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Apollonius of Tyana03

Apollonius of Tyana03

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 home:ancient Greece:index: article by Jona Lendering ©
Apollonius of Tyana
Statue of a sophist fromthe reign of SeptimiusSeverus(Izmir)
The charismatic teacher and miracle worker Apollonius lived in the firstcentury AD. He was born inTyanaand may have belonged to a branch of ancient philosophy called neo-Pythagoreanism. He received divine honors inthe third century. Although theAtheniansophist (professional orator)Philostratuswrote a lengthy
 Life of Apollonius
, hardly anything about the
sage is certain. However, there are several bits and pieces of information that
may help us reconstruct something of the life of this man, who was and isfrequently compared to the Jewish sage and miracle worker Jesus of  Nazareth. This is the third part of an article in nine pieces.
Philostratus'Life of Apollonius Local traditions Apollonius' Letters Apollonius' books Maximus of Aegae Moeragenes Damis of Nineveh Evaluation of the sources Contemporaries 'Divine men' Magic in what sense? Literature
 
Apollonius' letters
There exists a large collection of 
 Letters of Apollonius
: it contains more thanhundred pieces, most of them said to be written by the Tyanean, some byothers, often short, sometimes long. Some letters are likely to be older than
 Life of Apollonius
(
 LoA
): e.g.,Philostratus' description of Apollonius visit toSparta (
 LoA
4.27) seems to be derived from
 Letter 
63. Unfortunately, other letters are suspiciously similar to compositions by the author of the
 LoA
.However, we can be certain that, although most letters were not written bythe sage of Tyana, at least a substantial part of it is based on informationabout Apollonius that is older and perhaps more reliable than Philostratus'
vieromancée
. The problem is that we do not know which part.If we exclude the letters that are obviously inspired by the
 LoA
and someanti-christian fabrications, we get a remarkable picture. To start with, theauthor of the letters -whoever he was- wants us to believe that Apolloniuswas a neo-Pythagorean philosopher. Next, he shows us an Apollonius whois a hero of the Greek culture; the odd thing is that this Apollonius issometimes anti-Roman. The first element pervades Philostratus' books too, but the second element is almost absent from the
 LoA
. Because of this anti-Roman tendency, it may be argued that the
 Letters of Apollonius
werecomposed in the 140's by someone living inAthens.An additional element for dating the letters in these years, is the polemic between the stoic philosopher Euphrates of Tyre (†119) and the neo-Pythagorean Apollonius; this was an important debate in the mid-secondcentury. Reading the letters said to be sent to the Roman philosopher C.Musonius Rufus (c.30-c.100), we get the impression that Musonius is thewinner of the polemic [note 4
 
]; this is, of course, too embarrassing to be
invented byan admirer of the Tyanean. It must antedate the composition of 
the collection in the 140's, and may even reflect a real polemic.
In two of the letters to Euphr ates, #16 and #17, we encounter an Apollonius
who would have scared Philostratus to death: the author of these letters proudly confesses he is a magician, and goes on to give a positiveinterpretation of that word. These letters were certainly not invented byPhilostratus.You think it your duty to call philosophers who followPythagoras'magicians', and likewise also those who followOrpheus. For my own part I think that those who follow nomatter whom, ought to be called 'magicians', if only they aredetermined to be divine and just men.[
 Letter 
#16]The
 Letters of Apollonius
are fabrications, but they serve to corroborate thetradition that the man from Tyana was a magician. Besides, the fact thatsomeone decided to compose these letters in order to create a Greek, anti-Roman hero proves that Apollonius was by then a well-known figure. This isremarkable, since there are strong indications that Greek was not his native

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