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Philostratros’ Life of Apollonios of Tyana and its Literary Context

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Nikoletta Kanavou

Chapter 5: The Written Word

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Οὗτος καὶ Θηβαὶοις τῶν Κἀβειρων τήν τελετήν κατεστήσατο, ἀνὲθηκε δὲ καὶ ὲς τὸ κλὶσιον τὸ Λυκομιδῶν εικὸνα ἔχουσαν ὲπὶγραμμα ἂλλα τε λὲγον καὶ ὄσα ἡμῖν ἐς πὶστιν συντελεῖ τοῦ λὸγου·

It was this man [i.e. Methapus] who established the mysteries of the Cabiri at Thebes, and dedicated in the hut of the Lycomidae a statue with an inscription that amongst other things helps to confirm my account. (Pausanias 4.1.7)

I. Introductory Notes

  • 1 Herodotos mentions no more than thirty inscriptions (there are some unclear cases, and the method o (...)
  • 2 But not engraved images (of which there are a few, e.g. the bronze tablets at Taxila, which picture (...)
  • 3 On this exclusion, see Introduction and also below.
  • 4 Thus Sironen (2003, 296).
  • 5 On inscriptions in literary sources, see, more broadly, Liddel and Low (eds 2013).

1The previous chapters have demonstrated that theVA’s narrative is in dialogue with various types of other fictitious and semi-fictitious narratives, and have discussed manifestations of this dialogue in the treatment of such vital narrative themes as sōphrosynē, erōs and travel. This rich and varied literary context lies in the background of the transformation of the historical nucleus of Apollonios’ story into fiction and helps us to discern more clearly the various forms of literary embellishment, which the sage’s portrait has undergone. The present chapter proposes another line of enquiry that enhances our perception of the VA’s literary context and contributes to the assessment of the work’s literary ideology: the examination of references to written sources, mainly inscribed textuality, which has not been studied in detail for the VA, and which has been extensively treated as a barometer of historical truthfulness in classical historiography, especially in the works of Herodotos.1 The material to be considered includes inscriptions on stone, but also inscribed objects more generally,2 as well as texts of (and references to) writing tablets and papyrus documents, with the exclusion of letters.3 While it may be generally true that letters provide richer interpretive ground than short inscribed texts,4 the careful reading and contextualisation of inscriptions in literature reveals their contribution not only to verisimilitude, but also to the richness of plot and characterisation;5 inscriptions are in that sense no less worthy of interpretive attention than letters.

  • 6 See, introductorily, Bodel (2001, 6-15, with bibliography).
  • 7 See e.g. the definition of ‘document’ used by Rhodes (2007, 56).
  • 8 On the benefits of contextualising inscriptions in literary texts and of narrativising epigraphy, s (...)

2Allusions to inscribed texts in the VA have only a loose connection to the real Greco-Roman ‘epigraphic habit’, which reached its high point between the first and third centuries.6 As we shall see, the VA’s inscriptions are largely non-typical, and no doubt nearly all are fictitious. Still, they function as ‘documents’ that provide information about or serve as a record of narrated events.7 It will be shown that references to written textuality in the VA shed valuable light on both the way the work was conceived by Philostratos as a project and the author’s literary self-awareness; the latter, it will be argued, is further demonstrated in the function of those references as narrative tools, plot activators and triggers of characterisation,8 particularly with respect to the unfolding of the main hero’s central virtue, his sōphrosynē.

  • 9 See also the Introduction.
  • 10 This may imply his historicity, assuming that the narrator would not have invented a person and cre (...)
  • 11 On records of cities, see Dzielska (1986, 51-84). On Apollonios’ letters, see the Introduction.
  • 12 See Bowie (1994, 195-196), with examples from the text. Apollonios is also said to have been accomp (...)
  • 13 See above, the last section of ch. 2, on the notion of an appropriate ending.

