. and the fifth century A.D.
There is, unfortunately, no accurate record of Jesus’ life. The one most commonly accepted is found in the four Gospels. But this record was not written by Jesus himself, nor by any of his immediate disciples. As Fauste, the great Manichean of the third century writes:
“Every one knows that the Evangeliums were written neither by Jesus nor his apostles, but long after their time by some unknown persons, who, judging well that they would hardly be believed when telling of things they had not seen themselves, headed their narratives with the names of the apostles or of disciples contemporaneous with the latter.”
The record of Apollonius’ life is, on the contrary, quite complete. It was written by a personal friend and devoted disciple of Apollonius who was his constant companion for more than fifty years, and who made a daily report of all that Apollonius did or said during that time. This record was transcribed and put into book form by one of the most famous historians of the day, and was published in the year 210 A.D. — over a hundred years before the Gospels appeared.
The compiler of this book was Philostratus, who is called the Talleyrand of the second century. He was a famous scholar, the author of a large number of philosophical and historical books, and the close friend of the Emperor Severus and his wife, Julia Domna. Severus was a Neo-Platonist and Julia Domna was one of the most famous women in history. She was a philosopher of note, and surrounded herself with the greatest intellects of the day. She also founded one of the great libraries of that age, which was subsequently “cleared of its philosophical chaff” by the Christian Emperor Justinian, and completely destroyed in the sixth century by Pope Gregory.
The Emperor Severus and his wife were great admirers of Apollonius, and it was at the Empress’ request that Philostratus compiled his Life of Apollonius from the manuscripts which had been entrusted to her care. A copy of this work, written in Greek, may be found in the Library of Congress. No English translation appeared until the year 1809. In that year the Reverend Edward Berwick, Vicar of Leixlip, Ireland, published his own translation with profuse apologies to the Christian world for the similarities (which all would notice) between the life of Jesus and that of Apollonius.
The world today may be unaware of those similarities. The world of the second and third centuries was only too well aware of them. The Church of that day was basing its claim of Jesus’ divinity upon the miracles that he is said to have performed. But Apollonius was performing the same miracles before their very eyes, and at the same time refusing to call them miracles, claiming them to be but expressions of natural law. One day Apollonius met a funeral procession, bearing the body of a young girl who had just died. He stopped the procession with these words: “Set down the bier, and I will dry the tears being shed for this maid.” In a few moments the maid arose and joined her friends. Apollonius was asked how such “miracles” were possible, and answered:
“There is no death of anything save in appearance. That which passes over from essence to nature seems to be birth, and what passes over from nature to essence seems to be death. Nothing really is originated, and nothing ever perishes; but only now comes into sight and now vanishes. It appears by reason of the density of matter, and disappears by reason of the tenuity of essence. But it is always the same, differing only in motion and condition.”
The “miracles” performed by Apollonius caused great consternation in the young Christian Church. Justin Martyr, the great Church Father of the second century, pertinently asked:
“How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power over certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts. And whilst Our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts, so as to lead astray all beholders?”
Ralston Skinner, author of the Source of Measures, believes that this similarity “serves to explain why the Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus has been so carefully kept back from translation and popular reading.” He says that those who have studied this work in the original are forced to the conclusion that either the Life of Apollonius has been taken from the New Testament, or the New Testament from Philostratus’ work. As the New Testament did not appear until a hundred years after the publication of Philostratus’ book, the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
Philostratus probably knew the commotion his book would cause in the Christian world. Possibly he wrote it for that very reason. For he was a devoted admirer of Pythagoras, and as such must have taken pleasure in bringing into public notice the noble character of one who was a strict and zealous follower of the Pythagorean School. In defending the position of Apollonius, Philostratus says:
“Some consider him as one of the Magi, because he conversed with the Magi of Babylon and the Brahmans of India and the Gymnosophists of Egypt. But even his wisdom is reviled as being acquired by the magic art, so erroneous are the opinions formed of him. Whereas Empedocles and Pythagoras and Democritus, though they conversed with the same Magi, and advanced many paradoxical sentiments, have not fallen under the like imputation. Even Plato, who travelled in Egypt, and blended with his doctrines many opinions collected there from the priests and prophets, incurred not such a suspicion, though envied above all men on account of his superior wisdom.”
Philostratus, then, must be admired as one of those who called for a restitution of borrowed robes, and the vindication of calumniated, but glorious reputations. And in bringing certain parts of this old book, (now long out of print) to the notice of Theosophical students, the same object is kept in view.
This book, like all others of a similar character, has both a literal and a symbolic meaning. If it is studied symbolically, it will be found to contain the whole of the Hermetic philosophy. Apollonius’ journey to India represents the trials of a neophyte, and his conversations with the Sages of Kashmir would, if properly interpreted, give the esoteric catechism. Many of the secret dogmas of Hermes are explained in symbolical language by the great Adept Iarchas, and his words would disclose, if understood, some of the most important secrets of nature.
Apollonius was born in the year 1 A.D. in the Greek town of Tyana in Cappadocia. He came of an ancient and aristocratic line, and was brought up in wealth and luxury. His birth, like that of most great Teachers, was out of the ordinary.
“Whilst his mother was of child with him, Proteus the Egyptian God appeared to her. The woman asked him what she should bring forth. To which he replied: ‘Thou shalt bring forth me!’ This you may suppose excited her curiosity to ask again who he was, and he said he was the Egyptian God Proteus.”
When his mother neared the time of her delivery, she was told to go to a certain meadow and gather flowers. When she approached the meadow, a flock of swans formed a circle around her, singing and clapping their wings. At the moment of Apollonius’ birth, a thunderbolt came out of the sky, arose to heaven and disappeared in the blue.
The child Apollonius possessed great intelligence. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the city of Tarsus, then a place of great learning and culture. But Apollonius would not rest until he had gained his father’s permission to leave Tarsus and go to Aegea, where he hoped to find a more congenial atmosphere and a greater opportunity for philosophical study. In Aegea he soon contacted disciples of the Pythagorean School, and at the age of sixteen he adopted the Pythagorean discipline. From that time on he ate no meat, drank no wine, wore clothes made entirely of plant fibres, and allowed his hair to grow long. There he entered the Temple of Aesculapius, was initiated by the priests, and learned the art of healing as Jesus had learned it with the Therapeutae in Egypt. Later he turned the Temple of Aesculapius into a Lyceum similar in character to the Lyceums founded by Pericles, Cicero and Aristotle. Finally he took a vow of silence which lasted for five years, during which period he never uttered a word.
At the end of his stay in Aegea he went to Antioch, where he taught for many years. The platform of his work is described by one of his biographers, Daniel M. Tredwell.
“He maintained that the only good was moral excellence, the only true satisfaction, independence of external circumstances, and consequently held that wealth was an obstacle to the development of virtue. The whole of his life was spent, the whole of his teachings are founded, on the idea that all men are called to receive and practice truth. He speaks and acts as a reformer everywhere. He had no narrow notions of nationality, no local clique to serve. He came to no chosen people, but to all mankind.”
All during those years his thoughts had been fixed on far-off India where he had been told that those Mahatmas lived who stood nearest to the source of wisdom. During his stay in Antioch he had acquired seven disciples. But when he spoke of a journey to India, their enthusiasm waned. And so he finally set off on his journey accompanied only by two scribes, one of whom could write rapidly, the other beautifully. When he reached the city of Ninus, a young man by the name of Damis attached himself to Apollonius and accompanied him throughout all his subsequent wanderings. It was Damis who wrote the account of Apollonius’ travels which Philostratus compiled at the request of the Empress Julia Domna.
After all their arrangements had been completed, the wanderers set out upon their long journey, which would carry them into new and strange places and finally lead them into the presence of the Masters. Their first resting place was the city of Babylon, where Apollonius met the Magi and was initiated by them into the Chaldean Mysteries. The King of Babylon became his friend and furnished him with camels and a guide for his trip.
It was early spring when Apollonius and Damis began their long journey. We can see them, mounted upon their camels, crossing the desert wastes of Arabia, finally reaching the rose-scented land of Persia where Omar, a thousand years later, begged that he might be buried “so that roses might blow over his tomb.” They were received everywhere with enthusiasm, for their caravan was headed by a camel wearing an ornament of gold, proclaiming to the world that friends of the King of Babylon were upon the road.
And all through the sultry days, lulled by the sleepy tinkle of the camel bells, Apollonius talked with his friend Damis. Sometimes they laughed and spoke of trivial things. But Apollonius always tried to bring the mind of his friend to the consideration of spiritual matters, using the commonplace to illustrate the divine. One day, shortly after they had begun their ascent of the Hindu Kush, Apollonius said to Damis:
“Pray tell me, Damis, where were we yesterday?”
“On the plain,” answered Damis.
“And where are we today?”
“On the Caucusus, if I am not mistaken.”
“Then,” said Apollonius, “yesterday we were below; today we are above. In what respect do these conditions differ?”
“In this,” said Damis, “that yesterday’s journey has been made by many travellers; but this day’s journey has been made by the few.”
And so, in this simple manner, Apollonius was able to call the attention of his friend to the Path and the Few that find it.
On another day they were watching the great white eagles that soared majestically above their heads. And Apollonius used this occasion to tell his friend the story of Prometheus and how it symbolized the Egos who incarnated in men long, long ago. Then he explained the Indian origin of the Greek myths, and told Damis that
“The Greeks and Indians have different opinions about Bacchus. The Indians affirm that Bacchus was the son of the River Indus, and that the Theban Bacchus was his disciple.”
At last they reached the city of Taxila, which lies near the modern city of Rawalpindi, close to the border of Kashmir. In front of the city walls stood a large Temple made of porphyry and enriched with ornaments of gold. There they rested until the King was ready to receive them, and there Apollonius, speaking of the art of painting, told Damis how the mind itself paints indelible pictures on the astral light.
Apollonius found the King of Taxila a philosopher and a disciple of the very Mahatmas he was seeking. The King gave him the necessary requirements for one who wished to study with the Masters. He said:
“A young man must go beyond the Hyphasis and see the men to whom you are going. When he comes into their presence, he must make a public declaration of studying philosophy; and they have it in their power, if they think proper, to refuse admitting him to their society if he does not come pure. And when no stigma is discovered, the youth’s character is then examined. Such information as relates to the candidates individually, is acquired by a minute investigation of their looks. Wise men, and such as are deep read in nature, see the tempers and dispositions of men just as they see objects in a mirror. In this country philosophy is deemed of such high price, and so honored by the Indians, that it is very necessary to have all examined who approach her.”
When Apollonius and Damis took their departure, they carried with them a letter from the King of Taxila to the Sages of Kashmir:
“King Phroates to Iarchas, his Master; and to the Wise Men with him — health.
Apollonius, a man famed for wisdom, thinks you have more knowledge than himself, and goes to be instructed in it. Send him away learned in all you know, and believe that nothing you teach him will be lost.”
According to the description given by Philostratus, the travellers must have taken the same route across the mountains that goes from Rawalpindi at the present day. They must have followed the gorge of the Hyphasis (now the Jhelum river) and watched it foaming and swirling between its ochre banks. They travelled through the great deodar forests, and may have stopped for a moment at the spot where Vishnu is said to have rested after the Great Flood. They caught their first glimpse of the Valley of Kashmir in the late summer, when the roses and lotus are in full bloom. What they thought of this “emerald valley set in a rim of pearls,” Damis does not say. His mind was occupied with the tales that Apollonius told him of the Dragons who lived in the hills. But the Theosophist knows that the Dragons that Apollonius was seeking were the Nagas, or Sages of Kashmir.
At last they reached the hill where the Wise Men lived. It rose majestically from the plain, defended on all sides by an immense pile of rocks. There was a Castle on the top of the hill. Apollonius could see the entrance to the Castle, but Damis could see only the cloud that enveloped it.
As soon as they had dismounted from their camels, a messenger from the Masters appeared, wearing a caduceus on his brow. He brought Apollonius a letter of welcome from the Wise Men on the Hill. When Apollonius was conducted into their presence, their Chief — Iarchas — addressed him in Greek, minutely describing the journey which had brought him to Kashmir. Apollonius, following the instructions given to him by the King of Taxila, asked Iarchas if he would instruct him in philosophy. Iarchas replied:
“I will, with all my heart, for the communication of knowledge is much more becoming the character of philosophy than the concealment of what ought to be known.”
Then Iarchas begged Apollonius to propose whatever questions he pleased, “for you know you speak with men who know all things.” Remembering the inscription carved over the entrance of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Apollonius asked: “Do you know yourselves?” Iarchas answered:
“We know all things because we know ourselves. For there is not one among us who would have been admitted to the study of philosophy had he not had that previous knowledge.”
Apollonius then asked: “As what, then, do you consider yourselves?”
“As Gods,” Iarchas replied.
“And why Gods?” said Apollonius.
“Because we are good men,” was the answer.
This conversation led naturally to a discussion of the Soul, and Apollonius inquired what their teaching was in regard to the Soul.
“The same,” said Iarchas, “as was delivered to you by Pythagoras, and by us to the Egyptians.”
This statement, so strange to modern ears, could not have been a surprise to Apollonius. For both Homer and Herodotus had spoken of that colony of dark-skinned Aryans, known as the Eastern Ethiopians, who had taken their civilization and their arts from India to Egypt in pre-Vedic days. Iarchas spoke at great length about these Eastern Ethiopians, saying:
“There was a time when this country was inhabited by the Ethiopians, an Indian nation. Ethiopia did not then exist. Whilst the Ethiopians lived in this country now possessed by us, and were obedient to a sovereign named Ganges, they had all the productions of the earth in plenty.”
Apollonius must have had many opportunities, during his stay in Kashmir, to observe the relics of this ancient connection between Kashmir, Ceylon and Egypt. For even today there is a little island in the very center of the Valley called Lanka, which is the ancient name of Ceylon. And the grand old mountain that stands like a sentinel overlooking the Valley is called Hari-mouk, the name under which the Egyptians once worshipped the Sphinx.
Iarchas told Apollonius many things about the state of the country when it was inhabited by the Eastern Ethiopians, and informed him that he was speaking from personal knowledge, as he himself had been this same King Ganges in a former incarnation. He then
“…asked Apollonius if he could tell the last body in which he appeared, and in what condition of life he was before the one he was in at present. To this Apollonius replied: ‘As it was ignoble, I remember little of it.’
‘What?’ said Iarchas, ‘do you consider the being pilot of an Egyptian vessel as ignoble? For I know you were one!’
‘You are right,’ said Apollonius, ‘I was.'”
