Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 8.7.xi-xvi

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.

[8.7.xi] I must confess that there are also other points which the accuser who brings me to the bar on these accounts should have entertained and considered: What sense was there in my aiding these revolutionists? For he does not say that I received any money from them, nor that I was tempted by presents to commit these crimes. But let us consider the point whether I might not have advanced great claims, but have deferred their recognition of them until the time came at which they expected to win the throne, when I might have demanded much and have obtained still more as my due.

But how can you prove all this? Call to mind, my prince, your own reign and the reigns of your predecessors, I mean of your own brother,note and of your father,note and of Nero under whom they held office; for it was under these princes chiefly that I passed my life before the eyes of all, the rest of my time being spent on my visit to India. Well, of these thirty-eight years, for such is the period which has elapsed since then up to your own day, I have never come near the court of princes, except that once in Egypt, and then it was your father's, though he was not at that time actually Emperor; and he admitted that he came there on my account. Nor have I ever uttered anything base or humiliating either to emperors, or in behalf of emperors to peoples; nor have I made a parade of letters either when princes wrote them to me or otherwise by pretending that they wrote; nor have I ever demeaned myself by flattery of princes in order to win their largess.

If then after long consideration of rich and poor, you should ask me in which class I register myself, I should say among the very rich, for the fact that I want nothing is worth to me all the wealth of Lydia and of Pactolus. Is it likely then that I who never would take presents from yourself whose throne I regarded as perfectly secure, should either have gone cadging to mere pretenders, and have deferred the receipt of my recompense from them until such time as I thought would find them emperors; or that I should plan a change of dynasty, who never once, for purposes of my advancement, resorted to that which was already established?

And yet if you want to know how much a philosopher may obtain by flattery of the mighty, you have only got to look at the case of Euphrates. For why do I speak of his having got mere money out of them? Why, he has perfect fountains of wealth, and already at the banks he discusses prices as a merchant might, or a huckster, a tax-gatherer, a low money-changer, for all these roles are his if there is anything to buy or sell; and he clings like a limpet to the doors of the mighty, and you see him standing at them more regularly than any doorkeeper, indeed he has often been shut away by the doorkeepers as greedy dogs are; but he never yet bestowed a farthing upon any philosopher, but he walls up all his wealth within his own house, only supporting this Egyptian out of the money of others, and whetting against me a tongue which ought to have been cut out.

[8.7.xii] However I will leave Euphrates to yourself; for unless you approve of flatterers you will find the fellow worse than I depict him; and I only ask you to listen to the rest of my apology. What then is it to be, and from what counts is to defend me?

In the act of the accusation, my prince, a regular dirge is chanted over an Arcadian boy, whom I am accused of having cut up by night, perhaps in a dream, for I am sure I do not know. This child is said to be of respectable parentage and to have possessed all the good looks which Arcadians wear even in the midst of squalor. They pretend that I massacred him in spite of his entreaties and lamentations, and that after thus imbruing my hands in the blood of this child I prayed the gods to reveal the truth to me.

So far they only attack myself in their charges, but what follows is a direct assault upon the gods; for they assert that the gods heard my prayers under such circumstances, and vouchsafed to me victims of good omen, instead of slaying me for my impiety. Need I say, O my prince, it is defiling even to listen to such stuff?

But to confine my pleadings to the counts which affect myself, I would ask who is this Arcadian? For since he was not of  nameless parentage, and by no means slave-like in appearance, it is time for you to ask what was the name of those who begot him and of what family he was, and what city in Arcadia had the honor of rearing him, and from what alters he was dragged away in order to be sacrificed here. My accuser does not supply this information, in spite of his ingenuity in the art of lying.

Let us then suppose it was only a slave in whose behalf he accuses me. For by heaven, we surely must class among slaves one who had neither name of his own, nor parentage, nor city, nor inheritance, must we not? For not a name is supplied anywhere. In that case who was the slave merchant who sold him? Who was it that bought him from the Arcadians? For if this breed is specially suitable for the butchering kind of diviners, he must surely have purchased the boy for much money.

