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Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman


APOLLONIUS, the Pythagorean philosopher, was born at Tyana, in Cappadocia, in the year of Rome 750, four years before the common Christian era. His reputation rests, not so much on his personal merits, as on the attempt made in the early ages of the Church, and since revived, to bring him forward as a rival to the Divine Author of our Religion. A narrative of his life, which is still extant, was written with this object, about a century after his death (A.D. 217), by Philostratus of Lemnos, when Ammonius was systematizing the Eclectic tenets to meet the increasing influence and the spread of Christianity. Philostratus engaged in this work at the instance of his patroness Julia Domna, wife of the Emperor Severus, a princess celebrated for her zeal in the cause of Heathen Philosophy; who put into his hands a journal of the travels of Apollonius rudely written by one Damis, an Assyrian, his companion. This manuscript, an account of his residence at Ægæ, prior to his acquaintance with Damis, by Maximus of that city, a collection of his letters, some private memoranda relative to his opinions and conduct, and lastly the public records of the cities he frequented, were the principal documents from which Philostratus compiled his elaborate narrative. It is written with considerable elegance and command of Greek, but with more attention to ornament than is consistent with correct taste. Though it is not a professed imitation of the Gospels, it contains quite enough to show that it was written with a view of rivalling the sacred narrative; and accordingly, in the following age, it was made use of in a direct attack upon Christianity by Hierocles, Prefect of Bithynia, a disciple of the Eclectic School, to whom a reply was made by Eusebius of Cæsarea. The selection of a Pythagorean Philosopher for the purpose of a comparison with our Lord was judicious. The attachment of the Pythagorean Sect to the discipline of the established religion, which most other philosophies neglected, its austerity, its pretended intercourse with heaven, its profession of extraordinary power over nature, and the authoritative tone of teaching which this profession countenanced, were all in favour of the proposed object But with the plans of the Eclectics in their attack upon Christianity we have no immediate concern.


Philostratus begins his work with an account of the prodigies attending the philosopher’s birth, which, with all circumstances of a like nature, we shall for the present pass over, intending to make some observations on them in the sequel. At the age of fourteen he was placed by his father under the care of Euthydemus, a distinguished rhetorician of Tarsus; but, being displeased with the dissipation of the place the removed with his master to Ægæ, a neighbouring town, frequented as a retreat for students in philosophy. Here he made himself master of the Platonic, Stoic, Epicurean, and Peripatetic systems; giving, however, an exclusive preference to the Pythagorean, which he studied with Euxenus of Heraclea, a man, however, whose life ill accorded with the ascetic principles of his Sect. At the early age of sixteen years, according To his biographer, he resolved on strictly conforming himself to the precepts of Pythagoras, and if possible, rivalling the fame of his master. He renounced animal food and wine; restricted himself to the use of linen garments and sandals made of the bark of trees; suffered his hair to grow; and betook himself to the temple of Æsculapius, who is said to have regarded him with peculiar favour.

On the news of his father’s, death, which took place not long afterwards, he left Ægæ for his native place where he gave up half his inheritance to his elder brother, whom he is said to have reclaimed from a dissolute course of life, and the greater part of the remainder to his poorer relatives.

Prior to composing any philosophical work, he thought it necessary to observe the silence of five years, which was the appointed initiation into the esoteric doctrines of his Sect. During this time he exercised his mind in storing up materials for future reflection. We are told that on several occasions he hindered insurrections in the cities in which he resided by the mute eloquence of his look and gestures; but such an achievement is hardly consistent with the Pythagorean rule, which forbad its disciples during their silence the intercourse of mixed society.

The period of silence being expired, Apollonius passed through the principal cities of Asia Minor, disputing in the temples in imitation of Pythagoras, unfolding the mysteries of his Sect to such as were observing their probationary silence, discoursing with the Greek Priests about divine rites, and reforming the worship of barbarian cities. This must have been his employment for many years; the next incident in his life being his Eastern journey, which was not undertaken till he was between forty and fifty years of age.

