Apollonius Of Tyana

The annals of ancient history are peculiarly rich in narratives of

pretension and imposition, and either owing to the greater ignorance and

credulity of mankind, or the superior skill of gifted but unscrupulous

men in those days, present a few examples that even surpass the most

remarkable products of the modern science of humbug.

One of their most surprising instances--in fact, perhaps, absolutely the

ding impostor--was the sage or charlatan (for it is difficult to

determine which) known as Apollonius Tyanaeus so called from Tyana, in

Cappadocia, Asia Minor, his birthplace, where he first saw the light

about four years earlier than Christ, and consequently more than

eighteen and a half centuries ago. His arrival upon this planet was

attended with some very amazing demonstrations. With his first cry, a

flash of lightning darted from the heavens to the earth and back again,

dogs howled, cats mewed, roosters crowed, and flocks of swans, so say

the olden chroniclers--probably geese, every one of them--clapped their

wings in the adjacent meadows with a supernatural clatter. Ushered into

the world with such surprising omens as these, young Apollonius could

not fail to make a noise himself, ere long. Sent by his doting father to

Tarsus, in Cilicia, to be educated, he found the dissipations of the

place too much for him, and soon removed to AEgae, a smaller city, at no

great distance from the other. There he adopted the doctrines of

Pythagoras, and subjected himself to the regular discipline of that

curious system whose first process was a sort of juvenile gag-law, the

pupils being required to keep perfectly silent for a period of five

years, during which time it was forbidden to utter a single word. Even

in those days, few female scholars preferred this practice, and the boys

had it all to themselves, nor were they by any means numerous. After

this probation was over, they were enjoined to speak and argue with


At AEgae there stood a temple dedicated to AEsculapius, who figured on

earth as a great physician and compounder of simples, and after death

was made a god. The edifice was much larger and more splendid than the

Brandreth House on Broadway, although we have no record of AEsculapius

having bestowed upon the world any such benefaction as the universal

pills. However, unlike our modern M. D.s, the latter was in the habit of

re-appearing after death, in this temple, and there holding forth to the

faithful on various topics of domestic medicine. Apollonius was allowed

to take up his residence in the establishment, and, no doubt, the

priests initiated him into all their dodges to impose upon the people.

Another tenet of the Pythagorean faith was a total abstinence from

beans, an arrangement which would be objectionable in New England and in

Nassau street eating houses.

Apollonius however, who knew nothing of Yankees or Nassau street,

manfully completed his novitiate. Restored at length to the use of beans

and of his talking apparatus, he set forth upon a lecturing tour through

Pamphylia and Cilicia. His themes were temperance, economy, and good

behavior, and for the very novelty of the thing, crowds of disciples

soon gathered about him. At the town of Aspenda he made a great hit,

when he "pitched into" the corn merchants who had bought up all the

grain during a period of scarcity, and sold it to the people at

exorbitant prices. Of course, such things are not permitted in our day!

Apollonius moved by the sufferings of women and children, took his stand

in the market place, and with his stylus wrote in large characters upon

a tablet the following advice to the speculators in grain:

"The earth, the common mother of all, is just. But, ye being unjust,

would make her a bountiful mother to yourselves alone. Leave off your

dishonest traffic, or ye shall be no longer permitted to live."

The grain-merchants, upon beholding this appeal, relented, for there was

conscience in those days; and, moreover, the populace had prepared

torches, and proposed to fry a few of the offenders, like oysters in

bread-crumbs. So they yielded at once, and great was the fame of the

prophet. Thus elevated in his own opinion, Apollonius, still preaching

virtue by the wayside, set out for Babylon, after visiting the cities of

Antioch, Ephesus, etc., always attracting immense crowds. As he

penetrated further toward the remote East, his troops of followers fell

off, until he was left with only three companions, who went with him to

the end. One of these was a certain Damis, who wrote a description of

the journey, and, by the way, tells us that his master spoke all

languages, even those of the animals. We have men in our own country who

can talk "horse-talk" at the races, but probably none so perfectly as

this great Tyanean. The author of "The Ruined Cities of Africa," a

recent publication, informs us that at Lamba, an African village, there

is a leopard who can "speak." This would go to show that the "animals,"

are aspiring in a direction directly the opposite of the acquirements of

Apollonius, and I shall secure that leopard, if possible, for exhibition

in the Museum, and for a fair consideration send him to any public

meeting where some one is needed who will come up to the scratch!

