Apollonius of Tyana
An epigram on
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An Epigram on Apollonius of Tyana
An Epigram on Apollonius of Tyana
C. P. Jones
The Journal of Hellenic Studies,
Vol. 100, Centennary Issue. (1980),
An inscription of major importance, now in the New Museum of Adana, contains an epigram on Apollonius of Tyana. Almost simultaneously, a preliminary text has been provided by E. L. Bowie, and a full publication with discussion and photograph by G. Dagron and J. Marcillet-Jaubert. I offer here a text, translation, and commentary, and look for a historical and cultural setting.
The inscription is cut on a single large block, now damaged on the left, which originally served as an architrave or lintel. The photograph (PLATE Ib) makes detailed comment on the palaeography superfluous: but it is worth noting the sign of punctuation (:) after XXXXX and of elision (~) after rho'; the leaf filling the vacant space at the end of line 4; and generally the very affected script, notably the rho shaped like a shepherd's crook, the complicated xi and the lyre-shaped omega. This strange lettering makes it more than usually hazardous to date the inscription from this feature alone. A date in the third or fourth century seems roughly right, and would accord with the content of the epigram.
The origin of the stone is also uncertain, though it is presumably a place in eastern, 'level', Cilicia. An attractive suggestion, independently made by Bowie and the other two editors, is the coastal city of Aegaeae. This is closely connected with Apollonius: the young sage received his Pythagorean training in the city, and began his religious career by residing in the famous sanctuary of Asclepius. His stay in Aegaeae was subsequently narrated by one of the citizens, a certain Maximus . However, the claims of a city closer to Adana should not be ignored - Tarsus. Apollonius began his studies in Tarsus, but in disgust at its immorality moved to its rival Aegaeae; later, however, after he had interceded for the city with the emperor Titus, it considered him a 'founder and mainstay'; and he also performed a miraculous cure there.
I propose the following text and translation:
The tomb in Tyana (received) his body,
but in truth heaven received him
so that he might drive out the pains of men
(or:drive pains from among men) .'
--- Ancient inscription, translated C. P. Jones
The history of Apollonius' posthumous reputation is long and complex, and it is natural to ask if the epigram can be given a definite place in it. The first steps towards his cult may already have been taken in his lifetime: according to Philostratus, the Spartans were ready to worship him as a god but Apollonius declined 'so as not to incur envy' (VA iv 3 I ) .In Ephesus he ended a plague, and there is some evidence that he was subsequently worshipped there in the guise of Heracles Alexikakos . [FN:34 Lact. div. inst. v 3.14-15]
Other cities in which he was remembered as a holy man, such as Aegaeae and Tarsus, might also have founded cults of him, more probably after his death than before. As is natural, the chief centre of his cult was his birthplace, Tyana. The emperor Caracalla founded a sumptuous shrine of him there: it seems likely, however, especially in view of the cults of him elsewhere, that worship had been paid to him at Tyana well before Caracalla. . There may even have been an earlier sanctuary built at imperial expense. 
It cannot therefore be assumed that the epigram is subsequent to Philostratus merely because it implies Apollonius' divinity. However, there is another element of his posthumous reputation which might provide a clue: his use by the opponents of Christianity.  It is worth recalling the more notable allusions to Apollonius in the pagan literature of the third and fourth centuries, and asking if they help to date the present epigram. Porphyry, in his work Against the Christians, cited Apollonius together with Moses and Apuleius as great thaumaturges.  An oracle preserved in the 'Tubingen Theosophy' is a reply to one who asked if a pure life could bring a man 'near to God'; Apollo replied that such a privilege was granted to very few, Hermes Trismegistos, Moses. 
This oracle may come from a pagan source of the third century, rather than being a Christian fraud of the fourth: if not from Porphyry himself, it expresses ideas related to his.  At the beginning of the fourth century, Sosianus Hierocles, in his Lover of Truth, argued simultaneously that Apollonius was a greater thaumaturge than Jesus, and yet that his admirers regarded him 'not as a god, but as a man dear to the gods'. 
A weakness of Hierocles' case, as he seems to have recognized, was that Apollonius had in fact been regarded by some as a god;  [FN:32 Lact. Div Ins.v 3.14] and Hierocles was also hard put to show that Philostratus was less credulous than the evangelists. [FN:43 It is to this point that Eusbius' reply is mainly directed].
A number of sources show the intense interest in Apollonius of pagans living in the late fourth century. The strongly anti-Christian Eunapius declared that Philostratus should have called his work not The Life of Apollonius but A Visit of God to Mankind. [FN:44 VS 2.1.4 (Loeb p. 346); the reference 1s presumably to VA i 9.] Eunapius also compares his teacher, the Neoplatonist Chrysanthius, with Pythagoras, Archytas of Tarentum, Apollonius, 'and those who revered (npoo~vvjoav~cs) Apollonius', 'all of whom merely seemed to have a body and to be men'. [VS 23.1.8].
In the contemporary west, Apollonius became the device of militant iaganism. Nicomachus Flavianus, one of Eugenius' most prominent supporters, either adapted or translated Philostratus' The appear ance of Apollonius on 'contorniates' probably expresses the same atmosphere.
The activity of Nicomachus is inseparable from another work also probably of the late fourth century, the Historia Augusta. The author refers to Apollonius in two passages, both of which are relevant to the question of his cult.
The first is notorious. Severus Alexander had in his lararium not only the deified emperors but optimos electoset animas sanctiores, including Apollonius and, so a contem- porary author averred, Christ, Abraham, Orpheus, and others of the like.  The distinction between Apollonius and the other 'souls' may suggest that the author found him in his source and was inspired to add the three others: there is nothing inherently unlikely in Alexander's worshipping a person to whom his divine father had erected a sanctuary.  The other names, however, clearly reflect the pagan polemics of the late fourth century. 
The second reference to Apollonius is equally revealing. The emperor Aurelian, marching east against palmyra, was blocked by the resistance of Tyana and determined to destroy it. However, he had a vision of Apollonius, 'that sage of the most celebrated fame and authority, an ancient philosopher, truly a friend of the gods,  himself worthy to be worshipped as a divinity (numen)'. Aurelian recognized the 'venerable philosopher' from the portraits which he had seen in many temples  and, dissuaded from his purpose, promised him 'a portrait, statues, and a temple'. The historian proceeds to extol Apollonius as one who 'gave life to the dead, and said and did much that was more than human'; the curious are referred to the books written about him in Greek; in fact the author himself, 'if the favour of the great man permits', will write his own brief account (HA Aurel. xxiv 2 9 ) . It is clear from the mention soon after of a translator called Nicomachus (ibid. xxvii 6) that he is thinking of the translation of Nicomachus Flavianus; probably the whole incident is drawn from another work of Nicomachus, the Annales.  However, the author has not only read Nicomachus, but imbibed some of his spirit. Apollonius is 'more than human', a saviour, and his 'favour' still operates beneficently in human affairs.
The way in which the Historia Augusta talks of Apollonius and his continuing influence on mankind recalls the new epigram, and it is tempting to place it in the context of the struggle waged by paganism and Christianity in the fourth century.  Yet it has been seen that such language does not go far, if at all, beyond the domestic divinisation exemplified by many funeral epigrams of the high empire, so that a third century date is not to be rejected. But if the date must therefore remain in doubt, there is no doubt of the importance of this new text for the history of Apollonius and his legend.
C. P. JONES
University of Toronto