APOLLONIUS VAN TYANA




7.10.98

menukaart
plutarchus
aristoteles



      Ze zeggen dat de tijgerin, hoewel de wreedste van alle dieren in het land, de schepen bij de Rode Zee benadert om haar welpen terug te vragen; en indien zij haar welpen terugkrijgt, dan vertrekt ze enorm verheugd; maar als de schepen wegzeilen, dan zegt men dat ze langs de kust huilt en soms zelfs sterft.

      Er bestaat geen passender manier, zo geloof ik, om de godheid te eren - Hem die wij de Eerste en Ene noemen -, dan door te weigeren aan Hem ook maar enig dier te offeren; het is onnodig voor Hem het vuur aan te steken of een gelofte te doen door middel van het verbranden van enig wezen met gevoel. Want Hij heeft slechts onszelf nodig. Noch is er enige plant die uit de aarde opschiet, of enig dier dat door de aarde wordt gevoed, waaruit geen verontreiniging voortkomt. Wanneer we ons tot God richten kunnen we uitsluitend gebruik maken van een hogere taal, ik bedoel niet datgene wat onze lippen verlaat; aan de allernobelste vragen we zegening door middel van de nobelste onzer faculteiten, de intelligentie - die heeft geen organen nodig. Volgens dit principe is het verkeerd om dieren te offeren aan de machtigste en hoogste God. - Apollonius




Apollonius was een zeer consequente vegetarïer; hij at geen enkel dierlijk voedsel, zijn kleren waren van linnen, zijn schoenen van boomschors.
Het leven van Apollonius van Tyana door Philostratus stamt uit het begin van de derde eeuw, een tijd waarin het christendom een belissende strijd leverde met concurrerende godsdienstige bewegingen. Philostratus beschrijft het leven van Apollonius (1-100 n.C.) aan de hand van bronnen die niet zijn overgeleverd. Eén van de bronnen die Philostratus noemt - de memoires van Damis - heeft mogelijk nooit bestaan. Damis was de trouwe leerling en metgezel van Apollonius op zijn reizen.
Door de sofist Euphrates en een zekere Moeragenes was Appolonius beschuldig van zwarte magie. "The Romans hated such Greek philosophers and claimed that their degeneracy corrupted youth", aldus Spencer. Apollonius meldde zich vrijwillig op het tribunaal van keizer Domitian dat tot doel had deze gehate filosofen terecht te stellen. Menigeen eindigde aan het kruis. Zo niet Apollonius. Het verhaal gaat dat Apollonius op het moment van zijn terechtstelling van de aardbodem verdween om elders, in Zuid-ItaliŽ, weer tevoorschijn te komen. Ook zou hij daarna de dood van zijn wrede vervolger exact hebben voorspeld.

Philostratus wilde met zijn boek aantonen dat "these accusations were ill-founded, and that Apollonius was a divinely-inspired sage and prophet, and a reformer along Pythagorean lines of the Pagan religion", aldus F.C. Conybeare, de vertaler van de internetuitgave (Philostratus 1995). Conybeare vat het leven van Apollonius samen en schetst een boeiend beeld van de strijd om de ware godsdienst in eerste eeuwen na de jaartelling:

He was born towards the beginning of the Christian era at Tyana, in Cappadocia, and his birth was attended according to popular tradition with miracles and portents. At the age of sixteen he set himself to observe in the most rigid fashion the most minastic rule ascribed to Pythagoras, renouncing wine, rejecting the married estate, refusing to eat any sort of flesh, and in particular condemning the sacrifice of animals to the gods ... for we must not forget that in antiquity hardly any meat was eaten which had not previously been consecrated by sacrifice to a god, and that subsequently the priest was the butcher of a village and the butcher the priest. Like other votaries of the neo-pythagorean philosophy or discipline, Apollonius went without shoes or only wore shoes of bark, he allowed his hair to grow long, and never let a razor touch his chin, and he took care to wear on his person nothing but linen, for it was accounted by him, as by brahmans, an impurity to allow any dress made of the skin of dead animals to touch the person. Before long he set himself up as reformer, and betaking himself to the town of Aegae, he took up his abode in the temple of Aesculapius, where he rapidly acquired such a reputation for sanctity that sick people flocked to him asking him to heal them. He ... set himself to spend five years in complete silence, traversing, it would seem, Asia Minor, in all directions, but never opening his lips. The more than Trappist vow of silence which he thus enforced upon himself seems to have further enhanced his reputation for holiness ... If we may believe his biographer he professed to know all languages without having learned them, to know the inmost thoughts of men, to understand the language of birds and animals, and to have the power of predicting the future. He also remembered his former incarnation, for he shared the pythagorean belief of the migration of human souls from body to body, both of animals and of human beings. He preached a rigid asceticism, and condemned all dancing and other diversions of the kind; he would carry no money on his person and recommended to others to spend their money in the relief of the poorer classes. He visited Persia and India, where he consorted with the Brahmans; he subsequently visited Egypt, and went up the Nile in order to acquaint himself with those precursors of the monks of the Thebaid called in those days the Gymnosophists or naked philosophers. He visited the cataracts of the Nile, and returning to Alexandria held long converstaions with Vespasian and Titus soon after the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the latter. He had a few years before, in the course of a visit to Rome, incurred the wrath of Nero, whose minister Tigellinus however was so intimidated by him as to set him at liberty. After the death of Titus he was again arrested, this time by the Emperor Domitian, as a fomenter of sedition, but was apparently acquitted. He died at an advanced age in the reign of Nerva, who befriended him; and according to popular tradition he ascended bodily to heaven, appearing after death to certain persons who entertained doubts about future life.

