Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 4.1-5

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.

[4.1] And when they saw our sage in Ionia and he had arrived in Ephesus, even the mechanics would not remain at their handicrafts, but followed him, one admiring his wisdom, another his beauty, another his way of life, another his bearing, some of them everything alike about him.

Reports also were current about him which originated from various oracles; thus from the oracle at Colophon it was announced that he shared its peculiar wisdom and was absolutely wise, and so forth; from that of Didyma similar rumors emanated, as also from the shrine of Pergamon; for the Godnote urged not a few of these who were in need of health to betake themselves to Apollonius, for this was what "he himself approved and was pleasing to the Fates."

Deputations also waited upon him from various cities offering him their hospitality, and asking his advise about life in general as well as about the dedication of altars and images; and he regulated their several affairs in some case by letter, but in others he said would visit them.

And the city of Smyrna also sent a deputation, but they would not say what they wanted, though they besought him to visit them; so he asked the legate what they wanted of him, but he merely said, "to see him and to be seen." So Apollonius said: "I will come, but, O ye Muses, grant that we may also like one another."

[4.2] The first discourse then which he delivered was to the Ephesians from the platform of their temple, and its tone was not that of the Socratic school; for he dissuaded and discouraged them from other pursuits, and urged them to fill Ephesus with real study rather than with idleness and revelry such as he found around him there; for they were devoted to dancers and taken up with pantomimes, and the whole city was full of pipers, and full of effeminate rascals, and full of noise. So, though the Ephesians had come over to him, he determined not tot wink at such things, but cleared them out and made them odious to most of them. 

[4.3] His other discourses he delivered under the trees which grow hard by the cloisters; and in these he dealt with the question of communism, and taught that they ought to support and be supported by one another. While he was doing so on one occasion, sparrows were sitting quite silent upon the trees, but one of them suddenly set to chirping as it flew up, just as if he had some exhortations to give to his fellows; and the latter, on hearing it, themselves set up a chirping and rose and flew up under the guidance of the one.

Now Apollonius went on with his argument, for he knew what it was that made the sparrows take wing, but he did not explain the matter to the multitude who were listening to him; but when they all looked at the birds and some of them in their silliness thought it a miraculous occurrence, Apollonius interrupted his argument and said: "A boy has slipped who was carrying some barley in a bowl, and after carelessly gathering together what was fallen, he has gone off, leaving much of if scattered about it in yonder alley, and this sparrow, witnessing the occurrence has come here to acquaint his fellows with the good luck, and to invite them to come and eat it with him."

Most of his audience accordingly ran off to the spot, but Apollonius continued to those who remained with him the discourse he had proposed to himself  on the topic of communism; and when they returned talking loudly and full of wonder, he continued thus: "You see how the sparrows care for one another and delight in communism, but we are far from approving of it, nay, should we happen to see anyone sharing his own in common with others, we set him down as a spendthrift and talk about his extravagance and so forth, while as for those who are supported by him, we call them parasites and flatterers. What then is left for us to do, except to shut ourselves up like birds that are being fed up and fattened, and gorge ourselves in the dark until we literally burst with fat?"

[4.4] A pestilence was creeping over Ephesus; but the disease had not yet reached its full violence, before Apollonius understood that it was approaching, and impressed with the danger he foretold it, and interspersed his discourses with such exclamations as "O earth, remain true to thyself!" and he added in a tone of menace such appeals as these: "Do thou  preserve these men here," and "Thou shalt not pass hither."

But his hearers did not attend to these warnings and thought them mere rodomontade, all the more because they saw him constantly visiting all the temples in order to avert and deprecate the calamity. And since they conducted themselves so foolishly in respect of the scourge, he thought that it was not necessary to do anything more for them, but began a tour of the rest of Ionia, regulating their several affairs, and from time to time recommending in his discourses what was salutary for his audiences.

[4.5] But when he came to Smyrna the Ionians went out to meet him, for they were just celebrating the pan-Ionian sacrifices. And he there read a decree of the Ionians, in which they besought him to take part in their solemn meeting; and in it he met with a name which had not at all an Ionian ring, for a certain Lucullusnote had signed the resolution. He accordingly sent a letter to their council expressing his astonishment at such an instance of barbarism; for he had, it seems, also found the name Fabricius and other such names in the decrees. The letter on this subject shows how sternly he reprimanded them.