An Astounding Revelation Saved From the Flames that burnt the Alexandrian Library, which the Roman Churchmen razed to the ground to destroy all records of the Mystery Man of Christianity, APOLLONIUS OF TYANA, the historical Christ and World Teacher of the First Century, Now Revealed to the World for the First Time.
PROVING that APOLLONIUS OF TYANA was the TRUE FOUNDER of early Christianity and that the “Jesus Christ” of the New Testament had NO EXISTENCE except in the IMAGINATION of the Pagan Roman priests at Nicea, subsequently called the “Church Fathers,” who INVENTED him as a SUBSTITUTE for APOLLONIUS, THE TRUE CHRIST.
DR. R. W. BERNARD, B.A., M.A., PH.D.
FIELDCREST PUBLISHING CO., INC.
210 Fifth Avenue, New York 10, N.Y.
[NOTE: author is now deceased and publishing
company defunct. Rights are not reserved].
Apollonius the Nazarene
By: Dr. R. W. Bernard, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
For over sixteen centuries, the Christian Church has been preaching its religion to the world. Yet when we consider the horrible events that have occurred among professedly Christian peoples during the recent world holocaust, resulting in the death of a significant portion of the world’s population, we must conclude that there is something radically wrong with a religion, which, after having been preached and practiced for so many centuries, has led its followers to such a terrible state of affairs, involving the conversion of this planet into one vast slaughter-house, drenched in human blood, resulting from the mass murder of Christians of one nation by fellow-Christians of another, each being urged on and blessed by their own priests.
And such a condition has prevailed in Christiandom ever since the Christian religion was first created, organized and established in the year 325 A.D. by pagan Roman churchmen convening at the Council of Nicea. This council was presided over by the arch-murderer Constantine, Emperor of Rome, who had assassinated, in cold blood, a dozen of his near relatives, including his own wife.
And the history of Christianity has been no more honorable than its origin; for ever since Constantine first established it as the state religion of Rome, it has been responsible for the death of over fifty million innocent people, under the charge that they were “heretics,” because they refused to accept the unreasonable dogmas of the church –including about three million women who were burnt alive as “witches” in comparatively recent times, by men who called themselves priests of the Christian religion.
What would the founder of Christianity, the gentle Nazarene and Prince of Peace, think of the crimes that have been perpetrated down through the centuries, in his name, by a church which professes to be his earthly representative — the Church Militant! What would he think of the rotting corpses of over fifty million of his dearly loved brothers and sisters, who were put to death by this same church because they refused to accept its falsehoods and instead preferred to follow Truth, of which he was the great exponent?
And could a church whose Inguisition has left such a black record behind it, be expected to offer us a written document (The New Testament) that could be accepted on face value as the authentic words of a man who taught peace, forgiveness and kindness, rather than bloody murder? And might it not be possible that not only the teachings but also the life history, and EVEN THE NAME, of the Nazarene, could, during the course of centuries, have been altered by the ecclesiastical scribes of the Church of Rome in the interests of its dogmas and ambitions for temporal power?
Also might not the original Nazarene, the peaceful Essene, whose goodness and pacifism extended not only to humanity but to the animal world as well, have been transformed, by Constantine’s henchmen, the pagan-Roman priests who became the Nicean Church Fathers, into another man — called “Jesus Christ” — more acceptable to their emperor? THAT THIS WAS THE CASE is the object of the following pages, devoted to the life and teachings of this unknown man, to prove.
Two thousand years ago a great teacher of humanity appeared in the world. He was a philosopher, a social leader, a moral teacher, a religious reformer and a healer. From one end of the Roman empire to the other, wherever he went, divine honors were bestowed on him — by all, from slave to emperor. He was undoubtedly the greatest man of his age; and his date of birth (4 B.C.) and period of activity coincided exactly with those of the Christian messiah, except that APOLLONIUS’S life of incessant labor in behalf of humanity extended for over a century, during which time he preserved his health of body and brilliance of mind unimpaired by the passage of time. He was a supreme exemplar of human perfection — physically, mentally and spiritually. Oven seventeen temples were erected in honor of him in various parts of the Roman Empire. His name was APOLLONIUS OF TYANA.
No more courageous humanitarian and social revolutionist has ever come to this world to help the human race and redeem it from suffering. Alone and single-handed, he defied the bloodiest tyrants who ever sat on the Roman throne — Nero and his more terrible successor, Domitian. Apollonius fearlessly travelled from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, inciting revolutions against the despots, and establishing communistic communities among his followers, who bore the name of Essenes, early Christians. And not content with such activities in the Roman provinces, he bravely entered Rome itself, after all philosophers had been expelled from the city under penalty of death by the cruel Domitian; there he openly denounced the tyrant, for which he was arrested and thrown into a dungeon, awaiting certain death which however, due to his brilliant speech in self-defense and his extraordinary powers of mind, he averted, securing his liberty.
Two centuries after Domitian, the arch-murderer and degenerate, Constantine sat on the throne of Rome. While former Roman emperors hated Apollonius because of his revolutionary and “communistic” activities, Constantine especially hated his Pythagorean teachings — his strict advocacy of vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol and continence. Constantine enjoyed the red meats, the flowing wines and the beautiful women of his midnight revels too much to be willing to accept the religion of which Apollonius was the recognized head — a religion which he imported from India, based on the doctrines of Chrishna and Buddha and bearing the name of Essenian Christosism. It was for this reason that Constantine directed his armies to exterminate the descendants of Apollonius’s Essenian followers, who were known as Manichaeans.
Finding that the religion of Rome was in a state of advanced decay and was daily losing hold on the masses, while the cult of Apollonius and the communistic communities of his Manichaean followers, in spite of the severest persecution, kept spreading, threatening the vested interests of Rome, Constantine’s henchmen – the pagan priests of the Roman religion – decided to hold a convention at Nicea in the year 325 A.D. for the purpose of establishing a new religion. They decided to take over the popularity enjoyed by the followers of Apollonius, appropriate its essential doctrines (altering them so that they might be acceptable to Constantine), and to replace the philosopher Apollonius, whose abstemious Pythagoreanism was too well known and too much hated by their emperor, by a super-natural messiah whose teachings would be less radical and more acceptable to him.
So in place of Apollonius of Tyana, they put their newly created savior, whom they named “Jesus Christ,” who, THEN AND THERE, was first conceived and created in the minds of Roman priests who were later known as the Nicean Church Fathers.
As soon as Jesus was put in the place of Apollonius, the task of the Roman churchmen was TO DESTROY ALL RECORDS concerning Apollonius and his Essenian Early Christian followers during the first three centuries, so that the world might forever be kept in darkness concerning this COLLOSAL DECEPTION, and be made to believe that Jesus and the Christian religion, which they originated at the BEGINNING OF THE FOURTH CENTURY A.D., antedated their creation by three centuries. It was for this reason that the Alexandrian and other ancient libraries were burnt, so that all books written during and pertaining to the FIRST THREE CENTURIES OF OUR ERA MIGHT BE DESTROYED.
And so well did the churchmen succeed in obliterating such records, that, for nearly two thousand years, the world has been kept in darkness concerning the fact that Apollonius of Tyana was the recognized world teacher of the first century, and that during the first three centuries, before he was created at the Council of Nicea, as an alternative messiah to Apollonius, no such man as Jesus Christ was known to or mentioned by ANYONE.
No greater cultural loss ever occurred than happened when the Christian mob set fire to the books and manuscripts of the Alexandrian Library, in order to destroy all records of Apollonius of Tyana, so that the world might forever be ignorant of his existence and of his replacement by the previously non-existent and unknown Jesus, which occurred at the Council of Nicea, in the year 325 A.D. But fortunately, a certain book survived – the FORBIDDEN BOOK – of all books in that great library – that was most feared. It was “THE LIFE OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA”, by his biographer, Philostratus. The book was secretly carried to the Near East for safety and for over a thousand years it was preserved among the Arabians, in spite of all efforts of the crusaders — in the interest of the Papacy — to destroy it.
Somewhat over four centuries ago, this forbidden book was first brought into Europe from the East; and it was not until 1801 that the first complete English translation, from the Latin, was made, in spite of the opposition of the clergy, who, when no longer able to suppress its publication, succeeded in rendering it oblivious and in maintaining the same popular ignorance of Apollonius and his historical significance as existed during the Dark Ages. So well did they succeed, that, though while after the appearance of Blount’s first English translation of Philostratus’s biography of Apollonius at the commencement of the nineteenth century, his name was on every cultured Englishman’s tongue; today, over a century later, he is almost completely unknown, even in academic circles, mention of him having been omitted from historical works and from the educational curricula — so that, paradoxical though it may seem, the greatest man of the western world during the past two thousand years has been completely removed from the pages of history.