Apollonius spent thirteen years with the Sages of Kashmir, and at the end of his visit Iarchas gave him seven rings, which he was told to wear alternately during the seven days of the week, according to the particular planet that gave its name to the day. When he was ready to depart, Iarchas furnished him with camels, and at the end of ten days he had reached the sea. From there he sent back a letter to Iarches which read:
“Apollonius to Iarchas and other sages — health. I came to you by land; you have given me the sea. In communicating to me your wisdom, you have opened the road to heaven. I will remember this among the Greeks; I will continue to enjoy your conversation as if still with you, if I have not drunk of the cup of Tantalus in vain.
Farewell, excellent philosophers.”
That Apollonius did not “drink of the cup of Tantalus in vain” is witnessed by his later work. He brought the Wisdom-Religion back to Europe and laid down lines of force which were continued by his successor, Ammonius Saccas. He established an esoteric school in Ephesus, and is said by some of his biographers to have died at the age of a hundred years. By others it is claimed that he lived to the age of a hundred and thirty, and by still others that he did not “die” at all, but “disappeared from view.”
In the very heart of the Valley of Kashmir there stands the little town of Srinagar, the home of Sri-Naga, the “Serpent-King”. The present town was founded 300 B.C. by the great Buddhist King Asoka, and was therefore in existence when Apollonius was in Kashmir. There is a tradition among the inhabitants of this town that a great Adept came there from Europe in the first century, and that he died there.
A few miles beyond the outskirts of Srinagar are found the magnificent ruins of an ancient Temple of the Sun. It stands upon a high plateau facing the East, its trefoil arches forming graceful frames for the mighty panorama of the Himalayas beyond. So old is this Temple that the five Pandu brothers of Mahabharata fame are said to have worshipped there. Everywhere appears the figure of the triangle super-imposed upon the square — the ancient symbol of septenary man. Philostratus’ description of the Temple of the Sun where Apollonius worshipped closely resembles this ancient Kashmiri Temple of Martand.
A two-week’s journey on mule-back will take the traveller up the mountains into the little city of Lhadak, in Western Thibet. There he may have the good fortune to discover an ancient Buddhist monastery perched like an eagle’s nest on the overhanging crags. There the monks may tell him (as they have told other travellers) of certain manuscripts in their possession which were left to them by the great European Adept of the first century when he passed through Lhadak. And on the other side of the Himalayas, in the sacred city of Lhassa, there are said to be other men who possess records of the Adept who taught in Europe during the first century, and came back “home” when his work was done.
Perhaps, after all, Apollonius did not die in Europe, but started out on a second journey to India, passing through all these places on his way “Home.”
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 24, No. 9, July, 1936, Pages 385-395
Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus, by H.P. Blavatsky
Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus
IN the “History of the Christian Religion to the year two hundred,” by Charles B. Waite, A.M., announced and reviewed in the Banner of Light (Boston), we find portions of the work relating to the great thaumaturgist of the second century A.D.–Apollonius of Tyana, the rival of whom had never appeared in the Roman Empire.
“The time of which this volume takes special cognizance is divided into six periods, during the second of which, A.D. 80 to A.D. 120, is included the ‘Age of Miracles,’ the history of which will prove of interest to Spiritualists as a means of comparing the manifestations of unseen intelligences in our time with similar events of the days immediately following the introduction of Christianity. Apollonius Tyaneus was the most remarkable character of that period, and witnessed the reign of a dozen Roman emperors. Before his birth, Proteus, an Egyptian god, appeared to his mother and announced that he was to be incarnated in the coming child. Following the directions given her in a dream, she went to a meadow to gather flowers. While there, a flock of swans formed a chorus around her, and, clapping their wings, sung in unison. While they were thus engaged, and the air was being fanned by a gentle zephyr, Apollonius was born.”
This is a legend which in days of old made of every remarkable character a “son of God” miraculously born of a virgin. And what follows is history. “In his youth he was a marvel of mental power and personal beauty, and found his greatest happiness in conversations with the disciples of Plato, Chrysippus and Aristotle. He ate nothing that had life, lived on fruits and the products of the earth; was an enthusiastic admirer and follower of Pythagoras, and as such maintained silence for five years. Wherever he went he reformed religious worship and performed wonderful acts. At feasts he astonished the guests by causing bread, fruits, vegetables and various dainties to appear at his bidding. Statues became animated with life, and bronze figures ‘ from their pedestals, took the position and performed the labors of servants. By the exercise of the same power dematerializaton occurred; gold and silver vessels, with their contents, disappeared; even the attendants vanished in an instant from sight.
“At Rome, Apollonius was accused of treason. Brought to examination, the accuser came forward, unfolded his roll on which the accusation had been written, and was astounded to find it a perfect blank.
“Meeting a funeral procession he said to the attendants, ‘Set down the bier, and I will dry up the tears you are shedding for the maid.’ He touched the young woman, uttered a few words, and the dead came to life. Being at Smyrna, a plague raged at Ephesus, and he was called thither. ‘The journey must not be delayed,’ he said, and had no sooner spoken the words than he was at Ephesus.
“When nearly one hundred years old, he was brought before the Emperor at Rome, accused of being an enchanter. He was taken to prison. While there he was asked when he would be at liberty? ‘To-morrow, if it depends on the judge; this instant, if it depends on myself.’ Saying this, he drew his leg out of the fetters, and said, ‘You see the liberty I enjoy.’ He then replaced it in the fetters.
“At the tribunal he was asked: ‘Why do men call you a god?’
“‘Because,’ said he, ‘every man that is good is entitled to the appellation .’
“‘How could you foretell the plague at Ephesus?’
“He replied: ‘By living on a lighter diet than other men.’
“His answers to these and other questions by his accusers exhibited such strength that the Emperor was much affected, and declared him acquitted of crime; but said he should detain him in order to hold a private conversation. He replied: ‘You can detain my body, but not my soul; and, I will add, not even my body. Having uttered these words he vanished from the tribunal, and that same day met his friends at Puteoli, three days’ journey from Rome.
“The writings of Apollonius show him to have been a man of learning, with a consummate knowledge of human nature, imbued with noble sentiments and the principles of a profound philosophy. In an epistle to Valerius he says:
“‘There is no death of anything except in appearance; and so, also, there is no birth of anything except in appearance. That which passes over from essence into nature seems to be birth, and that which passes over from nature into essence seems, in like manner, to be death; though nothing really is originated, and nothing ever perishes; but only now comes into sight, and now vanishes. It appears by reason of the density of matter, and disappears by reason of the tenuity of essence; but is always the same, differing only in motion and condition.’
“The highest tribute paid to Apollonius was by the Emperor Titus. The philosopher having written to him, soon after his accession, counselling moderation in his government, Titus replied:
“‘In my own name and in the name of my country I give you thanks, and will be mindful of those things. I have, indeed, taken Jerusalem, but you have captured me.’
“The wonderful things done by Apollonius, thought to be miraculous, the source and producing cause of which Modern Spiritualism clearly reveals, were extensively believed in, in the second century, and hundreds of years subsequent; and by Christians as well as others. Simon Magus was another prominent miracle-worker of the second century, and no one denied his power. Even Christians were forced to admit that he performed miracles. Allusion is made to him in the Acts of the Apostles, viii: 9-10. His fame was world-wide, his followers in every nation, and in Rome a statue was erected in his honor. He had frequent contests with Peter, what we in this day would call miracle-matches in order to determine which had the greater power. It is stated in ‘The Acts of Peter and Paul’ that Simon made a brazen serpent to move, stone statues to laugh, and himself to rise in the air; to which is added: ‘as a set-off to this, Peter healed the sick by a word, caused the blind to see, &c.’ Simon, being brought before Nero, changed his form: suddenly he became a child, then an old man; at other times a young man. ‘And Nero, beholding this, supposed him to be the Son of God.’
“In ‘Recognitions,’ a Petrine work of the early ages, an account is given of a public discussion between Peter and Simon Magus, which is reproduced in this volume.
“Accounts of many other miracle-workers are given, showing most conclusively that the power by which they wrought was not confined to any one or to any number of persons, as the Christian world teaches, but that mediumistic gifts were then, as now, possessed by many. Statements quoted from the writers of the first two centuries of what took place will severely tax the credulity of the most credulous to believe, even in this era of marvels. Many of those accounts may be greatly exaggerated, but it is not reasonable to suppose that they are all sheer fabrications, with not a moiety of truth for their foundation; far less so with the revealments made to men since the advent of Modern Spiritualism. Some idea of the thoroughness with which every subject is dealt with in this volume may be formed when we state that in the index there are two hundred and thirteen references to passages relating to ‘Jesus Christ’; from which, also, it may be justly inferred that what is given must be of great value to those seeking information that will enable them to determine whether Jesus was ‘Man, Myth, or God.’ ‘The Origin and History of Christian Doctrines,’ also ‘The Origin and Establishment of the Authority of the Church of Rome over other Churches,’ are fully shown, and much light thrown upon many obscure and disputed questions. In a word, it is impossible for us, without far exceeding the limits prescribed for this article, to render full justice to this very instructive book; but we think enough has been said to convince our readers that it is one of more than ordinary interest, and a desirable acquisition to the literature of this progressive age.”*
* Second Edition, I vol., 8vo., pp. 455. Chicago: C. V. Waite & Co. Thomas J. Whitehead & Co., agents for New England, 5 Court Square, Room 9, Boston.
Some writers tried to make Apollonius appear a legendary character, while pious Christians will persist in calling him an impostor. Were the existence of Jesus of Nazareth as well attested by history and he himself half as known to classical writers as was Apollonius no sceptic could doubt to-day the very being of such a man as the Son of Mary and Joseph. Apollonius of Tyana was the friend and correspondent of a Roman Empress and several Emperors, while of Jesus no more remained on the pages of history than as if his life had been written on the desert sands. His letter to Agbarus, the prince of Edessa, the authenticity of which is vouchsafed for by Eusebius alone–the Baron Munchausen of the patristic hierarchy–is called in the Evidences of Christianity “an attempt at forgery” even by Paley himself, whose robust faith accepts the most incredible stories. Apollonius, then, is a historical personage; while many even of the Apostolic Fathers themselves, placed before the scrutinizing eye of historical criticism, begin to flicker and many of them fade out and disappear like the “will-o’-the-wisp” or the ignis fatuus.
— Article “Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus” by H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophist, June, 1881
Apollonius of Tyana, from The Theosophist
Apollonius of Tyana
In spite of misrepresentation and disdain, and the mistaken zeal of sectaries who have thought, by blackening the character of a great man whom they failed to understand, they were advancing the divine claims of their own leader, the character of Apollonius will always stand out as one of the grandest, if not the grandest, of his time. Mr. Tredwell, in a recently published work, 1 has given us the best modern account of Apollomus and his times and to this book we owe most of our details.
Apollonius was born, as nearly as can be determined, about the year one of our era at Tyana in Cappadocia. His parents were connected with some of the noblest families of the City. At fourteen years of age he was taken to Tarsus to be educated under the care of “Euthydemus, the Phœnician, a stoic and a celebrated rhetorician, and where he enjoyed conversation with the disciples of Pythagoras, Plato, Chrysippus and Aristotle.” Dissatisfied with the manners of this city, he removed with his tutor, to Ægæ, a maritime town near Tarsus. Here he was placed under the tutelage of the Epicurean, Euxemes of Heraclea. While Apollonius was at Ægæ, his father died leaving him a considerable fortune which he divided with his elder brother, and his relatives. Apollonius went to Tyana to bury his father and on his return turned the temple of Æsculapius into a Lyceum, where all kinds of philosophical disputations were held, and there he effected many remarkable cures.
He now determined to pass five years in silence according to the Pythagorean code. “This period was passed chiefly in Pamphylia and in Cilicia; and although he travelled through provinces whose manners were corrupt and effeminate, and much needed reformation, he never uttered a word, nor did a murmur ever escape him. The method he used in expressing his sentiments during his silence was by his eyes, his hands and the motion of his head. He never seemed morose nor out of spirits, and always preserved an even, placid temper. He complained that this life was irksome, inasmuch only as he had many things to say which he refrained from saying; that he heard many things of a disagreeable nature which he affected not to hear. In this manner he passed over many things said against him in dignified silence.” It is hardly possible to over-estimate the value of this discipline as a training for the will, the judgment and the perceptive faculties. It is remarkable to what an extent, though voluntarily deprived of the power of speech, he was able to make known his thought. On one occasion, while residing at Aspendus, he quelled a tumult raised by the inhabitants on account of the exactions of the corn monopolists during a time of famine. Then enraged populace were about to seize the governor and burn him alive.
Apollonius approached the governor, whom he asked by signs in what duties he had been remiss. The governor declaring himself innocent, Apollonius signified to the mob that he must be heard. The governor then explained that the real blame lay with the monopolists whom he named. The people then wanted to seize these men and take the hoarded corn by force. Again Apollonius interfered, giving them to understand that if they would be patient their demands should be satisfied without the commission of crime. The monopolizers were sent for and rebuked and were glad to purchase their lives by the surrender of their corn.
When Apollonius had fulfilled his vow he went to Issus and Alexandria and thence to Antioch in Syria. At this place he entered the temple of Apollo Daphaneus and rebuked the neglected state of the temple and the absence of rational worship. At Antioch he occasionally addressed the people, “but he avoided promiscuous multitudes and places of public resort, for he disliked their rude and disorderly manners.” But, so far from shutting himself up from all communication with his fellows, “he admitted with pleasure into his conversations all who were of good behaviour.”
During the reign of Tiberius and Caligula, Apollonius did not visit the capital, though he kept himself informed of all matters that transpired there, without apparently paying any attention to political affairs. He went from city to city and from temple to temple. “Whenever he visited a city which happened to be of Greek origin and was in possession of an established code of religious worship, he called together the priests and discoursed to them on the nature of their gods and the discipline of their temples, and if he found that they had departed from the ancient and usual forms, he always set them right. But when he came to a city where religious rites and customs were barbarous and with immoral tendencies, he enquired by whom they were established and for what they were intended and in what manner they were observed, at the same time suggesting whatever occurred to him as better, more becoming, and more adapted for the general good; this he sometimes did by private advice to the priests; at others by public discourses.
“Wherever Apollonius in his travels found devotees of virtue and morality associated for the promotion of the true philosophy, he commanded them to ask what they pleased, assuring them that those who cultivate the virtues and the true philosophy ought in the mormng to commune with the gods concerning the matters of the gods, and in the evening of human affairs.” When he had answered all questions of friends and talked as much as he deemed sufficient, he then addressed the mu1titude, with whom he always discoursed in the evening, but never before noon. In this manner of occupation his time was employed many years at Antioch and surrounding cities up to A.D. 40.
