Apollonius of Tyana Analysis

Life

Apollonius of Tyana (ap-uh-LOH-nee-uhs of TI-uh-nuh) was a first century c.e. neo-Pythagorean who became the focus of a small mystical religious movement in the Roman Empire. Most of the information about him comes from the third century c.e. writer Flavius Philostratus, who was commissioned by Empress Julia Domna to write a biography of Apollonius, most likely in order to counteract the influence of Christianity on Roman civilization. Philostratus depicted Apollonius as Christlike in demeanor, power, and the ability to perform miracles. Shrines and other memorials were erected by some of Apollonius’s followers to honor and worship him.

Apollonius promoted the Pythagorean ideal—emphasizing occult wisdom, purity, tolerance, and the achievement of divinity. Many Pythagoreans established communities in which philosophical study, vegetarianism, and sexual abstinence were practiced. Apollonius of Tyana was much influenced by that tradition and believed that he was a reincarnation of Pythagoras. Philostratus portrayed Apollonius as a philosophical saint, comparable to Jesus Christ, who was capable of performing miracles such as the raising of the dead.

Influence

For a brief period of time in the third century c.e., a small religious movement of Apollonius’s disciples posed a mild challenge to Christianity. The movement later became one of several minor occult sects.

Additional Resources

Mead G. R. S. Apollonious of Tyana. Chicago: Ares, 1980.

Philostratus. The Gospel of Apollonius of Tyana: His Life and Deeds According to Philostratus. Kila, Mont.: Kessinger, 1999.

Philostratus. The Life of Apollonious of Tyana. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1912.