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Apollonius of Tyana07

Apollonius of Tyana07

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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 seventh 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
Evaluation of the sources
Having discussed what little we know about the pre-Philostratean traditions,we can try to add things up, using four criteria of authenticity.1.
Independent confirmation:
when an author who is not primarilyinterested in Apollonius confirms something in a source on Apollonius,we may assume that we are approaching the historical truth.2.
Multiple attestation:
when independent, pre-Philostratean traditionsabout Apollonius are in agreement, we may be reasonably certain thatthey contain some historical truth. The problem with this method is, of course, that it is not always easy to establish independence.3.
embarrassing information about the man fromTyanaalso has a claim to historical reliability.4.
sometimes the truth of statement can be confirmed after other facts have been established.
Using these criteria, we can say that the following elements are almost certain:
Apollonius was considered a magician.
it is taken for granted byCassius Dio, Lucian (the latter referring to a disciple) and Anastasius Sinaitica [note 8].
to be found in the
of Moeragenes, in thememoirs of Damis, in the
 Letters of Apollonius
, and in the Antiochenetradition.
Philostratus clearly felt uncomfortable withthis, and three times offers apologies.
Apollonius performed healings.Independent confirmation:
takenfor granted by Cassius Dio, Lucian (both referring to Apollonius'disciples) and Anastasius Sinaitica [note 8].
Fivefold attestation:
to be found in the infancy narrative by Maximus of Aegae, in the Tyaneantradition, the story about the plague inEphesus, the story of the rabies patient in Tarsus, and in Damis.
Apollonius lived in the second half of the first century.
Independent confirmation:
Lucian mentions a disciple of Apolloniuswho lived in the first half of the second century. Sixfold attestation:Moeragenes,
 Letters of Apollonius
(especially 58, a consolation of aRomangovernor whose governorship can be dated in 82/83), Damis,Anastasius Sinaitica [note 8
], mentioned by one Domninus [note 9].
Apollonius must have been a contemporary of Euphrates of Tyre (andDomitian).
Apollonius was a neo-Pythagorean philosopher.Independentattestation:
 Life of Alexander 
Fourfold attestation:
to befound in the
Letters of Apollonius
, implied in the title of oneApollonius' publications, to be found in Damis, which presupposes aconflict with Stoicism and Cynicism.
the ideasexpressed in the fragment of 
On sacrifices
resemble what is known of first century Pythagoreanism [note 10].
Apollonius wrote a book 
On sacrifices
This cannot be established by the criteria used, but it is quoted by Porphyry.
Apollonius wrote a book 
On astrology
.Twofold attestation:
is mentioned by Moeragenes and Damis.
Philostratus expresses his disbelief about the existence of 
.The following elements are likely:
Apollonius wrote a book onPythagoras' doctrines (or abiography).Independent confirmation:
Probably used byIamblichus and Porphyry.
Apollonius traveled to India.
Threefold attestation:
 59, mentioned in Porphyry,
The Styx
[note 11]. (Independentconfirmation from India remains possible.)
Apollonius traveled to Egypt.
Twofold attestation:
Damis, JohnMalalas.The following elements may be very ancient elaborations:
Apollonius could predict the future:Twofold attestation:
Mentioned in the Ephesian tradition and Damis.
 Philostratus tries to explain this away.
Euphrates of Tyre and Apollonius were quarreling.
To be found in the
 Letters of Apollonius
; Moeragenesand Damis tell the same story.
Apollonius tried to reform certain cultic practices.Twofoldattestation:
First, there is the quote from
On sacrifices
; furthermore,it is expressed in the
 Letters of Apollonius
The story of Apollonius' vision of the murder of Domitian: Independent confirmation:
Philostratus has picked up the story inEphesus, and Cassius Dio tells it too.
The story about the birds' language:Independent confirmation:
 Philostratus claims to have heard this story at Ephesus and there is adifferent account of it in Porphyry's treatise
On abstinence
Apollonius' relation to the common cults was strained:Embarrassment:
Philostratus tries to explain away failures (at theoracle of Trophonius, at Eleusis, and on Crete).The following elements cannot be substantiated:
Apollonius was a champion of Greek culture.
Only to be found inthe
 Letters of Apollonius
Apollonius traveled to Hispania:
Only to be found in Damis .
Stated briefly, it is almost certain that Apollonius lived in the second half of the
first century, was a magician and cured several people. Probably, he adhered
to the neo-Pythagorean philosophy, and published books
On astrology
On sacrifices
. This may have brought him into conflict with theinstitutionalized religion and philosophy.
Apollonius and his contemporaries
There remain several questions that cannot be solved. To start with, in the
, we read short Platonic dialogues, encounter a self-defense like theapology of Socrates(
8.7), and learn that Apollonius was a verymoderate man (
1.8). Elements like these are suspicious: Philostratus may
have added these commonplace stories in order to prove that Apollonius was
a real philosopher.
On the other hand, many ancient philosophers did model their lives to earlier examples. For example, when the Roman philosopher Seneca was forced tocommit suicide, he choose to imitate Socrates by drinking hemlock. We will
never know who was responsible for the philosophical anecdotes in the
,the Tyanean or his biographer.
Another problem is the parallelism of the lives of Apollonius and Pythagoras.In other sources, Pythagoras is said to have been initiated in all religious rites
and mysteries, to have descended in a cave, to have visitedBabyloniaand
Egypt, to have been able to remember former incarnations, to have abstained
from wine and meat, to have worn a special dress, to have kept a vow of silence for five years, to have been on two places at the same time, to have
confronted a tyrant, and to have died in a temple at a venerable old age. For 

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