THE APOLOGIA

Books 7 and 8 form the second part of Apollonius. Philostratus begins by informing us that his hero is better than other philosophers (7. I—3). Socrates’ trial appears to be comparable (II, 13). At any rate, like Socrates, Apollonius cannot be deflected from his purpose by his friends. How would the cowardly Damis (‘an Assyrian and a neighbour of Medians’) defend himself before Philosophy, Apollonius asks (14)?into prison. His wise words make fellow prisoners ‘walk in the hope that they would never suffer harm in his company’ (7. 26). He duly defends his philosophy to Domitian, and replies to some of the charges against him, especially his support of Nerva (32—3). Cast back in prison, he impresses upon Damis that his nature is divine by breaking his fetters (38). Philostratus is careful to distinguish this action from pure wizardry (39). Damis is now sent away to Dicaearchia. ‘‘‘You will see me appear there.’’ ‘‘Alive’’, said Damis, ‘‘or what?’’ Apollonius laughed, ‘‘As I think, alive’’, he said, ‘‘but as you will think, come back to life [anabebiokota]’’ ’ (41).

Defence in the sense of justification has much in common with attack. Christian and Jewish apology plays with this. Apollonius’ apologia in book 8 is far from meek. After hearing riddling and flippant replies to the four charges against him, Domitian acquits the sage and commands a private interview. Apollonius denounces the government of the Empire and announces his own immortality, since ‘he thought it would be best, if no one was ignorant of his nature’ (8. 4—5). He disappears.

Philostratus now tells us to listen ‘both to me and the man’ (6), as he prepares to publish the apologia which Apollonius was too considerate to deliver. This lengthy speech, which for the most part has attracted nonsense or ridicule from modern interpreters, is a carefully structured defence against particular charges levelled by Domitian, and also a general justification of Apollonius’ Pythagorean life. Apollonius begins by saying that he will be sounding like a ‘critic rather than a defendant’ (7(1)). He is not a wizard (7 (2)). His philosophy is not for gain (7 (3)). ‘Divine Pythagoras, help my defence, for I am tried because of what you discovered and I praise.’ Pythagoras got his distinctive way of life from the Egyptians, and they from the Brahmins. His purity allowed him to understand his own soul and its transmigrations. Apollonius dresses as a philosopher (7 (4—6) ). He is not a god. Good men have something of God the Demiurge. The cosmos of men needs a man who stands in the image of God. This man is a ‘god who comes from Wisdom’ (7 (7) ). Having outlined his way of life, Apollonius goes on to particular charges concerning, among other things, his aversion of plague from Ephesus, his magical prescience (in reality a facet of his purity), his alleged child sacrifice for Nerva and sacrifice of an Arcadian child, which would be completely impossible for someone so opposed to blood sacrifice in accordance with ‘what Pythagoras decreed’ (7 (8-12)). The speech ends with further justification about the Arcadian (‘I have made you a wiser listener’; cf. 8. 6), and about some hackneyed remarks that Apollonius made on fate (7 (16)), which offer a handle to Eusebius, as we shall see shortly.

The rest of the book is largely concerned with demonstrating Apollonius’ divine nature. Damis and Demetrius are waiting for him in a cave of the nymphs in the Odyssean landscape that features in ‘the myths about Calypso’, when Apollonius appears by ‘divine escort’, and overcomes their doubts that he is really alive (II-12: ‘hold me’). He now journeys to Greece, where he is welcomed as ‘divine’ (13). Here he visits the cave of Trophonius, to enquire after the ‘most perfect and most pure philosophy’. Pythagoreanism is singled out by the god who presents him with a volume of Pythagoras’ tenets, which Hadrian later secured in his villa at Antium (19-20). In the last section of the book, Philostratus discards Damis (whose account has ended), and reports versions of Apollonius’ final time on earth. The main one is of Apollonius’ ascension on Crete, accompanied by a chorus singing, ‘climb from earth, climb to heaven, climb’ (30). The final chapter makes Apollonius appear to a doubter among the ‘companions’ who are devoted to his philosophy (31; cf. 21). His oracular pronouncement on the immortality of the soul allows us ‘to go forward in good cheer whither the Fates appoint’.

However long-winded or absurd Apollonius’ defence—and indeed Philostratus’ whole account—may seem to modern readers, we must remember that it was taken very seriously by its ancient ones. One of these readers was Eusebius. His reaction to pagan engagement with Apollonius survives in the attack on Sossianus Hierocles and the comparison Sossianus drew between Apollonius and Christ. In this blast Eusebius uses plenty of rhetorical tricks, principally misrepresentation and out-of-context quotation, backed up by ridicule and sarcasm, to produce a masterly explosion of the claims made about Apollonius. ‘10,000 refutations’, he crows, are provided by the text itself (399, 5, Kayser = 31, Conybeare). The third book on the Brahmins made The Incredible Things beyond Thule look ‘quite believable and completely true’ (383, 20—2 = 16). What especially excites him are Apollonius’ cliches on the power of fate (Apollonius, 7. 9, 8. 7 (16)). His reaction to these remarks is presented as an addition to the book-by-book commentary that precedes it (where they have already been considered, 404, 28— 407, 2 = 39). The relation between free will and fate is a tricky one for any philosophy or religion. But Eusebius relentlessly exposes the contradictions in supposing that everything is subject to destiny, as though Christianity could never have any difficulty in the matter (408, 19—413, 10 = 41—2). It must be significant that he pays special attention to remarks which occupy a prominent position in Apollonius’ apology (cf. above). For his own record of Christian apologies in the Ecclesiastical History was to assure ‘apology’ its meaning of a justification of Christian life and belief. Perhaps this is why he is particularly pleased to report that, although Apollonius’ defence was addressed to the emperor (as so many Christian ones had been), the emperor could not be bothered to wait around to hear it (403, 13—27 = 37).

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