Towards the end of the third century when the struggle between Christianity and decadent Paganism had reached its last and bitterest stage, it occurred to some of the enemies of the new religion to set up Apollonius, to whom temples and shrines had been erected in various parts of Asia Minor, as a rival to the founder of Christianity. The many miracles which were recorded of Apollonius, and in particular his eminent power over evil spirits or demons, made him a formidable rival in the minds of Pagans to Jesus Christ. And a certain Hierocles, who was a provincial governor under Emperor Diocletian, wrote a book to show that Apollonius had been as great a sage, as remarkable a worker of miracles, and as potent an exorcist as Jesus Christ. His work gave great offence to the missionaries of the Christian religion, and Eusebius the Christian historian wrote a treatise in answer, in which he alleges that Apollonius was a mere charlatan, and if a magician at all, then one of very inferior powers; he also argues that if he did achieve any remarkable results, it was thanks to the evil spirits with whom he was in league. Eusebius is careful, however, to point out that before Hierocles, no anti-Christian writer had thought of putting forward Apollonius as the rival or equal of Jesus of Nazareth. It is possible of course that Hierocles took his cue from the emperor Alexander Severus (AD 205-235), who instead of setting up images of the gods in his private shrine, established therein, as objects of his veneration, statues of Alexander the Great, Orpheus, Apollonius of Tyana, Abraham, and Christ. This story however in no way contradicts the statement of Eusebius, and it is a pity that this significant caution of the latter has been disregarded by Christian writers of the last three centuries, who have unanimously adopted a view that is utterly unwarranted, namely, that Philostatus intended his life of Apollonius as a counterblast to that of the Christian gospel. The best scholars of the present generation [Ed: 1912] are opposed to this view, for they realise that demoniac possession was a common feature in the ancient landscape, and that the exorcist driving demons out of the afflicted human beings by the use of threats and invocations of mysterious names was as familiar a figure in old Pagan society as he was in the early church. We read that wherever Apollonius travelled, he visited the temples, and undertook to reform the cults which he there found in vogue. His reform seems to have been consistent in this, that he denounced as derogatory to the gods the practice of sacrificing to them animal victims and tried to persuade the priests to abandon it. In this respect he prepared the ground for christianity and was working along the same lines as many of the christian missionaries. In the third century Porphyry the philosopher and the enemy of christianity was as zealous in his condemnation of blood- offerings, as Apollonius had been in the first. Unquestionably the neo-pythagorean propaganda did much to discredit ancient paganism, and Apollonius and its other missionaries were all unwittingly working for that ideal of bloodless sacrifice which, after the destruction of the jewish temple, by an inexorable logic imposed itself on the christian church. It is well to conclude this all too brief notice of Apollonius with a passage cited by Eusebius from his lost work concerning sacrifice. There is no good reason for doubting its authenticity, and it is an apt summary of his religious beliefs:- "In no other manner, I believe, can one exhibit a fitting respect for the divine being, beyond any other men make sure of being singled out as an object of his favour and good-will, than by refusing to offer to God whom we termed First, who is One and separate from all, as subordinate to whom we must recognise all the rest, any victim at all; to Him we must not kindle fire or make promise unto him of any sensible object whatsoever. For He needs nothing even from beings higher than ourselves. Nor is there any plant or animal which earth sends up or nourished, to which some pollution is not incident. We should make use in relation to him solely of the higher speech, I mean of that which issues not by the lips; and from the noblest of beings we must ask for blessings by the noblest faculty we possess, and that faculty is intelligence, which needs no organ. On these principals then we ought not on any account to sacrifice victims to the mightly and supreme God." - F.C. Conybeare


Laten we nu Philostratus zelf aan het woord. Allereerst toont Apollonius zijn grote moed en integriteit voor de eunuch:

