APOLLONIUS OF TYANA [’Απολλωνιος ‘ο Τυανευς (in Cappadocia)]—a Pythagorean philosopher of the first century AD.
After long journeys he stopped in Ephesus and founded a school. He propagated the Pythagorean way of life and Pythagorean philosophy. Because his works have vanished and the remaining information about him is not sufficiently credible, it is difficult to determine whether he remained faithful to the doctrine of Pythagoras or followed the precepts of the neo-Pythagoreans. Although hundreds of letters signed with his name to various people exist, there is no certainty that they are from him. The letters have a sentimental and pantheistic tendency. In the letters we can see Apollonius’ religious spirit which in his views tended to show that all existing things constitute one single whole of a spiritual character. He built his spirituality on a canvas of magic wisdom and drew on the heritage of Orpheus and Pythagoras.
We find extensive but not very reliable information on Apollonius in Philostratus’s work The Life of Apollonius of Tyana written at the request of Julia Domna, the wife of Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 AD.). Apollonius was presented as a wise man who by meditation achieved a sublimity never before attained by man. He even did without physical necessities and was able to work every miracle. He was said to have raise a dead little girl and to have freed many possessed people. Philostratus added color to the figure of Apollonius and tells fictitious stories; some of these recall events from the Gospels or descriptions of the acts of St. Paul the Apostle. On the basis of this work, Hierocles wrote a parallel comparision of Jesus with Apollonius to emphasize the supremacy of Jesus. Emperor Caracalla (211–217) who succeeded to Septimius Severus, built a temple to Apollonius. Emperor Alexander Severus (222–235) worshiped him along with Abraham, Orpheus, and Jesus. Emperor Aurelian (270–275) spared Tyana as the birthplace of Apollonius, after planning to destroy it.
For all these reasons, what information we have about Apollonius is distorted, but we may conclude that he led a severe way of life and preferred philosophy of mystical and syncretic tendencies. This is understandable, considering that Apollonius worked within pagan mysteries at a time when the Roman Empire ruled much of the world and there was an intense struggle against Christianity. As a counterweight to Christ, the Romans introduced miracle-workers who lived and worked according to the old beliefs. Hence Philostratus ascribed an alleged miraculous power to Apollonius. Philostratus used the memoirs of an Assyrian named Damidius who was a direct disciple of Apollonius to arrange his compilation; he was also the source of the story of how Apollonius was taken to heaven, constructed to show a parallel to Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven.
Gheezi, Apollonius di Tiana nella storia e nella legenda, R 1910; idem, Studio sulla vita di Apollonius di Tiana di F. Filostrato, Ascole Piceno 1912; G. R. Mead, Apollonius di Tiana. Il filosofo riformatore del I sec. della nostra era, Tn 1926; F. Klum, Apollonios, B 1927; A. L. Constant, Il dogma e il rituale dell’alta magia, R 19493; P. de Labriolle, La réaction paienne, P 1934, 195010; T. Sinko, Literatura grecka [Greek literature], III 1, Kr 1951; B. F. Haris, Apollonius of Tyana. Fact and Fiction, Journal of Religious History 5 (1969), 189–199; G. Petzke, Die Traditionen über Apollonius von Tyana und das Neue Testament, Lei 1970.