His object in this expedition was to consult the Magi and Brachmans on philosophical matters; still following the example of Pythagoras, who is said to have travelled as far as India with the same purpose. At Nineveh, where he arrived with two companions, he was joined by Damis, already mentioned as his journalist. Proceeding thence to Babylon, he had some interviews with the Magi, who rather disappointed his expectations; and was well received by Bardanes the Parthian King, who, after detaining him at his Court for the greater part of two years, dismissed him with marks of peculiar honour. From Babylon he proceeded, by way of the Caucasus and the Indus, to Taxila, the city of Phraotes, King of the Indians, who is represented as an adept in the Pythagorean Philosophy; and passing on, at length accomplished the object of his expedition by visiting Iarchas, Chief of the Brachmans, from whom he is said to have learned many valuable theurgic secrets.

On his return to Asia Minor, after an absence of about five years, he stationed himself for a time in Ionia; where the fame of his travels and his austere mode of life gained for him much attention to his philosophical harangues. The cities sent embassies to him, decreeing him public honours; while the oracles pronounced him more than mortal, and referred the sick to him for relief.

From Ionia he passed over to Greece, and made his first tour through its principal cities; visiting the temples and oracles, reforming the divine rites, and sometimes exercising his theurgic skill. Except at Sparta, however, he seems to have attracted little attention. At Eleusis his application for admittance to the Mysteries was unsuccessful; as was a similar attempt at the Cave of Trophonius at a later date. In both places his reputation for magical powers was the cause of his exclusion.


Hitherto our memoir has only set before us the life of an ordinary Pythagorean, which may be comprehended in three words mysticism, travel, and disputation. From the date, however, of his journey to Rome, which succeeded his Grecian tour, it is in some degree connected with the history of the times; and, though for much of what is told us of him we have no better authority than the word of Philostratus himself, still there is neither reason nor necessity for supposing the narrative to be in substance untrue.

Nero had at this time prohibited the study of philosophy alleging that it was made the pretence for magical practices;—and the report of his tyrannical excesses so alarmed the followers of Apollonius as they approached Rome, that out of thirty-four who had accompanied him thus far, eight only could be prevailed on to proceed. On his arrival, his religious pretensions were the occasion of his being brought successively before the consul Telesinus and Tigellinus the Minister of Nero. Both of them, however, dismissed him after an examination; the former from a secret leaning towards philosophy, the latter from fear (as we are told) of his extraordinary powers. He was in consequence allowed to go about at his pleasure from temple to temple, haranguing the people, and, as in Asia, prosecuting his reforms in the worship paid to the gods. This, however, can hardly have been the case, supposing the edict against philosophers was as severe as his biographer represents. In that case neither Apollonius, nor Demetrius the Cynic, who joined him after his arrival, would have been permitted to remain in Rome; certainly not Apollonius, after his acknowledgment of his own magical powers in the presence of Tigellinus.

It is more probable he was sent out of the city; anyhow we soon find him in Spain, taking part in the conspiracy forming against Nero by Vindex and others. The political partisans of that day seem to have made use of professed jugglers and magicians to gain over the body of the people to their interests. To this may be attributed Nero’s banishing such men from Rome; and Apollonius had probably been already serviceable in this way at the Capital, as he was now in Spain, and immediately after to Vespasian; and at a later period to Nerva.

His next expeditions were to Africa, to Sicily, and so to Greece, but they do not supply anything of importance to the elucidation of his character. At Athens he obtained the initiation in the Mysteries, for which he had on his former visit unsuccessfully applied.

The following spring, the seventy-third of his life, according to the common calculation, he proceeded to Alexandria, where he attracted the notice of Vespasian, who had just assumed the purple, and who seemed desirous of countenancing his proceedings by the sanction of religion. Apollonius might be recommended to him for this purpose by the fame of his travels, his reputation for theurgic knowledge, and his late acts in Spain against Nero. It is satisfactory to be able to detect an historical connexion between two personages, each of whom has in his turn been made to rival our Lord and His Apostles in pretensions to miraculous power. Thus, claims which appeared to be advanced on distinct grounds are found to proceed from one centre, and by their coalition to illustrate and expose one another. The celebrated cures by Vespasian are connected with the ordinary theurgy of the Pythagorean School; and Apollonius is found here, as in many other instances, to be the instrument of a political party.

