Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 6.31-35

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.

[6.31] "And for myself, O man of Tyana," answered Titus, "can you give me any precepts as to how to rule and exercise the authority of a sovereign?"

"Only such rules," replied the other, "as you have laid upon yourself; for in so submitting yourself to your father's will, it is, I think, certain that you will grow like him. And I should like to repeat to you on this occasion a saying of Archytas, which is a noble one and worth committing to memory. Archytas was a man of Tarentum who was learned in the lore of Pythagoras, and he wrote a treatise on the education of children, in which he says:

Let the father be an example of virtue to his children, for fathers also will the more resolutely walk in the path of virtue because their children are coming to resemble them.

But for myself, I propose to associate with you my own companion Demetrius, who will attend you as much as you like and instruct you in the whole duty of a good ruler."

"And what sort of wisdom, O Apollonius, does this person possess?"

"Courage," he replied, "to speak the truth unabashed by anyone, for he possesses the constancy and strength of character of a cynic."

And as Titus did not seem very pleased to hear the name of dog,note he continued: "And yet in Homer, Telemachus, when he was young, required, it appears, two dogs, and the poet sends these to accompany the youth to the market place of Ithaca, in spite of their being irrational animals; but you will have a dog to accompany you who will bark in your behalf not only at other people, but at yourself in case you go wrong, and he will bark withal wisely, and never irrationally."

"Well," said the other, "give me your dog to accompany me, and I will even let him bite me, in case he feels I am committing injustice."

"I will write him a letter, for he teaches philosophy in Rome."

"Pray do so," said Titus, "and I wish I could get someone to write to you in my behalf, and induce you to share with me my journey to Rome."

"I will come there," said the other, "whenever it is best for both of us."

[6.32] Then Titus dismissed the company, and said: "Now that we are alone, O man of Tyana, you will allow me perhaps to ask you a question upon matters of grave importance to myself."

"Pray do so," said the other, "and do so all the more readily because the matter is so important."

"It is about my own life," said the other, "and I would feign know whom I ought most to be on my guard against. That is my question, and I hope you will not think me cowardly for already being anxious about it."

"Nay, you are only cautious," said the other, "and circumspect; for a man ought to be more careful about this than about anything else."

And glancing at the Sun he swore by that god that he had himself intended to address Titus about this matter even if he had not asked him. "For," he said, "the gods have told me to warn you, so long as your father is alive, to be on your guard against his bitterest enemies, but after his death against your own kith and kin."

"And," said Titus, "in what way am I to die?"

"In the same way," said the other, "as Odysseus is said to have died, for they say that he too met with his death by the sea."

Damis interprets the above utterance as follows: Namely, that he was to be on his guard against the cusp of the fish called the trygon, with which they say Odysseus was wounded. Anyhow, after he had occupied the throne for two years, in succession of his father, he died through eating the fish called the sea-hare; and this fish, according to Damis, causes secret humors in the body worse and more fatal than anything else either in the sea or on land.

And Nero, he says, introduced this sea-hare in his dishes to poison his worst enemies; and so did Domitian in order to remove his brother Titus, not because he objected to sharing his throne with his brother, but to sharing it with one who was both gentle and good.

Such was their conversation in private, after which they embraced one another in public, and as Titus departed Apollonius greeted him with these last words: "Pray you, my King, overcome your enemies by your arms, but your father by your virtues."

[6.33] But the letter to Demetrius ran as follows:

"Apollonius, the Philosopher, sends greeting to Demetrius the cynic.
     I have made a present of you to the Emperor Titus, that you may instruct him how to behave as a sovereign, and take care that you confirm the truth of my words to him, and make yourself, anger apart, everything to him. Farewell."

[6.34] Now the inhabitants of Tarsus had previously detested Apollonius, because of the violent reproaches which he addressed to them, owing to the fact that through their languid indifference and sensual indolence they could not put up with the vigor of his remarks. But on this occasion they became such devoted admirers of our hero as to regard him as their second founder and the mainstay of their city.

For on one occasion the Emperor was offering a sacrifice in public, when the whole body of citizens met and presented a petition to him asking for certain great favors; and he replied that he would mention the matter to his father, and be himself their ambassador to procure them what they wanted; whereupon Apollonius stepped forward and said: "Supposing I convicted some who are standing here of being your own and your father's enemies, and of having sent legates to Jerusalem to excite a rebellion, and of being the secret allies of your most open enemies, what would happen to them?"

"Why, what else," said the Emperor, "than instant death?"

"Then is it not disgraceful," replied Apollonius, "that you should be instant in demanding their punishment, and yet dilatory in conferring a boon; and be ready yourself to undertake the punishment, but reserve the benefaction until you can see and consult your father?"

But the king, over-delighted with this remark, said: "I grant the favors they ask for, for my father will not be annoyed at my yielding to truth and to yourself."

[6.35] So many were the races which they say Apollonius had visited until then, eager and zealous for others as they for him. But his subsequent journeys abroad, though they were numerous, were yet not so many as before, nor did he go to fresh districts which he was not already acquainted with; for when he came down from Ethiopia he made a long stay on the sea-board of Egypt, and then he returned to Phoenicia and Cilicia, and to Ionia and Achaea, and Italy, never failing anywhere to show himself the same as ever.

For, hard as it is to know oneself, I myself consider it still harder for the sage to remain always himself; for he cannot ever reform evil natures and improve them, unless he has first trained himself never to alter in his own person. Now about these matters I have discoursed at length in other treatises, and shown those of my readers who were careful and hard students, that a man who is really a man will never alter his nature nor become a slave.

But lest I should unduly prolong this work by giving a minute account of the several teachings which he addressed to individuals, and lest on the other hand I should skip over any important chapter of a life, which I am taking so much pains to transmit to those who never knew Apollonius, I think it time to record more important incidents and matters which will repay the remembering; for we must consider that such episodes are comparable to the visits to mankind paid by the sons of Asclepius.