It is the purpose of this book to present the life and teachings of this man.
Apollonius the Nazarene
The Historical Apollonius Versus the Mythical Jesus
By: Dr. R. W. Bernard, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
In the year 325 A.D. was perpetrated one of the most colossal frauds and deceptions in the annals of history. This was the date of the Council of Nicea, whose task it was to create a new religion that would be acceptable to Emperor Constantine, who, at the time, was engaged in the bloody persecution of those communists and pacifists of ancient times who were known as early Christians. What made Constantine, in the midst of his inhuman massacre of these defenseless and despised people, suddenly take over their religion and become its staunchest protagonist, is one of the enigmas of history which has never before been elucidated. On this point, Reville, a Catholic apologist; writes:
“The acknowledged triumph of Christianity during the reign of Constantine has always been considered one of the unaccountable revolutions and one of those historical surprises which, unconnected as they seem to be with any phenomena of the past,
might almost seem miraculous. One longs to find out by what process the human mind passes so rapidly from a contemptuous and utter denial of the teachings of Christianity to an interest and avowed sympathy for the doctrines of the new creed…It was in the fourth century, immediately after the most violent persecutions, that Christianity, though embraced and professed by a minority only, succeeded in attaining to a commanding position in matters both social and political.”
Aware that the old religion of Rome was in a state of advanced decay and was daily losing its hold on the people, while the persecuted cult of the Essenes, or early Christians, in spite of all the efforts to suppress it through the most bloody and inhuman means, continued to thrive and win the increasing respect of the masses, the Church Fathers, themselves previously pagans whose hands were stained with the blood of those from whom they stole their religion, saw that by adopting Christianity (in a revised form) they could take advantage of the popular prestige created by the martyrdom of the early Christian saints, and at the same time win the support of Constantine, who, in being converted to the Christian faith, could cover up his own past crimes, gain increased public favor and extend and consolidate his empire.
In order to make the previously despised cult of the Essenes, or early Christians, acceptable to Constantine, emperor of Rome – the Church Fathers had to remove from its teachings certain doctrines which they knew were objectionable to him. Chief among these was the prohibition against the use of meats and wines, which was a cardinal doctrine of early Essene Christianity. It was for this reason that the churchmen at Nicea found it necessary to remove from the Gospels these objectionable doctrines, for they knew that Constantine loved the red meats and flowing wines of his midnight revels too much to be willing to accept a religion which required from its adherents complete abstinence from these indulgences, as early Essene Christianity did. To accomplish this, certain “correctors” were appointed, whose task it was to rewrite the Gospels, omitting all that pertained to vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol. The Church Fathers had an additional reason to do this – for they themselves had no desire to make such a radical change in their own living habits.
That the original Gospels were rewritten and altered at the Council of Nicea is indicated by the following statement by Archdeacon Wilberforce, who writes:
“Some are not aware that, after the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325, the manuscripts of the New Testament were considerably tampered with. Prof. Nestle, in his `Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek Testament,’ tells us that certain scholars, called `correctores,’ were appointed by the ecclesiastical authorities, and actually commissioned to correct the text of the Scripture in the interest of what was considered orthodoxy.”
Commenting on this statement, Rev. G. J. Ouseley, in his “Gospel of the Holy Twelve,” writes:
“What these `correctores’ did was to cut out of the Gospels with minute care, certain teachings of our Lord which they did not propose to follow — namely, those against the eating of flesh and taking of strong drink — and everything which might serve as an argument against Flesh eating, such as the accounts of our Lord’s interference on several occasions, to same animals from ill-treatment.”
There is evidence to indicate that not only were the original doctrines of early Essene Christianity radically changed at the Council of Nicea and replaced by others entirely different, but that the MAN whose life was an embodiment of the original doctrines was likewise replaced by another man who exemplified the new doctrines. The name of the second man, who was not a vegetarian and who did not prohibit the killing of animals, was Jesus Christ, who was put in the place of Apollonius of Tyana, the historical world teacher of the first century.
The first act of the Church Fathers, after they created their new religion and its messiah, neither of which existed previously, was to burn all books they could lay their hands on, especially those written during the first few centuries, which made no mention of Jesus and which referred to Apollonius as the spiritual leader of the first century, realizing as they did that such books, if they were not destroyed, constituted a dangerous menace to the survival of their deception. It was for this reason that the churchmen took such great pains to burn the ancient libraries, including the famous Alexandrian Library with its 400,000 volumes, which was burnt to the ground by edict of Theodosius, when a Christian mob destroyed the Serapeum where the scrolls and manuscripts were kept.
However, the churchmen failed to their purpose, for prior to its burning which they foresaw, the librarians of the Alexandrian Library had secretly removed from it some of the most precious volumes, which they carried eastward for safety.
Among the works which were thus saved from the flames of the Alexandrian Library, the one which has created the most widespread and long-continued discussion was the “Life of Apollonius of Tyana,” written by Flavius Philostratus at the beginning of the third century A.D. As if by irony fate, this book – which of all books burnt in the Alexandrian Library, was one of the most dangerous – was preserved down through the centuries, resisting all attempts to destroy it. The reason why this book was so much dreaded by the churchmen was because, while it made no mention whatsoever of the existence of Jesus or of Christianity, it presented Apollonius of Tyana as the universally acclaimed world teacher of the first century, reverenced from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, by everyone, from the lowest slave to the Emperor himself.
No book ever written has aroused by heated argument over a longer period of time than this biography by Philostratus. From the early centuries of our era, when Hercules and Eusebius first started it, until the days of Blount, Voltaire and the Deists, the controversy raged unabated. For Philostratus, in his book described a character, born in the very year of the birth of Christ, who, in every respect, was the equal, if not the superior, of the Christian messiah.
W. B. Wallace, writing on “The Apollonius of Philostratus,” calls Philostratus’s biography a “pagan counterblast to the gospel of Galilee, representing a Greek saviour as an alternative to the Semitic one.” (Westminster Review, July-Dec. 1902). Furthermore, the main events of the lives of both men were so closely parallel that the reader cannot help but conclude that if Jesus is not a fictitious imitation of Apollonius, then Apollonius must be an imitation of him, since it would be highly improbable for two such similar men to have been born the same year and to have such similar biographies.
F. A. Campbell, in his `Apollonius of Tyana,’ writes:
“The birth of Apollonius is assigned to the year 4 B.C. But as everybody knows, the current computation of the beginning of the Christian era is incorrect, and the first year of our Lord ought to be dated four or five years earlier. If the Apollonian and Christian nativities both belong to the same year, the coincidence is entitled the more attention than it has received.”
“Thankful Tyana, like ungrateful Nazareth, had nursed a prophet of blameless life, of miraculous power, of super-abundant loving-kindness, and of heroic virtue. Both Apollonius of Tyana and Jesus of Nazareth were born in the same lustrum, if not the
same year. Both Tyana’s babe and Bethlehem’s were said to have sprung from a divine Father and a human mother, and both of these holy ones drew their first breath amid gracious portents and supernatural singings. Nor were these the only parallels in
the memoirs of the Tyanean and the Nazarene.
“Orthodox Christians had been accustomed to affirm boldly the finality of Mary’s son; but, like a bolt from the blue, here was Philostratus opposing himself to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and offering an alternative Messiah.”
Also it is strange that, though they were both supposed to be the greatest men of their age, they did not know of each other’s existence. And since there is absolutely authentic historical evidence of the existence of Apollonius, but not a shred of genuine proof of the existence of Jesus, we must conclude that if one of these figures is fictitious and an imitation of the other, it is Jesus who is the fiction and Apollonius the historical personage. Concerning the existence, or rather, the non-existence, of Jesus, Tschendorf writes:
“Author after author, volume after volume, of the life of Christ may appear until the archives of the universe are filled, and yet all we have of the life of Jesus is to be found in Matthew’s gospel. Not a single person specially associated with Jesus impinges history.”
In Taylor’s “Diegesis,” [1829, Oaknam, England] we read:
“We have investigated the claims of every document possessing a plausible claim to be investigated which history has preserved of the transactions of the First century and not so much as a single passage, purporting to have been written at any time within the first hundred years, can be produced to show the existence of such a man as Jesus Christ or of such a set of men as could be accounted to be his disciples.”