His biographer’s account of his first meeting with the Emperor, which is perhaps substantially correct, is amusing from the theatrical character with which it was invested. The latter, on entering Alexandria, was met by the great body of the Magistrates, Prefects, and Philosophers of the city; but, not discovering Apollonius in the number, he hastily asked, “whether the Tyanean was in Alexandria,” and when told he was philosophizing in the Serapeum, proceeding thither he suppliantly entreated him to make him Emperor; and, on the Philosopher’s answering he had already done so in praying for a just and venerable Sovereign, Vespasian avowed his determination of putting himself entirely into his hands, and of declining the supreme power, unless he could obtain his countenance in assuming it. A formal consultation was in consequence held, at which, besides Apollonius, Dio and Euphrates, Stoics in the Emperor’s train, were allowed to deliver their sentiments; when the latter philosopher entered an honest protest against the sanction which Apollonius was giving to the ambition of Vespasian, and advocated the restoration of the Roman State to its ancient republican form. This difference of opinion laid the foundation of a lasting quarrel between the rival advisers, to which Philostratus makes frequent allusion in the course of his history. Euphrates is mentioned by the ancients in terms of high commendation; by Pliny especially, who knew him well. He seems to have seen through his opponent’s religious pretences, as we gather even from Philostratus; and when so plain a reason exists for the dislike which Apollonius, in his Letters, and Philostratus, manifest towards him, their censure must not be allowed to weigh against the testimony, which unbiassed writers have delivered in his favour.

After parting from Vespasian, Apollonius undertook an expedition into Æthiopia, where he held discussions with the Gymnosophists, and visited the cataracts of the Nile. On his return he received the news of the destruction of Jerusalem; and being pleased with the modesty of the conqueror, wrote to him in commendation of it. Titus is said to have invited him to Argos in Cilicia, for the sake of his advice on various subjects, and obtained from him a promise that at some future time he would visit him at Rome.

On the succession of Domitian, he became once more engaged in the political commotions of the day, exerting himself to excite the countries of Asia Minor against the Emperor. These proceedings at length occasioned an order from the Government to bring him to Rome, which, however, according to his biographer’s account, he anticipated by voluntarily surrendering himself, under the idea that by his prompt appearance he might remove the Emperor’s jealousy, and save Nerva and others whose political interests he had been promoting. On arriving at Rome he was brought before Domitian; and when, very inconsistently with his wish to shield his friends from suspicion, he launched out into praise of Nerva, he was forced away into prison to the company of the worst criminals, his hair and beard were cut short, and his limbs loaded with chains. After some days he was brought to trial; the charges against him being the singularity of his dress and appearance, his being called a god, his foretelling a pestilence at Ephesus, and his sacrificing a child with Nerva for the purpose of augury. Philostratus supplies us with an ample defence, which, it seems, he was to have delivered, had he not in the course of the proceedings suddenly vanished from the Court, and transported himself to Puteoli, whither he had before sent on Damis.

This is the only miraculous occurrence which forces itself into the history as a component part of the narrative; the rest being of easy omission without any detriment to its entireness. And strictly speaking, even here, it is only his vanishing which is of a miraculous nature, and his vanishing is not really necessary for the continuity of events. His “liberation” and “transportation” are sufficient for that continuity; and to be set free from prison and sent out of Rome are occurrences which might happen without a divine interposition. And in fact they seem very clearly to have taken place in the regular course of business. Philostratus allows that just before the philosopher’s pretended disappearance, Domitian had publicly acquitted him, and that after the miracle he proceeded to hear the cause next in order, as if nothing had happened; and tells us, moreover, that Apollonius on his return to Greece gave out that he had pleaded his own cause and so escaped, no allusion being made to a miraculous preservation.

After spending two years in the latter country in his usual philosophical disputations, he passed into Ionia. According to his biographer’s chronology, he was now approaching the completion of his hundredth year. We may easily understand, therefore, that when invited to Rome by Nerva, who had just succeeded to the Empire, he declined the proposed honour with an intimation that their meeting must be deferred to another state of being. His death took place shortly after; and Ephesus, Rhodes, and Crete are variously mentioned as the spot at which it occurred. A temple was dedicated to him at Tyana, which was in consequence accounted one of the sacred cities, and permitted the privilege of electing its own Magistrates.