He now determines to travel in foreign countries and, accompanied by two faithful and expert scribes of his own family, he set out for India. In order to hold converse with the Persian Magi, he travelled by Babylon and Susa. At Ninus, on the Euphrates, he met Damis, who became his companion and disciple, and to whose journals we owe most of the particulars of his life. Spending a short time in Mesopotamia, they entered the territory of Babylon, where Apollonius was met by the king’s guard and commanded to halt. Mr. Tredwell omits the account of the journey to India referring his readers to the full account in Bewick’s “Life of Apoilonius.” Eliphas Levi considers that this account of the Indian journey is in reality a book of initiation, symbolically setting forth the trials and triumphs of him who aspires to tread the narrow way. The account has often been impugned as fabulous, but Mr. Tredwell says “the account of Darnis is so minute in detail and exact in description, and bears such evidence of artless honesty and truthfulness, that we are convinced on reading it that it could have been written by none other than an eye witness. Many of the places and events described and related by Damis were never heard of in Greece before the visit of Apollonius, the truth of which modern research has confirmed.” He also adds that “it was through these Indian itineraries of Apollonius that renewed impulsion was given to the Hindu element pervading the religion and philosophy of Greece.” If the account of this journey was so written as to form a book of initiation, there is no reason for supposing that the separate events recorded therein were not true. In any case it is more than probable that Apollonius himself received instruction and initiation on this journey.
After his wanderings in India he returned to his native country by the Erythræan Sea, Babylon, thence to Ninus and to Antioch—subsequently the witness of ten ecclesiastical councils. He stayed here several months A.D. 48; but, becoming disgusted with the dissolute morals of the place, he left it for Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch and thence took ship for Smyrna.
They touched at Cyprus, where Apollonius and his disciples visited the temples of New Paphos. Prevented by the weather from remaining longer on the island, they put to sea agaai and, in the evening anchored at Rhodes. From this place they continued their voyage to Panormus, the port of Ephesus. As soon as his arrival at this place was known, the citizens left heir accustomed occupations to meet and welcome him. He delivered several moral and religious discourses, “and the city of Ephesus, which was so notorious for its profligacy and frivolity was brought back by the teachings of Apollonius to the cultivation of philosophy, and to abandon their dissipation and cruel sports.”
The priests and oracles of Colophon and of Didymus and of Pergamus had already declared in his favour, and all persons who stood in need of assistance were commanded by the oracle to repair to Apollonius, such being the w ill of Apollo and the Fates. Embassies were sent from all the principal cities of Ionia offering him rights of hospitality.
Smyrna sent ambassadors who, when questioned for a reason of the invitation, replied, ‘To see you, Apollonius, and be seen by you.’ ‘Then,’ said Apollonius, ‘I Will come; our curiosity is mutual.’
While at Ephesus, Apollonius spent his time visiting the temples and lecturing to the people. He also went to other places near and addressed the people wherever he went. From Ephesus he went to Smyrna, and as he approached the city, the Ionians, who were engaged in their Panionian festival came out to meet him. “He found the people given up to idle disputings, and much divided their opinions upon all subjects which tended for the public welfare and the good government of the city. He exhorted them their disputes to vie with each other in giving the best advice or in charging most faithfully the duties of citizens, in beautifying their city with works of art and graceful buildings, advising them that beautiful cities resemble the statue of Jupiter Olympus 2 which Phidias had made, or the elegant work of Cleanthes, the Corinthian, or of Polycletus or the fabulous works of Dædolus, always beautiful and artistic and giving joy and culture to the beholders.” At Smyrna Apollonius delivered many discourses, always taking care to confine himself “to such topics as were most useful to his hearers.” He was the guest of Theron, a stoic and an astronomer.
While at Smyrna ambassadors from Ephesus came to Apollonius entreating him to return to their city to stay the ravages of the plague that had broken out. It appears that Apollomus had already warned the Ephesians that unless they paid more attention to the sanitary condition of their city a plague would inevitably break out. He went to Ephesus, and after haranguing the people promised them “that he would that day put a check upon the disease.” According to Lactantius, te Ephesians consecrated a statue to Apollonius in commemoration of his having delivered them from the plague.
From Ephesus he went to Athens, after visiting Pergamus, where he discoursed in the temple of Athena Pallas. He also visited Ilium, a three days’ journey from Pergamus. Near this place he is said to have visited the tomb of Achilles, where he passed a night during which several questions he put were answered. He then sailed for Lesbos, landing at Methymna.. There he restored the statue of the god and built a chapel over It. He also visited the temple of Orpheus at Mytilene, at which place he spent one season, remaining till autumn. From Mytilene he went to Samos and thence to Athens. He arrived on the first day of the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries. Apollonius wished to be initiated into the mysteries, but the hierophant refused to admit him as being “a man not pure in things touching religion.” Apollonius replied that the real reason of this refusal was because “I know more of the ceremonies of initiation than you do.” The hierophant then wanted to initiate Apollonius, who, however, declined, saying he would wait until another hierophant as appointed.
Apollonius passed his time at Athens with the philosophers who were gathered there in considerable numbers, though the schools had already begun to decline. He delivered many discourses “both in the temples to the priests, and in the stoa to the people.” He is said to have corrected many abuses of the temples, and on one occasion to have cast a devil out of a young man. He remained two years at Athens and then went on an embassy the Thessalians “in obedience to a command of Achilles.” He visited all the temples in Greece, purifying and amending the worship where necessary in each place. Passing through athens he went on to Corinth, visiting Eleusis and Megara on the way. At Corinth he was met by an embassy of Elians who invited him to come to Olympia to witness the games. There the Spartans sent him an invitation to visit their country after the games were ended. He accepted the invitation, but, noticing the effeminate appearance of the ambassadors, he sent by them a message to the Ephori, blaming the modern system of education and recommending them to return to their ancient customs. At Olympia Apollonius discoursed on such subjects as fortitude, wisdom, temperance, charity and other virtues delivering his lectures in the porch of the temple of Jupiter. According to his promise he went to Sparta and found there that the habits of the people were simple, manly, and unostentatious, and that their appearance in no way resembled the effeminacy of the ambassadors sent to him at Olympia. From Sparta he went to Epidaurus, where he stayed in the temple of Æsculapius, to whom divine honours were paid. Thence, by way of Malea, Bœa and Acmea, he went to Crete, staying at Gnossus. He also visited the labyrinth. While at Crete, Apollonius, engaged at the time in addressing the people, felt the shock of the earthquake and eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the cities of Campania, Herculaneum and Pompeii, A.D. 64.
From Crete, Apollonius proceeded to Rome, going by sea to Puteoli and thence by land along the Appian way. At this time Nero ruled the Roman empire, and its capital was a dangerous place for philosophers to visit. One after another these had been imprisoned, exiled or murdered, apparently because their virtuous lives were a reproach to Roman vice. So strong were the warnings received by Apollonius on his way to Rome, that out of thirty disciples who accompanied him, only eight remained with him.
They took up their abode in an inn near the ancient city walls and adjacent to Cicero’s house. They spent several days visiting the different parts of the city. They endeavoured to attract as little attention as possible, and for some time were not molested. One evening they were discovered by a spy. This man, feigning drunkenness, went about the city singing verses written by Nero, with power to arraign all who hastened with inattention or who did not pay him.
As Apollonius and his friends did not seem greatly impressed by the singing, the spy accused them of violating the majesty of Nero. However they paid the singer and passed on. The next day Apollonius was taken before Telesinus, one of the Consuls. The Consul was amazed at his religious zeal and his boldness in answer to questions put to him, “and by way of honouring him, offered to grant him a permit to enter the temples.” Apollonius said he preferred “to visit temples not so vigilantly guarded.” After this Apollonius passed all is time in the temples, going from one to another and, as usual introducing reforms wherever they appeared called for. He visited none, but declined to receive none, but at last he excited the suspicion of Nero through his influence over Demetrius, a celebrated cynic philosopher. Apollonius was now watched, but apparently left Rome for a time. Returning thither he was arrested on a charge of high treason. It is said that an informer presented himself at the trial before Tigellinus, the public prosecutor, with a roll on which were inscribed all the accusations against Apollonius. This roll the informer flourished about, boasting that Apollonius’ hour was come. When he presented the document to Tigellinus, everybody was surprised to find it blank. This is said to have been effected by the substitution of a blank roll by Menippus. However popular opinion immediately invested Apollonius with power over demons. Apollonius gave bold answers to interrogatories of Tigellinus who dismissed him saying, “Go where you please, only giving security for your appearance when required.” Apollonius now became more cautious in his behaviour. One day he is said to have restored to life a maiden who was being carried out for burial. Apollonius went from Rome to Spain, but we have no particulars of the route taken, though there are records of his conversations with his disciples during this period, especially his criticisms on Nero. While Apollonius was in Spain, Vindex, governor of Gaul, was planning a revolt which Apollonius is said to have aided by his advice. Mr. Tredwell thinks that the real object of Apollonius’ journey to Spain was to strike a blow against the power of Nero by encouraging the rebellion that shortly followed his departure.
After the fall of Nero, Apollonius went to Carthage, and thence by Utica, to Sicily. Here he visited temples in various parts of the island, and remained a year in Sicily. Thence he sailed for Athens. At Leucas he changed his vessel, saying, “Let us leave this ship, for it is not good for us to sail in her to Achaia.” The ship quitted at Leucas was wrecked in the Gulf of Crissa. At Athens “Apollonius presented himself for initiation into the mysteries, and the rites were performed by the very hierophant whom he declared should be the successor of the hierophant who had formerly refused him initiation.”
Apollonius passed the winter in Greece and then determined to visit Egypt. He arrived at Alexandria A.D. 69. Here the citizens welcomed him gladly, for they had long held him in the greatest reverence. At this time Vespasian, proclaimed emperor by the army, was on his way to Rome. Passing through Alexandria he at once enquired after Apollonius. Being told that the philosopher was in the temple, Vespasian at once went thither and at their meeting said, “To you, .Apollonius, more than any other man, am I indebted for my present success. I know your participation in the present revolution, and to you I shall look for advice.” Vespasian remained several months in Alexandria, and during that time was constantly in the company of Apollonius. Apollonius is said to have performed many miracles while at Alexandria, some of them under the eye of the emperor. A rupture took place between Vespasian and Apollonius, because the former deprived Greece of certain liberties granted by Nero, and moreover sold offices and pardons, seeming to forget all but the claims of avarice.
After the departure of Vespasian from Egypt, Apollonius, accompanied by his disciples, went up the Nile to Sais, where they arrived on the day of the celebration of the festival of Neith which took place every fourth year. From Sais they went to Heliopolis, at that time deserted, and thence to Memphis. Pthah was the deity worshipped at Memphis, and near his temple was another “dedicated to the pigmy god Cabeiri, into which none but priests entered.” Apollomus considered that the pyramids were not constructed by the Egyptians and were constructed “firstly and chiefly as tombs; secondly, as places of worship; thirdly, to gratify the vanity of the builders—a people who inhabited the country anterior to the Egyptians.” He compares them to the pagodas of India, and says that the meaning of Memphis is “land of the pyramid.” During his Egyptian journey Apollonius was much disgusted at the excessive reverence paid to animals. His principal object in visiting Egypt was to see the gymnosophists of upper Egypt, and to compare their tenets and mode of life with those of the Indian philosophers. He passed some time with them, but found them far below their Hindu prototypes in knowledge, he said, “And now, in all candour let me submit to you: Do you think that your methos for propagating truth and purifying the world can prove otherwise than a failure? True, it may tend to the purification of yourselves; but why not practise your great virtues in the world and surrounded by temptations? Why not remain in the midst of crowded populations and help to purify them by your example and practice? Do you not rob the world of your ennobling influence by taking yourselves out of it? I think your system of philosophy in these particulars has little to recommend it besides its selfishness.” In a other conversation with these Egyptians Apollonius, speaking of his own experiences, says the philosophy of Pythagoras seemed to invite him within its embraces in these words; “O young man, the path to which I would direct your steps is full of cares and self-denials. If any man conform to my rule of life he must remove from his table all animal food and forget the use of wine; he must not mingle the cup of wisdom set in the hearts of all men with a love of wine; he is to wear no garments made from either hair or wool ; his shoes must be of the bark of trees; and his rest and sleep wherever and whenever he can get them. I am so severe with my followers, that I have bridles for curbing the tongue. Attend now, and I will tell you the rewards which await him ho makes e his choice. He shall possess, without a rival, the virtues, justice and temperance; he shall become more a terror to tyrants than their slave, and shall be more acceptable to the gods, through his humble offerings, than they who shed the blood of hetacombs of bulls; he shall be sympathetic in the sufferings of others, with a transcendent love for all humanity. When once he is made pure, I will give him knowledge of hereafter, and so fill his visual ray with light as to render him capable of distinguishing the merit of gods and heroes, and of appreciating, to their full value, all shadowy phantasms whenever they assume the form of mortals or immortals.” This, Apollonius told the Egyptian, was his philosophy and the life he had chosen. He also said, “I determined to seek the truth from its fountain head and for such reasons I was induced to visit the Indians.”
Apollonius visited all the historical places on both aides of the Nile, ascending as far as the first cataract and then returned to Alexandria. He then travelled into the East, the country of the Idumeans, Phœnicians, Syrians, Sicilians (Tarsus) and afterwards into Ionia. At the death of Vespasian his son Titus succeeded to the imperial dignity. On his way to Rome, Titus requested Apollonius to meet him at Argos and had a conference with the philosopher there. Titus had but a short reign and was followed by Domitian. This emperor soon showed signs of the characteristics of Nero, and Apollonius set to work travelling through the empire and sowing the seeds of discontent against the emperor. At Smyrna he preached on “Fate and Necessity” with special reference to the troubles of the time. He had been secretly advocating the cause of Nerva, and for this Domitian determined to put him to death. Apollonius, without telling his companions whither he intended going, set out from Smyrna and went to Puteoli, where he had a long conference with Demetrius the philosopher, who strongly advised him not to risk a visit to Rome. Apollonius, however, insisted on going on, and on his arrival was placed in custody to await the emperor’s pleasure. He was brought before Domitian, whose questions he answered with great boldness, and remanded back to prison, where he was loaded with irons. On his second examination he was accused of wearing strange garments and long hair, of allowing and encouraging men to call him a god, of predicting a plague in Ephesus through magic and turning it away by incantations, of sacrificing an Arcadian boy for purposes of divination. Apollonius made a lengthy speech in his defence, at the end of which it is said he vanished from the court-room and appeared the same day to Damis and Demetrius at Puteoli (at least three days’ journey from Rome) as they were conversing on the sea-shore. The day after he left Puteoli for Olympia. and travelled about Greece until his death, about which there are different accounts, in A.D. 98.