3It is worth stressing that the VA’s narrator introduces his story as derived almost in its entirety from written sources, and the reader is reminded of these sources (and is informed of additional ones) as the narrative proceeds. Allusions to inscribed texts are indeed part of a broader framework of references to written textuality, on which the narrator claims to base his story; some remarks on this framework are in order here. The narrator claims to be aware of three written biographies of Apollonios (1.3).9 He claims that his narrative has profited from two of these: the memoirs of Damis and the book of Maximos of Aigai. The latter’s writings were allegedly confined to the time spent by Apollonios at Aigai, and indeed Philostratos mentions Maximos for a second (and last) time at the end of his section on that stay, with a note on the latter’s status that is meant to confirm his trustworthiness (1.12.2: ‘This and much else of this kind has been recorded [ξυγγὲγραπται] by Maximos of Aigai, who as an admired speaker was put in charge of the imperial correspondance’).10 The most prominent piece of written literature mentioned in the VA, however, with implications for the narrative as a whole, is without doubt Damis’ inscribed deltoi, i.e. the ‘notebooks’ containing the memoirs of Apollonios’ most devoted pupil. They are said to have provided ‘much more detailed’ information (ἀκριβἑστερα, 1.3.1) than other sources at the author’s disposal, which are summarised at 1.2.3: records from cities and shrines which benefited from visits by Apollonios, other people’s reports, and Apollonios’ own epistles.11 These other sources are notably mixed in nature, and contain oral material (ὲξ ῷν εἶπον ἔτεροι περὶ αὐτοῦ); but they are scattered and fragmented, while Damis’ record (mentioned also at 1.19.3, 1.20.3; cf. 2.28.1 for deltoi) is allegedly complete and straight, even if the narrative (which alludes to the other sources as it progresses) is often vague about what exactly it derives from it.12 Presumably Damis’ deltoi and Maximos’ work (unlike that of Moiragenes) contained a positive appreciation of Apollonios and his virtue, on which the VA’s narrative elaborates. Damis’ account ends at 8.29, and the narrator admits that there is no fixed story about the end of Apollonios’ life. He seems at first to imply that the absence of a reliable source might result in the complete omission of Apollonios’ ‘death’ from his narrative, a possibility he then rejects as he considers the narratorial need to give a ‘proper ending’ to his story.13 He proceeds to offer three versions, all based on hearsay; two have a supernatural character (this is not necessarily relevant to the oral nature of their source: Damis’ account also contained supernatural events).

  • 14 Cf. the use of oral sources by Herodotos; see Rhodes (2007, 56), who notes the great value of oral (...)
  • 15 See also above, Introduction.

4Although the narrator does not question the value of oral sources,14 the predominance of the written evidence over the oral in the narrative’s announcement of the sources for Apollonios’ life implies a belief in the superiority of the former as a guarantor of truth and reliability. The enumeration of written ‘sources’ at the beginning of the narrative suggests the narrator’s eagerness to convince his readers of the truth and accuracy of his account. In reality, such a list of sources constitutes no guarantee of either truth or accuracy. The alleged use of a similar written source by Antonios Diogenes,15 the author of the purely fictitious Thoule travelogue, is a good example of the evocation of written textuality as a way of ‘verifying’ fictitious narrative. Like Antonios’ tablets, Damis’ deltoi define the narrative agenda, and they are ingenuously introduced in such a manner so as to offer further justification to the narrator’s task. While they are deemed trustworthy as a historical source for the content of Philostratos’ own work, they are criticised for their low literary quality (VA 1.3.1):

... μεταγρἀψαι τε προσὲταξε τἀς διατριβἀς ταὑτας και τῆς ἀπαγγελὶας αὐτῶν ἐπιμεληθῆναι, τῷ γἀρ Νινίῳ σαφῶς μὲν, οὑ μἡν δεξιῶς γε ἀπηγγἑλλετο.

[Julia Domna] set me to transcribe these works of Damis and to take care over their style, since the style of the man from Ninos was clear but rather unskillful.

  • 16 Damis’ skills and philosophical qualities receive a mixed review in the VA. He is ‘not devoid of wi (...)
  • 17 Cf. Whitmarsh (2007b, 414), who compares the VA’s narrator to Herodotos in his handling of sources.
  • 18 See also above, ch. 3.