He is said to have written a treatise upon Judicial Astrology, a work on Sacrifices, another on Oracles, a Life of Pythagoras, and an account of the answers which he received from Trophonius, besides the memoranda noticed in the opening of our memoir. A collection of Letters ascribed to him is still extant.


It may be regretted that so elaborate a history, as that which we have abridged, should not contain more authentic and valuable matter. Both the secular transactions of the times and the history of Christianity might have been illustrated by the life of one, who, while he was an instrument of the partisans of Vindex, Vespasian, and Nerva, was a contemporary and in some respects a rival of the Apostles; and who, probably, was with St. Paul at Ephesus and Rome. As far as his personal character is concerned, there is nothing to be lamented in these omissions. There is nothing very winning, or very commanding, either in his biographer’s picture of him, or in his own letters. His virtues, as we have already seen, were temperance and a disregard of wealth; and that he really had these, and such as these, may be safely concluded from the fact of the popularity which he enjoyed. The great object of his ambition seems to have been to emulate the fame of his master; and his efforts had their reward in the general admiration he attracted, the honours paid him by the Oracles, and the attentions shown him by men in power.

We might have been inclined, indeed, to suspect that his reputation existed principally in his biographer’s panegyric, were it not attested by other writers. The celebrity, which he has enjoyed since the writings of the Eclectics, by itself affords but a faint presumption of his notoriety before they appeared. Yet, after all allowances, there remains enough to show that, however fabulous the details of his history may be, there was something extraordinary in his life and character. Some foundation there must have been for statements which his eulogists were able to maintain in the face of those who would have spoken out had they been altogether novel. Pretensions never before advanced must have excited the surprise and contempt of the advocates of Christianity. Yet Eusebius styles him a wise man, and seems to admit the correctness of Philostratus, except in the miraculous parts of the narrative. Lactantius does not deny that a statue was erected to him at Ephesus; and Sidonius Apollinaris, who even wrote his life, speaks of him as the admiration of the countries he traversed, and the favourite of monarchs. One of his works was deposited in the palace at Antium by the Emperor Hadrian, who also formed a collection of his letters; statues were erected to him in the temples, divine honours paid him by Caracalla, Alexander Severus, and Aurelian, and magical virtue attributed to his name.

It has in consequence been made a subject of dispute, how far his reputation was built upon that supposed claim to extraordinary power which, as was noticed in the opening of our memoir, has led to his comparison with Sacred Names. If it could be shown that he did advance such pretensions, and upon the strength of them was admitted as an object of divine honour, a case would be made out, not indeed so strong as that on which Christianity is founded, yet remarkable enough to demand our serious examination. Assuming, then, or overlooking this necessary condition, sceptical writers have been forward to urge the history and character of Apollonius as creating a difficulty in the argument for Christianity derived from miracles; while their opponents have sometimes attempted to account for a phenomenon of which they had not yet ascertained the existence, and have most gratuitously ascribed his supposed power to the influence of the Evil principle. On examination, we shall find not a shadow of a reason for supposing that Apollonius worked miracles in any proper sense of the word; or that he professed to work them; or that he rested his authority on extraordinary works of any kind; and it is strange indeed that Christians, with victory in their hands, should have so mismanaged their cause as to establish an objection where none existed, and in their haste to extricate themselves from an imaginary difficulty, to overturn one of the main arguments for Revealed Religion.