And some messenger must have sailed straight to the Peloponnese in order to fetch this Arcadian and conduct him to us. For though one can buy here on the spot slaves from Pontus or Lydia or Phrygia -for indeed you can meet whole droves of them being conducted hither, since these like other barbarous races have always been subject to foreign masters, and as yet see nothing disgraceful in servitude; anyhow with the Phrygians it is a fashion even to sell their children, and once they are enslaved, they never think any more about them- yet the Hellenes retain their love of liberty, and no man of Hellas will ever sell a slave out of his country; for which reason kidnappers and slave-dealers never resort thither, least of all Arcadia; for in addition to the fact that they are beyond all other Hellenes jealous of liberty, they also require a great number of slaves themselves. For Arcadia contains a vast expanse of grass land and of timber, which covers not only the highlands, but all the plains as well. Consequently they require a great many laborers, many goat-herds and swineherds, and shepherds and drivers either for the oxen or for the horses; and there is much need in the land of woodcutters, a craft to which they are trained from boyhood.

And even if the land of Arcadia were not such as I have described, so that they could in addition afford like other nations to sell their own slaves abroad, what advantage could the wisdom the accuser babbles of derive by getting a child from Arcadia to murder and cut up? For the Arcadians are not so much wiser than other Hellenes, that their entrails should convey more bowel-lore than those of other people. On the contrary they are the most boorish of men, and resemble hogs in other ways and especially that they can stomach acorns.

It is possible that I have conducted my defense on more rhetorical lines than is my custom, in thus characterizing the habits of the Arcadians and digressing into the Peloponnese. What however is my right line of defense? This I think: I never sacrificed blood, I do not sacrifice it now, I never touch it, not even if it be shed upon an altar; for this was the rule of Pythagoras and likewise of his disciples, and in Egypt also of the Naked sages, and of the sages of India, from whom these principles of wisdom were derived by Pythagoras and his school.

In adhering to this way of sacrifice they do not seem to the gods to be criminal; for the latter suffer them to grow old, sound in body and free from disease, and to increase in wisdom daily, to be free from tyranny of others, to be wanting in nothing. Nor do I think that it is absurd to ask the gods for benefits in exchange for pure sacrifices. For I believe that the gods have the same mind as myself in the matter of sacrifice, and that they therefore place those parts of the earth which grow frankincense in the purest region of the world, in order that we may use their resources for purposes of sacrifice without drawing the knife in their temples or shedding blood upon altars. And yet, it appears, I so far forgot myself and the gods as to sacrifice with rites which are not only unusual with myself, but which no human being would employ.

[8.7.xiii] Let me add that the very hour which my accuser alleges acquits me of this charge. For on that day, the day on which he says I committed this crime, I allow that, if I was in the country, I offered sacrifice, and that if I sacrificed, I ate of the victim. And yet, my prince, you repeatedly ask me if I was not staying in Rome at that time? And you too, O best of princes, were staying there; and yet you would not on that account admit you offered such a sacrifice; and my false accuser was there likewise, but he will not own on that account that he committed murder, just because he was living in Rome. And the same is the case of thousands of people, whom you would do better to expel as strangers, than expose to acts of accusation, if in these the mere fact of their having been in Rome is to be held to be a proof of their guilt.

On the hand, the fact of my coming to Rome is in itself a disproof of the charge of revolutionary plotting; for to live in a city, where there are so many eyes to see and so many ears to hear things which are and which are not, is a serious handicap for anyone who desires to play at revolution, unless he be wholly intent upon his own death. On the contrary it prompts prudent and sensible people to walk slowly even when engaged in wholly permissible pursuits.

[8.7.xiv] What then, O sycophant, was I really doing on that night? Suppose I were yourself and was being asked this question, inasmuch as you are come to ask questions, why then the answer would be this: I was trumping up actions against decent and respectable people, and I was trying to ruin the innocent, and to persuade the Emperor by dint of hard lying, in order that while I myself climbed to fame, I might soil him with the blood of my victims. If again you ask me as a philosopher, I was praising the laughter with which Democritus laughed at all human affairs. But if you asked me as being myself, here is my answer: Philiscus of Melos, who was my fellow-pupil in philosophy for four years, was ill at the time; and I was sleeping out at his house, because he was suffering so terribly that he died of his disease.