But, to resume. On his way to Babylon, Apollonius saw by the roadside a

lioness and eight whelps, where they had been killed by a party of

hunters, and argued from the omen that he should remain in that city

just one year and eight months, which of course turned out to be exactly

the case. The Babylonish monarch was so delighted with the eloquence and

skill of the noted stranger, that he promised him any twelve gifts that

he might choose to ask for, but Apollonius declined accepting anything

but food and raiment. However, the King gave him camels and escort to

assist his journey over the northern mountains of Hindostan, which he

crossed, and entered the ancient city of Taxilia. On the way, he had a

high time in the gorges of the hills with a horrible hobgoblin of the

species called empusa by the Greeks. This demon terrified his companions

half out of their wits, but Apollonius bravely assailed him with all

sorts of hard words, and, to literally translate the old Greek

narrative, "blackguarded" him so effectually that the poor devil fled

with his tail between his legs. At Taxilia, Phraortes, the King, a

lineal descendant of the famous Porus--and truly a porous personage,

since he was renowned for drinking--gave the philosopher a grand

reception, and introduced him to the chief of the Brahmins, whose

temples he explored. These Hindoo gentlemen opened the eyes of

Apollonius wider than they had ever been before, and taught him a few

things he had never dreamed of, but which served him admirably during

his latter career. He returned to Europe by way of the Red Sea, passing

through Ephesus, where he vehemently denounced the speculators in gold

and other improper persons. As they did not heed him, he predicted the

plague, and left for Smyrna. Sure enough, the pestilence broke out just

after his departure, and the Ephesians telegraphed to Smyrna, by the

only means in their power, for his immediate return; gold, in the

meanwhile, falling at least ten per cent. Apollonius reappeared in the

twinkling of an eye, suddenly, in the very midst of the wailing crowd,

on the market place. Pointing to a beggar, he directed the people to

stone that particular unfortunate, and they obeyed so effectually, that

the hapless creature was in a few moments completely buried under a huge

heap of brickbats. The next morning, the philosopher commanded the

throng to remove the pile of stones, and as they did so, a dog was

discovered instead of the beggar. The dog sprang up, wagged his tail,

and made away at "two-forty" and with him the pestilence departed. For

this feat, the Ephesians called Apollonius a god, and reared a statue to

his honor. The appellation of divinity he willingly accepted, declaring

that it was only justice to good men. In these degenerate days, we have

accorded the term to only one person, "the divine Fanny Ellsler!" That,

too, was a tribute to superior understanding!

Our hero next visited Pergamus, the site of ancient Troy, where he shut

himself up all night in the tomb of Achilles; and having raised the

great departed, held conversation with him on a variety of military

topics. Among other things, Achilles told him that the theory of his

having been killed by a wound in the heel was all nonsense, as he had

really died from being bitten by a puppy, in the back. If the reader

does not believe me, let him consult the original MS. of Damis. The

same accident has disabled several great generals in modern times.

Apollonius next made a tour through Greece, visiting Athens, Sparta,

Olympia, and other cities, and exhorting the dissolute Greeks to mend

their evil courses. The Spartans, particularly, came in for a severe

lecture on the advantages of soap and water; and, it is said, that the

first clean face ever seen in that republic was the result of the great

Tyanean's teachings. At Athens, he cured a man possessed of a demon; the

latter bouncing out of his victim, at length, with such fury and

velocity as to dash down a neighboring marble statue.

The Isle of Crete was the next point on the journey, and an earthquake

occurring at the time, Apollonius suddenly exclaimed in the streets:

"The earth is bringing forth land."

Folks looked as he pointed toward the sea, and there beheld a new island

in the direction of Therae.