1. To state these pretended prodigies is in most cases a refutation of their claim upon our notice, and even those which are not in themselves exceptionable become so from the circumstances or manner in which they took place. Apollonius is said to have been an incarnation of the God Proteus; his birth was announced by the falling of a thunderbolt and a chorus of swans; his death signalized by a wonderful voice calling him up to Heaven; and after death he appeared to a youth to convince him of the immortality of the soul. He is reported to have known the language of birds; to have evoked the spirit of Achilles; to have dislodged a demon from a boy; to have detected an Empusa who was seducing a youth into marriage; when brought before Tigellinus, to have caused the writing of the indictment to vanish from the paper; when imprisoned by Domitian, to have miraculously released himself from his fetters; to have discovered the soul of Amasis in the body of a lion; to have cured a youth attacked by hydrophobia, whom he pronounced to be Telephus the Mysian. In declaring men’s thoughts and distant events, he indulged most liberally; adopting a brevity which seemed becoming the dignity of his character, while it secured his prediction from the possibility of an entire failure. For instance: he gave previous intimation of Nero’s narrow escape from lightning; foretold the short reigns of his successors; informed Vespasian at Alexandria of the burning of the Capitol; predicted the violent death of Titus by a relative; discovered a knowledge of the private history of his Egyptian guide; foresaw the wreck of a ship he had embarked in, and the execution of a Cilician Proprætor. His prediction of the Proprætor’s ruin was conveyed in the words, “O that particular day!” that is, of execution; of the short reigns of the Emperors in his saying that many Thebans would succeed Nero. We must not omit his first predicting and then removing a pestilence at Ephesus, the best authenticated of his professed miracles, as being attested by the erecting of a statue to him in consequence. He is said to have put an end to the malady by commanding an aged man to be stoned, whom he pointed out as its author, and who when the stones were removed was found changed into the shape of a dog.

That such marvellous occurrences are wanting either in the gravity, or in the conclusiveness, proper to true miracles, is very plain; moreover, that they gain no recommendation from the mode in which they are recorded will be evident, if we extract the accounts given us by Philostratus of those two which alone among Apollonius’s acts, from their internal character, demand our attention. These are the revival of a young maid at Rome, who was on her way to burial, and the announcement at Ephesus of Domitian’s assassination at the very time of its occurrence.

As to the former of these, it will be seen to be an attempt, and an elaborate, pretentious attempt, to outdo certain narratives in the Gospels. It runs as follows:—

“A maiden of marriageable age seemed to have died, and the bridegroom was accompanying her bier, uttering wailing cries, as was natural on his marriage being thus cut short. And all Rome lamented with him, for the maiden belonged to a consular house. But Apollonius, coming upon this sad sight, said, ‘Set down the bier, for I will stop your tears for her.’ At the same time, he asked her name; and most of those present thought he was going to make a speech about her, after the manner of professed mourners. But he, doing nothing else than touching her, and saying over her some indistinct words, woke her from her seeming death. And the girl spoke, and returned to her father’s house, as Alcestis, when restored to life by Hercules.”

As to his proclaiming at Ephesus the assassination of Domitian at the time of its occurrence, of course, if he was at a great distance from Rome and the synchronism of events could be proved, we should be bound to give it our serious consideration; but synchronisms are difficult to verify. Moreover, Apollonius is known to have taken part in the politics of the empire; and his words, if he used them, might be prompted by his knowledge, or by his furtherance, of some attempt upon Domitian’s life. Apollonius was at this time busily engaged in promoting Nerva’s interests among the Ionians. Dion tells us that his success was foretold by the astrologers, among whom Tzetzes reckons Apollonius; and he mentions a prediction of Domitian’s death which had been put into circulation in Germany. It is true that Dion confirms Philostratus’s statement so far as the prediction is concerned, expressing strongly his personal belief in it “Apollonius,” he says, “ascending upon a high stone at Ephesus or elsewhere, and calling together the people, cried out, ‘Well done, Stephanus!’ ” He adds, “This really took place, though a man should ever so much disbelieve it.” But it must be recollected that Dion was writing his history when Philostratus wrote; and one of them may have taken the account from the other; moreover, he is well known to be of a credulous turn of mind, and far from averse from recording marvellous stories.

Let us now turn to the statement of Philostratus; it will be found to form as strong a contrast to the simplicity and dignity of the Gospel narratives, as the dabbling in politics, which is so marked a feature in Apollonius, differs from the conduct of Him who emphatically declared that His kingdom was not of this world

“He was conversing,” says Philostratus, “among the groves attached to the porticoes, about noon, that is, just at the time when the event was occurring in the imperial palace; and first he dropped his voice, as if in terror; then, with a faltering unusual to him, he described [an action], as if he beheld something external, as his words proceeded. Then he was silent, stopping abruptly; and looking with agitation on the ground, and advancing up three or four of the steps, ‘Strike the tyrant, strike!’ he cried out, not as drawing a mere image of the truth from some mirror, but as seeing the thing itself, and seeming to realize what was doing; and, to the consternation of all Ephesus, for it was thronging around while he was conversing, after an interval of suspense, such as happens when spectators are following some undecided action up to its issue, he said, ‘Courage, my men, for the tyrant is slaughtered this day—nay, now, now.’ ”

Only an eyewitness is warranted to write thus pictorially; Philostratus was born 86 years after Apollonius’s death.