Ah, many are the charms I would have prayed to obtain, if they could have saved his life. Fain would I have known of any melodies of Orpheus, if any there are, to bring back the dead to us. Nay I verily think I would have made a pilgrimage even to the nether world for his sake, if such things were feasible; so deeply attached was I to him by all his conduct, so worthy of a philosopher and so much in accord with my own ideals.

Here are facts, my prince, which you may learn also from Telesinus the consul; for he too was at the bedside of the man of Melos, and nursed him by night like myself. But if you do not believe Telesinus, because he is of the number of philosophers, I call upon the physicians to bear me witness, and they were the following: Seleucus of Cyzicus and Stratocles of Sidon. Ask them whether I tell the truth.

And what is more, they had with them over thirty of their disciples, who are ready, I believe, to witness to the same fact; for if I were to summon hither the relatives of Philiscus, you might probably think that I was trying to interpose delays in the case; for they have lately sailed from Rome to the Melian country in order to pay their last sad respects to the dead. Come forward, O ye witnesses, for you have been expressly summoned to give your testimony upon this point."

(The witnesses give their evidence.)

"With how little regard then for the truth this accusation has been drawn up, is clearly proved by the testimony of these gentlemen; for it appears that it was not in the suburbs, but in the city, not outside the wall, but inside a house, not with Nerva, but with Philiscus, not slaying another, but praying for a man's life, not thinking of matters of State, but of philosophy, not choosing a revolutionist to supplant yourself, but trying to save a man like myself.

[8.7.xv] What then is the Arcadian doing in this case? What becomes of the absurd stories of victims slain? What is the use of urging you to believe such lies? For what never took place will be real, if you decide that it did take place.

And how, my prince, are you to rate the improbability of the sacrifice? For of course there have been long ago soothsayers skilled in the art of examining slain victims, for example I can name Megistias of Acarnania, Aristandrus of Lycia, and Silanus who was a native of Ambracia, and of these the Acarnanian was sacrificer to Leonidas the king of Sparta, and the Lycian to Alexander of Macedonia, and Silanus to Cyrus the Pretender; and supposing there had been found stored in the entrails of a human being some information truer or more profound or surer than usual, such a sacrifice was not difficult to effect; inasmuch as there were kings to preside over it, who had plenty of cup-bearers at their disposal, besides plenty of prisoners of war as victims; and moreover these monarchs could violate the law with impunity, and they had no fear of being accused, in case they committed so small a murder.

But I believe, these persons had the same conviction which I also entertain, who am now in risk of my life of such accusation, namely that the entrails of animals which we slay while they are ignorant of death, are for that reason, and just because the animals lack all understanding of what they are about to suffer, free from disturbance. A human being however has constantly in his soul the apprehension of death, even when it does not as yet impend; how therefore is it likely that when death is already present and stares him in the face, he should be able to give any intimation of the future through his entrails, or be a proper subject for sacrifice at all?

In proof that my conjecture is right and consonant with nature, I would ask you, my prince, to consider the following points. The liver, in which adepts at this art declare the tripod of their divination to reside, is on the one hand not composed of pure blood, for all unmixed blood is retained by the heart which through the blood-vessels sends it flowing as if through canals over the entire body; the bile on the other hand lies over the liver, and whereas it is excited by anger, it is on the other hand driven back by fear into the cavities of the liver. Accordingly if, on the one hand, it is caused to effervesce by irritants, and ceases to be able to contain itself in its own receptacle, it overflows the liver which underlies it, in which case the mass of bile occupies the smooth and prophetic parts of the bowels; on the other hand, under the influence of fear and panic it subsides, and draws together into itself all the light which resides in the smooth parts; for in such cases even that pure element in the blood recedes to which the liver owes its spleen-like look and distension, because the blood in question by its nature drains away under the membrane which encloses the entrails and floats upon the muddy surface. Of what use then, my prince, is it to slay a human victim, if the sacrifice is going to furnish no presage?

And human nature does render such rites useless for purposes of divination, because it has a sense of impending death; and dying men themselves meet their end, if with courage, then also with anger, and, if with despondency, then also with fear. And for this reason the art of divination, except in the case of the most ignorant savages, while recommending the slaying of kids and lambs, because these animals are silly and not far removed from being insensible, does not consider cocks an pigs and bulls worthy vehicles of its mysteries, because these creatures have too much spirit.