Commenting on this statement by Taylor, J. M. Roberts, in his “Antiquity Unveiled,” [1892; Oriental Publishing Co., Philadelphia] writes:
“On the other hand we have abundant proof that Jesus Christ is founded on the known life of Apollonius of Tyana, the earthly existence of whom has never been questioned, to which is added passages from the lives of various personage, and teachings concerning the mythical gods of other lands. The Prometheus of the Greeks was the character which suggested the crucifixion (also the crucifixion of Chrishna in Christosite traditions.) The Eleusinian mysteries suggested the “Last Supper” and these together with doctrines of ancient sun worship were gathered and represented to be a history of the events connected with the life of the Christian Jesus. (Prometheus on the crag, suffering for the good of mankind, suggests Jesus on the cross, changing Prometheus for Jesus and the Sythian crag for the cross.)
“In the first chapter of Matthew the geneology of Jesus is given as the twenty-eighth generation from David down through Joseph to Christ. In the third chapter of Luke the same geneology is given as being the forty-third generation from Christ through Joseph to David. This is a very remarkable oversight on the part of the translators, for if there was anything they could agree on, it is in regard to the descent of Christ.
“All the Christians that ever lived or ever will live will find their ideal Jesus but a phantom — a myth. They can chase it as a child would a butterfly through a meadow on a summer’s afternoon, and it will elude their grasp. The Christian Jesus is nothing more than the Chrishna of the Hindus.”
No contemporary writers who lived at the time when Jesus is supposed to have lived make mention of him; though forged allusions to Jesus occur in the books of Livy and Josephus. In his “History of the Jews,” written in the First century, at a time when Jesus would have enjoyed his greatest popularity among the Jews if he had existed, though pages and pages are devoted to persons of no importance whatever and who would have been forgotten forever had not Josephus mentioned them, there is not a single mention of Jesus in the original edition. On this point, Dr. Edmond B. Szekely, in his “Origin of Christianity, writes:
“There is not a word, or better, there is no longer a word in the works of Flavius Josephus about the Messiah, the Christ crucified by Pontius Pilate, except for a crude interpolation, quite obviously false…The silence of Josephus is not due to disdain or studied neutrality.”
In an eighth century Slavonic edition of Josephus’s book, such an interpolation occurs, referring to a certain Jesus, son of Joseph, and which covers only a passing paragraph, the brevity of which clearly reveals its fraudulent origin, for, if Jesus were mentioned at all, much more space would have been devoted to him. And coincident with such interpolations of early authors, occurred the censorship of all books making reference to Apollonius, whose name was omitted or abbreviated.
(Thus, in the original Pauline Epistles, which, we have reason to believe, originally had Apollonius as their central figure and were written by him, his name is abbreviated to “Apollos” and “Pol” (Paul.)
That Apollos (conceded by no less an authority than the Encyclopedia Britannica to be an abbreviation of Apollonius) was the real author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, falsely attributed to Paul, was the opinion of Martin Luther and other eminent scholars.
And if Apollonius wrote some of the so-called Pauline Epistles, there is a possibility that he may have written others, AND, IN FACT, ALL).
Plutarch, the eminent biographer, who lived between 46 and 120 A. D. would certainly have made mention of Jesus if he had existed, since he wrote when Jesus’s fame would have been at its height. Yet in the voluminous works of Plutarch, not a single reference to any such man as Jesus can be found. Although Plutarch’s miscellaneous writings make mention of or allude with unerring certainty to nearly every religious and ethical opinion of his time, he is absolutely silent on the subject of Christianity and concerning the existence of Jesus. Though he knew the utmost detail of the lives of great men who lived centuries ago, we could hardly believe that Plutarch could have been entirely unaware of the existence of such a great man as Jesus who lived only a few years previously. This is all the more surprising because the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus, where Plutarch lived, were only a few day’s journey from Boetia, where, if we may believe Christian writers, the proselytes of Christianity were swarming at the time.
But while Plutarch belonged to a different race and was born after his alleged crucifixion, Philo, a Jew, who lived at exactly the same time in the first part of the first century, and who visited the Essenes and wrote about them, should, and above all others, have made mention of Jesus, who, if he had lived, would undoubtedly have been the leader of this sect. Yet not one word is found in Philo’s writings concerning the existence of Jesus, any more than is there one word in the original edition of the “History of the Jews” of Josephus. Nor did any other writer in the first century mention Jesus. They did not because he did not yet exist. He was first born three centuries later, created by the churchmen at Nicea, in their effort to find an alternative messiah, more pleasing to Constantine and the Romans, to be put in the place of Apollonius.
That the early Christians themselves, and not only the Pagans, were ignorant of the existence of any such man as Jesus, has been clearly proven by the catacomb researches of Eisler, a student of early Christian archaeology. In his work, “Orpheus the Fisher,” Eisler shows that no representations can be found among the catacomb inscriptions that depict Jesus, the cross or the crucifixion. Instead, a Greek figure is represented as the leader of the sect, a vegetarian and friend of animals, depicted either under the fig – of Orpheus playing his lyre and surrounded by friendly animals, or as the Good Shepherd (Hermes) carrying a lamb around his neck. These representations obviously refer to Apollonius whose cardinal teachings consisted of vegetarianism and the abolition of animal sacrifices. Eisler’s findings were further verified by Lundy, who, in his “Monumental Christianity,” a work on early Christian archaeology, likewise reports the entire absence of any reference in the catacomb inscriptions to Jesus or a crucified saviour, in whose place is found the familiar Greek figures of Orpheus and the Good Shepherd, who are represented as friends of animals.
The closest original that can be found of the Jesus of the New Testament is a rabbi named Jehoshua Ben Pandira, who lived about a century B. C. In his “Life of Jehoshua,” Dr. Franz Hartman states that this illegitimate child of a Jewish maiden, Stada, and a Roman soldier, Pandira, who is mentioned in the Talmud, was the original Jesus. He was referred to as a rabbi of not very great importance, who studied the mysteries in Egypt, and who was put to death by stoning after an attempted crucifixion.
Seeking a substitute for Apollonius, the Church fathers seized upon Jehoshua, and changing his name to that of the Druid sun god, HESUS, and shifting the date of his birth forward a century, he was transformed into Jesus. On this subject, Manly Hall writes: “It is very possible that the early Church Fathers, seeking desperately for a concrete human being on which to hang the fabric of their faith, picked Jehoshua Ben Pandira as the nearest parallel to be found among the Jewish rabbins. Armed with this small fragment of history, they proceeded to correlate the two; building in a little here; and removing same contradictory fragment there, until, lo, and behold, the ‘King of Kings’ is a Nazarene, in spite of the popular opinion that nothing good can come out of Nazareth.
“This Further explains why Helena, the mother of Constantine, within three hundred years after the death of Jesus, was unable to find in all of Jewry any man who had even heard of him. According to the story, she finally came upon one aged man who claimed to have heard that Jesus had lived. He took her to an old Roman execution field where the excavation revealed a number of crosses. When the whole matter had been settled to every one’s satisfaction, Constantine, to show his extreme veneration, had one of the passion nails pounded into a bit for his horse.
“The most perplexing and comparatively unsolved mystery with which the Christian theologian is faced is the almost complete lack of historical evidence concerning the life of Christ. If we accept a few palpable forgeries, our knowledge of the life of Christ is based principally upon the accounts given in the Gospels… The gravest doubts exist as to the authorship of the gospels of the New Testament. The Encyclopedia Brittannica
acknowledges not only these doubts, but admits that there is no proof of any kind that the Gospels were written by the men whose names have been affixed to them in more recent time.”
In 1894, there appeared a remarkable book written by J. M. Roberts entitled “Antiquity Unveiled,” in which evidence was presented to prove that no such man as Jesus of Nazareth ever lived, but the name was adopted by the framers of Christianity to cover the identity of Apollonius of Tyana whose teachings and mode of life they purloined and made use of as a model upon which to construct their system.” He adds: “The world has the uncontrovertible testimony that Christianity is of spurious origin and the most consummate piece of plagiarism in human history.”
In sharp contrast with the scarcity, or rather the absence of information regarding Jesus, is the abundance of reliable historical data available concerning Apollonius of Tyana, who, during the first century, enjoyed universal fame from one end of the Roman empire to the other, being honored by all. More than seventeen temples were dedicated to him in various parts of the empire. Nearly a dozen Roman Emperors held him in awe and reverence. (The Roman emperors; Vespasian, Titus and Nerva, were all, prior to their elevation to the throne, friends and admirers of Apollonius, while Nero and Domitian regarded the philosopher with dismay.) The Emperor Septimus Severus (A.D. 193-211 erected a statue to him in his gallery of deities in the Pantheon, while his son, Emperor Caracella, honored his memory with a chapel or monument.
Lampridus, who lived in the third century, further informs us that the Emperor Alexander Severus (A. D. 222-235) placed a statue of Apollonius in his labarium side by side with one of Orpheus.
