Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 2.36-40

Philostratus' Life of Apollonius: third-century biography of a charismatic teacher and miracle worker from the first century CE, who is often likened to Jesus of Nazareth.

In the Life of Apollonius, Athenian author Philostratus (a sophist who lived from c.170 to c.247) tells the story of Apollonius of Tyana, a charismatic teacher and miracle worker from the first century CE. (A summary of this work can be found here.) It is an apologetic vie romancée, in which Philostratus tries to prove that Apollonius was a man with divine powers, but not a magician.

The translation was made by F.C. Conybeare and was published in 1912 in the Loeb Classical Library.

[2.36] Apollonius then summoned Damis, and said: "'Tis a clever man with whom we are discussing and one thoroughly trained in argument."

"I see it is so, " said Damis, "and perhaps this is what is meant by the phrase 'catching a Tartar'. But the argument excites me very much, of which he has delivered himself; so it is time for you to wake up and finish it."

Apollonius then raised his head slightly and said: "Well I will prove, out of your own lips and following your own argument, how much advantage we who drink water have in that we sleep more sweetly. For you have clearly stated and admitted that the minds of drunkards are disordered and are in a condition of madness; for we see those who are under the spell of drink imagining that they see two moons at once and two suns, while those who have drunk less, even though they are quite sober, while they entertain no such delusions as these, are yet full of exultation and pleasure; and this fit of joy often falls upon them, even though they have not had any good luck, and men in such a condition will plead cases, although they never opened their lips before in a law court, and they will tell you they are rich, although they have not a farthing in their pockets.

Now these, O king, are the affections of a madman. For the mere pleasure of drinking disturbs their judgment, and I have known many of them who were so firmly convinced that they were well off, that they were unable to sleep, but leapt up in their slumbers, and this is the meaning of the saying that 'good fortune itself is a reason for being anxious.'

Men have also devised sleeping draughts, by drinking or anointing themselves with which, people at once stretch themselves out and go to sleep as if they were dead; but when they wake up from such sleep it is with a sort of forgetfulness, and they imagine that they are anywhere rather than where they are. Now these draughts are not exactly drunk, but I would rather say that they drench the soul and body; for they do not induce any sound or proper sleep, but the deep coma of a man half dead, or the light and distracted sleep of men haunted by phantoms, even though they be wholesome ones; and you will, I think, agree with me in this, unless you are disposed to quibble rather than argue seriously.

But those who drink water, as I do see things as they really are, and they do not record in fancy things that are not; and they were never found to be giddy, nor full of drowsiness, or of silliness, nor unduly elated; but they are wide awake and thoroughly rational, and always the same, whether late in the evening or early in the morning when the market is crowded; for these men never nod, even though they pursue their studies far into the night. For sleep does not drive them forth, pressing down like a stadholder upon their necks, that are bowed down by the wine; but you find them free and erect, and they go to bed with a clear, pure soul and welcome sleep, and are neither buoyed up by the bubbles of their own private luck, nor scared out of their wits by any adversity.

For the soul meets both alternatives with equal calm, if it be sober and not overcome by either feeling; and that is why it can sleep a delightful sleep untouched by the sorrows which startle others from their couches.

[2.37] And more than this, as a faculty of divination by means of dreams, which is the divines and most godlike of human faculties, the soul detects the truth all the more easily when it is not muddied by wine, but accepts the message unstained and scans it carefully. Anyhow, the explains of dreams and visions, those whom the poets call interpreters of dreams, will never undertake to explain any vision to anyone without having first asked the time when it was seen. For if it was at dawn and in the sleep of morning tide, they calculate its meaning on the assumption that the soul is then in a condition to divine soundly and healthily, because by then it has cleansed itself of the stains of wine. But if the vision was seen in the first sleep or at midnight, when the soul is still immersed in the lees of wine and muddied thereby, they decline to make any suggestions, and they are wise.

And that the gods also are of this opinion, and that they commit the faculty of oracular response to souls which are sober, I will clearly show. There was, O king, a seer among the Greeks called Amphiaros."

"I know," said the other; "for you allude, I imagine, to the son of Oecles, who was swallowed up alive by the earth on his way back from Thebes."

"This man, O king," said Apollonius, "still divines in Attica, inducing dreams in those who consult him, and the priests take a man who wishes to consult him, and they prevent his eating for one day, and from drinking wine for three, in order that he may imbibe the oracles with his soul in a condition of utter transparency. But if wine were a good drug of sleep, then the wise Amphiaros would have bidden his votaries to adopt the opposite regimen, and would have had them carried into his shrine as full of wine as leather flagons.

And I could mention many oracles, held in repute by Greeks and barbarians alike, where the priest utters his responses from the tripod after imbibing water and not wine. So you may consider me also as a fit vehicle of the god, O king, along with all who drink water. For we are rapt by the nymphs and are bacchantic revelers in sobriety."

"Well, then," said the king, "you must make me too, O Apollonius, a member of your religious brotherhood."

"I would do so," said the other, "provided only you will not be esteemed vulgar and held cheap by your subjects. For in the case of a king a philosophy that is at once moderate and indulgent makes a good mixture, as is seen in your own case; but an excess of rigor and severity would seem vulgar, O king, and beneath your august station; and, what is more, it might be construed by the envious as due to pride."

