Flavius  Philostratus   [ca 170-245 CE]

Athenian member of the philosophical circle of Syrian-born Roman empress Julia Domna, who after her death moved to Tyre.  Author of biographies of sophists & philosophers including:

  • Life of Apollonius of Tyana -- biography of legendary 1st c. Pythagorean sage & healer, allegedly based on no longer extant notes of his disciple, Damis of Nineveh. The historical Apollonius was a near contemporary of Paul. A wealthy native of a small town in central Asia Minor, Apollonius studied at Tarsus before attaching himself to the shrine of the healing god, Asclepius, at Aegae. At age 20 he renounced his inheritance & adopted the simple lifestyle of an itinerant (vegetarian) beggar-sage, traveling through Syria & Mesopotamia to India & back (ca. 41-54 CE). He was in Rome during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE). He reportedly survived the reign of Domitian (d. ca. 98 CE). Apollonius' popular reputation for personal confidence, sharp wit, & success as a healer & exorcist led to his veneration in the eastern Mediterranean as a divine man [theios anér]. This 3rd c. biography commissioned by Julia Domna popularized the cult of Apollonius in aristocratic Roman circles at a time when Christianity was becoming popular. Later Christian writers frequently characterized this biography as a fiction, deliberately designed to parody the gospels.

[Edition used: Philostratus. Life of Apollonius of Tyana (in Loeb Classical Library). Ed. F. C. Conybeare. New York: Macmillan, 1912.]

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