Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 8.8-14

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.

[8.8] Such then was the oration which the sage had prepared beforehand, at the end whereof I found the last words of the earlier speech, namely:

"For thou shalt not kill me, since I tell thee I am not mortal,"

together with the words which preceded and led up to this quotation.note But the effect upon the despot of his quitting the court in a matter so godlike and inexplicable was quite other than that which the many expected; for they expected him to make a terrific uproar and institute a hunt for the man, and to send forth proclamations over his empire to arrest him wherever they should find him. But he did nothing of the kind, as if he set himself to defeat man's expectations; or because he now at last realized that as against the sage he had no resources of his own. But whether he acted from contempt, let us conjecture from what ensued, for he will be seen confounded with astonishment rather than filled with contempt.

[8.9] For he had to hear another case after that of Apollonius, an action brought, I think, in connexion with a will by some city against a private individual; and he had forgotten not only the names of the parties, but also the matter at issue in the suit; for his questions were without meaning and his answers were not relevant to the case - all which argued the degree of astonishment and perplexity under which the despot labored, the more so because his flatterers had persuaded him that nothing could escape his memory.

[8.10] Such was the condition to which Apollonius reduced the despot, making him a plaything of his philosophy who had been the terror of the Hellenes and the barbarians;note and before midday henote left the court, and at dusk appeared to Demetrius and Damis at Dicaearchia.note And this accounts for his having instructed Damis to go by land to Dicaearchia, without waiting to hear his defense. For he had given no previous notice of his intentions, but had merely told the man who was mostly in his intimacy to do what best accorded with his plans.

[8.11] Now Damis had arrived the day before and had talked with Demetrius about the preliminaries of the trial; and the account filled the latter, when he listened to it, with more apprehension than you might expect of a listener when Apollonius was in question. The next day also he asked him afresh about the same particulars, as he wandered with him along the edge of the sea, which figures in the fables told about Calypso; for they were almost in despair of their master coming to them, because the tyrant's hand was hard upon all; yet out of respect for Apollonius' character they obeyed his instructions.

Discouraged, then, they sat down in the chamber of the nymphs, where there is the cistern of white marble, which contains a spring of water which neither overflows its edges, nor recedes, even if water be drawn for it. They were talking about the quality of the water in no very serious manner; and presently, owing to the anxiety they felt about the sage, brought back their conversation to the circumstances which preceded the trial.

[8.12] Damis' grief had just broken out afresh, and he had made some such exclamation as the following: "Shall we ever behold, O ye gods, our noble and good companion?" when Apollonius, who had heard him -for as a matter of fact he was already present in the chamber of the nymphs- answered: "Ye shall see him, nay, ye have already seen him."

"Alive?" said Demetrius, "For if you are dead, we have anyhow never ceased to lament you."

Hereupon Apollonius stretched out his hand and said: "Take hold of me, and if I evade you, then I am indeed a ghost come to you from the realm of Persephone, such as the gods of the underworld reveal to those who are dejected with much mourning. But if I resist your touch, then you shall persuade Damis also that I am both alive and that I have not abandoned my body."

They were no longer able to disbelieve, but rose up and threw themselves on his neck and kissed him, and asked him about his defense. For while Demetrius was of opinion that he had not even made his defense -for he expected him to be destroyed without any wrong being proved against him- Damis thought that he had made his defense, but perhaps more quickly than was expected; for he never dreamed that he had made it only that day.

But Apollonius said: "I have made my defense, gentlemen, and have gained my cause; and my defense took place this very day not so long ago, for it lasted on even to midday."

"How then," said Demetrius, "have you accomplished so long a journey in so small a fraction of the day?"

And Apollonius replied: "Imagine what you will, flying ram or wings of wax excepted, so long as you ascribe it to the intervention of a divine escort."

