home  :  index  :  ancient Greece  :  ancient Rome  :  Apollonius of Tyana  :  Philostratus
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

 

[§6] When moreover the news was brought how notable a purification of the goddess Hestia of the Romans [Vesta] Domitian had carried out, by putting to death three of the Vestal virgins who had broken their vows and incurred the polution of marriage, when it was their duty to minister in purity to the Athena of Ilion and to he fire which was worshipped in Rome,[1] he exclaimed: "O Sun, would that thou couldst too be purified of the unjust murders with which the whole world is now filled."

Nor did he do all this in private, as a coward might, but he proclaimed his sentiments and aspirations amidst the crowd and before all.

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The terrace of the temple of Domitian. Photo Marco Prins.
The temple of Domitian in Ephesus

[§7] On another occasion when after the murder of [Flavius] Sabinus, one of his own relations, Domitian was about to marry Julia, who was herself the wife of the murdered man, and Domitian's own niece, being one of the daughters of Titus, Ephesus was about to celebrate the marriage with sacrifice,[2] Apollonius interrupted the rites, by exclaiming: "O thou night of the Danaids of yore, how unique thou wast!"

[§8] The following then is the history of his acts in Rome.


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

Nerva was regarded as a proper candidate for the throne which after Domitian's death he occupied with so much wisdom, and the same opinion was entertained of Orfitus and of Rufus.[3] Domitian accused the two latter of intriguing against himself, and they were confined in islands, while Nerva was commanded to live in Tarentum.

Now Apollonius had been intimate with them all the time that Titus shared the throne with his father, and also reigned after his father's death; and he [Apollonius] was in constant correspondence with them on the subject of self-control, being anxious to enlist them on the side of the sovereigns whose excellence of character he esteemed. But he did his best to alienate them from Domitian, on account of his cruelty, and encouraged them to espouse the cause of the freedom al all.

Now it occurred to him that his epistles conveying advice to them were fraught with danger to them, for many of those who were in power were betrayed by their own slaves and friends and womankind, and there was not at the time any house that could keep a secret; accordingly he would take now one and now another of the discreetest of the companions, and say to them: "I have a brilliant secret to entrust to you; for you must betake yourself as my agent to Rome to so and so," mentioning the party, "and you must hold converse with him and do the utmost I could do to win him over."

But when he heard that they were banished for having displayed a tendency to revolt against the tyrant, and yet had from timidity abandoned their plans, he delivered a discourse on the subject of the Fates and of Destiny in the grove of Smyrna in which stands the statue of the river Meles.

[§9] And being aware that Nerva would before long become sovereign, he went on to explain in his oration that not even tyrants are able to force the hand of destiny, and directing the attention of his audience to the brazen statue of Domitian which had been erected close by that of Meles, he said: "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."

This saying was reported to Domitian by the malevolence of Euphrates, and though no one knew to which of the personages above mentioned this oracle applied, yet the despot in order to allay his fears determined to put them to death.

But in order that he might seem to have an excuse for doing so, he summoned Apollonius before him to defend himself on the charge of holding secret relations with them. For he considered that if he came, he could get a sentence pronounced against him, and so avoid the imputation of having put people to death without trial, seeing that they would have been convicted through Apollonius, or in the alternative case, if the latter by some ruse avoided an open trial, then the fate of the others would all the more certainly be sealed, because sentence would have been passed on them by their own accomplice.

[§10] Moved by these considerations Domitian had already written to the governor of Asia, directing the man of Tyana to be arrested and brought to Rome, when the latter foreseeing in his usual way through a divine instinct what was coming, told his companions that he needed to depart on a mysterious voyage; and they were reminded of the opinion enunciated by [the legendary sage] Abaris of old, and felt that he was intent upon some such scheme.

Apollonius however, without revealing his intention even to Damis, set sail in his company for Achaea, and having landed at Corinth and worshipped the Sun about midday, with his usual rites, embarked in the evening for Sicily and Italy. And falling in with a favorable wind and a good current that ran in his direction, he reached Dicaearchia [Puteoli] on the fifth day.

There he met Demetrius who passed for being the boldest of the philosophers, simply because he did not live far away from Rome, and knowing that he had moved to get out of the way of the tyrant, yet said by way of amusing himself: "I have caught you in your luxury, dwelling here in the most blessed part of happy Italy, if indeed she be happy, here where Odysseus is said to have forgotten in the company of Calypso the smoke of his Ithacan home."

Thereupon Demetrius embraced him and after sundry pious ejaculations said: "O ye gods, what will come upon philosophy, if she risks the loss of such a man as yourself?"

"And what risks does she run?" asked he.

"Those, surely, a foreknowledge of which brought you here," said the other; "for if I do not know what is in your mind, then I do not know what is in my own. But let us not conduct our conversation here, but let us retire where we can talk together alone, and let only Damis be present whom, by Heracles, I am inclined to consider an Iolaus [4] of your labors."






Philostratus: Life of Apollonius : next





Note 1:
This happened in 82 or 83.

Note 2:
Flavia Julia's husband was executed between 82 and 87 and Domitian's passion for her is recorded elsewhere, but Philostratus is the only author who claims that Domitian and Julia actually married. Ephesus had a temple dedicated to Domitian. The Danaids had killed their husbands during the wedding night.

Note 3:
Rufus is unidentified, unless Lucius Verginius Rufus is meant; Orfitus' full name was Servius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus Orfitus (consul in 51).

Note 4:
The companion of Heracles.





home  :  index  :  ancient Greece  :  ancient Rome  :  Apollonius of Tyana  :  Philostratus