It was the wife of Septimus Severus, the empress Julia Domna who commissioned the philosopher, Philostratus, a member of a circle of writers who collected around her, to write the life of Apollonius of Tyana, based on manuscripts in her possession, chiefly the memoirs of Apollonius’s disciple and traveling companion, Damis, in addition to records preserved in different cities where Apollonius was held in esteem — from temples whose long-disused rite he restored, from traditions, from epistles of Apollonius addressed to kings and sophists and from his letters — of which the Emperor Hadrian had made a collection which he deposited in his palace at Antium. (Julia Domna, known as the philosopher-empress because she was surrounded by men of letters and philosophers and dispensed enlightened patronage to thought and learning, was the daughter of Bassiamus, priest of the sun at Emesa in Syria. Philostratus was a member of a group of famous writers and thinkers who gathered around her. She was a woman of high intelligence and remarkable purity of character, living in seclusion and devoting her time to literature and philosophy in her extensive library. As in the case of Sappho, a woman of egually exemplary morality, she was falsely defamed by the scribes of the same churchmen who were later responsible for the brutal murder of Hypatia. These three greatest women of antiquity, together with Joan of Arc, the greatest woman of modern times, were all victims of a criminally jealous male clerical fraternity.
Another biography of Apollonius was written by Soterichur of Oasis during the reign of Diocletian, but is non-existent, having been destroyed by the Christians together with other ancient writings referring to him. Still another biography was written by Moeragenes, which was likewise lost.
Though written in the early part of the third century A.D., Philostratus’s biography of Apollonius of Tyana was not permitted to be published in Europe until the year 1501, when Aldus printed the first Latin edition to appear in Europe. This was followed by an Italian and French translation, but it was not until 1680 that the first English translation was made by Blount, an English Deist.
Blount’s notes on the book raised such an outcry that, in 1693, the book was condemned by the church and its further publication forbidden. (Concerning the effects of Blount’s translation; Campbell, in his “Apollonius of Tyana,” writes: “Fierce passions were let loose. Sermons, pamphlets and volumes descended upon the presumptious Blount like fireballs and hailstones and his adversaries did not rest until the authorities had forbidden him to print the remaining six books of his translation.”)
In his notes, Blount pointed out that, “we must either admit the truth of the miracles of Apollonius as well as those of Jesus, or, if the former were untrue, there would be no better ground to believe in the latter.” A century later Blount’s notes were translated into French by the Encyclopedists. However, a century before Blount – Voltaire, Le Grand d’Aussy, Castillon and other French Deists wrote to the same effect, considering Apollonius as a far more authentic historical figure than Jesus, and fully his equal in every respect and as worthy of performing miracles if such were possible. (Francis Bacon also spoke of Apollonius in the highest terms. In Burton’s “Anatomy of Melancholy” – which some have attributed to Bacon’s authorship – appeared a quotation from Philostratus’s biography of Apollonius to which Keats later referred in a footnote in his “Lamia.”)
Blount, however, had translated only the first two books of Philostratus’s work (there were eight in all, the remaining six remaining unpublished); and it was not until 1809 that the first complete English version was made by Edward Herwick. (In his preface of his work entitled “The First Two Books of Philostratus Concerning the Life of Apollonius to which Tyaneus, written originally in Greek, and now published in English,” Blount, in self-protection, and obviously expressing opinions the opposite of what he really believed, humbly described his book as “no more than a bare narrative of the life of a philosopher, not of a new Messiah, or any ways in opposition to the old; no, Philostratus does not anywhere so much as mention the name of Christ. And if one Heathen Writer (Heirocles) did make an issue of this history, by comparing Apollonius with Christ, what is that to Philostratus, who never meant nor designed it so, as I can anywhere find? However Eusebius hath already confuted Hierocles, which confutation I had intended to have annexed to Philostratus as an antidote.”
“The whole translation I have already finished, and had proceeded thus far as you see in my illustration, when I found the alarm was given in all parts what a Dangerous Book was
coming out; such a book as would unmask all practical atheists, which (they being the greater number of men, might therefore prove of pernicious consequence to the public. Above all, the Popish Clergy thought themselves chiefly concerned herein, who are so zealously revengeful and malicious, that I feared it is might fare with me as it did with poor Esop, (who notwithstanding he had broken jests upon several great kings and
potentates without being punished for the same, yet only speaking against the priests of Delphos cost him his life.)
“Wherefore, if the Clergy would have Apollonius esteemed a Rogue and a Juggler, that being risen from the dead, he is one of the principal fomenters of this Popish Plot; or that there never was any such man as Apollonius, with all my heart, what they please.
For I had much rather have him decried in his reputation than that some grave Cardinal, with his long beard, and his excommunicative ‘Ha’, should have me burnt for a heretic.”)
Herwick’s volume became so rare that in 1907, two London book dealers of world-wide reputation searched and even advertised in vain for a copy. This indicates how well the ecclesiastical suppression of this dreaded book had succeeded. And while today scarcely a person can be found, even among the most educated, who even heard the name of Apollonius of Tyana, much less knew anything about him, according to Campbell, “There was a day when the name of Philostratus and Apollonius of Tyana was on every educated Englishman’s tongue,” even though sectarian prejudice against Apollonius characterizes every writer prior to the nineteenth century. The popularity of Apollonius in ancient times stands in sharp contrast to his almost complete oblivion today.
That Apollonius, a mere man, should rival Jesus, a god, in so many important respects, in the eyes of the churchmen constituted an important reason to suppress Philostratus’s book, since it tended to belittle the dignity of their savior. That Philostratus composed his “Life of Apollonius of Tyana” as a pagan counterblast to the Christian gospels is an opinion which has been held by reputable scholars both before and after Blount’s day. (This opinion, which has been widely held by Christian writers, is evidently false, since Christianity as we know it did not exist at the time when Philostratus wrote, for he makes no mention of Jesus or of Christianity. In spite of this fact, the book has always been held with the greatest suspicion; and, even after the Renaissance, when it was introduced into Europe, Aldus hesitated for a time before he gave the right to publish it, at last resolving to do so, but adding to the text a reply by Eusebius to Hierocles’ criticism of Christianity, in which he opposed the Apollonian to the Christian miracles, thereby, as he expressed it, giving “the antidote with the poison.”)
Thus, the Bishop of Avranches, writing in the seventeenth century, expressed this view as follows:
“Philostratus seems to have made it his chief aim to deprecate both the Christian faith and Christian doctrine, both of which were progressing wonderfully at that time, by the exhibition on the opposite side of that shallow representation of a miraculous science, holiness and virtue. He invented a character in imitation of Christ, and introduced almost all the incidents in the life of Jesus Christ into the history of Apollonius, in order that the pagans might have no cause to envy the Christians by doing which he inadvertently enhanced the glory of Christ, for by falsely attributing to another the real character of the Savior, he gave to the latter the praise which is His just due, and indirectly held Him up as the admiration and praise of others.”
Tredwell, in his “Sketch of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana,” writes:
“From the time that disputes began concerning the Christian religion, Christians have charged Philostratus with having appropriated the events and miracles contained in Matthew’s gospel to adorn his life of Apollonius of Tyana, and the pagans have made countercharges of plagiarism against the writer of this gospel. Upon the earlier accounts of Apollonius these charges have been held to be of sufficient importance to meet
with efforts of refutation from eminent Christians; even as late as our day, Rev. Albert Reville did not think it beneath his dignity nor his great learning, to attempt in 1866 a refutation of `this great and monstrous infidel slander.’ He attempted to show in a little book bearing the title of `Apollonius the Pagan Christ of the Third Century’ (meaning the first century) that Philostratus had borrowed leading facts from the Gospel of Matthew. Miraculous phenomena were related almost identical with that record by Matthew in his gospel of Jesus Christ. And while Jesus is said to have been casting out devils in Galilee, Apollonius was, according to a tradition quite as trustworthy, rendering mankind a similar service in Greece. Such was the opinion of Catholic writers on the subject; and, according to Daniel Huet, this statement by the Bishop of Avranches `ever since that time has had great weight with all thoughtful minds.'”
Apollonius the Nazarene
Similarities Between Apollonius and Jesus
By: Dr. R. W. Bernard, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Let us now consider some of the essential points of similarity between the biographies of Apollonius and Jesus. Before his birth, the coming of Apollonius was preceded by an Annunciation, his coming being announced to his mother by an Archangel. He was born in the same mysterious manner in the same year when Jesus is supposed to have been born (the year 4 B.C.) Like the latter, in his childhood he displayed wonderful precocity in religious matters; then he went through a period of preparation; then came a period of public and positive activity; then a passion; then a kind of resurrection; and finally an ascension.