The main authority for the life of Apollonius is Philostratus, who was born A.D. 172. He was a well-known writer and has been frequently quoted as an authority; his description of the temple of Ephesus was sufficiently accurate to enable Mr. Wood to discover, in 1870, the exact site of the great temple of Diana at Ephesus. The materials used by Philostratus in compiling the biography of Apollonius were, the journal of Damis, who accompanied his master throughout his wanderings and seems to have recorded all that transpired at the time, much as Boswell did for his biography of Johnson; a sketch of Apollonius by Maximus of Ægæ, written between A.D. 17 and A.D. 20, and necessarily imperfect; also another account in the works of Mæragenes, together with a collection of the letters of Apollonius made by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. There is also frequent mention of Apollonius in the works of ancient writers.
In the above narrative, taken, as we have said, from Mr. Tredwell’s work, there is but little mention of the miracles said to have been performed by Apollonius. The account of Philostratus is however full of such occurrences. This fact has, in later times, been urged to the discredit of Philostratus as a historian, especially by Christian apologists, who, apparently claiming a monopoly of miraculous power for their own founder and his followers have tried to disprove even the existence of Apollonius. It is quite possible that the miracles may have been exaggerated, but there seems no reason to doubt that Apollonius, initiated in India really had the power—an extension of the mesmeric faculty—of curing diseases even in the absence of the sufferers. The story of his sudden disappearance from the emperor’s court after his trial whether by the production of a maya or other means, is paralleled by an account of a Brahman ascetic in recent times, who, summoned before a court at some distance off, delayed starting till within an hour of the time fixed for the hearing, and yet appeared to take his trial at the proper time. There are some members or the Theosophical Society who can also recall an exact parallel to the disappearance in court of the writing on the document when Apollonius was brought before Tigellinus. In the case of his raising the young girl from the dead, it is to be noticed that she was only recently deceased and the body was not worn out, and in some such cases it is possible for an initiate to induce the principles—no yet completely separated—to reunite. But perhaps the most striking proof of the power of Apollonius was the manner in which he was received by temple priests wherever he went and the deference they paid to his recommendations of reform. When we consider that all the ancient ceremonies were founded on specific reasons, that their virtue depended on the exact observation of the rules laid down, and hence that there was every inducement to the priests to decline the smallest alteration, it is not a little remarkable that they were willing to listen to Apollonius and it is impossible to imagine any but an initiate succeeding under similar circumstances.
Another point to be noticed is that Apollonius did not confine his efforts to attempts at the reformation of the priests alone, but he preached practical sermons for the people, and never failed to enforce the great truth that those who would know the doctrine must lead the life, and that men must be as well as know.
In several places he expresses his conviction that India is the real fountain-head of religious philosophy, and that he had drawn the thence the best of what he knew. The fact that Apollonius, having attained in a distant country the highest wisdom within his reach was able to impress its dictates upon so many systems is a fresh proof, were any needed, of the unity of the truth, of the supremacy of the Wisdom Religion, the source of all the creeds.
Of political action enough has been said to show how great was his inffluence. He lived in difficult times and seems to have done what lay in his power to prevent the bad from becoming worse. On the conflicting accounts of the manner of his death we make no comment, he is not the only initiate who is said to have vanished. Without having attained the full rank of highest adeptship, Apollonius was one of those men who combining the qualities of a “great man” with the powers of the initiate, appear on earth from time to time, powerfully affecting their generation during life and leaving a sacred influence after death.
1. “A. Sketch of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana : or the First Ten Decades of our Era,” by D. M. Tredwell. New York, Frederic Tredwell. Readers will find in this book a most interesting account of the times of Apollonius and descriptions of the places he visited, illustrated by quotations that show that a wide field of research has been traversed by the author. In the attempt however to combine a picture of the age with the life of the philosopher the latter tends at times to become somewhat obscured.
2. A marvel of art in ivory and gold.
Apollonius and the Mahatmas, from The Path
Apollonius and the Mahatmas I
The journey to India made by the great adept, Apollonius, of Tyana, was a special interest for us modern students of occultism. The story of this journev, related in the life of Apollonius by Philostratus, has been held by many to be a fable, and Mr. Tredwell, in his laudable work, omits any account of it. To an earnest Theosophist, however, the internal evidence if the narration is too strong to be resisted, although it is told at third hand probably with the adornments, which an accomplished Greek author thought needful for the requisite grace of style.
Apollonius may perhaps be said to have been the Master whose mission was to set the temples in order for the departure of the glorious classic era. Born in the same century as Jesus of Nazareth, nowhere did the teachings of the two, so far as it appears, come into open contact, although the fame of the former spread far and wide in Europe, Asia and Africa during his lifetime. It is said, however, that although no creed bears his name, his work in the world was nevertheless immense and his teachings have, in many unperceived ways, influenced millions of human beings down to the present day.
Apollonius was still a young man when he went to India, but even then he was famous for his wisdom. He had been sent, as a boy of fourteen years, to school in Tarsus by his wealthy father, but he did not like the ways of that city and he was allowed to remove to Aegae, also in Sicily, where he studied the great philosophers and was specially drawn to the teachings of Pythagoras. At the age of sixteen he fully adopted the Pythagorean life and held firmly to it ever after, letting his hair grow long, eating no flesh, and drinking no wine, and wearing no clothing made of animal products. He took up his abode in the temple of Asclepius, and thousands were attracted thither by the wisdom of the wonderfully beautiful youth. Grown to manhood, he made a vow of silence and spoke not a word for five years. Then for a time he taught in Antioch. When asked how the wise man should treat questions of learning, he replied: “Like the law-giver. For the law-giver must make that, of whose truth he has convinced himself, into commandments for the multitude.”
He now conceived the idea of a journey to India to meet the wise men known as Brahmins and Hyrkanians. He afterwards told the Egyptian Gymnosophists that his thoughts were directed to them in his youth, but his teacher pointed out to him that in India lived the men who stood nearest the source of wisdom, and from whom the Egyptians themselves derived their light. His seven disciples in Antioch had not the courage to undertake the journey with him, and he departed with two of his family servants, “one for writing rapidly and the other finely,” according to Philostratus. At Ninus he was joined by Damis the Ninivite. This young Assyrian was thenceforth his devoted disciple, accompanying him on all his many journeys throughout his long career. It is to Damis that we chiefly owe the detailed accounts of the doings of the Master thenceforward. We are thereby enabled to see Apollonius in his daily life; in his various deeds and actions, his familiar sayings recorded as he talks with his faithful companion about the common sights and occurrences around them. The picture is therefore exceptionally intimate, and the man himself is brought near to us as well as his divine teachings. When Damis was reproached for writing down such trifles about his master, and compared with a dog devouring the crumbs from a table, he replied: “When the gods are feasting they doubtless have servants who take care that no crumbs of ambrosia are lost.”
A year and eight months were spent in Babylon, where King Bardanus, who was a friend of wisdom, received Apollonius with great honors. Considerable intercourse was had with the Magi; he learnt something of them and also taught them something. Damis was forbidden to accompany him in his visits to them, but he said that Apollonius visited them at noon and at midnight. Once Damis asked “What are the Magi?” and was answered, “They are indeed wise, but not in everything.” The King became ill, and Apollonius spoke so much and so divinely about the soul that the monarch said to those around: “Apollonius not only relieves me of concern for the Kingdom, but also for Death.”
Apollonius, in departing, refused all gifts, but the King provided him with camels and all things needful for the journey. When the King asked what he would bring him from India he replied, “A joyful gift, O King! For if intercourse with the men there makes me wiser, I shall come back to thee better than I now am.”
Upon this the King embraced him and said: “May’st thou but come: for this gift is great.”
They crossed what they called the Caucasus mountains, separating India and Medea. May it not be that from this ancient designation we get the name of the Caucasian race, rather than from what is now known as the Caucasus? This would make the place of origin identical with that commonly ascribed to the Aryans.
Crossing the Indus they soon came to Taxila, which they called the capital of India. It is difficult to trace out their exact course, the present names of most geographical features being quite different from the designations given by Damis. It would probably require a thorough Occultist to tell just what places they did visit. King Phraotes was the ruler at Taxila, and in him Apollonius found an initiate. The latter was struck with the modest simplicity of the monarch’s surroundings on entering the palace, and inferred that he must be a philosopher. The King told Apollonius the course which a youth took who proposed to dedicate himself to the pursuit of Wisdom. When he had reached his 18th year he had to cross the Hyphasis river to those men who had attracted Apollonius to India. Beforehand, however, he had to make his intention publicly known, in order that he might be restrained in case he was not pure. To be pure one had to be without blemish in respect to father and mother, and moreover with an upright ancestry for three generations. If without fault in this respect the youth himself was then examined as to whether he had a good memory, whether he was naturally inclined to uprightness or would only have it appear so, whether given to drink or gluttony, of boastful habits, evil or foolish ways, whether obedient to father, mother and instructors, and finally if he had made no evil use of the bloom of his youth. “Since wisdom stands in great esteem here,” said the King, “and is honored by the Indians, it is of great moment that those who seek to devote themselves unto it should be carefully examined and made to undergo thousand-fold tests.”
Apollonius And The Mahatmas II
When Apollonius asked about the wise men whom Alexander the Great was said to have conquered and then held converse with, Phraotes said that they were the Oxydraks, a war-like people who claimed Wisdom though they knew nothing of consequence; the truly wise men dwelt between the Hyphasis and Ganges. Had Alexander gone thither he could not have conquered them, even with ten thousand Achilles and thirty thousand Ajaxes. “For they fight not in battle against advancing enemies, but being holy men, beloved by God, they repulse them through aerial apparitions and lightning flashes.”
When Apollonius took his departure Phraotes gave him the following significant letter to the Brahmins:
“The King Phraotes greets his teacher Iarchas and the Wise men with him. Apollonius, the wisest of men, regards you as wiser than himself, and comes to learn from you. Let him not depart without knowledge of all which you yourselves know. For thus nothing of your wisdom will be lost; since no one speaks better than he, or has a truer memory. Let him also behold the throne whereon I sat when them, Father Iarchas, gavest me my kingdom. His attendants also deserve praise for their attachment to such a man. Be thou happy. Be happy all of you.”
When they came near the hill where the wise men dwelt their guide was filled with fear, for the Indians stood more in awe of these men than of their own King, and the King who ruled the land where they lived was accustomed to consult them about everything he said or did.
When near a village not a stadium from the hill, a youth approached them, blacker than any Indian, with a gleaming, moon-shaped mark between his eyebrows. He bore a golden anchor, which in India took the place of the Herald’s staff. He addressed Apollonius in Greek, which did not astonish him, since all the dwellers in the village [a lamasary?] spoke that tongue but it did astonish the others to hear their master called by name; Apollonius, however, it filled with confidence as he remembered the purpose of his journey. “We have come to men truly wise,” he said to Damis “for they have a fore-knowledge of things.” Asking the youth what was to be done, he was told: “Those with you remain here; thou, however, shall come just as thou art, for so They command. In this They Apollonius recognized Pythagorean language and he followed with joy.
In one of his conversations with the Egyptian Gymnosophists, years afterwards, Apollonius thus characterized the wise men of India: “I saw the Indian Brahmins who dwell upon the earth and not upon the earth; in a strong fortress though unfortified; and, without possessions, possessing everything.” The deep, interior significance of this is evident to a Theosophist. Damis, in the matter-of-fact way often customary with him, also gives these words a literal interpretation, saying that they had their bed upon the earth and strewed the ground with herbs selected by themselves; he himself had seen them floating in the air two ells above the earth; not for hocus pocus — for they despised vain striving — but in order, by thus floating with the sun, to be near and pleasing unto the god. This was what was meant by “upon the earth and not upon the earth.” The strong fortress, unfortified, meant the air in which they dwelt, for although they appeared to live under the open heaven, they spread a shadow over themselves, were not wet by the rain, and were in the sunshine whenever they wished. And since they obtained everything the moment they wished it, Apollonius rightly said that they possessed what they did not possess. “They wear their hair long, they bind a white mitra around their heads, their feet are bare. The form of their clothing resembles that of a sleeveless under-garment; the material is a wool produced by the earth of itself, white like the Pamphylian, but softer, and so fat that oil flows from it. Of this they make their sacred garments, and when another than these men seeks to gather this wool the earth will not release it. By the power of the ring and the staff which they bear even thing can be done, but both are kept as a secret.” This personal description by Damis corresponds in certain particulars with what we are told of the Masters to-day. The account of the wool leads some commentators to believe that asbestos is meant.
Iarchas welcomed Apollonius in Greek and asked him for the letter from Phraotes; when Apollonius wondered at his gift of prescience he remarked that a delta was lacking in the letter, left out by mistake, and so it proved. After reading the letter Iarchas asked: “What dost thou think of us?”
And Apollonius replied: “As no other person in the land whence I came, as my journey hither shows.”
“What makest thou think that we know more than thou dost?”
“I believe,” answered Apollonius, “that your knowledge is deeper and much more divine.”
Iarchas hereupon said: “Others are accustomed to ask the new comer whence he comes and for what purpose; the first sign of our wisdom shall be this: that the stranger is not unknown to us. So then, test this:”
Hereupon he told Apollonius his history from father and mother down, what he had done in Aega?, how Damis had come to him, what tidings of importance had happened on the way, etc. As Apollonius asked in surprise whence came that knowledge. Iarchas answered: “Thou also earnest gifted with this wisdom, but not yet with all of it.”
“And wilt thou teach me all thy wisdom?” asked Apollonius.
“By all means, and in ungrudging abundance, for this is wiser than miserly to conceal that which is worthy of knowing. Besides, Apollonius, I see thou hast been richly gifted by Mnemosyne, and she is the one among the gods whom we most love.
“Dost thou also behold,” asked Apollonius, “of what manner my nature is?”
“We see all peculiarities of the soul, for we know them by thousandfold indications,” replied Iarchas.
When mid-day came they rose in the air and did homage to the sun. The youth who bore the anchor was then told to go and provide for the companions of Apollonius. Swifter than the swiftest of birds he went and returned, saying: “I have provided for them.” He was then commanded to bring the throne of Phraotes, and when Apollonius had seated himself thereon they continued their conversation. Iarchas told him to ask what he wished, for he had come to men who knew all things. Apollonius asked if they knew themselves, for he believed that they, like the Greeks, held knowledge of self to be difficult. But Iarchus answered with an unexpected turning: “We know all things, because first of all we know ourselves; for no one of us can approach this wisdom without first attaining knowledge of self.”
