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Statue of a sophist from the reign of Septimius Severus. Archaeological museum of Izmir (Turkey).

Flavius Philostratus:

The Life of Apollonius

Translated by F.C. Conybeare

 
  [11] Having purged the Ephesians of the plague, and having had enough of the people of Ionia, he started for Hellas. Having made his way then to Pergamon, and being pleased with the temple of Asclepius, he gave hints to the supplicants of the god, what to do in order to obtain favorable dreams;[1] and having healed many of them he came to the land of Ilium [Troy]. And when his mind was glutted with all the traditions of their past, he went to visit the tombs of the Achaeans, and he delivered himself of many speeches over them, and he offered many sacrifices of a bloodless and pure kind; and then he bade his companions go on board ship, for he himself, he said, must spend a night on the mound of Achilles.

Now his companions tried to deter him -for in fact the sons of Dioscorus and the Phaedimi, and a whole company of such already followed in the train of Apollonius- alleging that Achilles was still dreadful as a phantom; for such was the conviction about him of the inhabitants of Ilium. "Nevertheless," said Apollonius, "I know Achilles well and that he thoroughly delights in company; for he heartily welcomed Nestor when he came from Pylos, because he always had something useful to tell him; and he used to honor Phoenix with the title of foster-father and companion and so forth, because Phoenix entertained him with his talk; and he looked most mildly upon Priam also, although he was his bitterest enemy, so soon as he heard him talk; and when in the course of a quarrel he had an interview with Odysseus, he made himself so gracious that Odysseus thought him more handsome than terrible.

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Kesik tepe, perhaps the tomb of Achilles. Photo Marco Prins.
Kesik Tepe: perhaps the tomb of Achilles

For, I think that his shield and his plumes that wave so terribly, as they say, are a menace to the Trojans, because he can never forget what he suffered at their hands, when they played him false over the marriage. But I have nothing in common with Ilium, and I shall talk to him more pleasantly than his former companions; and if he slays me, as you say he will, why then I shall repose with Memnon and Cycnus, and perhaps Troy will bury me "in a hollow sepulcher" as they did Hector."

Such were his words to his companions, half playful and half serious, as he went up alone to the barrow; but they went on board ship, for it was already evening.

[12] But Apollonius came about dawn to them and said: "Where is Antisthenes of Paros"?

And this person had joined their society seven days before in Ilium. And when Antisthenes answered that he was there, he said: "Have you, O young man, any Trojan blood in your veins?"




"Certainly I have," he said, "for I am a Trojan by ancestry."

"And a descendant of Priam as well?" asked Apollonius.

"Why yes, by Zeus," answered the other, "and that is why I consider myself a good man and of good stock."

"That explains then," said the sage, "why Achilles forbids me to associate with you; for after he bade me go as his deputy to the Thessalians in the matter of a complaint which he has against them, and I asked him whether there was anything else which I could do to please him, 'yes', he said, 'you must take care not to initiate the young man from Paros in your wisdom, for he is too much of a descendant of Priam, and the praise of Hector is never out of his mouth.'"

[13] Accordingly, Antisthenes went off though against his will; and when the day broke and the wind off shore increased in strength, and the ship was ready to put to sea, it was invaded in spite of its small dimensions by a number of other people who were anxious to share the voyage with Apollonius; for it was already autumn and the sea was not much to be trusted. They all then regarded Apollonius as one who was master of the tempest and of fire and of perils of all sorts, and so wished to go on board with him.

But as the company was many times too great for the ship, spying a larger ship -for there were many in the neighborhood of the tomb of Ajax- he said: "Let us go on board this, for it is a good thing to get home safely with as many as may be."




He accordingly doubled the promontory of Troy, and then commanded the pilot to shape his course towards the country of the Aeolians, which lies over against Lesbos, and then to turn as close as he could to Methymna, and there to cast anchor. For there it was, he said, that Achilles declared Palamedes lay,[2], where also they would find his image a cubit high, representing however a man older than was ever Palamedes. And at the moment of disembarking from the ship, he said: "Let us show our respect, O ye Greeks, for so good a man to whom we owe all wisdom. For we shall anyhow prove ourselves better men than the Achaeans, if we pay tribute to the excellence of one whom they so unjustly slew."

They then had hardly leapt of the ship, when he hit upon the tomb and found the statue buried beside it. And there were inscribed on the base of the statue the words: "To the divine Palamedes."




He accordingly set it up again in its place, as I myself saw; and he raised a shrine around it of the size which the worshippers of the goddess of the crossways, called Enodia, use; for it was large enough for ten persons at once to sit and drink and keep good cheer in; and having done so he offered up the following prayer: "O Palamedes, do thou forget the wrath, wherewith thou wast wroth against the Achaeans, and grant that men may multiply in numbers and wisdom. Yea, O Palamedes, author of all eloquence, author the Muses, author of myself."

[14] He also visited in passing the shrine of Orpheus when he had put in at Lesbos. And they tell that it was here that Orpheus once on a time loved to prophesy, before Apollo had turned his attention to him. For when the latter found that men no longer flocked to Gryneium for the sake of oracles nor to Clarus nor <to Delphi>[3] where is the tripod of Apollo, and that Orpheus was the only oracle, his head having come from Thrace,[4] he presented himself before the giver of oracles and said: "Cease to meddle with my affairs, for I have already put up long enough with your vaticinations."

[15] After this they continued their voyage along the sea of Euboea, which Homer considered to be one of the most dangerous and difficult to traverse. However the sea was smooth and was much better than you expected in that season; and their conversation turned upon the many and famous islands they were visiting, and upon shipbuilding and pilotage and other topics suitable to a voyage.

But as Damis found fault with some of the things they said, and cut short many of their remarks, and would not allow some of their questions to be put, Apollonius realized that he was anxious to discuss some other topic and said: "What ails you, Damis, that you break in on the course of our questions in this way? For I am sure that it is not because you are seasick or in any way inconvenienced by the voyage, that you object to our conversation; for you see how smoothly our ship is wafted over her bosom by the submissive sea. Why then are you so uneasy?"

"Because," replied the other, "when a great topic suggests itself, which we surely ought rather to be asking about, we are asking questions about these threadbare and antiquated subjects."

"And what," said Apollonius, "may be this topic which makes you regard all others as superfluous?"

"You have," he answered, "had an interview with Achilles, O Apollonius, and probably you have heard him speak at length of many things so far unknown to ourselves; and yet you tell us nothing about these, nor do you describe to us the figure of Achilles, but you fill you conversation with talk of the islands we are sailing round and of ship-building."

"If you will not accuse me of bragging," said Apollonius, "you shall hear everything."






Philostratus: Life of Apollonius : next




  Note 1:
It was believed that the god showed those who consulted his oracle the cure of their illness in a dream.

Note 2:
The Greek hero Palamedes was credited with several inventions, such as dice, measures, and numbers. Because he was also believed by some to have invented the alphabet, he became some sort of patron saint for sophists like Philostratus.

Note 3:
These words are missing in the manuscripts.

Note 4:
It was said that Orpheus was killed in Thrace, but that his head continued to sing and was carried by the river and the sea to Lesbos.





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