He arrived at Rome, whither his fame had preceded him, just as the

Emperor Nero had issued an edict against all who dealt in magic; and,

although he knew that he was included in the denunciation, he boldly

went to the forum, where he restored to life the dead body of a

beautiful lady, and predicted an eclipse of the sun, which shortly

occurred. Nero caused him to be arrested, loaded with chains, and flung

into an underground dungeon. When his jailers next made their rounds,

they found the chains broken and the cell empty, but heard the chanting

of invisible angels. This story would not be believed by the head

jailer at Sing Sing.

Prolonging his trip as far as Spain, Apollonius there got up a sedition

against the authority of Nero, and thence crossed over into Africa. This

was the darkest period of his history. From Africa, he proceeded to the

South of Italy and the island of Sicily, still discoursing as he went.

About this time, he heard of Nero's death, and returned to Egypt, where

Vespasian was endeavoring to establish his authority. While in Egypt, he

explored the supposed sources of the Nile, and learned all the lore of

the Ethiopean necromancers, who could do any thing, even to making a

black man white; thus greatly excelling the skill of after ages.

Vespasian had immense faith in the Tyanean sage, and consulted him upon

the most important matters of State. Titus, the successor of that

monarch, manifested equal confidence, and regarded him absolutely as an

oracle. Apollonius, who really seems to have been a most sensible

politician, wrote the following brief but pithy note to Titus, when the

latter modestly refused the crown of victory, after having destroyed


"Apollonius to Titus, Emperor of Rome, sendeth greeting. Since you have

refused to be applauded for bloodshed and victory in war, I send you the

crown of moderation. You know to what kind of merit crowns are due."

Yet Apollonius was by no means an ultra peace man, for he strongly

advocated the shaving and clothing of the Ethiopians, and their thorough

chastisement when they refused to be combed and purified.

When Domitian grasped at the imperial sceptre, the great Tyanean sided

with his rival, Nerva, and having for this offence been seized and cast

into prison, suddenly vanished from sight and reappeared on the instant

at Puteoli, one hundred and fifty miles away. The distinguished Mr.

Jewett, of Colorado, is the only instance of similar rapidity of

locomotion known to us in this country and time.

After taking breath at Puteoli, the sage resumed his travels and

revisited Greece, Asia Minor, etc. At Ephesus he established his

celebrated school, and then, once more returning to Crete, happened to

give his old friends, the Cretans, great offence, and was shut up in the

temple Dictymna to be devoured by famished dogs; but the next morning

was found perfectly unharmed in the midst of the docile animals, who had

already made considerable progress in the Pythagorean philosophy, and

were gathered around the philosopher, seated on their hind legs, with

open mouths and lolling tongues, intently listening to him while he

lectured them in the canine tongue. So devoted had they become to their

eloquent instructor, and so enraged were they at the interruption when

the Cretans re-opened the temple, that they rushed out upon the latter

and made a breakfast of a few of the leading men.

This is one of the last of the remarkable incidents that we find

recorded of the mighty Apollonius. How he came to his end is quite

uncertain, but some veracious chroniclers declare that he simply dried

up and blew away. Others aver that he lived to the good old age of

ninety-seven, and then quietly gave up the ghost at Tyana, where a

temple was dedicated to his memory.

However that may be, he was subsequently worshiped with divine honors,

and so highly esteemed by the greatest men of after days, that even

Aurelian refused to sack Tyana, out of respect to the philosopher's


Dion Cassius, the historian, records one of the most remarkable

instances of his clairvoyance or second sight. He states that

Apollonius, in the midst of a discourse at Ephesus, suddenly paused, and

then in a different voice, exclaimed, to the astonishment of all:--"Have

courage, good Stephanus! Strike! strike! Kill the tyrant!" On that same

day, the hated Domitian was assassinated at Rome by a man named

Stephanus. The humdrum interpretation of this "miracle" is simply that

Apollonius had a foreknowledge of the intended attempt upon the tyrant's


Long afterwards, Cagliostro claimed that he had been a fellow-traveler

with Apollonius, and that his mysterious companion, the sage Athlotas,

was the very same personage, who, consequently, at that time, must have

reached the ripe age of some 1784 years--a lapse of time beyond the

memory of even "the oldest inhabitant," in these parts, at least!