Apollonius of Tyana
The Philosopher Explorer
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Texts, Translations, and Literature
In addition to the Latin version the sixteenth century also produced an Italian [F Baldelli, Filostrato Lemnio della Vita di Apollonio Tianeo (Florence 1549, 8vo)] and French translation. [B de Vignère, Philostrate de la Vie d’Apollonius (Paris 1596, 1599, 1611). Blaise de Vignère’s translation was subsequently corrected by Frédéric Morel and later by Thomas Artus, Sieur d’Embry, with bombastic notes in which he bitterly attacks the wonder-workings of Apollonius. A French translation was also made by Th Sibilet about 1560, but never published; the MS was in the Bibliothèque Imperial. See Miller, Journal des Savants 1849, p 625, quoted by Chassang, op infr cit., p iv.}
The editio princeps of Aldus was superseded a century later by the edition of Morel, [F Morellus, Philostrati Lemnii Opera, Gr. and Lat. (Paris 1608.)] which in its turn was followed a century still later by that of Olearius. [G. Olearius, Philostratorum quæ supersunt Omnia, Gr and Lat. (Leipzig 1709).] Nearly a century and a half later again the text of Olearius was superseded by that of Kayser (the first critical text), whose work in its last edition contains the latest critical apparatus. [C L. Kayser, Flavii Philostrati quæ supersunt, etc. (Zurich 1844, 4 to). In 1849 A Westermann also edited a text, Philostratorum et Callistrati Opera, in Didot’s “Scriptorum Græcorum Bibliotheca” (Paris 1849, 8vo). But Kayser brought out a new edition in 1853 (?), and again a third, with additional information in the Preface, in the “Bibliotheca Teubneriana” (Leipzig 1870).] All information with regard to the MSS, will be found in Kayser’s Latin Prefaces.
We shall now attempt to give some idea of the general literature on the subject, so that the reader may be able to note some of the varying fortunes of the war of opinion in the bibliographical indications. And if the general reader should be impatient of the matter and eager to get to something of greater interest, he can easily omit its perusal; while if he be a lover of the mystic way, and does not take delight in wrangling controversy, he may at least sympathise with the writer, who has been compelled to look through the works of the last century and a good round dozen of those of the previous centuries, before he could venture on an opinion of his own with a clear conscience.
Sectarian prejudice against Apollonius characterises nearly every opinion prior to the nineteenth century. [For a general summary of opinions prior to 1807, if writers who mention Apollonius incidentally, see Legrand d’Aussy, op. cit., pp 313-327.] Of books distinctly dedicated to the subject the works of the Abbé Dupin [L’Histoire d’Apollone de Tyane convaincue de Fausseté et d’Imposture (Paris 1705).] and of de Tillemont [An Account of the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus (London 1702), tr out of the French, from vol ii, of Lenain de Tillemont’s Histoire des Empereurs (Second Edition, Paris 1720): to which is added Some Observations upon Apollonius. De Tillemont’s view is that Apollonius was sent by the Devil to destroy the work of the Saviour.] are bitter attacks on the Philosopher of Tyana in defence of the monopoly of Christian miracles; while those of the Abbé Houtteville [A critical and Historical Discourse upon the Method of the Principal Authors who wrote for and against Christianity from its Beginning (London 1739), tr. from the French of M. l’Abbé Houtteville; to which is added a “Dessertation on the Life of Apollonius Tyanæus, with some Observations on the Platonists of the Latter School,” pp 213-254.] and Lüderwald [Anti-Hierocles oder Jesus Christus und Apollonius von Tyana in ihrer grossen Ungleichheit, dargestellt v. J.B. Lüderwald (Halle 1793).] are less violent, though on the same lines. A pseudonymous writer, however, of the eighteenth century strikes out a somewhat different line by classing together the miracles of the Jesuits and other Monastic Orders with those of Apollonius, and dubbing them all spurious, while maintaining the sole authenticity of those of Jesus. [Phileleutherus Helvetius, De Miraculis quæ Pythagoræ, Apolloni Tyanensi, Francisco Asisio, Dominico, et Ignatio Lojolæ tribuuntur Libellus (Draci 1734).]