5In Philostratos’ literary construct, the alleged existence of Damis’ written but raw (from a literary point of view) testimony provides double justification, on the one hand for the accuracy of Philostratos’ writings, and on the other hand, for his need to compose the VA as a work that both preserves Damis’ account of the life of Apollonios and pleases the reader with its literary style.16 It is evidently clear from the start that we are dealing with a highly self-conscious narrative, which both aspires to be a work of quality rhetoric in good sophistic (and philosophical) spirit, and additionally asserts its validity by weaving explicit connections with the written word. This is the type of book that Philostratos qua narrator sets out to produce; his treatment of ‘Damis’ reveals the narrator’s self-perception. The narrator further places himself in the privileged position of evaluator/judge of the main sources for his subject17 and uses as his main criterion these sources’ depiction of Apollonios’ character. Not every written narrative testimony is deemed trustworthy, and Moiragenes’ account is ignored. In particular, it is implied that the written sources about the sage are influential in shaping views of his virtue and character, but some are misleading. A source evoked by the narrator, only to be ignored for being malevolent, is a text allegedly composed by the Stoic philosopher Euphrates, an enemy of Apollonios; this was clearly a negative portrait, which the narrator describes as a ‘mendacious attack’ (ψευδῆ γρἀμματα, 1.13.3) that sought to distort Apollonios sōphrosynē.18 It is Philostratos’ task to set the record straight.

II. Forms of Written Textuality in the VA

  • 19 Cf. Sironen (2003) on references to inscriptions as a technique of authentication in fictitious nar (...)
  • 20 See further Kasprzyk (2013, 284-285) on letters that facilitate Apollonios’ travels. An exceptional (...)

6Philostratos’ list of sources for the life and character of Apollonios is not the only context of authorial references to written literacy. ‘Damis’ and the narrator’s other sources serve, as it were, as a first layer or level of authentication. There is also a second level: the textual sources, which are mentioned in the course of the narrative, mostly in the long section covered by the testimony of ‘Damis’. These are meant to provide authentication to the narrator’s source and thus reinforce the narrative’s assumptions of historical validity.19 They also embellish and promote the narrative, and fit the image of the main hero (when he interacts with them), who clearly acquired familiarity with the written word as part of his education (γρἀμματα, 1.7.1) and used writing to produce books and other forms of written communication, including letters, which are testimonies to his sōphrōn virtue. Letter-writing is in fact the most frequent and substantial form of written communication in the VA, and Apollonios is not the only character made to invest in it. Of other letter-writers (including the philosopher Musonios), the Indian king Phraotes deserves a special mention: the narrator provides the full text of his letter to larchas (2.41), which plays the role of a character reference for the recipient, who is about to receive a visit from the sage. The letter, ten lines long and certainly Philostratos’ own creation, praises Apollonios’ sophia, and thus counts among these ‘sources’ that solidify the sage’s characterisation. The follow-up to this at 3.16 – where larchas, on seeing Apollonios, demands to see the letter – proves not only the former’s clairvoyance (he was aware that Apollonios carried such a document), but also confirms the importance of the written word as a means of transmitting reliable information and proving identity. The content of the letter clearly determines the way Apollonios is subsequently treated by the Wise Men.20

  • 21 Except for a small fragment from On sacrifices, probably genuine (mentioned briefly in ch. 1 above) (...)
  • 22 See also Introduction.
  • 23 Travellers’ tales, perhaps with some unidentifiable historical features? Apollonios’ legend and pur (...)
  • 24 On the typology followed here, cf. Sironen (2003, 299-300).

7Apollonios’ books are not preserved,21 and his letters (mostly of uncertain authenticity)22 have been studied in detail. As noted already, this is not true for other mentions of writing in the VA, which feature in several places of the work and enrich both plot and characterisation. The presumed inclusion of nearly all of them in Damis’ memoirs (whatever their provenance23) allows the narrator to turn them into a lively component of his story. A survey follows below.24

1. Records

  • 25 The text has also been treated as a letter and is included in editions of Apollonios’ letters. See (...)