Apollonius asked further, what they held themselves to be?
“Gods,” answered Iarchas.
“Because we are good men.”
Apollonius found so much wisdom in this saying that he made use of it in his speech of defence before the Emperor Domitian.
They talked about the soul and reincarnation, and Iarchas told him that the truth was “as Pythagoras taught you, and as we taught the Egyptians.” They spoke about the previous incarnation of Apollonius as steersman of an Egyptian ship, in which capacity he had refrained from following the inducements held out by pirates to let his vessel come into their hands.
Concerning this Iarchas said that refraining from unrighteousness did not constitute righteousness.
The King came to visit the Brahmins and a wonderful feast was prepared for him; everything came of itself: Pythian tripods, and automatic attendants of black bronze, the earth spread out herbs softer than beds to recline on, delicate viands appeared in orderly succession, etc. The accounts of these phenomena occasioned great remark during the subsequent career of Apollonius, and people would persist in mixing them up with the teachings of the master just as today they inextricably confound Madame Blavatsky’s famous cup and saucer with Theosophy. But we are told that Apollonius did not concern himself with phenomena; when he saw these wonderful things he did not ask how they were done, nor to be taught to do them, but he contented himself with admiring them. And we are also told that the marvelous things he did were not accomplished through ceremonial magic, but through the perfection of his wisdom.
Damis was subsequently allowed to come to the Brahmins and when he asked about the composition of the world and the four elements they replied that there were five — the fifth being ether, which was to be regarded as the primal source of the gods.
“For everything that breathes the air is mortal; that which drinks the ether is immortal and divine,” said Iarchas. He also said that the world was to be regarded as a living being of both sexes, having a more ardent love for itself than that of one person to another, being united and bound to itself.” Damis learnt much from his intercourse with the Brahmins, but he wrote that at the secret discourses Apollonius was alone with Iarchas, and from there originated the four books written by the former Iarchas, said Damis, gave Apollonius seven rings bearing the names of the seven planets, and Apollonius wore them one after the other according to the name of the day of the week.
The foregoing is an incomplete account of the remarkable journey and experience of Apollonius, as is necessitated by the limits of a brief article.
Many passages of deep wisdom have had to be passed over, and many remarkable things are told, hard to understand, but which, there is reason to believe, have an occult significance.
— By S.B., The Path, October & December 1886
Apollonius, Sage of Tyana
Apollonius, Sage of Tyana
During the first century A.D. the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea comprised the known Western world, where the Roman empire stretched its tentacles over all inhabited areas. It was a crucial time in our own history, for it set the stage for the ensuing dark ages, which were to draw a curtain of obfuscation over the human spirit. In this downward cycle only the strongest maintained an integrity of soul that would perpetuate enduring values, and there were born and lived a few outstanding figures whose light would inspire and hearten many future generations.
One such individual was Apollonius of Tyana, whose life became a vital inspiration to the people of many lands. He is believed to have been born in the year 4 or 3 B.C. and to have lived for a century, though the year and place of his death are uncertain; like Gautama the Buddha he is said to have continued to teach after his passing. It is curious that the numerous historians who make mention of Apollonius’s remarkable career totally ignore his fabled contemporary, Jesus. The latter appears only later in writings by Christian partisans, many of whom took pains to denigrate the Tyanean, as though by discrediting one spiritual teacher the other would gain in stature. There are, moreover, strong indications that both Apollonius and Jesus (whoever may have served as a type-figure for the story of this Messiah) belong to the hierarchy of light-bringers who appear at periodic intervals to instruct mankind by precept and example.
Certain recognized symbols common to both, as well as to other great teachers, constitute a sort of code, which signals that the account refers to an initiate in wisdom. It is stated, for instance, that Apollonius’s mother received the annunciation by a god, Proteus, that he was to be born from her. The story goes that when the time arrived, she fell asleep in a meadow where she had been picking flowers. A flock of swans formed a circle about her and “cried out aloud all at once, . . . ” whereupon she awoke and gave birth. Simultaneously, a thunderbolt descended from heaven and rose once more into the sky. These prodigies said to surround the birth of Apollonius, son of god and mortal, as well as his subsequent life and teaching, announce him as one in the line of mankind’s spiritual guides. Under many names, Proteus constitutes the noblest ideal cherished by human hearts, and takes many forms. It is a force that abides, a silent sentinel, within earth’s sanctuaries, embodying through worthy envoys who, by teaching and example, ignite minds able and ready to receive illumination. Of this benign power are born the saviors who seek, time and again, to rouse the spirit of man from its recurring torpor.
We are indebted to Flavius Philostratus for a detailed biography of Apollonius. Philostratus was a noted scholar, a connoisseur of the arts, and one of the literati who surrounded the studious and intelligent Julia Domna, wife of the emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 until 211 A.D. This couple and their son Caracalla were devoted students of philosophy (as emperor, Caracalla belied this early training), and it was Julia who commissioned Philostratus to rewrite and edit the reputedly somewhat “awkward” account of Apollonius’s life which had been recorded by Damis of Nineveh, his faithful disciple and constant companion. Julia’s father, Bassianus, had been Priest of the Sun at Emesa, Syria, and his daughter had gathered an impressive collection of books and manuscripts relating to philosophy and to famous exponents of occult teachings. She was able to furnish reference material for the project, including letters written by Apollonius which had been preserved at Antioch by Hadrian (emperor, 117-I38 A.D.). Philostratus also visited many of the places traversed by the Tyanean in order to confirm his facts and, if possible, discover where the sage had died. Many later writings on the life of Apollonius stem from Philostratus’s account, of which numerous translations exist.
In view of the allegoric content one is tempted to wonder whether Damis’s writing really was so inept, or whether his use of the classic Mystery-language was in fact too revealing, in which case Julia, who undoubtedly was familiar with the technique of concealing more profound facts beneath other, secular information, may have taken the precaution to have it re-recorded by an intelligent lay scholar, in order to safeguard from desecration matters which were better left unexplained. This point remains moot.
At the age of fourteen Apollonius entered the temple of Aesculapius at Aegae, where he became knowledgeable in the art of healing, the temple being what we would call a hospital. He received the teachings of Pythagoras from Euxenus, whose personal life style was, however, Epicurean rather than Pythagorean. Nonetheless, the youth respected his teacher whose tutelage he soon outgrew and, characteristically, persuaded his father to provide Euxenus with a comfortable villa for his retirement before taking leave of him, for Apollonius came of a wealthy and respected family. Enthusiastically embracing the discipline of the Pythagorean school, Apollonius distributed his patrimony among his family and the poor, retaining only a pittance for his own modest needs, and embarked on a five- (some say four-) year period of silence. He donned the linen garb of a philosopher and traveled through Pamphylia and Cilicia attempting, wherever he went, to ameliorate local conditions. He was often sorely tempted to break his vow of silence and succumb to the overwhelming desire to speak. Jibes and quips concerning his dress and habits disturbed him very little, but he was hampered in his humanitarian efforts to remedy difficulties for communities and individuals, and had sometimes to resort to writing his recommendations.
In Nineveh he became acquainted with Damis, who attached himself to the master with the words, “Let us depart, Apollonius, you following God, and I you.” The travelers visited Vardan, king of Babylon, and succeeded in converting him from a life of profligacy to that of a philosopher. Thereafter Apollonius spent several years among the Arabs and was evidently received into mystic brotherhoods in the area south of Palestine, for in their travels among nomadic tribes Apollonius is credited by Damis with learning from them to understand the language of birds, which faculty Damis imputes to their having partaken of the heart or liver of snakes and dragons. He also speaks of marvels encountered in their travels, such as the legendary unicorn. All this is clearly symbolic, indicating that Apollonius (who never in his life tasted meat) had received esoteric instruction among the “serpents” — initiates — inhabiting the region; the identical expression is used for the same concept from India to Iceland: partaking of the dragon’s heart enables one to understand birdsong, i.e., to know the secrets of nature.
They traversed the Hindu Kush Mountains to reach India. Little is known of what really took place among the Brahmans and Buddhists whom Apollonius sought as his teachers and of whom he later said: “I saw Indian Brahmans living upon the earth and yet not on it, and fortified without fortifications, and possessing nothing, yet having the riches of all men.” That he received instruction from them is certain. He left his traveling companions at some little distance from the sacred precincts and entered alone. It seems probable that he spent several years under their guidance and training, whether in India or Tibet; he was later to say, “I ever remember my masters, and journey through the world teaching what I have learned from them.” While no hint appears that Damis partook of any such privilege but remained ever faithfully in the background, it is apparent that he was a trusted and devoted disciple and the recipient of many a crumb from the master’s table. Jesus had a favorite disciple in John, Buddha had his Ananda; Damis remained the loyal servant of Apollonius until the end.
The Tyanean and eight disciples spent some time in Rome during the reign of Nero, who is believed to have persecuted all philosophers, yet the little group appears to have been not only unharmed, but Apollonius was given a free hand by Nero’s consul Telesimus to reform the temple practices, whether with or without the emperor’s knowledge. As a result of his ministry, there was a marked revival of religious devotion; people flocked to hear him speak of sacred matters. His friend Demetrius, however, for inveighing against the hot baths by which people “enfeebled and polluted themselves,” was banished from Rome. His comment, which was probably hygienically accurate, stirred up suspicion against philosophers in general, so that Apollonius was thereafter kept under constant surveillance. Upon the fulfillment of a rather ambiguous prophecy he had made, he was brought to trial, accused by the powerful Tigellinus who appeared as prosecutor bearing a voluminous scroll of charges. This he brandished triumphantly and, opening it with a flourish, discovered the scroll to be entirely blank. Apollonius was free. He forthwith embarked for Spain and the Pillars of Hercules where, at Gadir (Cadiz) he deciphered an inscription which until then had defied interpretation. He also became acquainted with the ocean tides, which he attributed in part to the breathing of the spirit of the earth, in part to the phases and motions of the moon.
Three emperors followed Nero within the space of one year, whereafter Vespasian, encouraged by Apollonius whom he consulted in Egypt, assumed the power in 70 A.D. Vespasian proved a reasonable ruler, but he rescinded the freedom Nero had bestowed upon Greece and was for this severely taken to task by Apollonius in a series of bluntly worded letters. He was succeeded in 79 A.D. by his son Titus, who proved an exemplary monarch for two years whereafter he was poisoned by his brother Domitian who coveted the throne.
Apollonius traveled with Damis and several other disciples throughout the empire. They visited Babylon, then Ninus, Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamon and Troy, Lesbos and Athens; everywhere Apollonius instructed the temple priests and sought to purify the rituals and restore meaning and inspiration to the religious practices which had sorely decayed with the vulgarization of the Mysteries, and even descended to animal sacrifices. At Eleusis, people attached themselves to Apollonius, neglecting the rites for which they had gathered, whereupon he “urged them to attend at once to the rites of religion, for that he himself would be initiated.” By way of example, he then sought initiation for himself but was refused on the grounds that he was reputed to be “a wizard and a charlatan.” Apollonius rejoined:
“You have not yet mentioned the chief of my offence, which is that knowing, as I do, more about the initiatory rite than you do yourself, I have nevertheless come for initiation to you, as if you were wiser than I am.” The bystanders applauded these words, . . . thereupon the hierophants since he saw that his exclusion of Apollonius was not by any means popular with the crowd, changed his tone and said: “Be thou initiated, for thou seemest to be some wise man that has come here.” But Apollonius replied: I will be initiated at another time, and it is so and so,” mentioning a name, “who will initiate me.”
His prophecy was fulfilled after four years. The episode reveals how inadequately the hierophant filled his sacred office, while the rite had become so degraded that what formerly had been a profoundly transforming experience was now for many a candidate no more than a perfunctory sacrament; however, to one of Apollonius’s stature it was an ordeal not to be undertaken lightly.
Apollonius had his Judas in the form of one Euphrates, a counselor of Vespasian whom the sage had originally recommended to the emperor. The subtlety of this relationship causes it to be easily overlooked, yet it is a vital element of the Mystery-tale, a necessary ingredient in nature’s balance of forces. Euphrates was a venal sycophant who, fearing for his standing with the emperor and its emoluments, went to great lengths to try to destroy the one man who could readily see through his machinations. Had he but known it, his precautions were needless. Apollonius knew too well the part he must needs play.
When Euphrates learned of Apollonius’s intention to visit the Gymnosophists who dwelt by the upper reaches of the Nile, he sent a messenger who “filled these naked sages here with suspicion of Apollonius, to the end that whenever he came here they might flout him,” according to the account given to Damis by one of them. The matter was soon cleared up and the Tyanean made welcome. However, they spoke slightingly of the wisdom of Pythagoras and the wise men of India, extolling their own method of philosophy above all others, whereupon Apollonius demonstrated that their wisdom was in fact sprung from the sources they belittled, and he added: “In defence of myself I do not mean to say anything, for I am content to be what the Indians think me; but I will not allow them to be attacked.”
With Domitian began a reignof terror for philosophers, but Apollonius “took his stand against the tyrant in behalf of the welfare of the subjects, with the same spirit and purpose as he had taken his stand against Nero.” He could foresee the dawning of a better age in the coming century, for during a public lecture at Smyrna, he addressed a statue of the emperor: “Thou fool, how much art thou mistaken in thy views of Destiny and Fate. For even if thou shouldst slay the man who is fated to be despot after thyself, he shall come to life again.” Euphrates saw to it that Domitian was apprised of these words, and the order was issued to arrest Apollonius and bring him to Rome for trial. Anticipating the summons, the latter was already on his way toward Rome to confront the emperor. In view of later events, one wonders whether the prisoner brought before Domitian was indeed Apollonius in the flesh or whether an “appearance” of him — a projection of his illusory form by an Adept — suffered imprisonment and trial, while the Tyanean pursued his work elsewhere. Be that as it may, the sage, while awaiting trial, devoted himself to consoling and encouraging other prisoners. On one of his visits, the faithful Damis bemoaned the fact that his beloved master was shackled like a common criminal, whereupon Apollonius calmly withdrew his foot from the leg-iron to show his pupil the futility of the bonds.
First Domitian tried, with the aid of agents provocateurs, to entrap Apollonius into some compromising statement concerning the philosophers Nerva, Orphitus, and Rufus, any one of whom might have been intended by the remark addressed to the statue in Smyrna. Nerva was confined to Tarentum; the other two were exiled on separate islands. Failing to incriminate them or Apollonius, Domitian accused him of wizardry but, finding it more and more difficult to justify his predetermined verdict, he reluctantly acquitted the sage of all charges, demanding, however, a private interview. To this Apollonius retorted, “Accord me also, if you will, opportunity to speak; but if not, then send some one to take my body, for my soul you cannot take. Nay you cannot take even my body, ‘For thou shalt not slay me, since I tell thee I am not mortal’ (Iliad, 22, 13]. And with these words he vanished from the court, which was the best thing he could do under the circumstances, . . .” in the words of Philostratus.