He passed on to the borders of Babylon; and here was a frontier garrison belonging to the king, which one could not pass by without being questioned who one was ... "Whence do you come to us," he said, "and who sent you?" as if he was asking questions of a spirit. And Apollonius replied: "I have sent myself, to see whether I can make men of you, whether you like it or not." He asked a second time who he was to come, trespassing like that into a king's country, and Apollonius said: "All the earth is mine, and I have a right to go all over it and through it." Whereupon the other said: "I will torture you, if you don't answer my questions." "And I hope," said the other, "that you will do it with you own hands, so that you may catch it well, if you touch a true man." Now the eunuch was astonished to find that Apollonius needed no interpreter, but understood what he said without the least trouble or difficulty. "By the gods," he said, "who are you?" this time altering his tone to a whine of entreaty. And Apollonius replied: "Since you have asked me civilly this time and not so rudely as before, listen, I will tell you who I am: I am Apollonius of Tyana, and my road leads me to the king of India.

De eunuch biedt Apollonius geld aan, wijn, ham en wildbraad, maar deze weigert:

"Well," said Apollonius, "you can offer me a lighter repast and give me bread and dried fruits." "I will give you," said the other, "leavened bread and palm dates, like amber and of good size. And I will also supply you with vegetables, the best which the gardens of the tigris afford." "well," said apollonius, "the wild herbs which grow free are nicer than those which are forced and artificial."

Uit het verhaal 'The King of Babylon':

Now the king caught sight of Apollonius approaching ... And when Apollonius approached and saluted him, the king addressed him in the greek language and invited him to sacrifice with him and it chanced that he was on the point of sacrificing to the sun as a victim a horse of the true nisaean breed, which he had adorned with trappings as if for a triumphal procession. But apollonius replied: "Do you, o king, go on with your sacrifice, in your own way, but permit me to sacrifice in mine." And he took up a handful of frankincense and said: "O thou sun, send me as far over the earth as is my pleasure and thine, and may I make the acquaintance of good men, but never hear anything of bad ones, nor they of me." And with these words he threw the frankincense into the fire, and watched to see how the smoke of it curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how many points it shot up; and in a manner he caught the meaning of the fire, and watched how it appeared of good omen and pure. Then he said: "Now, o king, go on with your sacrifice in accordance with your own traditions, for my traditions are such as you see." And he quitted the scene of sacrifice in order not to be present at the shedding of blood.

Het verhaal 'The boy and the elephant - on the nature of control' beschrijft een dertienjarig jongetje op de rug van een olifant. Het jongetje 'bestuurt' de olifant en Damis, de trouwe metgezel van Apollonius, is vol bewondering over de 'controle' die het kind uitoefent over het reusachtige dier. Maar Apollonius bewondert iets anders, een controle van binnenuit:

This animal is docile beyond all others ... he will put up with anything at the hands of man, and he makes it his business to be tractable and obedient to him, and he loves to eat out of his hands, in the way little dogs do; and when his master approaches he fondles him with his trunk, and he will allow him to thrust his head into his jaws, and he holds them as wide open as his master likes, as we have seen among the nomads. But of a night the elephant is said to lament his state of slavery, yest by heven, not by trumpeting in his ordinary way, but by wailing mournfully and piteously. And if a man comes upon him when he is lamenting in this way, the elephant stops his dirge at once as if he were ashamed. Such control, o damis, has he over himself, and it is his instinctive obedience which actuates him rather than the man who sits upon and directs him.

Over affectie gaat het verhaal 'Of the kingdom of the animals'. Er wordt gedetailleerd gekeken naar het gedrag van dieren en Apollonius beschrijft de instinctieve intelligentie en wijsheid en hij verwerpt de opvatting dat dieren geen gevoelens van affectie zouden kennen ("those who idly dispute whether the affection of animals for their young is natural"):

