Posted by: Democratic Thinker | August 19, 2015

Weekly Story: Apollonius Approaches Rome.

Weekly Story

 
Apollonius of Tyana and his party journey to Rome.


“Yes, by Zeus,” said Philolaus, “if you could do it with impunity; but if you are going to lose your life by going thither, and if Nero is going to devour you alive before you see anything of what he does, your interview with him will cost you dear, much dearer than it ever cost Ulysses to visit the Cyclops in his home; though he lost many of his comrades in his anxiety to see him, and because he yielded to the temptation of beholding so cruel a monster.”

 

Apollonius Approaches Rome.

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Apollonius of Tyana.

NERO was opposed to philosophy, because he suspected its devotees of being addicted to magic, and of being diviners in disguise; and at last the philosopher’s mantle brought its wearers before law courts, as if it were a mere cloak of the divining art. I will not mention other names, but Musonius of Babylon, a man only second to Apollonius, was thrown into prison for the crime of being a sage, and there lay in danger of death; and he would have died for all his gaoler cared, if it had not been for the strength of his constitution.

Such was the condition in which philosophy stood when Apollonius was approaching Rome; and at a distance of one hundred and twenty stadia from its walls he met Philolaus of Cittium in the neighbourhood of the Grove of Aricia.

Now Philolaus was a Rome polished speaker, but too soft to bear any hardships. He had quitted Rome, and was virtually a fugitive, and any philosopher he met with he urged to take the same course. He accordingly addressed himself to Apollonius, and urged him to give way to circumstances, and not to proceed to Rome, where philosophy was in such bad odour; and he related to him what was taking place there, and as he did so he kept turning his head round, lest anybody should be listening behind him to what he said. “And you,” he said, “after attaching this band of philosophers to yourself, a thing which will bring you into suspicion and odium, are on your way thither, knowing nothing of the officers set over the gates by Nero, who will arrest you and them before ever you enter or get inside.”

“And what,” said Apollonius, “O Philolaus, are the occupations of the autocrat said to be?”

“He drives a chariot,” said the other, “in public; and he comes forward on the boards of the Roman theatres and sings songs, and he lives with gladiators, and he himself fights as one and slays his man.”

Apollonius therefore replied and said: “Then, my dear fellow, do you think that there can be any better spectacle for men of education than to see an emperor thus demeaning himself? For if in Plato’s opinion man is the sport of the gods, what a theme we have here provided for philosophers by an emperor who makes himself the sport of man and sets himself to delight the common herd with the spectacle of his own shame?”

“Yes, by Zeus,” said Philolaus, “if you could do it with impunity; but if you are going to lose your life by going thither, and if Nero is going to devour you alive before you see anything of what he does, your interview with him will cost you dear, much dearer than it ever cost Ulysses to visit the Cyclops in his home; though he lost many of his comrades in his anxiety to see him, and because he yielded to the temptation of beholding so cruel a monster.”

But Apollonius said: “So you think that this ruler is less blinded than the Cyclops, if he commits such crimes?”

And Philolaus answered: “Let him do what he likes, but do you at least save these your companions.”

And these words he uttered in a loud voice and with an air of weeping; whereupon Damis conceived a fear lest the younger men of his party should be followers unmanned by the craven terrors of Philolaus. So he took aside Apollonius and said: “This hare, with all in fear his panicky fears, will ruin these young men, and fill them with discouragement.”

But Apollonius said: “Well, of all the blessings which have been vouchsafed to me by the gods, often without my praying for them at all, this present one, I may say, is the greatest that I have ever enjoyed; for chance has thrown in my way a touchstone to test these young men, of a kind to prove most thoroughly which of them are philosophers, and which of them prefer some other line of conduct than that of the philosopher.”

And in fact the knock-kneed among them were detected in no time, for under the influence of what Philolaus said, some of them declared that they were ill, others that they had no provisions for the journey, others that they were homesick, others that they had been deterred by dreams; and in the result the thirty-four companions of Apollonius who were willing to accompany him to Rome were reduced to eight. And all the rest ran away from Nero and philosophy, both at once, and took to their heels.

—Philostratus (trans. F. C. Conybeare), The Life of Apollonius of Tyana.


 

   
The Life of Apollonius of Tyana;
The Epistles of Apollonius;
The Treaty of Eusebius.
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