Apollonius of Tyana

A neo-Pythagorean of Greece who acquired a reputation for his magical powers. He is considered a contemporary of Christ. Francis Barrett claimed him to be «one of the most extraordinary persons that ever appeared in the world.» Born at Tyana, in Asia Minor, he was educated at Tarsus, and at the Temple of Aesculapius at Aegae, where at sixteen he became an adherent of Pythagoras whose discipline he ascribed to all of his life. He died during the second century AD. In his desire for knowledge he traveled many Eastern countries and according to legend he performed miracles where ever he went.

When in Ephesus he warned the citizens of a forthcoming plague. The people disregarded his warning until the pestilence was upon them. Then they remembered his words and sought further counsel of the mighty magician. He told them that there was a wretched beggar among them who they should stone to death. At first the people were hesitant to do such a drastic act, but the continued appearance of the beggar and the magician’s stern accusations changed their minds. After the deed was done, the people removed the mound of stone under which they thought the beggar laid. But a black dog appeared which Apollonius pronounced was the caused of the plague.

When in Rome it is said he brought the daughter of a consular back to life. (Even Apollonius’ biographer was not certain whether this girl just appeared to be dead or was actually dead.) However, this feat won Apollonius notoriety for the girl was well liked among the people and betroth.

He is allegedly said to have prevented one of his former students, Menippus of Corinth, from marrying a vampire. The young man had not heeded earlier warnings. The wedding festivities had proceeded up to the banquet when Apollonius appeared as a guest. He then made all the luxuries of the banquet and the guests disappear, proving they were a hoax. After doing this he forced the girl to confess as to being a lima, a type of a vampire.

Another legend has it that an Indian magician made seven rings representing the seven planets and presented then to Apollonius who wore a different one each day. It is said this enabled him to maintain his youthful vigor well into old age. He is reputed to have live to one hundred.

Apollonius’ death is a mystery. According to some he fell out of favor with Emperor Severu, who put him on trail and had his hair cut off to eliminate his magical powers. Apollonius simply disappeared from the courtroom never to be seen again.

His followers admitted he died but said he was caught up and taken up into heaven. Other people did not even know he had died. In Tyana a temple was built and dedicated to him, and statues of him reside in other temples.

The only extensive work about Apollonius was written by Philostratus at the insistence of Julia, the mother of the Emperor Severus.

However, Philostrstus’ work is criticized for being based on the work of «Dennis the Assyrian» who was a disciple of Apollonius. Some consider the latter work could be literary fiction. But, Philostratus substantiated the work by stating it described the life of Apollonius, showing him to be an ascertic, and his personal knowledge was combined with revelations which he received from the gods. Philostratus, continued by saying this did not take away from Apollonius’ integrity because other great Greek philosophers such as Plato also claimed to have received divine revelation.

It is probable, however, some of the writings about Apollonius was borrowed from Occidental philosophy and are more Brahminical than magical.

The occultist Eliphas Levi, in the 19th century, attempted to conjure the spirit of Apollonius in a necromantic ritual. A.G.H.

Sources: 49.