[2.38] When they had thus conversed, for by this time it was daylight, they went out into the open. And Apollonius, understanding that the king had to give audience to embassies and such-like said: "You then, O king, must attend to the business of state, but let me go and devote this hour to the Sun, for I must needs offer up to him my accustomed prayer."

"And I pray he may hear your prayer," said the king, "for he will bestow his grace on all who find pleasure in your wisdom; but I will wait for you until you return, for I have to decide some cases in which your presence will very greatly help me."

[2.39] Apollonius then returned, when the day was already for advanced and asked him about the cases which he had been judging; but he answered: "Today I have not judged any, for the omens did not allow me."

Apollonius then replied and said: "It is the case then that you consult the omens in such cases as these, just as you do when you are setting out on a journey or a campaign."

"Yes, by Zeus," he said, "for there is a risk in this case, too, of one who is a judge straying from the right line."

Apollonius felt that what he said was true, and asked him again what the suit was which he had to decide; "For I see," he said, "that you have given your attention to it and are perplexed what verdict to give."

"I admit," said the king, "that I am perplexed; and that is why I want your advice; for one man has sold to another land, in which there lay a treasure as yet undiscovered, and some time afterwards the land, being broken up, revealed a certain chest, which the person who sold the land says belongs to him rather than the other, for that he would never have sold the land, if he had known beforehand that he had a fortune thereon; but the purchaser claims that he acquired everything that he found in land, which thenceforth was his. And, both their contentions are just; and I shall seem ridiculous if I order them to share the gold between them, for any old woman could settle the matter in that way."

Apollonius thereupon replied as follows: "The fact that they are quarreling about gold shows that these two men are no philosophers; and you will, in my opinion, give the best verdict if you bear this in mind, that the gods attach the first importance and have most care for those who live a life of philosophy together with moral excellence, and only pay secondary attention to those who have committed no faults and were never found unjust. 
Now they entrust to philosophers the task of rightly discerning things divine and human as they should be discerned, but to those who merely re of good character they give enough to live upon, so hat they may never be rendered unjust by actual lack of the necessaries of life. It seems then to me, O king, right to weight these men in the balance, as it were, and to examine their respective lives; for I cannot believe that the gods would deprive the one even of his land, unless he was a bad man, or that they would, on the other hand, bestow on the other even what was under the land, unless he was better than the man who sold it."

The two claimants came back the next day, and the seller was convicted of being a ruffian who had neglected the sacrifices, which it was his bounden duty to sacrifice to the gods on that land; but the other was found to be a decent man and a most devout worshipper of the gods. Accordingly, the opinion of Apollonius prevailed, and the better of the two men quitted the court as one on whom the gods had bestowed this boon.

[2.40] When the law-suit had been thus disposed of, Apollonius approached the Indian, and said: " This the third day, O king, that you have made me your guest; and at dawn to-morrow I must quit your land in accordance with the law."

"But," said the other, " the law does not yet speak to you thus, for you can remain on the morrow, since you came after midday."

"I am delighted," said Apollonius, "with your hospitality, and indeed you seem to me to be straining the law for my sake."

"Yes indeed, and I would I could break it," said the king, "in your behalf; but tell me this, Apollonius, did not the camels bring you from Babylon which they say you were riding ?"

"They did," he said, "and Vardanes gave them us."

"Will they then be able to carry you on, after they have come already so many stades from Babylon?"

Apollonius made no answer, but Damis said: "O king, our friend here does not understand anything about our journey, nor about the races among which we shall find ourselves in future; but he regards our passage into India as mere child's play, under the impression that he will everywhere have you and Vardanes to help him. I assure you, the true condition of the camels has not been acknowledged to you; for they are in such an evil state that we could carry them rather than they us, and we must have others. For if they collapse anywhere in the wilderness of India, we," he continued, "shall have to sit down and drive off the vultures and wolves from the camels, and as no one will drive them off from us we shall perish too."

The king answered accordingly and said: "I will remedy this, for I will give you other camels, and you need four I think, and the satrapnote ruling the Indus will send back four others to Babylon. But I have a herd of camels on the Indus, all of them white."

"And," said Damis, "will you not also give us a guide, O king?"

"Yes, of course," he answered, "and I will give a camel to the guide and provisions, and I will write a letter to Iarchas, the oldest of the sages, praying him to welcome Apollonius as warmly as he did myself, and to welcome you also as philosophers and followers of a divine man."

And forthwith the Indian gave them gold and precious stones and linen and a thousand other such things. And Apollonius said that he had enough gold already, because Vardanes had given it to the guide on the sly; but that he would accept the linen robes, because they were like the cloaks worn by the ancient and genuine inhabitants of Attica.

And he took up one of the stones and said: "O rare stone, how opportunely have I found you, and how providentially!" detecting in it, I imagine, some secret and divine virtue. Neither would the companions of Damis accept for themselves the gold; nevertheless they took good handfuls of the gems, in order to dedicate them to the gods, whenever they should regain their own country.