The messengers of Apollo sang at his birth as the angels did at that of Jesus. He also was exposed to the attacks of enemies, though always engaged in doing good. He similarly went from place to place carrying out the work of reform, being accompanied by his favorite disciples, amongst whom disaffection, discouragement and even treachery made their appearance. And when the hour of danger was at hand, in spite of the prudent advice of friends, and the abandonment of his disciples, he went straight to Rome, where Domitian, the cruel emperor, was seeking to kill him, just as Jesus went up to Jerusalem and to certain death. And before this event, he had been a victim of Domitian’s no less cruel predecessor, Nero, as Jesus had been exposed to the machinations of Herod Antipus. Like Jesus, he is accused of working miracles of mercy by the aid of magic and unlawful arts, whereas he only succeeded in working them because he was a friend of the gods and worthy to be esteemed as such. Like Jesus on the road to Damascus, he fills an avowed enemy with wondering dismay by an apparition several years after his resurrection and ascension.
Another remarkable resemblance between Apollonius and Jesus was the great number of cases of evil spirits that were driven out at his bidding. He speaks to them, as it was said of Jesus, with authority. The young man of Athens, who was possessed, through whom the devil uttered cries of fear and rage, and who could not face the look of Apollonius, reminds us of the Gospel narrative of the demoniac of Gadera. Neither was cured until some outward visible circumstance had taken place that gave the people reason to believe that the devil had really gone out. In the one case a herd of swine rushed down into the lake, and in the other a statue falls, overthrown by the violence of the evil spirit as it rushes out of the young man.
There is also mentioned in the biography of Apollonius another case of possession singularly like the one of the epileptic child in the three first gospels. In Rome, Apollonius restored a young girl to life under circumstances which immediately remind us of the return to life of the daughter of Jairus. It may be further remarked that both stories are so recorded that a careful critic might ask himself with respect to each whether the young girl who was brought to life again had really been dead after all. The lame, the blind and the halt came in crowds to be healed by the laying on of hands by Iarchus, the chief of the Brahman sages of the Himalayan heights whom Apollonius visited and under whom he studied and derived his knowledge and power.
His miraculous appearance to his friends – Damis and Demetrius – who thought at first that he was a spirit, remind us at once, in the way this was related, of the resurrection of Jesus after his death.
The following inspiring description of the Christ-like figure of Apollonius is given by Campbell in his book, “Apollonius of Tyana:” “A strange distinctive figure, clad in white linen and not in garments wrought of skins; with feet unsandled and with locks unshorn; austere, reserved, and of meagre mien; with-eyes cast upon the ground as was his manner, Apollonius of Tyana drew to him with something of a saint’s attraction all simple folk, and yet won as intimates the Emperors of Rome.
“Through his love for all life and swift appreciation of the beauty of the human form, he drew high to the sufferings of the body and became acquainted with the sufferings of the soul. He sought to heal, or at least to soothe, some of the distresses, physical and spiritual, of poor humanity; and to such a singular degree of skilfulness did he attain in the healing arts of his day, that even the sacred oracles of Agaea and of Delphi pronounced him more than mortal, referred the distempered body and the smitten soul to him, for relief, knowing that from his very presence proceeded a peculiar virtue, a benign influence an almost theurigic power.
“By years of silence and contemplation, by extensive travel and by a continuous spiritual and worldly experience, he deepened to no minute measure, an originally, powerful. and intense personality, and so it was that at length he became the admiration not only of all countries through which he passed, but of the whole Roman and Hellenic world. Cities sent envoys and embassies to him decreeing him public favors; monarchs bestowed special dignities upon him, counting him worthy to be their counsellor; incense was burnt before his altars; and after his death divine honours were paid to his images, which had been erected, with great enthusiasm, in all the temples of the gods. Nor did his fame evanesce. All down the ages his name has carried in it something of a hurricane; for speculative critics of both early and later days have thought to find in the life of this exceptional character, a parallel to the life of Christ, and to ground an argument thereon, against the supernal claims of the Son of Man.
“Hence for centuries even the name of Apollonius wag odious to Christians; for it seemed the very Gospel of the Son of Man was at stake; and Christian apologists, on their part, in self-defense, were not lacking to attack fiercely their adversaries’ champion, and to denounce him as little better than an imposter, a sorcerer and a magician; on this account they have generally failed to understand the man. They have lacked, at least in their combative approach to him, that sweet affection for signal worth, that gracious patience for nobleness, which is absolutely essential to comprehend a new or startling character or mode of life.”
Another writer gives the following description of Apollonius:
“He had a Zeus-like head, long beard and hair descending to his shoulders, bound with a deep fillet. Damis describes Apollonius as ever mild, gentle and modest, and in this manner, more like an Indian than a Greek, though, when witnessing some special
enormity, he would burst out indignantly against it. His mood was often pensive, and when not speaking he would remain for long with eyes cast down, plunged in deep thought. Though always stern with himself, he readily made excuses for others. As an
instance of this, the following may be cited: During Nero’s reign, when, on his way to Rome, Apollonius was warned that he and his followers would be in danger, of thirty-four companions who set out with him, only eight remained staunch enough to brave the threatened peril; while praising the courage of those few who remained with him, he refused to blame as cowards the many who had fled.”
From Phliostratus’s biography, we gather the following facts about the life and character of Apollonius of Tyana. He was born in the year 4 B.C. At the age of twelve he was sent to Tarsus in Cilcia, the alleged birthplace and home of “St. Paul.” There he studied every system of philosophy, and perfected himself in rhetoric and general literature. He took up residence in the temple of Aescalupius, famed for its marvellous cures, and was initiated by its priests into their mysteries, after which he performed cures that astonished not only the people but those masters of the art of healing. He then finally decided to adopt the philosophy of Pythagoras, and rigorously observed the trying discipline instituted by the Samian sage. He abstained from animal food, wine and women — and lived upon fruits and herbs, dressed only in white linen garments of the plainest construction, went barefooted and with uncovered head, and wore his hair and beard uncut. He was especially distinguished for his beauty, his genial bearing, his uniform love and kindness, and his imperturbable equanimity of temper.
In these respects he was the personal embodiment of the imaginary traits of the Christian Jesus, and was no doubt the original of the pictures of the so-called Nazarene, now so venerated by the uninformed professors of the Christian religion. (Almost every picture that in modern times is recognized as a likeness of Jesus really have their origins in a portrait of Apollonius of Tyana painted in the reign of Vespasian.)
Determined to devote himself to the pursuit of knowledge and the teaching of philosophy, he gave away his large patrimony to his poor relatives and went to Antioch, then a center of learning but little less noted than Athens or Alexandria. There he began his great mission by teaching philosophy to a number of disciples and to the people. He then entered the temple of Apollo Daphne at Antioch and learned the mysteries of its priests. Later he travelled to India in search of wisdom and visited the Gymnosophist philosophers of Egypt. He then returned to Greece to restore the Mysteries and to teach the doctrines of Chrishna and Buddha, which he learned at the feet of his Himalayan teacher, Iarchus. (These Teachings, embodying the Buddhist gospels that Apollonius carried westward, became the origin of the Christian religion).
As a a social and political reformer, he travelled from one end of the Roman Empire to the other, inciting revolt against the cruel tyrants – Nero and Domitian, for which he was arrested by both and thrown into jail. After his arrest by Domitian he was acquitted and “disappeared.” After having completed his labors for humanity which lasted a century, it is believed he went to India to rejoin his teachers in the Himalayas. When and where he died is unknown.
Ells gives the following account of the life of Apollonius:
“He was born in Tyana, A Greek City of Asia Minor, three years before the birth of Christ, and he lived about a hundred years, until the reign of Nerva. As with Moses, no man knoweth his grave unto this day. Devoted to philosophy from his boyhood, he
studied it after the unequalled method of those days, by listening to lectures and to disputations of rival thinkers in every market-place and from the steps of every temple. He chose as his own, the philosophy of Pythagoras and enthusiastically practised its austerities, maintaining absolute silence for five years as a mental discipline, avoiding all relations with women, giving away his patrimony, and wearing only linen [cotton]
“In the phraseology of today he was a vegetarian and a total abstainer. He claimed that by this mode of life his senses were made abnormally acute, so that he had a premonition of future events and became aware of the minds of men and of distant
happenings; and he successfully set up that defense when he was tried for `sorcery’ before the emperor. He prayed to the Sun three times a day, offering incense but never sacrificing victims. He believed in the immortality of the soul, in metempsychosis [reincarnation], and in a supreme diety – the Creator of the Universe. Indeed it may be argued that in the deities whom he worshipped he saw merely phases and agencies of
this Supreme Deity, for in referring to the gods collectively he is frequently quoted by Philostratus as using indiscriminately the words `gods’ or `god,’ and the Indian sage Iarchus, with his evident approval, likens the Universe to a ship of which the Creator is the Master and the subordinate `gods’ are petty officers [cf. the Christian idea of orders of `angels’ who assist in the smooth running of creation, and the Hindu idea of a trinity of `gods’ – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – representing the creative, preserving and destructive energies that are operating continually within the creation, each having their
correlative functions or energy centers (chakras) within the human body – which in itself is but a microcosm or reflection of the macrocosmic universe.]