"Well," said Demetrius, "I have always thought that your actions and words were providently cared for by some god, to whom you owe your present preservation, nevertheless pray tell us about the defense you made, what it consisted of and what the accusation had to say against you, and about the temper of the judge, and what questions he put, and what he allowed to pass of your pleas and what not - tell us at once in order that I may tell everything in turn to Telesinus, for he will never leave off asking me about your affairs; for about fifteen days back he was drinking with me in Antium, when he fell asleep at table, and just as the middle cup in honor of the good genius was being passed round he dreamed a dream; and he saw a fire spreading like a sea over the land, and it enveloped some men, and caught up others as they fled; for it flowed along, he said, exactly like water, but you alone suffered not the fate of the rest, but swam clean through it as it divided to let you through. And in honor of the gods who inspire such happy presages he poured out a libation in consequence of this dream, and he bade me be of good cheer on your account."

And Apollonius said: "I am not surprised at Telesinus dreaming about me, for in his vigils, I assure he, he long ago occupied his mind about me; but as regards the trial, you shall learn everything, but not in this place; for it is already evening and it is time for us to proceed to the town; and it is pleasant too to talk as you go along the road, for conversation assists you on your way like an escort.

Let us then start and discuss your questions as we go along, and I will certainly tell you of today's events in the court. For both of you known the circumstances which preceded the trial, the one of you because he was present, and the other because I am sure, by Zeus, he has not heard it once only, but again and again, if I know you well, my Demetrius. But I will relate to you what you do not know yet, beginning with my being summoned into the Emperor's presence, into which I was ushered naked."

And he proceeded to detail to them his own words, and above all at the end of them the citation: "For thou shalt not kill me," and he told them exactly how he vanished from the seat of judgment.

[8.13] Whereupon Demetrius cried out: "I thought you had come hither because you were saved; but this is only the beginning of your dangers, for he will proscribe you, seize your person, and cut off all means of escape."

Apollonius, however, told Demetrius not to be afraid and encouraged him by saying; "I only wish that you were both no more easy for him to catch than I am. But I know exactly in what condition of mind the tyrant is at this moment; hitherto he has never heard anything except the utterances of flatterers, and now he had had to listen to the language of rebuke; such language breaks despotic natures down and enrages them. But I require some rest, for I have not bent the knee since I had this struggle."

And Damis said: "Demetrius, my own attitude towards our friend's affairs was such that I tried to dissuade him from taking the journey which he has taken, and I believe you too gave him the same advice, namely that he should not rush of his own accord into dangers and difficulties; but when he was thrown into fetters, as I saw with my own eyes, and I was perplexed and in despair of his case, he told me that it rested with himself to release himself and he freed his leg from the fetters and showed it to me.

Well, it was then for the first time that I understood our master to be a divine being, transcending all our poor wisdom and knowledge. Consequently, even if I were called upon to expose myself to still greater risks than these, I should not fear anything, as long as I was under his protection. But since the evening is at hand, let us go into the inn and minister to and take care of him."

And Apollonius said: "Sleep is all I want, and everything else is a matter of indifference to me, whether I get it or whether I do not."

And after that, having offered a prayer to Apollo and also to the Sun, he passed into the house in which Demetrius lived, and having washed his feet, and instructed Damis and his friend to take their supper, for he saw that they were fasting, he threw himself upon the bed, and having intoned some verses of Homer as a hymn to sleep, he took his repose, as if his circumstances gave him no just cause whatever for anxiety.

[8.14] About dawn Demetrius asked him where on earth he would turn his steps, for there resounded in his ears the clatter of imaginary horsemen who he thought were already in hot pursuit of Apollonius on account of the rage of the tyrant, but Apollonius merely replied: "Neither he nor anyone else is going to pursue me, but as for myself I shall take sail for Hellas."

"That is anyhow a dangerous voyage," said the other, "for the region is most exposed and open; and how are you going to be hid out in the open from one whom you cannot escape in the dark?"

"I do need need to lie hid," said Apollonius; "for if, as you imagine, the entire earth belongs to the tyrant, it is better to die out in the open than to live in the dark and in hiding."

And turning to Damis he said: "Do you know of a ship that is starting for Sicily?"

"I do," he replied, "for we are staying on the edge of the sea, and the crier is at our doors, and a ship is just being got ready to start, as I gather from the shouts of the crew, and from the exertions they are making over weighing anchor."

"Let us embark," said Apollonius, "upon this ship, O Damis, for we will now sail to Sicily, and thence on to the Peloponnese."

"I am agreeable," said the other; "so let is sail."