Apollonius of Tyana, whose name means “Follower of Apollo,” was a wandering philosopher, ascetic, and miracle worker, often described as a prophet, religious reformer, and teacher. He lived in the eastern part of the early Roman Empire in roughly 15-100 AD. He followed Pythagoreanism; and for this abstained from animal sacrifice, wine, women and stayed on a strictly vegetarian diet. He believed that the Gods were the most beautiful things, and could be reached by a spiritual procedure involving nous (intellect) and that the soul was immortal. Primary sources on Apollonius comes from his biography, “ Life of Apollonius of Tyana” by Philostratus, which itself takes from sources such as local knowledge from the towns Apollonius visited, memoirs written by the disciple of Apollonius named Damis, and a book on him written by Maximus of Aegae. There is also information on Apollonius written by the historian Cassius Dio. It is said that Apollonius was a devotee of Asklepios, the Sub-Lunar Demiurge, and deity of Healing.
He was known for traveling the Empire, and possibly even outside of it, seeking knowledge with his disciples and performing numerous miracles, such as:
- Raising a woman from the dead on her burial day
- Predicting a plague to strike the town of Ephesus and healing it when it arrived
- The ability to remain youthful looking
- Accurately predicting the future
- Being aware current events occurring in other parts of the world; such as the death of the tyrant Domitian.
It is said that he lost favor with Emperor Severus, who ordered his hair cut to part him from his magic powers. Shortly after Apollonius disappeared; merely vanishing from the courtroom never to be seen again. It is said by his followers that he had passed away and was taken up to the heavens.
The influence of Apollonius of Tyana on Hellenism was notable, having directly impacted Emperor Aurelian and having influenced members of Diocletian’s administration. It is possible he had influenced philosophers Iamblichus and Porphyry who themselves influenced the Emperor Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus (Julian).
Even after his disappearance among men, his influence on the living did not end. In the late 3rd century ACE, two centuries after Apollonius, Emperor Aurelian was dealing with a civil war against the upstart Palmyrene Empire. Aurelian was destroying every city that resisted him, but when confronting Apollonius’ hometown of Tyana, the Emperor had a vision of Apollonius who implored him for mercy, stating, “Aurelian, if you desire to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent! Aurelian, if you will conquer, be merciful!” The words resonated, and Aurelian decided to spare Tyana. Following this event, many more cities submitted to him upon seeing that the Emperor would not exact revenge upon them.
“Apollonius of Tyana.” Apollonius of Tyana – New World Encyclopedia. Accessed August 20, 2017. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Apollonius_of_Tyana.
“Apollonius of Tyana.” Apollonius of Tyana – Livius. Accessed August 20, 2017. http://www.livius.org/articles/person/apollonius-of-tyana/.
Bellezza, Angela. Historia Augusta. Genova: Pagano, 1959.
Home-Cook, Andrew G. “University of St Andrews.” Apollonius of Tyana | Old Testament Pseudepigrapha – School of Divinity, University of St Andrews. Accessed August 20, 2017. https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/divinity/rt/otp/dmf/apollonius/.
Philostratus, and C. P. Jones. The life of Apollonius of Tyana. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.