Thursday, January 14, 2016

Apollonius of Tyana by Lewis Spence 1920


Apollonius of Tyana by Lewis Spence 1920

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Apollonius of Tyana: A Neo-Pythagorean philosopher of Greece, who had a great reputation for magical powers.

Born at Tyana, in Asia Minor, Apollonius was contemporary with Christ. He was educated at Tarsus and at the Temple of AEsculapius, at AEgae, where he became an adherent of the sect of Pythagoras, to whose strict discipline he submitted himself throughout his life. In his desire for knowledge he travelled widely in Eastern countries, and is said to have performed miracles wherever he went. At Ephesus, for instance, he warned the people of the approach of a terrible plague, but they gave no heed to him until the pestilence was actually in their midst, when they bethought them of the warning, and summoned the potent magician who had uttered it. Apollonius pointed out to the people a poor, maimed beggar, whom he denounced as the cause of the pestilence and an enemy of the gods, bidding them stone the unfortunate wretch to death. The citizens were at first reluctant to comply with so cruel an injunction, but something in the expression of the beggar confirmed the prophet's accusation, and the wretch was soon covered with a mound of stones. When the stones were removed no man was visible, but a huge black dog, the cause of the plague, which had come upon the Ephesians. At Rome he raised from death—or apparent death—his biographer does not seem to know which—a young lady of consular family, who had been betrothed, and was lamented by the entire city. Yet another story relates how Apollonius saved a friend of his, Menippus of Corinth, from marrying a vampire. The youth neglected all the earlier warnings of his counsellor, and the preparations for the wedding proceeded till finally all was in readiness for the ceremony. At this juncture Apollonius appeared on the scene, caused the wedding feast, the guests, and all the evidences of wealth, which were but illusion to vanish, and wrung from the bride the confession that she was a vampire. Many other similar tales are told of the philosopher's clairvoyant and magical powers.


The manner of his death is wrapped in mystery, though he is known to have lived to be nearly a hundred years of age. His disciples did not hesitate to say that he had not died at all, but had been caught up to heaven, and his biographer casts a doubt upon the matter. At all events, when he had vanished from the terrestial sphere, the inhabitants of his native Tyana built a temple in his honour, and statues were raised to him in various other temples.

A life of Apollonius, written by Philostratus at the instance of Julia, mother of the Emperor Severus, is the only extant source of information concerning the sage, though other lives, now lost, are known to have existed. The account given by Philostratus purports to have been compiled from the memoirs of "Damis the Assyrian," a disciple of Apollonius, but it has been suggested that Damis is but a literary fiction. The work is largely a romance; fictitious stories are often introduced, and the whole account is mystical and symbolical. Nevertheless it is possible to get a glimpse of the real character of Apollonius beyond the literary artifices of the writer. The purpose of the philosopher of Tyana seems to have been to infuse into paganism a morality more practical combined with a more transcendental doctrine. He himself practised a very severe asceticism, and supplemented his own knowledge by revelations from the gods. Because of his claim to divine enlightenment, some would have refused him a place among the philosophers, but Philostratus holds that this in no wise detracts from his philosophic reputation. Pythagoras and Plato and Democritus he points out, were wont to visit Eastern sages, even as Apollonius had done, and they were not charged with dabbling in magic. Divine revelations had been given to earlier philosophers; why not also to the Philosopher of Tyana? It is probable that Apollonius borrowed considerably from Oriental sources, and that his doctrines were more Brahminical than magical.

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