Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 7.41-42

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.

[7.41] And on the next day he called Damis and said: "My defense has to be pleaded by me on the day appointed, so do you betake yourself in the direction of Dicaearchia,note for it is better to go by land; and when you have saluted Demetrius, turn aside to the sea-shore where the island of Calypso lies; for there you shall see me appear to you."

"Alive," asked Damis, "or how?"

Apollonius with a smile replied: "As I myself believe, alive, but as you will believe, risen from the dead."

Accordingly he says that he went away with much regret, for although he did not quite despair of his master's life, yet he hardly expected him to escape death. And on the third day he arrived at Dicaearchia, where he at once heard news of the great storm which had raged during those days; for a gale with rain had burst over the sea, sinking some of the ships that were sailing thither, and driving out of their course those which were tending to Sicily and the straits of Messina. And then he understood why it was that Apollonius had bidden him to go by land.

[7.42] The events which followed are related by Damis, he says, from accounts given by Apollonius, both to himself and Demetrius. For he relates that there came to Rome from Messene in Arcadia a youth remarkable for his beauty, and found there many admirers, and above all Domitian, whose rivals even the former did not scruple to declare themselves, so strong was their attachment.

The youth however was too high-principled and respected his honor. Now had it been gold that he scorned or possessions or horses, or such other attractions and lures as sundry persons seek to corrupt young people with, we had no call to praise him, for the seducer can hardly dispense with such preparations. But he was tempted with larger honors than all those put together who ever attracted the glances of sovereigns, yet he disdained them all for himself. In consequence, he was cast into prison by his own admirer's orders.

He came up to Apollonius, and made as if he would speak to him, but, being counseled by his modesty to keep silent, did not venture to. Apollonius noticed this and said: "You are confined here, and yet are not of an age to be a malefactor, like ourselves who are hardened sinners."

"Yes, and I shall be put to death," said the other; "for by our latter-day laws self-respect is honored with capital punishment."

"So it was in the time of Theseus," answered Apollonius, "for Hippolytus was murdered by his own sire for the same reason."

"And I too," said the other, " am my own father's victim. For though I am an Arcadian from Messene, he did not give me an Hellenic education, but sent me here to study [Roman] law; and when I had come here for that purpose the Emperor cast an evil eye on me."

But Apollonius feigned not to understand what he meant and said: "Tell me, my boy, surely the Emperor does not imagine you have blue eyes, when you have, as I see, black ones? Or that you have a crooked nose, whereas it is square and regular, like that of a well executed Hermes?note or has he not made some mistake about your hair? For, methinks, it is sunny and gleaming, and your mouth too is so regular, that whether you are silent or talking, it is equally comely, and you carry your head freely and proudly. Surely the Emperor must be mistaking all these traits for others, or you would not tell me he has cast an evil eye on you."

"That is just what ruined me," said the other, "for he has condescended to favor me and instead of sparing what he praises is prepared to insult me as a woman's lovers might."

Apollonius admired the Arcadian too much to ply him with such question as what he thought of sleeping together, as whether it was disgraceful or not, and others of the sort, as he noticed that he blushed and was not decorous in his language; so he only put to him the question: "Have you any slaves in Arcadia?"

"Why yes, many," replied the lad.

"What conversation to them," said Apollonius, "do you consider yourself as holding?"

"That," he replied, "which the laws assign to me, for I am their master."

"And must slaves obey their masters or disdain the wishes of those who are masters of their persons?"

The other discerned the drift of his question and answered: "I know indeed how irresistible and harsh is the power of tyrants, for they are inclined to use it to overpower even free men, but I am master of my person and shall guard it inviolate." 

"How can you do that," said Apollonius, "for you have to do with an admirer who is prepared to run amuck of your youth, sword in hand?"

"I shall simply hold out my neck, which is all his sword requires."

Whereupon Apollonius commended him, and said: "I perceive you are an Arcadian."note

Moreover, he mentions this youth in one of his letters, and gives a much more attractive account of him than I have done in the above, and while praising him for his high principles to his correspondent, adds that he was not put to death by the tyrant. On the contrary, after exciting admiration by his firmness, he returned by ship to Malea, and was held in more honor by the inhabitants of Arcadia than the youths who among the Lacedaemonians surpass their fellows in their endurance of the scourge.