Philostratus credits Apollonius with foreseeing that Nerva, as the next emperor, would inaugurate a minor golden age of philosophy in the Roman empire, as indeed he did. On numerous occasions Apollonius had in fact made startling disclosures of events taking place at a distance or forewarned of coming dangers, such as a plague at Ephesus. At his trial he gave a partial explanation of this in terms the emperor could understand, saving: “I used, O my sovereign, a lighter diet than others, and so I was the first to be sensible of the danger; and, if you like, I will enumerate the causes of pestilences.” Domitian rapididly cut him short, possibly fearing a revelation of some matter weighing on his conscience.
Upon his release, Apollonius journeyed to Lebadea, to the Oracle of Trophomus, one of the most sacred and closely guarded of the Mystery-centers. Protected from public curiosity by a blend of awe and superstition, it was held to be guarded by serpents that must be appeased with honeycakes — both familiar expressions in the language of symbology. Pausanias gives a detailed account of the building of a fourth (stone) temple in a series of five by Trophonius and his brother Agamedes, in terms that leave no doubt of the esoteric import of every detail; implicit in the narrative are such recondite teachings as the characteristics distinguishing each successive wave of humanity, recognized symbolism pertaining to the healing arts, instruction in the Mysteries and the transforming processes involving memory and forgetfulness. Here too Apollonius was at first denied admission, until Trophonius “appeared to the priests and not only rebuked them for the reception they had given Apollonius, but enjoined them all to follow him to Aulis, for he said it was there that he would come to the surface in such a marvellous fashion as no man before.” When Apollonius did in fact emerge seven days later at the predicted place, enriched with his experience within the sacred caves, he bore with him also the oracle’s tangible response to his quest for truth — a volume containing the teachings of Pythagoras. According to Philostratus, this book was preserved with the sage’s letters in Hadrian’s palace.
It must strike one as curious that two spiritual preceptors traditionally placed in the first century of our reckoning have been so differently regarded: one, the Christian avatara, of whom nothing is personally known, to whom there are no direct contemporary references whatsoever, and for whose physical incarnation there is no evidence, has exerted an influence lasting to our own time; the other, Apollonius, a personage well known and revered for his purity and wisdom, whose life has been documented from birth to death, and who in his own age taught and influenced for the better emperors and kings, priests, philosophers, and common people in all countries surrounding the Mediterranean, remains a shadowy figure known mainly to scholars and historians. Yet both share the distinction of serving as channels for the source of inspiration and universal wisdom that is ever ready to pervade the thought-life of mankind, relaying from the fount of truth such noble impulsion as might help further the evolutionary progress of the human race. There is no doubt that but for these elevating influences their own age and succeeding centuries would have been even more rigorous than they were during the plunging cycle that was inevitably due. The inspiration of their lives and of all such spiritual light-bringers who seek to rouse mankind from the lethargy of materialism, stems from that same Protean source which permeates the deeper reaches of man’s noblest thought.
- Blavatsky, H. P., Isis Unveiled, 1877; Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, reprint.
- Lincoln Library of Essential Information, The Frontier Press Company, Buffalo, 1963.
- Mead, G. R. S., Apollonius of Tyana, the Philosopher-Reformer of the First Century A.D., Theosophical Publishing Society, London and Benares, 1901.
- Philostratus, Flavius, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, trans. F. C. Conybeare, 2 Vols., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969.
- Shilleto, A. R. (trans.), Pausanias’ Description of Greece, 2 vols., George Bell and Sons, London, 1904.
- Tredwell, Daniel M., A Sketch of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Frederic Tredwell, New York, 1886.
— By Elsa-Brita Titchenell, Sunrise magazine, January 1979
Biography by G.R.S. Mead
Apollonius of Tyana
The philosopher-reformer of the first century, A.D.; a critical study of the only existing record of his life,
with some account of the war of opinion concerning him, and an introduction on the religious associations
and brotherhoods of the times and the possible influence of indian thought on greece.
George Robert Stowe Mead
Apollonius of Tyana by Daniel M. Tredwell
A Sketch of the Life
Apollonius of Tyana
First Ten Decades of Our Era
By Daniel M. Tredwell
The Epistles of Apollonius of Tyana
The Epistles of Apollonius of Tyana
As for myself I am on friendly terms with philosophers; with sophists however or low clerks or any such other kind of wretches, I am neither on friendly terms now, and Heaven forbid I should ever be so at any later time. Although this does not apply to you, unless indeed you chance to be one of them, the following words do very much apply to you: heal and remedy your passions, and try to be a philosopher, and not to be jealous of those who really are such, for in your case old age is already at hand and death.
II.—To the same.
Forasmuch as virtue cometh by nature, by acquirement, by use, each of these may be held to be worthy of acceptation. See then whether you have any one of them, and either give up the teaching of wisdom for the future or at least communicate it freely and for nothing to those who associate with you, for you already have the riches of Megabyzes.
III.—To the same.
You have visited the countries that lie between me and Italy, beginning from Syria, parading yourself in the so-called royal cities. And you had a philosopher’s doublet all the time, and a long white beard, but besides that nothing. And now how comes it that you are returning by sea with a full cargo of silver, of gold, of vases of all sorts, of embroidered raiment, of every other sort of ornament, not to mention overweening pride, and boasting and unhappiness? What cargo is this, and what the purport of these strange purchases? Zeno never purchased but dried fruits.
IV.—To the same.
You would need little for your servants, if only they were servants of a philosopher. Nay, you should not even think of purchasing more than you really want, especially as you incur some ill-fame thereby. But since you have once made the mistake, the next best thing would be if you made as much haste as possible to give away some of what you have to others. You will still retain both your fatherland and your friends.
V.—To the same.
There is no need henceforth for any inmate of his garden, or follower of his school to plead the merit of one of the discourses of Epicurus which is entitled: “About Pleasure.” For a genuine advocate thereof has turned up in the Porch itself. But if by way of contradiction you should bring out the lectures and tenets of Chrysippus, let me point out to you a certain passage in the Emperor’s correspondence, namely this: “Euphrates has taken money of me and has taken it a second time. Now Epicurus would never have taken it.”
VI.—To the same.
I Lately asked some rich men, if they foster such bitter feelings. And they answered: “How can we do otherwise? ” So I asked them what was the reason of their duress, and they blamed their wealth. But you, my poor wretch, only acquired your wealth yesterday.
VII.—To the same.
As soon as you have reached Aegae in your hurry, and discharged your ship there, you have to return again post-haste to Italy, where you must fawn as usual upon the sick, the old men, old women, orphans, rich men, dandies, Midas, Getae. For they say that a merchant must let out every reef. For myself, I would rather clear out the salt-cellar in the house of Themis.
VIII.—To the same.
Perhaps then you would like to draw up a little indictment of me? I only wish you had the pluck to do so. And you would be able to repeat these hackneyed and obvious accusations: “Apollonius utterly declines to take a bath.” Yes, and what’s more, he never quits his house and takes care never to soil his feet. “You never see him moving any part of his person.” Yes, for he never moves anything except his soul. “He wears his hair long on his head.” Well, and so does the Hellene, because he is a Hellene and not a barbarian. “He wears linen raiment.” Yes, for this purest garb is that of priests. “He practises divination.” Yes, for many are the things we know not, and there is no other way of foreseeing anything that is going to happen. “But such practices are not consonant with philosophy.” Nevertheless they befit the deity. “And moreover he eases the flesh of its agonies and allays suffering.” You might equally bring this charge against Asclepius. “He eats alone.” Yes, and the rest of the world feed. “He uses few words and on few occasions.” Yes, for he has a faculty of holding his tongue altogether. “He abstains from all flesh and from eating any animal food.” That is surely a proof of his humanity. If you tell me, Euphrates, that you have put these counts into your indictment, you will probably add the following as well: “If there had been any going, he would have taken money as I have, and presents, and civil promotions.” If there had been money going, he would not have taken it. ” Nay, but he would have taken it for his country.” Yes, but that is not one’s country which knows not what it hath.
If your object is to please, you had better employ flute and lyre than argument; for they are the instruments which are made to minister to pleasure, and the art of doing so is named music. But argument finds out the truth; and at this you should aim in you actions, at this in your words, at least if you are really making a philosophic study of it.
X.—To the same.
Some people ask the reason why I have left off giving lectures to large audiences. Let all know then, who may be interested to understand such matters: No discourse can be really useful, unless, if it be single, it be also delivered to a single individual. Anyone then who discourses in any other manner is motived by vain glory to discourse.
XI.—To the Chief Councillors of Caesarea.
Men’s first need is of gods for everything and above everything; their second of cities, for next after the gods we must honour our cities; and if we are men of sense we prefer our cities’ welfare. Now if yours were only one city of many, instead of being, as it is, the greatest in Palestine, excelling all others there in size and in laws, and in institutions and in the warlike virtues of ancestors, and still more in the arts and manners of peace, I should still see reason to admire and honour your city more than all others, and so would every man who has any sense. 1 By common report this would be the reason for preferring your city on a comparison of it with the run of cities. 2 But whenever a city leads the way in paying honour to a single individual, and that one who is a stranger, and comes from afar off, seeing that it is a city which honours him, what can the individual do by way of return, and what worthy repayment of yourselves is possible? This perhaps and none other: That if he is a man beloved of the gods by reason of some natural endowment, he should pray that that city may obtain all blessings, and that his prayer may be granted. This I shall never cease to do in your behalf, for I am pleased to see the manners of Hellenism revealing their own excellence, and doing it by means of public inscriptions. But as Apollonides the son of Aphrodisius is a young man of firm and constant character, and worthy to bear your name, I shall endeavour to render him of use to you in every particular, with the help of some good fortune.
XII.—To the Chief Councillors of Seleucia.
Whatever city is so well affected as yours both towards the gods and towards such men as are worthy of acceptation, is both blessed in itself, and contributes to the excellence of those in whose favour it bears witness. Now though it is not difficult to lead the way in displaying graceful good-will, indeed it is the noblest of human acts, it is yet not easy to requite it; nay it is altogether impossible to find a true equivalent, for I imagine that what in time sequence is second, can never in nature be first. Consequently I am obliged to ask heaven to reward you who have shewn yourselves not only my superiors in ability, but also in deeds. For no man could possibly rise to such achievements as yours. It is a further proof of your gracious good-will towards me that you also wish me to visit you, as I would pray to have visited you already. Your envoys are the more precious to me, because they are already my friends, I mean Hieronymus and Zenon.
XIII.—To the same Persons.
Straton has indeed passed away from among men, and has left upon earth all that he had of mortality; but we who are here, still undergoing punishment, in other words still living, ought to have some concern for his affairs. One of us then must do one thing, another another, and it is our duty to do it now rather than later; for if in the past we were some of us known as his relations, and some of us merely as his friends, now is the time to show with all sincerity that we are really such, nor must we delay doing our duty to an indefinite future, supposing these names meant anything. I myself, however, am desirous in this matter to be especially your friend, and therefore I undertake to bring up myself Alexander who was his son by Seleucis, and to impart to him my own education. And I should certainly have given him money also, who am bestowing what is so much more important, if it were right that he should receive it.
I have been asked by many people on many occasions, why it is that I have never been sent for to Italy; or if I was sent for, why I did not come thither, like yourself and sundry other people. Now to the first question I shall give no answer, lest some should think that I knew the reason, whereas I am not interested to know it; but as regards the second question why need I say more than that I would rather have been sent for than go? Farewell.
XV.—To the same.
Plato has said that true virtue recognises no master. And supposing anyone fails to honour this answer and delight therein, and instead of doing so sells himself for filthy lucre, I say that he but gives himself many masters.
XVI.—To the same.
You think it your duty to call philosophers who follow Pythagoras magicians, and likewise also those who follow Orpheus. For my own part I think that those who follow no matter whom, ought to be called magicians, if only they are determined to be divine and just men.
XVII.—To the same.
The Persians give the name of magi to divine beings. A magus then is either a worshipper of the gods or one who is by nature divine. Well, you are no magus, but a man without god.
XVIII.—To the same.
Heraclitus the natural philosopher used to say that man is by nature irrational. Well, if this be true, as it is true, then let everyone hide his face who vainly and idly is held in repute.
XIX.—To Scopelianus, the Sophist.
In all there are five characters in rational discourse: the philosopher, the historian, the advocate, the writer of epistles, the commentator. And when these general characters have been settled, there emerges afresh in sequence of dignity, first he who is peculiar by reason of his own faculties or nature, and there comes second he who is an imitator of the best, supposing he be one of those who lack natural endowment. But the best is both difficult to find and difficult to appraise; consequently his own character is more fitting for each man to assume, so far forth as it is also more lasting.
If you leave power, and you have it, then it would be well if you also acquired prudence. For supposing you to have prudence, but to lack power, you would have been equally in need of power; for the one of these ever stands in need of the other, just as the eye needs light and light the eye.
XXI.—To the same.
It were best you should hold aloof from barbarians, and not aspire to rule them; for it is not right that they being barbarians should find in you a benefactor.
You should try to be poor as an individual, but to be rich as a member of humanity.
Pythagoras has declared that the divinest thing we have is the healing art. But if the divinest thing is the healing art, then we must take care of the soul as well as of the body; for surely a living creature cannot be in sound health, if in respect of its highest element it be diseased.
XXIV.—To the Presidents of the Olympic Games and to the Elians.
You invite me to attend the games of Olympia, and have sent me envoys to that effect. And I would come to be a spectator of your physical rivalries, if it did not involve my abandoning the greater arena of moral struggle.
XXV.—To the Peloponnesians.
The second phase of your relations with one another were the Olympic Games, and though in the first phase you were frankly enemies, in this second you still were not friends.
XXVI.—To the Priests in Olympia.
The gods are in no need of sacrifices. What then can one do in order to win their favour? One can, in my opinion, acquire wisdom, and, so far as one can, do good to such men as deserve it. This pleases the gods; atheists however can offer sacrifice.
XXVII.—To the Priests in Delphi.
The priests defile the altar with blood, and then some people ask in amazement why our cities are visited with calamities, when they have courted displeasure on the largest scale. O what folly and dulness! Heraclitus was wise, but not even he could persuade the Ephesians not to purge away mud with mud.
XXVIII.—To the King of the Scythians.
