Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Life of Apollonios of Tyana
Flavius Philostratus

Introduction: A curious feature of the long line of philosophers who claimed descent from Pythagoras of Samos (c. 560–490 B.C.) is the persistent report that many of them, Pythagoras included, possessed more-than-human wisdom. This reputation was certainly enhanced by the few secretive Pythagorean brotherhoods or monasteries which kept themselves under a perpetual blanket of silence, so that hardly anything firsthand became known of their practices. What little information we have today has come from outsiders, and in later times during the Roman Empire, these tended to be romanticists whose reliability was rarely taken seriously.

One of the most famous in this succession of Pythagorean philosophers was a man named Apollonios, of the Greek city of Tyana in the Province of Cappadocia, in what is today eastern Turkey. Although he lived in the second half of the first century A.D., we have little direct information about Apollonios, except for this biography by Philostratus of Lemnos, written much later, i.e., around A.D. 218.

The reason for his writing is noteworthy in itself. When the emperor Caracalla was on his way to capture the territories to the East, he stopped at Tyana to pay tribute to “the divine Apollonios,” even donating the funds to build a temple to him there. And Caracalla’s mother, Julia Domna, commissioned one of the professional writers in her entourage to publish a fitting account of Apollonios’ life.

This conjunction of events suggests that the title of Philostratus’ work might best be translated: InHonor of Apollonios of Tyana” for the entire account from beginning to end consists of carefully constructed praise, using every device known to this well-trained writer. In other words, just as Caracalla’s architects built a shrine for Apollonios out of marble, one of his court rhetoricians built a temple out of words—for the same purpose, i.e., to celebrate Apollonios’ God-like nature and inspire reverence for him. Thus, Philostratus’ narrative is a virtual catalogue of every rhetorical device known to the professional sophistic writers of that time: sudden supernatural omens, minidialogues on the favorite topics of the day, colorful bits of archeological lore, plenty of magic, rapid action scenes, amazing descriptions of fabled, far-off lands, occasional touches of naughty eroticism, and a whole series of favorite “philosophical” scenes: the Philosopher lectures his disciples on being willing to die for truth; the Philosopher is abandoned by his cowardly disciples; the Philosopher confronts the tyrant; the brave Philosopher is alone in prison unafraid; the Philosopher victoriously defends himself in the court, and so on. On the other hand, Philostratus included enough accurate historical details

-203-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Documents for the Study of the Gospels
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 299

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?