2. But it is almost superfluous to speak either of the general character of his extraordinary acts, or of the tone and manner in which they are narrated, when, in truth, neither Apollonius nor his biographer had any notion or any intention of maintaining that, in our sense of the word “miracle,” these acts were miracles at all, or were to be referred to the immediate agency of the Supreme Being. Apollonius neither claimed for himself, nor did Philostratus claim for him, any direct mission from on high; nor did he in consequence submit the exercise of his preternatural powers to such severe tests as may fairly be applied to the miracles of Christianity.

Of works, indeed, which are asserted to proceed from the Author of nature, sobriety, dignity, and conclusiveness may fairly be required; but when a man ascribes his extraordinary power to his knowledge of some merely human secret, impropriety does but evidence his own want of taste, and ambiguity his want of skill. We have no longer a right to expect a great end, worthy means, or a frugal and judicious application of the miraculous gift Now, Apollonius claimed nothing beyond a fuller insight into nature than others had; a knowledge of the fated and immutable laws to which it is conformed, of the hidden springs on which it moves. He brought a secret from the East and used it; and though he professed to be favoured, and in a manner taught, by good spirits, yet he certainly referred no part of his power to a Supreme Intelligence. Theurgic virtues, or those which consisted in communion with the Powers and Principles of nature, were high in the scale of Pythagorean excellence, and to them it was that he ascribed his extraordinary gift. By temperate living, it was said, the mind was endued with ampler and more exalted faculties than it otherwise possessed; partook more fully of the nature of the One Universal Soul, was gifted with prophetic inspiration, and a kind of intuitive perception of secret things. This power, derived from the favour of the celestial deities, who were led to distinguish the virtuous and high-minded, was quite distinct from magic, an infamous, uncertain, and deceitful art, consisting in a compulsory power over infernal spirits, operating by means of Astrology, Auguries, and Sacrifices, and directed to the personal emolument of those who cultivated it. To our present question, however, this distinction made by the genuine Pythagorean, is unimportant. To whichever principle the miracles of Apollonius be referred, theurgy or magic, in either case they are independent of the First Cause, and not granted with a view to the particular purpose to which they are to be applied.

3. We have also incidentally shown that they did not profess to be miracles in the proper meaning of the word, that is, evident innovations on the laws of nature. At the utmost they do but exemplify the aphorism, “Knowledge is power.” Such as are within the range of human knowledge are no miracles. Those of them, on the contrary, which are beyond it, will be found on inspection to be unintelligible, and to convey no evidence. The prediction of an earthquake (for instance) is not necessarily superhuman. An interpretation of the discourse of birds can never be verified. In understanding languages, knowing future events, discovering the purposes of others, recognising human souls when enclosed in new bodies, Apollonius merely professes extreme penetration and extraordinary acquaintance with nature. The spell by which he evokes spirits and exorcises demons, implies the mere possession of a secret; and so perfectly is his biographer aware of this, as almost to doubt the resuscitation of the Roman damsel, the only decisive miracle of them all, on the ground of its being supernatural, insinuating that perhaps she was dead only in appearance. Accordingly, in the narrative which we have extracted above, he begins by saying that she “seemed to have died,” or “was to all appearance dead;” and again at the end of it he speaks of her “seeming death.” Hence, moreover, may be understood the meaning of the charge of magic, as brought against the early Christians by their heathen adversaries; the miracles of the Gospels being strictly interruptions of physical order, and incompatible with theurgic knowledge.