Zamolxis was a good man, and inasmuch as he was a disciple of Pythagoras, a philosopher. And if in his time the Roman had been such as he is now, he would have been glad to be friends with him. But if it is for freedom that you think you ought to struggle and make endeavour, make yourself known as a philosopher, that is to say as a free man.
XXIX.—To a Legislator.
Festivals lead to epidemics; for although they refresh men after their toil, they promote gluttony.
XXX.—To the Roman Quaestors.
You hold the highest office of the realm. If then you understand how to govern, why are the cities incessantly declining under your régime? But if you do not understand, you ought first to learn, and then to govern.
XXXI.—To the Procurators of Asia.
What is the use of cutting off branches of wild trees whose growth does harm, when you leave the roots alone?
XXXII.—To the Scribes of the Ephesians.
It is no use decorating your city with statues and elaborate pictures and promenades and theatres, unless there is good sense there as well and law. For although good sense and law may accompany these, they are not the same thing.
XXXIII.—To the Milesians.
Your children lack fathers, your youth lack old men, your wives husbands, your husbands rulers, your rulers laws, your laws philosophers, your philosophers gods, your gods faith. Your ancestors were good men; your present estate you may well loathe.
XXXIV.—To the Wise Men in the Museum.
I have been in Argos and Phocis and Locris and in Sicyon and in Megara, and after holding public lectures in the past in those places, I have ceased to do so any more. Why so? If anyone asks me the reason, I must reply to you and to the Muses in the words of the poet: “I have been turned into a barbarian,” not “by long sojourning outside Hellas,” but by long sojourning in her midst.
Virtue and wealth are with us most opposed to one another; for a diminution of the one leads to an increase of the other, and an increase to a diminution. How then can both at once be united in the same man, except in the imagination of fools, who take wealth even for virtue? Do not then allow men here to misunderstand me so profoundly, nor permit them to consider me rich rather than a philosopher. For I account it most disgraceful that I should be held to travel abroad in search of money, when there are some who, in order to leave a monument of themselves, have not even embraced virtue.
XXXVI.—To Bassus of Corinth.
Praxiteles of Calchis was a madman. On one occasion he came with a drawn sword to my door; and it was yourself who sent him, you a philosopher and president of the Isthmian games. But the reward you were to give him for murdering me was access to your own wife. And, you foul wretch, Bassus, I had on many occasions been your benefactor.
XXXVII.—To the Same.
If any Corinthian asks, what did the father of Bassus die of, everyone, citizen and sojourner in the land alike, will answer: By poison. And who administered it? Even the neighbours will tell you: The philosopher. And this wretch wept as he followed his father’s bier.
XXXVIII.—To the People of Sardis.
You award no prizes for good qualities, for what good qualities have you? But if you were inclined to compete for the first prize in vice, you would all win it at once. Who is it that says such things about the people of Sardis? The people of Sardis F themselves. For of the people there, no one is the friend of another, to the extent of denying out of good-will the most monstrous charges.
XXXIX.—To the same People.
The very names of your social orders are disgusting, witness the Coddari and the Xurisitauri. These are the first names you give your children, and you are lucky to be worthy of them.
XL.—To the same People.
Coddari, and Xurisitauri. And how are you going to call your daughters and your wives? For they too belong to the same castes, and are more froward than yourselves.
XLI.—To the same People.
You cannot expect even your servants to be well-wishers of yourselves, firstly because they are servants, and secondly because most of them belong to castes opposed to your own. For they too, like yourselves, have their pedigrees.
XLII.—To the Platonic Thinkers.
If anyone offers money to Apollonius, and he considers the donor to be worthy, he will accept it, if he is in need; but for his philosophy he will take no reward, even though he be in want.
XLIII.—To those who are puffed up with Wisdom.
If anyone professes to be my disciple, let his profession be that he remains within his house, that he abstains from all bathing, that he kills no living creature, nor eats flesh, that he is exempt from feelings of jealousy, of spite, of hatred, of slander, of enmity, in order to bear the name of a free man and belong to their class. For surely he must beware of carrying about a pretence of manners and character and of language which he merely feigns, in order to make others believe that he leads the life which he does not. Farewell.
XLIV.—To Hestiaeus, his Brother.
Other men regard me as the equal of the gods, and some of them even as a god, but until now my own country alone ignores me, my country for which in particular I have striven to be distinguished. What wonder is there in this? For not even on you my brothers, as I perceive, has it clearly dawned that I am superior to most men, both in my language and in my character. For otherwise how could you judge me so harshly as to need to be reminded at all of matters about which, as about no others, even the dullest persons are likely to resent instruction, to wit about country and brethren? Nevertheless you must be aware that it is a noble thing to regard the whole earth as your country and all men as your brethren and friends, seeing that they are the family of one God, that they are of one nature, and that there is a communion of each and all in speech, and likewise in feelings, which is the same, no matter how or where a man has been born, whether he is barbarian or whether he is Hellene, so long only as he is a man. But there is, it must be admitted, a kinship which over-rides philosophical theory, and a familiarity which attracts to itself everything that shares it. So the Odysseus of Homer, as they relate, did not prefer even immortality, when a goddess offered it, to Ithaca. And for my own part I notice that this law pervades even the animal kingdom; for there is not a single bird that will sleep away from its own nest, and though the fishermen may drag the tenants of the deep from their lair, yet they will return unless they are overcome. As for wild beasts neither hunger nor satiety induces them to remain outside their holes. And man is one of these creatures that nature hath so produced, even though he bear the name of sage, for whom all the earth may supply everything else, but can never call up before his eyes the sepulchres of his fathers.
XLV.—To the same.
If philosophy be the most precious thing in existence, and if we are convinced that we are philosophers, we cannot rightly be supposed to hate our brethren, and that for a mean and illiberal reason. For it appears our misunderstanding is on the point of money; and that is something which we tried to despise, even before we became philosophers; and therefore it is more likely and reasonable that you should suspect me of having neglected to write to you for some other reason than that. For in fact I was as much afraid to write you the truth, because you might think me boastful, as to write you less than the truth, for fear you might think me over-humble; and both of these things are equally annoying no less to brethren than to friends. Now however I have this information to give you. If heaven should perhaps consent, I will, after meeting my friends in Rhodes, shortly depart thence, and return to you towards the end of spring.
They tell me that Hestiaeus has been wronged by yourself in spite of your having been his friend, if indeed you are the friend of anyone. Beware then, my Gordius, lest you find yourself in conflict not with the semblance of a man, but with the reality. My greetings to your son, Aristocleides, who may, I pray, never resemble yourself. And yet you, as a young man, were beyond reproach.
XLVII.—To the Senate and People of Tyana.
You command me to return to you, and I obey. For the greatest compliment a city can pay to one of its own citizens is to recall him in order to do him honour. And during the whole time that I have been away from your city, I have, although it may be presumptuous to say so, striven to win for. you, by my sojourning abroad, good fame and name and good-will and the friendship of distinguished cities, and equally of distinguished men. And if you merit a still wider and higher consideration, it is only myself and my own natural gifts which are capable of an effort involving so much ability and seriousness. Farewell.
You make a mistake in supposing that I want anything either from yourself, with whom I have never had anything in common, or from any body else like you, or under like circumstances. But in fact, even what I have expended on any object conducive to your welfare has been inconsiderable. I shall be best pleased, therefore, if you accept my kindness without incurring any expense yourself. For in no other way but this shall I retain my principles intact. And that this is my way, and this my attitude towards all my fellow-citizens, I might almost say towards all men, you can learn from the rest of the citizens who have accepted my kindness, as often as they stood in need thereof, but who have never been asked to make any return. Do not then take it amiss, if I have rebuked my servant as he deserved, for having in the first instance accepted anything, and if he at once handed back to Lysias your friend, and also a friend of my own, what he received, because he did not know personally any of your servants whom you had left behind. But that there are two accounts of me current, and that they will continue to circulate even in the future, need I be surprised? For it is inevitable in the case of everyone at all prominent in any way, that there should be contradictory accounts of him in circulation. It was so with Pythagoras, with Orpheus, with Plato, and with Socrates; not only were contrary statements made about them, but they were embodied in writing as well, and we need not be surprised seeing that even concerning God himself men’s accounts differ from one another. However, good men by a sort of natural affinity will accept the truth, just as bad men will accept the opposite, and we can afford to laugh at such people, I mean the worst sort. This much only it is right for the moment to impress upon you about myself, that even the gods have spoken of me as of a divine man, not only on many occasions to private individuals, but also in public. I shall shock you if I speak more or more highly of myself. I pray for your good health.
I am very delighted with the letters which you have sent me, for they reveal much intimacy and reminiscence of my family; and I am sure that you are most anxious to see me, and to be seen by me. I shall therefore visit you as soon as possible; wherefore please remain at home. And you shall converse with me, when I have arrived at your residence, in preference to any of your other friends and intimates; since it is right that you should do so.
Even the most wise Pythagoras belonged to the class of demons; but you still seem to me to be utterly remote from philosophy, and from true science, or you would neither abuse that great man, nor persist in hating certain of those who follow him. You should turn to something else now. For “you have missed your cue” in philosophy, “nor have you hit it off” better than Pandarus, when he aimed at Menelaus, in the episode of the violation of oaths.
LI.—To the same Person.
There are those who rebuke you for having taken money from the Emperor. There would be nothing absurd in their doing so, were it not clear that you have taken money rewards for your philosophy on so many occasions and on such a large scale, and from so many persons, and from people whom you had got to believe that you were a philosopher.
LII.—To the same Person.
If anyone converses with a Pythagorean, and asks what boons and how many he shall derive from him, I should myself answer as follows: he will acquire legislative science, geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, knowledge of harmony and of music, and of the physician’s art, god-like divination in all its branches, and the still better qualities of magnanimity, greatness of soul, magnificence, constancy, reverence, knowledge and not mere opinion of the gods, direct cognisance of demons and not mere faith, friendship with both, independence of spirit, assiduity, frugality, limitation of his needs, quickness of perception, quickness of movement, quickness in breathing, excellence of colour, health, courage, immortality. And from you, Euphrates, what have your companions obtained that they can keep? Surely no more than the excellence which you possess yourself.
LIII.—Claudius, to the Senate of Tyana.
Apollonius your citizen, a Pythagorean philosopher, has made a brilliant sojourn in Hellas, and has done much good to our young men. Having conferred upon him the honours he deserved, and which are proper to good men who are so truly eminent in philosophy, we have desired to manifest to you by letter our good-will. Fare ye well.
LIV.—Apollonius, to the Censors of Rome.
Some of you have taken trouble to provide harbours and public buildings and enclosures and promenades; but neither you yourselves nor your laws evince any solicitude for the children in your cities, or for the young, or for women. Were it not so it would be a fine thing to be one of your subjects.
LV.—Apollonius to his Brother.
Everything when it hath reached maturity hath a natural tendency to vanish away, and this is old age for every man, after which he remaineth no more. Let not therefore the loss of thy wife in the flower of her age grieve thee beyond measure, nor, because such a thing as death is spoken of, imagine that life is superior thereto, when it is altogether inferior in the eyes of one who reflects. Make thyself then the brother of one that is a philosopher, in the common acceptation of the word, and in particular is a Pythagorean and Apollonius, and restore the former estate of thy household. For if we had found anything to blame in thy former wife, we might reasonably expect thee to shrink from another union; but inasmuch as she was consistently holy and pure and attached to her husband and therefore worthy of your regrets, what should lead us to expect that a second wife should not resemble her? Nay she would in all probability be encouraged to improve in virtue by the fact that her predecessor was not forgotten nor wronged by neglect of her memory. And I would pray thee seriously to concern thyself about the condition of thy brethren as up to the present it is. For thy elder brother has never yet had offspring; and though thy younger brother may still look forward to having a child, yet it is only in the far future; and so here are we three sons, the children of a single father, and we three between us have not a single son. Wherefore there is great risk no less for our country than for the life of our posterity. For if we are better than our father,—though of course, so far forth as he was our father, we are worse,—how can we not reasonably expect our descendants to be still better? I trust then that there may be some to whom we may at least hand on our names, as our ancestors devised these for us. For my tears I am not able to write thee more, but I have nothing more important than this to write.
LVI.—To the People of Sardis.
Croesus lost the empire of the Lydians by crossing the river Halys. He was taken alive, he was bound in chains, he was set upon the high raised pyre, he saw the fire lit and the flames rising aloft. He was saved, for it appeared that he was honoured and valued by the god. What then ensued? This man, your progenitor, and also your king, who had suffered so much that he deserved not to suffer, was invited to the table of his enemy, and became his adviser and well-wisher, his faithful friend. But you, in your relations with your parents, your children, your friends, kinsmen and tribesmen, evince nothing but truceless, implacable, irreconcilable hatred, and worse than this, unholy and godless frenzy. Ye have made yourselves hateful, by neither crossing the Halys, nor receiving among yourselves anyone from outside. And yet earth bears you her fruit. The earth is unjust.
LVII.—To certain learned Publicists.
Light is the presence of fire, without which it could not be. Now fire is itself an affection, and that whereunto it comes, is of course burnt up. But light can only supply its own radiance to our eyes, on condition of using not force to them, but persuasion. Speech therefore in its turn, resembles in its one aspect, fire which is the affection, and in its other, the radiance which is light. And I pray that the latter which is better may be mine, unless indeed that which I speak of is beyond the reach of my prayer.
There is no death of anyone save in appearance only, even as there is no birth of anyone or becoming, except only in appearance. For when a thing passes from essence into nature we consider that there is a birth or becoming, and in the same way that there is death when it passes from nature into essence; though in truth a thing neither comes into being at any time nor is destroyed. But it is only apparent at one time and later on invisible, the former owing to the density of its material, and the latter by the reason of the lightness or tenuity of the essence, which however remains always the same, and is only subject to differences of movement and state. For this is necessarily the characteristic of change caused not by anything outside, but by a conversion of the whole into the parts, and by a return of the parts into the whole, due to the oneness of the universe. But if someone asks: What is this, which is at one time visible, and at another invisible, as it presents itself in the same or in different objects? It may be answered, that it is characteristic of each of the several genera of things here, when it is full, to be apparent to us because of the resistance of its density to our senses, but to be unseen in case it is emptied of its matter by reason of its tenuity, the latter being perforce shed abroad, and flowing away from the eternal measure which confined it; albeit the measure itself is never created nor destroyed.