Nevertheless, Bacon and Voltaire speak of Apollonius in the highest terms, [See Legrand d’Aussy, op. cit., p 314, where the texts are given.] and even a century before the latter the English Deist, Charles Blount, [The Two First Books of Philostratus concerning the Life of Apollonius Tyaneus (London ; 1680 fol.) Blount’s notes (generally ascribed to Lord Herbert) raised such an outcry that the book was condemned in 1693, and few copies are in existence. Blount’s notes were, however, translated into French a century later, in the days of Encyclopædism, and appended to a French version of the Vita, under the title, Vie d’Apollonius de Tyane par Philostrate avec les Commentaires donnés en Anglois par Charles Blount sur les deux Premiers Livres de cet Ouvrage (Amsterdam ; 1779, 4 vols., Svo), with an ironical dedication to Pope Clement XIV., signed “Philalethes.”] raised his voice against the universal obloquy poured upon the character of the Tyanean ; his work, however, was speedily suppressed.
In the midst of this war about miracles in the eighteenth century it is pleasant to remark the short treatise of Herzog, who endeavours to give a sketch of the philosophy and religious life of Apollonius, [Philosophiam Practicam Apollonii Tyanæ in Sciagraphia, exponit M. Io. Christianus Herzog (Leipzig 1709) ; an academical oration of 20 pp.] but, alas! there were no followers of so liberal an example in this century of strife.
So far then for the earlier literature of the subject. Frankly none of it is worth reading; the problem could not be calmly considered in such a period. It started on the false ground of the Hierocles-Eusebius controversy, which was but an incident (for wonder-working is common to all great teachers and not peculiar to Apollonius or Jesus), and was embittered by the rise of Encyclopædism and the rationalism of the Revolution period. Not that the miracle-controversy ceased even in the last century; it does not, however, any longer obscure the whole horizon, and the sun of a calmer judgment may be seen breaking through the midst.
In order to make the rest of our summary clearer we append at the end of this essay the titles of the works which have appeared since the beginning of the nineteenth century, in chronological order.
A glance over this list will show that the last century has produced an English (Berwick’s), an Italian (Lancetti’s), a French (Chassang’s), and two German translations (Jacobs’ and Baltzer’s). [Philostratus is a difficult author to translate, nevertheless Chassang and Baltzer have succeeded very well with him; Berwick also is readable, but in most places gives us a paraphrase rather than a translation and frequently mistakes the meaning. Chassang’s and Baltzer’s are by far the best translations.] The Rev E. Berwick’s translation is the only English version; in his Preface the author, while asserting the falsity of the miraculous element in the Life, says that the rest of the work deserves careful attention. No harm will accrue to the Christian religion by its perusal, for there are no allusions to the Life of Christ in it, and the miracles are based on those ascribed to Pythagoras.
This is certainly a healthier standpoint than that of the traditional theological controversy, which, unfortunately, however, was revived again by the great authority of Baur, who say in a number of the early documents of the Christian era (notably the canonical Acts) tendency-writings of but slight historical content, representing the changing fortunes of schools and parties and not the actual histories of individuals. The Life of Apollonius was one of these tendency-writings; its object was to put forward a view opposed to Christianity in favour of philosophy. Baur thus divorced the whole subject from its historical standpoint and attributed to Philostratus an elaborate scheme of which he was entirely innocent. Baur’s view was largely adopted by Zeller in his Philosophie der Griechen (v 140), and by Réville in Holland.