When our Lord and His Apostles declare themselves to be sent from God, this claim to a divine mission illustrates and gives dignity to their profession of extraordinary power; whereas the divinity, no less than the gift of miracles to which Apollonius laid claim, must be understood in its Pythagorean sense, as referring not to any intimate connection with a Supreme Agent, but to his partaking, through his theurgic skill, more largely than others in the perfections of the animating principle of nature.


4. Yet, whatever is understood by his miraculous gift and his divine nature, certainly his works were not adduced as vouchers for his divinity, nor were they, in fact, the principal cause of his reputation. What we desiderate is a contemporary appeal to them, on the part of himself or his friends; as St. Paul speaks of his miracles to the Romans and Corinthians, even calling them in one place “the signs of an Apostle;” or as St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, details the miracles of both St. Peter and St. Paul. Far different is it with Apollonius: we meet with no claim to extraordinary power in his Letters; nor when returning thanks to a city for public honours bestowed on him, nor when complaining to his brother of the neglect of his townsmen, nor when writing to his opponent Euphrates. To the Milesians, indeed, he speaks of earthquakes which he had predicted; but without appealing to the prediction in proof of his authority. Since, then, he is so far from insisting on his pretended extraordinary powers, and himself connects the acquisition of them with his Eastern expedition, we may conclude that credit for possessing magical secrets was a part of the reputation which that expedition conferred. A foreign appearance, singularity of manners, a life of travel, and pretences to superior knowledge, excite the imagination of beholders; and, as in the case of a wandering people among ourselves, appear to invite the persons who are thus distinguished to fraudulent practices. Apollonius is represented as making converts as soon as seen. It was not, then, his display of marvels, but his Pythagorean dress and mysterious deportment, which arrested attention, and made him thought superior to other men, because he was different from them. Like Lucian’s Alexander (who was all but his disciple), he was skilled in medicine, professed to be favoured by Æsculapius, pretended to foreknowledge, was in collusion with the heathen priests, and was supported by the Oracles; and being more strict in conduct than the Paphlagonian, he established a more lasting celebrity. His usefulness to political aspirants contributed to his success; perhaps also the real and contemporary miracles of the Christian teachers would dispose many minds easily to acquiesce in any claims of a similar character.


5. In the foregoing remarks we have admitted the general fidelity of the history, because ancient authors allow it, and there was no necessity to dispute it. Tried however on his own merits, it is quite unworthy of serious attention. Not only in the miraculous accounts (as we have already seen), but in the relation of a multitude of ordinary facts, an effort to rival our Saviour’s history is distinctly visible. The favour in which Apollonius from a child was held by gods and men; his conversations when a youth in the Temple of Æsculapius; his determination in spite of danger to go up to Rome; the cowardice of his disciples in deserting him; the charge brought against him of disaffection to Cæsar; the Minister’s acknowledging, on his private examination, that he was more than man; the ignominious treatment of him by Domitian on his second appearance at Rome; his imprisonment with criminals; his vanishing from Court and sudden reappearance to his mourning disciples at Puteoli;—these, with other particulars of a similar cast, evidence a history modelled after the narrative of the Evangelists. Expressions, moreover, and descriptions occur, clearly imitated from the sacred volume. To this we must add the rhetorical colouring of the whole composition, so contrary to the sobriety of truth; the fabulous accounts of things and places interspersed through the history; lastly, we must bear in mind the principle, recognised by the Pythagorean and Eclectic schools, of permitting exaggeration and deceit in the cause of philosophy.

After all, it must be remembered, that were the pretended miracles as unexceptionable as we have shown them to be absurd and useless—were they plain interruptions of established laws—were they grave and dignified in their nature, and important in their object, and were there nothing to excite suspicion in the design, manner, or character of the narrator—still the testimony on which they rest is the bare word of an author writing one hundred years after the death of the person panegyrized, and far distant from the places in which most of the miracles were wrought, and who can give no better account of his information than that he gained it from an unpublished work, professedly indeed composed by a witness of the extraordinary transactions, but passing into his hands through two intermediate possessors. These are circumstances which almost, without positive objections, are sufficient by their own negative force to justify a summary rejection of the whole account. Unless, indeed, the history had been perverted to a mischievous purpose, we should esteem it impertinent to direct argument against a mere romance, and to subject a work of imagination to a grave discussion.

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