“All his life long his advice and help were constantly sought by cities, temples and rulers everywhere, and were freely given without reward. He journeyed over the known world from the Atlantic ocean to the Ganges river, and south to the cataracts of the Nile, acquiring and imparting wisdom. In middle age, when his travels were not half completed, he told his disciples that he had already seen more of the earth’s surface than any other man had ever done. During his long and laborious life he wrought many wonders, and many men regarded him as an incarnate divinity. The kings of Persia and of India vied with each other to do him honor. After his death the Emperor Hadrian built a
temple and endowed a priesthood for his worship of Tyana. The emperor Aurelian vowed to do the like, calling him the most godlike, holy and venerable of mankind, endowed with more than mortal powers, and declaring: “If I live, I will publish at
least a summary of his wonderful deeds, not because they need anything my words can give, but to make them familiar to all lips, as they are marvellous.”
“Another emperor, Alexander Severus, with questionable taste, set the image of Apollonius in his private chapel or solarium, among his tutelary deities, in company with Orpheus, Abraham and Christ (Though this reference has been quoted by many writers,
it appears very improbable that early Roman emperors, prior to Constantine, who was the first to accept Christianity, had statues of Abraham or Christ in their chapels. This statement is obviously a Christian interpolation. [forgery] The statue of Orpheus is the only one we can believe to have existed side by side with that of Apollonius. As Eisler has shown, even in the Catacombs of the early Christians there was no representation of Jesus, while Orpheus is represented as the central object of Worship. It is probable that Orpheus was considered as the founder of the religion of which Apollonius was the apostle.)
This very history we owe to the reverence paid to his memory by the empress Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severus, who commissioned Philostratus to write it and supplied him with most of the materials. For two hundred years after his death, Apollonius was generally acclaimed as more divine than human, until in the reign of Diocletian, a Roman pro-consul, Hierocles attempted to sweep back the rising tide of Christianity by publishing his “Candid Words to Christians,” in which he drew unfavorable comparison of Christ with Apollonius. The nascent church easily confuted his attack, but could not forget nor forgive it; and not content with its victory over its assailant, it stigmatized the long-dead philosopher as a charlatan inspired and aided by the devil.
The chorus of destruction has been very persistent. As late as the time of Charles II, when one Charles Blount tried to publish in England a translation of Philostratus’ biography, he complains in his preface that the clergy would only let him print the first two of its eight books, and that the Catholic priesthood was especially active in its opposition. (Eells, C.P., “Life and Times of Apollonius of Tyana.”)
Since ancient times, the controversy raged between the followers of Apollonius and those of Jesus as to who was the more highly moral type. The partisans of Apollonius argued that he, being a man, offered humanity a more useful moral example than Jesus, a god, who could only be worshipped, but not imitated, and in comparison with whom Apollonius was as virtuous in every respect, and in some ways more so. They pointed out in particular, that a man who, from his sixteenth year, resolved to live only on fruits and herbs and to remain forever chaste — which resolution he strictly followed throughout his long life of over a century — was certainly a higher and more moral type than one who sat and ate among publicans the viands offered him and who drank wine at wedding feasts.
Already at the beginning of the fourth century A.D., Hierocles wrote a treatise in which he maintained that Apollonius was a much higher type than the Jesus of the Gospels. Hot controversies ensued on the subject; and the Catholic opponents of Apollonius invented the most ridiculous lies to belittle his character. Thus Arnobius and the fathers of the church, just after its formation at the beginning of the fourth century, maliciously attributed the reputed miracles of Apollonius to magic, while putting up a fictitious imitation of him in the form of the messiah of their new religion. Even as late as the fifteenth century, we find Pico della Mirandola, and as late as the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin and Baronius, still denouncing Apollonius as an evil magician who had a pact with Satan.
However, even the enemies of Apollonius had to admit that his life was exemplary, for here was a man who, from a tender age, resolved to abstain from meat, from wine and from association with women, who let his hair grow long and did not permit a blade to touch his chin, and who also as a Pythagorean naturist, went around bare footed or wore sandals made from bark, not from leather, dressing only in white linen robe and considering it an impurity to wear clothing made from the wool of sheep.
Spending his time in a temple, his silence was extraordinary, yet his knowledge of languages was universal. From one end of the Roman Empire to the other he travelled as a teacher and healer, to whom the sick flocked wherever he went. He was also a social reformer and revolutionist, who fearlessly opposed tyrants, inciting uprisings against them, and organizing his followers into communistic communities.
It thus appears that Apollonius was a much higher moral, as well as intellectual type than the humble carpenter of Galilee. Such considerations have led Reville, a Catholic writer, in his book on Apollonius of Tyana, to admit, “Jesus was only the offering of an obscure people; his doctrine was but the refinement of a paltry local tradition; his life, of which little is known the great majority of his
contemporaries, was extremely short. He soon fell victim to the attacks of two or three priests, a petty king, and a prosecutor, and a few remarkable progidies alone distinguished him from a crowd of other existences which had nothing whatever to do with the destinies of humanity.
“Apollonius, on the contrary, a Greek by birth, had stored his vast intellect with the religious doctrines of the whole world, from India to Spain; his life extended. over a century. Like a luminous meteor he traversed the universe, in constant intercourse with kings and the powerful ones of the earth, who venerate and fear him, and if he ever meets with opposition, he triumphs over it majestically, always stronger than his tyrants,
never subject to humiliation, never brought into contact with public executioners.
Tredwell, in his “Sketch of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana,” writes as follows:
“That Apollonius was a great and good man can hardly be questioned; the tribute paid him by Titus, Vespasian and Aurelius is a guarantee. Even among those of the present day most willing to detract from his character many are forced to admit that a certain pure and true morality pervades the whole of his system of teaching. There is a well- established theory in it, that virtue and true piety is the only foundation of happiness.
“Apollonius was chaste and temperate; he was actuated by a noble desire to know and the still nobler desire to communicate his knowledge to mankind. He was ingenious, learned and original in his language. No man ever lived who utterly rejected all vulgar
artifice for producing effect upon men; no majestical pomp of words characterised his teachings. And he was ready at all times and in all places to impart good instruction; and from all testimony of him no man was more emphatically an apostle of peace. It is difficult, indeed, to overcome the common-sense conclusion that Apollonius, whom Philostratus has placed before us, is a real man, a corporeity, and not a spirit; he walks the earth, eats, drinks and sleeps like other men, loves and hates as experience teaches us is natural for man. He is an observer of natural phenomena, compares and speculates, adores nature, birds, animals, trees, flowers and is not destitute of humor,
although of great gravity and dignity. Everywhere in nature and art, with the Brahmans of India, he found something to admire.”
Towards the end of the third century, just previous to the formation of the church, the struggle between the Pythagorean supporters of Apollonius and his opponents, who later organized the Roman Catholic Church at Nicea, reached its last and bitter stages . At this time there were temples and shrines all over Asia Minor dedicated to Apollonius and his work, but there were none to Jesus, for he was unknown since he did not exist.
In the place of the august Apollonius, whose fame was world wide during the first three centuries, and who was revered in all centers of learning as the wisest of men, his opponents endeavored to set up an uneducated youth of only local significance, who was known only to a few illiterate fishermen in his vicinity, and whose short period of activity (3 years) and his short life (33 years) precluded his achieving what Apollonius with his century of incessant activity had accomplished. While Jesus spent his life in Galilee among the common people, Apollonius travelled from one end of the world to the other, studying the wisdom of the greatest minds that could be found — the Brahmans of the Himalayas, the Gymnosophist philosophers of Egypt, and Druids of Gaul, etc.
According to Tredwell, Apollonius travelled more extensively than any man of his age. “That he was a man of no mean account,” Tredwell adds, “is evident from his letters addressed to kings, rulers, philosophers societies and the first men of his time, still extant, reserved in the works of Philostratus and Cujacius. He travelled among the Magi and was everywhere the more honored on account of his modesty and virtues; giving always wise and prudent counsel, and rarely disputing with anyone. The prayer which he was accustomed to offer up to the gods is admirable. “O, ye immortal gods, grant us whatever you shall judge it fit and proper to bestow, and of which we may not be undeserving.”