This “Christusbild” theory (carried by a few extremists to the point of denying that Apollonius ever existed) has had a great vogue among writers on the subject, especially compilers of encyclopædia articles; it is at any rate a wider issue than the traditional miracle-wrangle, which was again revived in all its ancient narrowness by Newman, who only uses Apollonius as an excuse for a dissertation on orthodox miracles, to which he devotes eighteen pages out of the twenty-five of his treatise. Noack also follows Baur, and to some extent Pettersch, though he takes the subject onto the ground of philosophy; while Möckeberg, pastor of St. Nicolai in Hamburg, though striving to be fair to Apollonius, ends his chatty dissertation with an outburst of orthodox praises of Jesus, praises which we by no means grudge, but which are entirely out of place in such a subject.
The development of the Jesus-Apollonius miracle-controversy into the Jesus-against-Apollonius and even Christ-against-Anti-Christ battle, fought out with relays of lusty champions on the one side against a feeble protest at best on the other, is a painful spectacle to contemplate. How sadly must Jesus and Apollonius have looked upon, and still look upon, this bitter and useless strife over their saintly persons. Why should posterity set their memories one against the other? Did they oppose one another in life? Did even their biographers do so after their deaths? Why then could not the controversy have ceased with Eusebius? For Lactantius frankly admits the point brought forward by Hierocles (to exemplify which Hierocles only referred to Apollonius as one instance out of many)—that “miracles” do not prove divinity. We rest our claims, says Lactantius, not on miracles, but on the fulfilment of prophecy. [This would have at least restored Apollonius to his natural environment, and confined the question of the divinity of Jesus to its proper Judæo-Christian ground.] Had this more sensible position been revived instead of that of Eusebius, the problem of Apollonius would have been considered in its natural historical environment four hundred years ago, and much ink and paper would have been saved.
With the progress of the critical method, however, opinion has at length partly recovered its balance, and it is pleasant to be able to turn to works which have rescued the subject from theological obscurantism and placed it in the open field of historical and critical research. The two volumes of the independent thinker, Legrand d’Aussy, which appeared at the very beginning of the last century, are, for the time, remarkably free from prejudice, and are a praiseworthy attempt at historical impartiality, but criticism was still young at this period. Kayser, though he does not go thoroughly into the matter, decides that the account of Philostratus is purely a “fabularis narratio,” but is well opposed by I. Müller, who contends for a strong element of history as a background. But by far the best sifting of the sources is that of Jessen. [I am unable to offer any opinion on Nielsen’s book, from ignorance of Danish, but it has all the appearance of a careful, scholarly treatise with abundance of references.] Priaulx’s study deals solely with the Indian episode and is of no critical value for the estimation of the sources. Of all previous studies, however, the works of Chassang and Baltzer are the most generally intelligent, for both writers are aware of the possibilities of psychic science, though mostly from the insufficient standpoint of spiritistic phenomena.
As for Tredwell’s somewhat pretentious volume which, being in English, is accessible to the general reader, it is largely reactionary, and is used as a cover for adverse criticism of the Christian origins from a Secularist standpoint which denies at the outset the possibility of “miracle” in any meaning of the word. A mass of well-known numismatological and other matter, which is entirely irrelevant, but which seems to be new and surprising to the author, is introduced, and a map is prefixed to the title page purporting to give the itineraries of Apollonius, but having little reference to the text of Philostratus. Indeed, nowhere does Tredwell show that he is working on the text itself, and the subject in his hands is but an excuse for a rambling dissertation on the first century in general from his own standpoint.
This is all regrettable, for with the exception of Berwick’s translation, which is almost unprocurable, we have nothing of value in English for the general reader, [Réville’s Pagan Christ is quite a misrepresentation of the subject, and Newman’s treatment of the matter renders his treatise an anachronism for the twentieth century.] except Sinnett’s short sketch, which is descriptive rather than critical or explanatory.
So far then for the history of the Apollonius of opinion; we will now turn to the Apollonius of Philostratus, and attempt if possible to discover some traces of the man as he was in history, and the nature of his life and work.