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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

 
  [§41] At one time the cities on the left side of the Hellespont were visited by earthquakes, and Egyptians and Chaldaeans went begging about through them to collect money, pretending that they wanted ten talents with which to offer sacrifices to earth and to Poseidon.[1] And the cities began to contribute under the stress of fear, partly out of their common funds and partly out of private. But the imposters refused to offer the sacrifices in behalf of their dupes unless the money was deposited in the banks.

Now the sage determined not to allow the peoples of the Hellespont to be imposed upon; so he visited their cities, and drove out the quacks who were making money out of the misfortunes of others, and when he divined the causes of the supernatural wrath, and by making such offerings as suited each case averted the visitation at small cost, and the land was at rest.

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Bust of Domitian. Museo Arqueológico, Sevilla (Spain). Photo Marco Prins.
Domitian (Museo Arqueológico,  Sevilla)

[§42] The emperor Domitian about the same time passed a law against making men eunuchs, and against planting fresh vineyards, and also in favor of cutting down vineyards already planted, whereon Apollonius, who was visiting the Ionians, remarked: "These rescripts do not concern me, for I, alone perhaps of mankind, require neither to beget my kind nor to drink wine; but our egregious sovereign seems not aware that he is sparing mankind, while he eunuchises the earth."[2]

This witticism emboldened the Ionians to send a deputation to the emperor in behalf of their vines, and ask for a repeal of the law which ordered the earth to be laid waste and not planted.

[§43] Here too is a story which they tell of him in Tarsus. A mad dog had attacked a lad, and as a result of the bite the lad behaved exactly like a dog, for he barked and howled and went on all four feet using his hands as such, and ran about in that manner. And he had been ill in this way for thirty days, when Apollonius, who had recently come to Tarsus, met him and ordered a search to be made for the dog which had done the harm.


But they said that the dog had not been found, because the youth had been attacked outside the wall when he was practicing with javelins, nor could they learn from the patient what the dog was like, for he did not even know himself any more. Then Apollonius reflected for a moment and said: "O Damis, the dog is a white shaggy sheep-dog, as big as an Amphilochian hound, and he is standing at a certain fountain trembling all over, for he is longing to drink the water, but at the same time is afraid of it. Bring him to me to the bank of the river, where there are the wrestling grounds, merely telling that it is I who call him."

So Damis dragged the dog along, and it crouched at the feet of Apollonius, crying out as a suppliant might do before an altar. But he quite tamed it by stroking it with his hand, and then he stood the lad close by, holding him with his hand; and in order that the multitude might be cognizant of so great a mystery, he said: "The soul of Telephus of Mysia has been transferred into this boy, and the Fates impose the same things upon him as upon Telephus."

And with these words he bade the dog lick the wound all round where he had bitten the boy, so that the agent of the wound might in turn be its physician and healer.[3] After that the boy returned to his father and recognized his mother, and saluted his comrades as before, and drank of the waters of the Cydnus. Nor did the sage neglect the dog either, but after offering a prayer to the river he sent the dog across it; and when the dog had crossed the river, he took his stand on the opposite bank, and began to bark, a thing which mad dogs rarely do, and he folded back his ears and wagged his tail, because he knew that he was all right again, for a draught of water cures a mad dog, if he has only the courage to take it.

Such were the exploits of our sage in behalf of both temples and cities; such were the discourses he delivered to the public or in behalf of different communities, and in behalf of those who were dead or who were sick; and such were the harangues he delivered to wise and unwise alike, and to the sovereigns who consulted him about moral virtue. 

Philostratus: Life of Apollonius : next
Note 1:
"Egyptians and Chaldaeans" are, in this context, wizards. Poseidon was the god of the sea and the earthquakes.

Note 2:
The castration edict was promulgated in 82 or 83; the edict on the vitculture dates to the early 90's.

Note 3:
Telephus was one of the heroes of the Trojan War, whose story was told in the epic poem that was called Cypria. He had been wounded by Achilles and was cured when a bit of rust of the spear that had hit him was put on the wound. Philostratus' dog is a nice improvement: the tongue of a dog is antiseptic.

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