1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Apollonius of Tyana
APOLLONIUS OF TYANA, a Greek philosopher of the Neo-Pythagorean school, born a few years before the Christian era. He studied at Tarsus and in the temple of Asclepius at Aegae, where he devoted himself to the doctrines of Pythagoras and adopted the ascetic habit of life in its fullest sense. He travelled through Asia and visited Nineveh, Babylon and India, imbibing the oriental mysticism of magi, Brahmans and gymnosophists. The narrative of his travels given by his disciple Damis and reproduced by Philostratus is so full of the miraculous that many have regarded him as an imaginary character. On his return to Europe he was saluted as a magician, and received the greatest reverence from priests and people generally. He himself claimed only the power of foreseeing the future; yet in Rome it was said that he raised from death the body of a noble lady. In the halo of his mysterious power he passed through Greece, Italy and Spain. It was said that he was accused of treason both by Nero and by Domitian, but escaped by miraculous means. Finally he set up a school at Ephesus, where he died, apparently at the age of a hundred years. Philostratus keeps up the mystery of his hero’s life by saying, “Concerning the manner of his death, if he did die, the accounts are various.” The work of Philostratus composed at the instance of Julia, wife of Severus, is generally regarded as a religious work of fiction. It contains a number of obviously fictitious stories, through which, however, it is not impossible to discern the general character of the man. In the 3rd century, Hierocles (q.v.) endeavoured to prove that the doctrines and the life of Apollonius were more valuable than those of Christ, and, in modern times, Voltaire and Charles Blount (1654–1693), the English freethinker, have adopted a similar standpoint. Apart from this extravagant eulogy, it is absurd to regard Apollonius merely as a vulgar charlatan and miracle-monger. If we cut away the mass of mere fiction which Philostratus accumulated, we have left a highly imaginative, earnest reformer who laboured to infuse into the flaccid dialectic of paganism a saner spirit of practical morality.