I realize, my prince, that my accuser chafes at my discourse, because I find so intelligent a listener in yourself, for indeed you seem to me to give your attention to my discourse; and if I have not clearly enough explained any point in it, I will allow you to ask me any questions about it.

[8.7.xvi] I have then answered this Egyptian's act of accusation; but since I do not think I ought altogether to pass by the slanders of Euphrates, I would ask you, my prince, to judge between us, and decide which of us is more of a philosopher. Well then, whereas he strains every nerve to tell lies about myself, I disdain to do the like about him; and whereas he looks upon you as a despot, I regard you as a constitutional ruler; and while he puts the sword into your hand for use against me, I merely supply you with argument.

But he makes the basis of his accusation the discourses which I delivered in Ionia, and he says that they contain matter much to your disadvantage. And yet what I said concerned the topic of the Fates and of Necessity, and I only used as an example of my arguments the affairs of kings, because of your rank is thought to be the highest of human ranks; and I dwelt upon the influence of the Fates, and argued that the threads which they spin are so unchangeable, that, even if they decreed to someone a kingdom which at the moment belonged to another, and even it that other slew the man of destiny, to save himself from ever being deprived by him of his throne, nevertheless the dead man would come to life again in order to fulfill the decree of the Fates.

For we employ hyperbole in our arguments in order to convince those who will not believe in what is probable, and it is just as if I had used such an example as this: He who is destined to become a carpenter, will become one even if his hands have been cut off: and he who has been destined to carry off the prize for running in the Olympic games, will not fail to win even if he broke his leg: and a man to whom the Fates have decreed that he shall be an eminent archer, will not miss the mark, even though he has lost his eyesight. And in drawing examples from Royalty I had reference I believe to the Acrisii and the house of Laïus, and to Astyages the Mede, and to many other monarchs who thought that they were well-established in their kingdoms, and of whom some slew their own children as they imagined and others their descendants, and yet were subsequently deprived by them of their thrones when they issued forth from obscurity in accordance with the decrees of fate.

Well, if I were inclined to flattery, I should have said that I had your own history in my mind, when you were blockaded in this city by Vitellius, and the temple of Jupiter was burnt on the brow of the hill overlooking the city,note and Vitellius declared that his own fortune was assured, so long as you did not escape him, this although you were at the time quite a stripling and not the man you are now; and yet, because the Fates had decreed otherwise, he was undone with all this counsels, while you are now in possession of his throne.

However, since I abhor the concords of flattery, for it seems to me that they are everything that is out of time and out of tune, let me cut the string out of my lyre, and request you to consider that on that occasion I had not your fortunes in my mind, but was talking exclusively of questions of the Fates and of Necessity for it was in speaking of them that they accused me of having assailed yourself.

And yet such an argument as mine is tolerated by most of the gods; and even Zeus himself is not angry when he hears from the poet in "the story of Lycia" this language:

Alas for myself, when Sarpedon...note

And there are other such strains referring to himself, such as those in which he declares that he yields the cause of his son to the Fates; and in the weighing of souls again the poets tell you that, although after his death he presented Minos the brother of Sarpedon with a golden scepter, and appointed him judge in the court of Aidoneus, yet he could not exempt him from the decree of the Fates.

And you, my prince, why should you resent my argument when the gods put up with it, whose fortunes are forever fixed and assured, and who never slew poets on that account? For it is our duty to follow the Fates and obey them, and not take offense with the changes of fortune, and to believe in Sophocles when he says:

For the gods alone there comes no old age, nay, nor even death; but all other things are confounded by all-mastering time...note

No man ever put the truth so well. For the prosperity of men runs in a circle, and the span of happiness, my prince, lasts for a single day. My prosperity belongs to another and his to another, and his again to a third; and each in having hath not.

Think of this, my prince, and put a stop to your decrees of exile, stay the shedding of blood, and have recourse to philosophy in your wishes and plans; for true philosophy feels no pangs. And in doing so wipe away men's tears; for at present echoes reach us from the sea of a thousand sighs, and they are redoubled from the continents, where each laments over his peculiar sorrows. Thence is bred an incalculable crop of evils, all of them due directly to slanderous tongues of informers, who render all men objects of hatred to yourself, and yourself, O prince, to all."