Why is it then that error has passed unrefuted on such a scale? The reason is that some imagine that they have themselves actively brought about what they have merely suffered and experienced; because they do not understand that a child brought into the world by parents, is not begotten by its parents, any more than what grows by means of the earth grows out of the earth; nor are phenomenal modifications or affections of matter properties of the individual thing, but it is rather the case that each individual thing’s affections are properties of a single phenomenon. And this single phenomenon cannot be rightly spoken of or characterised, except we name it the first essence. For this alone is agent and patient, making itself all things unto all and through all, God eternal, which in so far as it takes on the names and person of individuals, forfeits its peculiar character to its prejudice. Now this is of lesser importance; what is of greater is this, that some are apt to weep so soon as ever God arises out of mankind, 3 by mere change of place and not of nature. But in very truth of things, you should not lament another’s death, but prize and reverence it. And the highest and only befitting honour you can pay to death, is to resign unto God him that was here, and continue to rule as before over the human beings entrusted to your care. You dishonour yourself if you improve less through your judgment than by lapse of time, seeing that time alleviates the sorrows even of the wicked. High command is the most important of things; and he will best succeed in the most important office, who has first learnt to govern himself. And what piety moreover is there in deprecating that which has happened by the will of God? If there is an order of reality, and there is, and if God presides over it, the just man will not desire to deprecate his blessings; for such conduct savours of avarice and violates that order; but he will consider that what happens is for the best. Go forward then and heal yourself, dispense justice and console the wretched; so will you wipe away men’s tears. You must not prefer your private welfare to the public, but the public to your private. And think what manner of consolation is offered you: the entire province has mourned with you for the loss of your son. Reward those who have grieved with you, and you will far sooner reward them by ceasing to mourn than by confining yourself in your house. “You have no friends?” But you have a son. “What, the one who is just dead (you will ask)?” “Yes,” will be the reply of all who reflect; “for that which exists is not lost, but exists by the very fact that it will be for ever. Or would you argue that that which has no existence comes into being? But how can that be without the destruction of that which is?” Another might say, that you are impious and unjust. Impious towards God, and unjust towards your son, nay impious towards him as well as towards God. Would you then learn what death is? Send and slay me the moment I have uttered these words, and unless you can clothe them afresh with flesh, you have there and then made me superior to yourself.
You have abundant time, you have a wife who is sensible, devoted to her husband; you are yourself sound in body, take from yourself whatever lacks. One of the ancient Romans, in order to uphold the law and order of his state, slew his own son, and indeed slew him after crowning him. You are a governor of fifty cities, and noblest of the Romans; yet this present humour of yours is such as to prevent you from affording a stable government even to your household, not to speak of cities and provinces. If Apollonius were with you, he would have persuaded Fabulla not to mourn.
LIX.—The King of the Babylonians, Garmos, to Neogyndes, the King of the Indians.
If you were not of a prying disposition, you would not be laying down the law in other people’s affairs; nor as sovereign in India would you be playing the judge for Babylonians. For how came you to know anything about my people? But just recently you have made an attempt upon my kingdom, by trying to cajole me with your letters and by insinuating into my realm such magistrates as these, and you try to cloak under the veil of philanthropy your own aggressive designs. But you will not succeed at all, for you cannot deceive me or take me in.
Praxiteles of Chalcis was a madman. He appeared at my door in Corinth, together with your friend with a sword in his hand. What then is the reason of his attempting my life? For I have never driven off your oxen, seeing that between your philosophy and mine “there intervene very many shadowy mountains and an echoing.”
Anacharsis the Scythian was a sage, but, if he was a Scythian, then even though he was a Scythian.
LXII.—The Lacedaemonians To Apollonius.
We send you this copy of a decree conferring honour upon yourself, which we have sealed with the public seal, for your recognition thereof.
“The decree of the Lacedaemonians, according to the resolution taken by their senate on the motion of Tyndareus.
“It was resolved by the government and people to make Apollonius the Pythagorean a citizen, and to bestow upon him the right to possess land and houses. And we have also set up an inscribed image, painted and made of bronze, to commemorate his virtues. For this is the way in which our fathers did honour to good men; for they regarded as sons of Lycurgus all who have chosen a way of life in accordance with the will of the gods.”
LXIII.—Apollonius To The Ephors And To The Lacedaemonians.
I have seen your men without any beards, with their thighs and legs smooth and white, clad in soft tunics and light, their fingers covered with rings, and their necks bedizened with necklaces, and shod with shoes of Ionic style. I did not therefore recognize your so-called envoys, though your epistle spoke of them as Lacedaemonians.
LXIV.—To the Same.
You invite me again and again to reform your laws and your youth. Now the city of Solon does not invite me. Reverence Lycurgus.
LXV.—To Those of the Ephesians who frequented the Temple of Artemis.
You are devoted to holy ceremonies no less than to honouring the Emperor. In general I cannot condemn your custom of inviting and being invited to feasts; but I do condemn the people who by night and by day share the home of the goddess, otherwise I should not see issuing thence thieves and robbers and kidnappers and every sort of wretch or sacrilegious rascal; for your temple is just a den of robbers.
LXVI.—To the same Persons.
There is come from Hellas a man who was a Hellene by race; and though he was not an Athenian or indeed a native of Megara, yet he had a better name, and was intent upon making his home together with your goddess. So I would have you assign me some place, where I can stay without contracting a need of purificatory rites, though I always remain inside.
LXVII.—To the same Persons.
Your temple is thrown open to all who would sacrifice, or offer prayers, or sing hymns, to suppliants, to Hellenes, barbarians, free men, to slaves. Your law is transcendentally divine. I could recognise the tokens of Zeus and of Leto, if these were alone.
LXVIII.—To the Milesians.
An earthquake has shaken your land, as has often happened with the countries of many other people. But as the misfortunes which they suffered were unavoidable, so they exhibited towards one another feelings of pity and not of hatred. You alone have hurled against the gods both missiles and fire, and against such gods as people in either case must have, both after danger and before it. Nay more, when a distinguished philosopher of Hellenic race had often warned you publicly of the disaster in store for you, and had foretold the earthquakes that have happened, him, when the god actually shook your land, you began to accuse daily of having brought it about. Alas, for your public folly; and yet your forefather’s name was Thales.
LXIX.—To The Trallians.
Many from all parts, some for one reason and some for another, flock to me both young and old. I then scan the nature of each individual and his manners, as closely as I can, and I mark his disposition towards his own city, to see whether it is just or the reverse; but until this day, I do not find that I could prefer to you Trallians either Lydians, or Achaeans or Ionians, or even the people of ancient Hellas, the natives of Thurii, or Crotona, or Tarentum or any others of the peoples of Italy yonder who are called happy, or of any other races. What then is the reason, why, so much approving of yourselves, I yet do not take up my residence among so excellent a people, although I am of your own race? I will tell you on some other occasion; but at present I have only time to praise you, and say how much superior are your leading citizens in virtue and in speech to those of other cities, and still more to those among whom they have been.
LXX.—To the people of Sais.
As Plato says in his Timaeus, you are the descendants of Athenians, though they have expelled from Attica the goddess you have in common with them, who is called Neith by you, but Athene by them. They have ceased to be Hellenes, and why they have ceased to be, I will tell you. No wise and aged man is an Athenian; for no Athenian ever grew a full beard, since you never saw one of them with any at all. The flatterer is at their doors, the sycophant stands before their gates, the pimp even before their long walls, the parasite in front of Munychia and in front of the Piraeus; as for the goddess she has not even Sunium left to her.
LXXI.—To the Ionians.
You think that you ought to be called Hellenes because of your pedigrees, and because you were once on a time a colony of them; but just as the Hellenes are characterised by their customs and laws and language and private life so are men in general by their deportment and appearance. But as for you, most of you have abandoned even your names; nay, owing to this recent prosperity of yours, you have forfeited all tokens of your ancestors. It is quite right therefore that the latter should refuse to welcome you even in their tombs, on the ground that you are no longer recognizable by them. For whereas formerly they bore the names of heroes and sea-captains and legislators, they now bear names such as Lucullus and Fabricius and names of other blessed Lucanians. For myself I would rather be called Mimnermus.
Our father Apollonius had the name of Menodotus thrice over in his pedigree, but you wish to style yourself once for all Lucretius or Lupercus. Of which of these are you the descendant? It is a disgrace to have a person’s name without also having his countenance.
LXXIII.—To the same.
I am far away by God’s will from my country, but I always ponder in my mind my city’s affairs. The generation of those who won the first honour hastens to its end, and in future it will be a reign of children, and a little later on of babes. Here then is what we have to fear, lest the state governed by youth should go wrong; but you need not fear, for our lives are over.
LXXIV.—To the Stoics.
Bassus was beautiful, but starving; although his sire had plenty of money. Accordingly he began by fleeing to Megara with one of his lovers so-called, and who was one of his pimps as well; for both the one lot and the other were in need of food and money for the journey. Then he fled thence and turned up in Syria. There the pretty youth met with a warm welcome from Euphrates, and from anyone else who like Euphrates was in need of the latest beauty, and was ready out of mere regard for that sage to choose for himself so odd an ideal.
LXXV.—To the people of Sardis.
The son of Alyattes was unable to save his own city and had no resources left, though he was a king, and his name Croesus. Well, I would like to know what sort of lion you have put your trust in, that you should have embraced this truceless war among yourselves, children and youths all alike, full-grown men and aged, nay even maidens and women? One would suppose that yours was a city of the Erinyes rather than of Demeter. For this goddess is a lover of mankind, and I would know what all this spleen of yours is about.
LXXVI.—To the same Persons.
It is quite right that an old-fashioned philosopher like myself should be anxious to visit a city so old and considerable as your own; and I would willingly have visited it, without waiting for the invitation which so many other cities have sent me, if I had any hopes of reconciling your city with morality, or with nature or with law or with God. And I would have done in any case so much as in me lies; only faction, as some one has remarked, is crueller than war.
LXXVII.—To his Disciples.
Everything that I have ever said, I have said out of consideration for philosophy, and not to please Euphrates. Let no one suppose that I have been afraid of the sword of Praxiteles, or of the poison of Lysias. For this too is the weapon of Euphrates.
LXXVIII.—To Iarchas And His Sages.
… No, by the water of Tantalus in which you initiated me. (Cited by Porphyry, De Styge, sub fin.)
The soul which does not take trouble to train the body to be self-sufficing, is not able to make itself content with little. (From the Florilegium of Stobaeus, 10, 64.)
LXXX.—To the same Person.
Men of light and leading use fewest words; for if babblers felt as much annoyance as they inflict, they would not be so long-winded. (36, 29.)
LXXXI.—To his Disciples.
Simonides used to say that he had never had cause to repent of being silent, though he had often repented of having spoken. (33, 12.)
LXXXII.—To the same Persons.
Loquacity has many pit-falls, but silence none. (36, 28.)
To tell a lie is base, to tell the truth is noble. (11, 20.)
LXXXIV.—To his Disciples.
Believe not that I lightly recommend to others anything. For I myself live upon barley bread, and I suit the rest of my diet to this dish, and I recommend a similar diet to yourselves. (17, 15.)
We have carefully trained ourselves to be content with little, not in order exclusively to use a cheap and common fare, but in order that we may not shrink therefrom. (17, 14.)
Quickness of temper blossoms into madness. (20, 49.)
The passion of anger, unless it is restrained by social intercourse and so cured, becomes a physical disease. (20, 50.)
Most men are as apt to palliate their own offences, as they are to condemn them in other people. (23, 15.)
A task once begun never wearies. (29, 83.)
Not to exist at all is nothing, but to exist is pain and weariness. (18, 82.)
XCI.—To his Brothers.
You must not feel envious of anyone; for while good men deserve what they have, the bad live badly even if they are prosperous. (38, 58.)
It is a good thing, before you suffer, to have learnt how great a blessing is tranquillity. (58, 12.)
We must not mourn the loss of such good friends, but we must remember that the best part of our life was that which we lived in the society of our friends. (124, 35.)
Console a mourner by representing to him the ills of other people. (1.24, 37.)
Life is short for the man who does well, but for him that is unlucky it is long. (121, 34.)
One who shows excessive anger over small offences prevents the offender from distinguishing, when he has offended in lesser things, and when in greater. (20, 51.)
It is not poverty that is disgraceful by nature, but poverty due to a disgraceful reason is a reproach. (95, 9.)
1. Or perhaps we should render “by ordinary reasoning.”
2. Perhaps we should read in the Greek προκριτιςκόν, ἂν ᾖ with Olearius and render “for preferring your city, if the object under comparison were an ordinary city.”
3. The idea is that by death the divine substance which was confined in a personality or name (which was the same thing) is released, so that where there was only a human being, there is now God.
There are many sayings and speeches attributed to Apollonius by his biographer Damis, recorded by Philostratus in his work Life of Apollonius.
Also, as G.R.S. Mead observes:
“Apollonius seems to have written many letters to emperors, kings, philosophers, communities and states, although he was by no means a ‘voluminous correspondent'”
“…besides these letters Apollonius also wrote a number of treatises, of which, however, only one or two fragments have been preserved.”
See Sections XV—XVII in G.R.S. Mead’s work Apollonius of Tyana
Selected Quotes from Apollonius
On Diet, Dress, and the Treatment of Animals in the Pythagorean Life
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.”
. . .
“. . . 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…? … 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 . . .”
. . .
“What induces you,” he [The Emperor] said, “Apollonius, to dress yourself differently from everybody else, and to wear this peculiar and singular garb?”
“Because,” said Apollonius, “the earth which feeds me also clothes me, and I do not like to bother the poor animals.”
— from Life of Apollonius
On Goodness and Godliness
“Because,” answered Apollonius, “every man that is thought to be good, is honored by the title of god.”
. . .
“. . . 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.”
. . .
“If anyone offers money to Apollonius, and he considers the donor to be worthy, he will accept it, if he is in need; but for his philosophy he will take no reward, even though he be in want.” — from the Epistles of Apollonius
Selected Quotes on Apollonius
On Living the Life of Pythagoras
Now Euxenus realized that he was attached to a lofty ideal, and asked him at what point he would begin it. Apollonius answered: “At the point at which physicians begin, for they, by purging the bowels of their patients prevent some from being ill at all, and heal others.” And having said this he declined to live upon a flesh diet, on the ground that it was unclean, and also that it made the mind gross; so he partook only of dried fruits and vegetables, for he said that all the fruits of the earth are clean. And of wine he said that it was a clean drink because it is yielded to men by so well-domesticated a plant as the vine; but he declared that it endangered the mental balance and system and darkened, as with mud, the ether which is in the soul. After then having thus purged his interior, he took to walking without shoes by way of adornment and clad himself in linen raiment, declining to wear any animal product; and he let his hair grow long and lived in the Temple.”
. . .
“And they say that he declined to wear apparel made from dead animal products and, to guard his purity, abstained from all flesh diet, and from the offering of animals in sacrifice. For that he would not stain the altars with blood . . .” — from Life of Apollonius