For many centuries after his passing, a halo of sanctity was thrown around his head, and he was worshipped as a god in many parts of the world. The Tyanaeans elevated him to the position of a demigod, and the Roman emperors approved his apotheosis. But in the course of time, the deification of Apollonius showed the same fate as that decreed the Roman emperors; and his chapel became as deserted at that which the Athenians erected in honor to Socrates.
It was claimed for Apollonius by his followers that he was the son of a god (Proteus), a claim which he repudiated. Nevertheless it was believed by people that Apollonius was of divine parentage and that messengers of Apollo sang at his birth. Ammonianus Marcellinus ranked Apollonius among the most eminent men, and claimed that he prophesied by supernatural aid of a genius, as did Socrates and Numa.
The miracles said to have been performed in India by the Hindu saviour Chrishna, during his mission, being almost identical with those attributed to Apollonius, were all well known and discussed in Alexandria at this time; and although Apollonius never encouraged the propagation of his divine nature, yet he never emphatically repudiated it, knowing that but little respect attached to the person or teachings of any philosophy with the vulgar multitudes, unless founded on evidence of divine inspiration, the demonstrations of which were in the form of “miracles,” and he appears to have allowed the vulgar populace to believe this. Thus arose the belief that he was the son of God, and was a second Chrishna, or a Christ.
Out of respect to Apollonius, his native birthplace of Tyana was regarded as a sacred city and was exempted from the jurisdiction of governors sent from Rome. Gibbon, in his history of Rome, states that a superstitious reverence of the countrymen of Apolloniua caused the emperor Claudius Aurelian (A. D. 273) to treat with lenity the conquered city of Tyana.* (*That in spite of his eminence as a historian of Rome, Gibbon was ignorant of the true significance of Apollonius, is indicated by the following statement of his: “We are at a loss to discover whether Apollonius was a sage, an impostor or a fanatic.” In view of such ignorance by an outstanding authority on Roman history, we can well imagine how the general public were uninformed on the subject at the time that Gibbon wrote, as it still is.)
Vopiscus writes that as the forces of Aurelian were marching against Tyana, the citizens having shut the gates against him, incensed the emperor so that he declared that he would not leave a dog alive in the city; but the spirit of Apollonius appeared to him in his tent, threatened him into a better mind, and for Apollonius’s sake, he spared the inhabitants. Later he dedicated a temple in his honor, as the emperor Marcus Aurelius also did. The emperor Hadrian, with reverent pomp, deposited Apollonius’s writings in his splendid palace at Antium, whither pilgrims flocked daily in crowds to see them.
Apollonius’s reputation as a saint was so well established during the early centuries that even after the advent of Christianity, many Christian writers, including Cassiodorus, spoke highly in his praise. Lactantius says that a statue of Apollonius was erected at Ephesus. Statues were erected to him in the temples and divine honors were paid him by the Emperors Caracella, Alexander Severus and Aurelain, while magical virtues were attributed to his name. Newman claims that Apollonius was everywhere hailed as a god, and when he entered a city made converts as soon as seen. This was the case in Olympia, where the crowds paid more attention to him than to the games, almost worshipping him.
At Ephesus, he was worshipped under the title of Hercules, the warder- off of evil. Reville says that “after his death, the city of Tyana paid him divine honours; and the universal respect in which he was held by the whole of the Pagan world testified to the deep impression which the life of this supernatural being had let indelibly fixed in their minds, an impression which caused one of his contemporaries to exclaim, “we had a god living among us.”*
(*Newman, a Catholic apologist, first seeking to discredit Apollonius and then admitting his greatness, writes: “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, he was skilled in medicine, professed to be favored by Aesculapius, pretended to foreknowledge; was in collusion with the heathen priests, and was supported by the Oracles; and being more strict in conduct than Paphlagonian, he established a more lasting celebrity.”)
After Apollonius’s passing, for centuries he received from emperors honors equal to those which they claimed for themselves, and he was universally deified and worshipped as a demi-god. Philostratus writes that “the country people say he was a son of Zeus, but he claims to be the son of
Apollo, as his name indicates. Apollonius has been called the “true friend of the gods.” Pierre Bayle, in “Dictionaire Historique et Critique” (1696), remarks that Apollonius was worshipped in the beginning of the fourth century under the name of Hercules, and refers for his authority to Vopiscus, Eusebius and Marcellinus. Albert Reville says, “The universal respect in which he was held by the whole pagan world testified to the deep impression which the life of this supernatural being had indelibly fixed in their minds.”
Philostratus speaks of a temple in Tyana dedicated to his memory and founded at the imperial expense, “for the emperors had judged him not unworthy of like honors with themselves.” It was from the priests of this temple, who had gathered as much information as they could about Apollonius, that Philostratus got much of the material for his biography. Concerning Apollonius’s universal renown during the first century, W.B. Wallace writes: “His noble countenance, his winning presence, his pure doctrine, his unsullied life, his ardent advocacy of the immortality of the soul, as well as his miracles – led men to believe, wherever he went, that he was more than mortal. He consorted and corresponded with the mighty ones of the earth. (J.A. Froude writes: According to Philostratus
he was a heathen saviour, who claimed a commission from heaven to teach a pure and reformed religion, and in attestation of his authority went about healing the sick, curing the blind, raising the dead men to life, casting out demons, stilling tempests, and prophesying future events – which came
afterwards to pass.
“He was born four years before the Christian era in Tyana, a city of Cappadocia. His parents sent him to be educated at Tarsus, in Cilicia, a place of considerable wealth and repute, and he must have been about the beginning of his studies when St. Paul as a little boy was first running about the streets. On the death of his father, he divided his property among the poor, and after five years’ retirement he travelled as far as India in
search of knowledge. Here he discoursed with the learned Brahmans, and came home with enlightened ideas. He began his career as a teacher in the Roman Empire. He preached his new religion and performed miracles to induce people to believe in him. He was spiritual advisor of Vespasian. By Domitian he was charged with having pretended being a god himself. He was arraigned, convicted and was about to suffer, when he vanished out of the hands of the Roman police and reappeared at Ephesus… Apollonius of Tyana, among many others, was looked upon as an emanation of the divine nature. –(J. A. Froude, in “Nineteenth Century,” Sept. 1879.)
Tigellinius, the brutal favorite of Nero, cowered before him, Vespasian was encouraged by him to aim at the Imperial diadem. His disciples were numerous.* (*On this point, Mead, in his “Apollonius of Tyana,” writes:
“He attracted to himself many followers and disciples. It would have been interesting if Philostratus had told us more about these ‘Apollonians,’ as they were called, and whether they constituted a distinct school, or whether they were grouped together in communities on the Pythagorean model, or whether they were simply independent students attracted to the most commanding personality of the times in the domain of philosophy.”)
Indicating the high reverence in which Apollonius was held in his day, Justin Martyr, in his work written in the second quarter of the first century, made the following statement:
“Question 24: If God is the maker and master of creation, how do the consecrated objects of Apollonius have power in the (various) orders of creation? For, as we see, they check the fury of the waves and the power of the winds and the inroads of vermin and attacks of wild beasts.”
The followers of Apollonius, who were called Apollonians, continued to worship him until the fourth century. Many of them wore the same dress as himself and adopted his Pythagorean vegetarian mode of living.* (*However, Apollonius never imposed his mode of life on others, even on his personal disciples, whom he gave utmost freedom. Thus, he tells Damis that he has no wish to prohibit him from eating flesh and drinking wine, though he demands the right to refrain himself and of defending his conduct if called to do so. This is an indication that Damis, who was the source of
Philostratus’s information concerning the life and teachings of Apollonius, was not a member of the inner circle of discipline, and therefore was not in a position to communicate as much about his master as he otherwise would have been able to do.
In the Pauline Epistles, which, in their original form, were undoubtedly written by Apollonius, Damis is referred to as “Demas,”** a companion of the apostle (Paul, or Pol, representing Apollonius, who also appears in the epistles as “Apollos,” who is said to have preached a similar doctrine
and in a similar manner as Paul.***)
[** Colossians Chapter 4: Verse 14; 2nd Timothy, Chapter 4:
Verse 10; Philemon: Verse 24.]
[*** I Corinthians, Chapter 3: Verses 4 – 6; also Verse 22; I
Corinthians, Chapter 4: Verse 6; Titus, Chapter 3: Verse 13.]
