Apollonius of Tyana
by Dr. R. W. Bernard (1964)
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
Part 4: Events in the life of Apollonius of Tyana
The country people said that he was the son of Zeus; others called him a son of Apollo; while still others considered him as an incarnation of Proteus, the God of Wisdom, who, prior to his birth, appeared to his mother and told her that she would bear a child who would be an incarnation of himself.
Apollonius was born in the year 4 B.C., the acknowledged year of the birth of Christ. His birth, like his conception, was miraculous. Just before his nativity, his mother was walking in a meadow, where she lay down on the grass and went to sleep. Some wild swans, at the end of a long flight approached her and by their cries and the beating of their wings, awakened her so suddenly that her child was born before its time. The swans, apparently, had foreseen and marked by their presence the fact that on that day was to be born a being whose soul would be as white as their own plumage and who, like them, would be a glorious wanderer.
Apollonius was born with three gifts, the gift of intelligence, the gift of beauty and the gift of wealth. His father was one of the richest men of the province, so that his childhood was spent in luxury. The renown of his intelligence and beauty grew so great that the phrase, "Whither goest thou? To see the stripling?" became proverbial in Cappadocia.
When he was fourteen years of age, his father sent him to Tarsus to complete his education, which was previously conducted at home by private tutors. Tarsus was a town of pleasure as well as study and life there was soft and luxurious for a rich young man. On the banks of the Cydnus, along avenues bordered by orange trees, students of philosophy gathered to discuss the theories of Pythagoras and Plato with young women in colored tunics slashed to the hip, wearing Egyptian high triangular combs in their hair. The climate was hot, morals free and love easy, but the youthful Apollonius was not carried away, manifesting at this young age the same inviolate chastity which he continued to preserve throughout his long life of over a century, in spite of the fact that he was one of the handsomest men of his age.
As early as his fourteenth year, Apollonius recognized the existence of two divergent paths, one leading to a life of pleasure and love, and the other to philosophy and wisdom; and he chose the latter.*
He then decided to lead the Pythagorean life. When his teacher of Pythagorean philosophy, Euxenes, asked him how he would begin his new mode of life, he replied, "As doctors purge their patients." "Hence," says Mead, in his biography, "he refused to touch anything that had animal life in it, on the ground that it densified the mind and rendered it impure. He considered that the only pure form of food was what the earth produced -- fruits and vegetables.* He also abstained from wine, for though it was made from fruit, it rendered turbid the ether in the soul, and destroyed the composure of the mind."
Finding the morals of Tarsus distasteful, Apollonius resolved to take up quarters at Aegae, which possessed a temple of Aesculapius, the priests of which were philosophers of the Pythagorean school. So famous were they for their power as healers that people came to their temple from all over Greece, from Syria and even from Alexandria to consult them. The priests of this healing temple of Aegae cured disease by vegetarian diet, hydrotherapy, fasting and magnetic healing ("laying on of hands," which art, Apollonius acquired from them). They were heirs of an ancient oral therapeutic tradition which came from the Orphic mysteries, the secret of which was jealously guarded by the disciple who received it. By these priests, Apollonius was initiated; and it was not long before he excelled his masters.
Concerning Apollonius's life in the temple of Aegae, Stobart writes: "Marvelous cures are attributed to Apollonius, for like his great master, Pythagoras, he considered healing the most important of the divine arts; and, in addition, under his guidance, the temple became also a centre for philosophy and for the science of religion. His aim was to purify the temple worship and to reform the ancient Greek religion from within, by revising, along Pythagorean lines, the understanding of the spiritual truths which were at the base of the esoteric mysteries."*
Apollonius took up his residence in the temple of Aesculapius at Aegae in the company of the priests, manifesting an amazing eagerness to acquire their secret knowledge, and had an astonishing gift for healing and clairvoyance. And, following Pythagorean custom, he let his hair grow long, abstained from the flesh of animals and from wine; walked barefooted or with bark sandals, and clad only in white linen garments, giving up all that was made from leather, wool or any other animal material.
At this time being then sixteen years of age, he resolved to forever abstain from marriage and sexual relations, which resolution he kept unbroken during his long lifetime of over a century, thus surpassing Pythagoras, Socrates, Buddha and Confucius, for while they married, Apollonius preserved a degree of virginity known only to vestal virgins and Pythian priestesses. This immaculate chastity Apollonius attributed to his very careful Pythagorean low-protein vegetarian diet and his avoidance of alcohol and other excitants, according to the teaching of Pythagoras, who prohibited even vegetable proteins such as beans, for this reason.
Concerning the life of Apollonius at this age, W. B. Wallace writes:
At Aegae, Apollonius took up the study of Pythagorean philosophy, which was the system that appealed to him most, under a teacher named Euxenes; who, however, proved disappointing, since he repeated parrot-like, the doctrines of Pythagoras without putting them into practice in his own life, for he was a materialist at heart. So Apollonius, in disillusionment, left him; however rewarding his teacher by buying for him a villa surrounded by a garden outside Aegae, and giving him the money required for his servants, his suppers and his poor friends.
Apollonius then imposed on himself a five years' silence, which was considered necessary in order to achieve final Pythagorean initiation. By that time he had become famous, making many prophecies that came true; and while he was in the midst of this period of silence, he quelled a rebellion by his presence alone, without speaking a word. This tumult was caused by a famine at Aspendus in Pamphylia, where the people were going to burn the prefect, though he had taken refuge by a statue of the Emperor. (And at that time, which was the reign of Tiberius, the Emperor's statues were more terrible and more inviolable than those of the Olympian Zeus.) The prefect, on being questioned by signs, protested his innocence, and accused certain powerful citizens, who were refusing to sell corn and keeping it back to export at a profit. To them Apollonius addressed a note threatening "explusion from Earth, who is the mother of all, for she is just, but whom they, being unjust, have made the mother of themselves alone." In fear of this threat they yielded and filled the market-place with corn.