And Apollonius saw a herd, I think, of about thirty elephants crossing over the River Indus, and they were following as their leader the smallest among them; but the bigger ones had picked up their young ones on their projecting tusks, where they held them fast by twining their trunks around them. Said Apollonius: "No one, O Damis, has instructed them to do this, but they act of their own instinctive wisdom and cleverness; and you see how, like baggage-porters, they have picked up their young, and have them bound fast on, and so carry them along." "I see," he said, "Apollonius, how cleverly and with what sagacity they do this. What then is the sense of this silly speculation indulged in by those who idly dispute whether the affection of animals for their young is natural or not, when these very elephants, by their conduct, proclaim that it is so, and that it comes to them by nature? ... "And," said Apollonius, "you need not, Damis, confine your remarks to elephants; for this animal is only second to man, in my opinion, in understanding and foresight; but I am thinking rather of bears, for they are the fiercest of all animals, and yet they will do anything for their whelps; and also of wolves, amoung which, although they are so addicted to plunder, yet the female protects its young ones, and the male brings her food in order to save the life of the whelps. And I also equally have in mind the panther, which, from the warmth of its temperament, delights to become a mother, for that is the time when it is determined to rule the male and be mistress of the household; and the male puts up with anything and everything from her, subordinating everything to the welfare of the offspring. And there is also told the story of the lioness, how she will make a lover of the panther and receive him in the lion's lair in the plain; but when she is going to bring forth her young she flees into the mountains to the haunts of the panthers; for she brings forth young ones that are spotted, and that is why she hides her young and she is spending the day out hunting. For if the lion detected the trick, he would tear the whelps in pieces and claw her offspring as llegitimate. You have read no doubt, also, of one of Homer's lions, and of how he made himself look terrible in behalf of his own whelps and steeled himself to do battle for them. And they say the tigress, although she is the cruellest animal in this country, will approach the ships on the Red Sea, to demand back her whelps; and if she gets them back, she goes off mightily delighted; but if the ships sail away, they say that she howls along the sea-coast and somethimes dies outright. And who does not know the ways of birds, how that the eagles and the cranes will not build their nests until they have fixed in them, the one an eagle-stone, and other a stone of light, to help the hatching out of the eggs and to drive away the snakes. And if we look at creatures in the sea, we need not wonder at the dolphins loving their offspring, for they are superior creatures; but shall we not admire the whales and seals and the vivparious species? For I once saw a seal that was kept shut up at Aegae in the circus, and she mourned so deeply for her whelp, which had died after being born in confinement, that she refused food for three days together, although she is the most voracious of animals. And the whale takes up its young ones into the cavities of its throat, whenever it is fleeing from a creature bigger than itself. And a viper has been seen licking the serpents which it had borened, and caressing them with her tongure, which she shoots out for the purpose. But we need not entertain, Damis, the silly story that the young of vipers are brought into the world without mothers; for that is a thing which is consistent neither with nature nor with experience." Damis then resumed the conversation by saying: "you will allow me then to praise euripides, for this iambic line which he puts into the mouth of andromache. And in the case of all men, then, their life lay in their children." "I admit, " said Apollonius, "that that is said cleverly and divinely; but much cleverer and truer would have been the verse, if it had included all animals." "Then you would like," said damis, "o Apollonius, to rewrite the line so that we might sing it as follows: "And in the case of all animals, then, their life lay in their children." And i agree with you, for it is better so.

'Of the order of wild elephants crossing the river' onderzoekt opnieuw het intelligent gedrag van dieren. Apollonius' overwegingen staan niet ver af van de moderne verklaringen over de functionaliteit en doelgerichtheid van dierlijk gedrag.

But tell me this: did we not, at the beginning our conversation, declare that the elephants display wisdom and intelligence in what they do?" "Why certainly," he replied, "we did say so, Damis; for if intelligence did not govern this animal, neither would it subsist, nor the populations among which it lived." "Why then," said Damis, "do they conduct their passage over the river in a way so stupid and inconvenient to themselves? For as you see, the smallest one is leading the way, and he is followed by a slightly larger one, then comes another still larger than he, and the biggest ones come last of all. But surely they ought to travel in the opposite fashion, and make the biggest ones a wall and rampart in front of themselves." "But," replied Apollonius, "in the first place they appear to running away from men who are pursuing them, and whom we shall doubtless come across, as they follow the animals' tracks; and they must and ought to use their best strength to fortify their rear against attack, as is done in war; so that you may regard the elephant as the best tactician to be found among animals. Secondly, as they are crossing a river, if their biggest ones went first, that would not enable the rest of the herd to judge whether the water is shallow enough for all to pass; for the tallest ones would find the passage practicable and easy, but the others would find it dangerous and difficult, because they would not rise above the level of the stream. But the fact that the smallest is able to get across is a sign in itself to the rest that there is no difficultry. And morever, if the bigger ones went in first, they would deepen the river for the small ones, for the mud is forced to settle down into ruts and trenches, owing to the heaviness of the animal and the thickness of his feet; whereas the larger ones are in no way prejudiced by the smaller ones, crossing in front, because they sink in less deeply.

Bij zijn bezoek aan de Indische koning Phroates toont Apollonius zich verrukt over diens sobere levenswijze. De koning leeft 'like a philosopher':

Apollonius also asked him about his diet, and he replied: "I drink just as much wine as I pour out in libation to the Sun; and whatever I take in the chase I give to others to eat, for I am satisfied with the exercise I get. But my own meal consists of vegetables and of the pith and fruit of date palms, and of all that a well-watered garden yields in the way of fruit. And a great deal of fruit is yielded to me by the trees which i cultivate with these hands." When Apollonius heard this, he was more than gratified, and kept glancing at Damis.


Bronnen

-Philostratus (1995)
-Spencer (1995)



menukaart
plutarchus
aristoteles