Admitting that he was not permitted to enter the inner circle of his teacher and master, Damis refers to his manuscript on the “Life, Journeyings and sayings of Apollonius of Tyana,” which later came into the possession of Julia Domna, who obtained it from a relative of Damis, and which constituted the basis of Philostratus’s biography, as “the crumbs of the feast of the gods.” Repeated mention is made of their accompanying Apollonius on his travels, sometimes as many as ten of them at the same time, but none of them were allowed to address each other until they had fulfilled the vow of silence. The most distinguished of his followers were Musonius, who was considered the greatest philosopher of the time after Apollonius, and who was the special victim of Nero’s cruelty, and Demetrius, `who loved Apollonius’ as his master.
These names are well known to history; of names otherwise unknown are the Egyptian Dioscorides, who was left behind owing to weak health on the long journey to Ethiopia; Menippus, whom he had freed from an obsession; Phaedimus and Nilus, who joined him from the Gymnosophists; and of course Damis, who would have us think that he was always with him from the time of their first meeting at Ninus.
There is reason to think that the followers of Apollonius were Essenes or Therapeuts, of which sects he was undoubtedly the leader. According to Reville, “Apollonius and his followers, like Pythagoras and his disciples, constituted a regular order of Pagan monks.”
Lecky, in his well known book, “History of European Morals,” states that Apollonius “obtained a measure of success second only to that of Christ.* (*Renan called Apollonius “a sort of Christ of paganism.” Reville calls him a Greek or Pagan Christ, “a universal priest, a philosopher who is so holy as entitled to divine honors,” and “a god in human form”. “He advocated a morality and virtue far in advance of the religious sentiments of his age.” Again he writes: “Apollonius of Tyana, at the close of the Flavian period, endeavored, with noble purpose, to unite moral training with religious practice; the oracles, which had long ceased, were partially restored.”*
(*According to Phillimore, Apollonius founded a church and a community, composed of his disciples – who were undoubtedly the branch of Essenes known as Nazarenes or Therapeuts. Phillimore says, “Apollonius may be said to have founded a ‘church;’ but
there was nothing commercial in the institution; he was not salaried by his admiring disciples.”
It appears that Apollonius was himself an object of worship — because of his sanctity, wisdom, beauty, etc. – wherever he went. “His magic powers, which seem to have been considerable, procured for local piety his recognition as an object of cultus in his Cappadocian birth-place,” writes Phillimore. There is evidence that Apollonius’s “church,” whose adherents were known as “Apolloniei” survived for some centuries after his death, and constituted the origin of what, after the Council of Nicea, was later transformed into he Christian Church.)
G.R.S. Mead, a student of early Christian and Gnostic movements, writes along similar lines as follows: “Apollonius of Tyana was the most famous philosopher of the Graeco-Roman world of the first century, and devoted the major part of his long life to the purification of the many cults of the Empire and to the instruction of the ministers and priests of its religions. With the exception of Christ no more interesting personage appears upon the stage of western history in these early years.”
Appuleis classes Apollonius with Moses and Zoroaster, and other famous prophets and magi of antiquity. Arnobius, the teacher of Lactantius, at the end of the third century, also classes him among the great prophets, side by side with Zoroaster. But while the previous universal high opinion of Apollonius was lost after the formation of the Church, the Church fathers were not all of the same mind concerning him, for on the one hand we find John Chrysostom bitterly denouncing Apollonius as a deceiver and evil-doer, Jerome asserts that the philosopher found everywhere something to learn and something whereby he could become a better man. Also in the next century, St. Augustine, while ridiculing the attempts that were made at comparison with Jesus, admits that the character of Apollonius was exemplary in virtue.
Vopiscus, a writer who lived at the end of the third century, is very enthusiastic about Apollonius, whom he called “a sage of the most widespread renown and authority, an ancient philosopher and a true friend of the gods, indeed, a manifestation of Deity.” Vopiscus resolved to write a life of Apollonius in Latin, so that, he says, “his deeds and words may be on the tongues of all, for as yet the only accounts are in Greek. For who among men,” he adds, “was more holy, more worthy of reverence, more venerable and more god-like than he?” He it was who gave life to the dead. He it was who did and said so many things beyond the power of men.
Vopiscus did not fulfil his intention, but Soterichus, an Egyptian epic poet of the last decade of the third century, Nichomachus, and Tascius Victorianus all wrote lives of Apollonius, which were lost after the formation of the Church, having been destroyed by the Christians.
During the fifth century, we find Volusian, a pro-consul of Africa, descended from an old Roman family, still worshipping Apollonius of Tyana as a supernatural being. Lactantius refers to a statue erected to him at Ephesus. Sidonius Apolinaris, who wrote his biography in the last half of the fifth century, speaks of him as the favorite of monarchs and the admiration of the countries he traversed. This same writer sent a copy of Philostratus’s “Life of Apollonius of Tyana” to his friend, Leo, the chancellor of a Frankish king at Toulouse, with this message:
“Throw aside your endless labors and steal a respite from the burdens and bustle of the Court, so that you may really study this long-expected volume as it deserves. When once absorbed in it, you will wander with our Tyanean over Caucasus and Indus, to Brahmans of India and the naked philosophers of Nubia. It describes the life of very much such a man as you are, with due respect to your Catholic faith. Courted by sovereigns, but never courting them; eager For knowledge; aloof from money-getting; fasting at feasts; linen-clad among wearers of purple; rebuking luxury; self-contained; plain-spoken; shock-headed in the midst of perfumed kings, who themselves were reeking with myrrh and malo-bathrum and polished with pumice-stone; taking from the flocks nothing to eat or to wear; and notwithstanding all these peculiarities not distrusted but honored wherever he went throughout the world, and although royal treasures were placed at his disposal, accepted from them merely those gifts to his friends which it suited him better to bestow than to receive. In short, if we measure and weigh realities, no philosopher’s biography equal to this has ever appeared in the times of our ancestors; so far as I know; and I am certain that in my times it finds a worthy reader in you.”
Other references to Apollonius were derived from a certain Machus, the unusual color of whose robes won him the name of Porphyry, who wrote a celebrated treatise against Christianity which was destroyed by the Emperor, but his life of Pythagoras and his school, written in the last years of the third century and the first years of the fourth, is still in existence, as is also a similar work by Iamblichus written at the same time; and both refer to Apollonius’s biography of Pythagoras, the first thirty sections of which constituted the course of their information.
Tredwell says that there was a vast amount of literature produced during the Apollonian period, “more probable than was ever produced during a like period by the like number of persons. All we know about it is, that it once existed and was destroyed during the subsequent ages. It was obviously burnt by the Christians.”
Apollonius was a man of extensive learning and the author of many books, all of which have been destroyed by the Christians.* (*Apollonius was the author of the following books:
(1) “The Mystic Rites or Concerning Sacrifices.” This treatise as mentioned by Philostratus, who tells us that it sets down the proper method of sacrifice to every god, the proper hours of prayer and offering. It was in wide circulation, and Philostratus had come across copies of it in the libraries and cities, and in the libraries of philosophers. Several fragments have been preserved and have been found in the writings of Eusebius. Noack tells us that scholarship is convinced of the genuineness of this book, which was widely circulated and held in the highest respect. It is said that its rules were engraved on brazen pillars at Byzantium, which were melted down by the Christians.
(2) Four books entitled “The Oracles or Concerning Divination.” According to Philostratus, the Full title was “Divination of the Stars,” and he says that it was based on what Apollonius learned in India; but the kind of divination Apollonius wrote about was
not the ordinary astrology, but something which Philostratus considers superior to ordinary human art in such matters. He had, however, never heard of anyone possessing a copy of this rare book.
(3) “The Life of Pythagoras.” Porphyry refers to this book, and Iamblicus quotes a long passage from it.
(4) “The Will of Apollonius.” This was written in the Ionic dialect, and contained a summary of his doctrines.
(5) “A Hymn to Memory.” (Eudocia speaks of many other works, all of which, including the ones above described, were destroyed by the churchmen.) He was familiar with Plato, Pythagoras, Livy and Horace, as indicated by his frequent quotations from them; but his favorite author was Homer, and his philosophy was the dialectic stoicism of Zeno. He was the author of four books on Judicial Astrology and a treatise on Sacrifice, referred to by Eusebius and Suidas.
The Emperor Hadrian had a book he had written which he kept with his letters in his palace at Antium. According to Tredwell, it seems probably that Apollonius was the author of a voluminous literature, much of which Philostratus must have had before him in a diary of Damis. Marcus Aurelius
(A.D. 130) learned stoic philosophy from Apollonius’s writings. “From Apollonius,” said Aurelius, “I have learned freedom of will and understanding, steadiness of purpose, and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason.”