8a. During his silent period, Apollonios uses a writing tablet (γραμµατεῖον, 1.15.3) to express his reproach of the corn merchants of Aspendos in Pamphylia (south coast of Asia Minor), who are guilty of holding back the grain at a time of famine. The text is quoted in full.25 Here is the relevant passage:

Τιμῶν δὲ τὸ τῆς σιωπῆς δὸγμα γρἀφει ὲς γραμματεῖον ὲπὶπληξιν καὶ δὶδωσιν ἀναγνῶναι τῷ ἀρχοντι· ή δὲ ὲπὶπληξις ὧδε εἶχεν· ‘Ἀπολλῶνιος σιτοκαπήλοις Ἀσπενδὶων. Ἡ γῆ πἀντων μήτηρ, δικαὶα γἀρ, ὐμεῖς δἐ ἀδικοι ὄντες πεποὶησθε αὑτήν αυτῶν μὸνων μητὲρα, καὶ εὶ μή παὑσεσθε, οὑκ ὲἀσω ὑμἀς ὲπ’ αὑτής ὲστἀναι.’ Ταῦτα δεὶσαντες ὲνὲπλησαν τήν ἀγορἀν σὶτου καὶ ἀνεβίω ή πὸλις.

Yet he obeyed his vow of silence, writing his reproach on a writing tablet and giving it to the magistrate to read. This was his reproach: ‘Apollonius to the com merchants of Aspendos. The earth in her justice is the mother of all, but you in your injustice have made her mother to yourselves alone. If you do not stop I will not even let you stand on the earth’s face.’ Frightened by his words, they flooded the market with grain, and the city revived.

9b. An official at Babylon registers Apollonios’ details on a γραμματεῖον (‘writing tablet’, 1.27). The text is not quoted, but we hear that Apollonios gave ‘his name, his family, his profession and his purpose in coming’.

  • 26 On the practice of physiognomy, see also above, ch. 3.

10c. Public documents (γρἀμματα), which contain information about parentage, are consulted by officials in India in order to assess the aptness of those intending to study philosophy (2.30.2). The context here also acknowledges the importance of witnesses (who presumably give oral testimony about the candidates), as well as of physiognomy26 for judging character.

  • 27 On the Ionian koinon in the imperial period and the Panionia (also mentioned in Philostr. VS 2.612) (...)
  • 28 See McLean (2002, 215). The term ψήφισμα features once more in the VA for a hypothetical motion tha (...)

11d. In the context of his visit to Smyrna at the time of the Panionia (4.5), Apollonios receives official invitation, expressed in the form of a decree (ψήφισμα), to participate in the meeting of the Ionian league.27 The text is not given, but readers are informed that the sage was upset by the lonians’ use of Roman names in the text of the resolution, such as ‘Lucullus’ (named as the motion’s head) and ‘Fabricius’. The writing material is not mentioned. Decrees were written on a range of materials, including papyrus, wood and stone;28 the context does not make clear whether a portable form of the psephisma was brought and shown to Apollonios or he viewed an inscribed version of it (an inscription with a honorific function, presumably erected in a public place) while at Smyrna.

  • 29 On this term’s meanings, see DGE s.v. γραμματεῖον.

12e. The charge of impiety, which is brought against Apollonios in Rome at the time of Nero, is said to be recorded in a γραμματεῖον (‘written document’, 4.44.2).29 The text is not quoted. When Tigellinus unrolls (ἀνελὶττων) the relevant document (probably papyrus), it is found to contain no writing.

  • 30 Jones translates ‘paper’; Mumprecht’s German has ‘Schrift’, and Del Como’s Italian ‘scritto’. Βιβλὶ (...)
  • 31 ‘What knowledge, Apollonius, makes you wear clothing that is not the same as everyone else’s, but p (...)

13f. A βιβλὶον containing the charges (ξυγγεγραμμὲνον τἀς αιτὶας) against Apollonios features in the sage’s final trial in Rome in the presence of the emperor Domitian (8.4). The contents of this βιβλὶον30 are not directly quoted but can be gleaned from the interrogation to which the sage is subjected (a foretaste of which is found in the prefect Aelianus’ relevant warning to Apollonios before trial, at a meeting that convinces the prefect of the sage’s wisdom and virtue, 7.20). The emperor asks four questions, presumably based on respective written charges.31 There were more charges, but the emperor passed them over ‘as not worth making anybody answer’ – a hint at the not very high quality of the document’s contents (8.5).

  • 32 Cf. the formal start of Apollonios’ hearing at 4.44: ‘Apollonius named his father, his city, and hi (...)
  • 33 See Meyer (2004, 85-86), citing a number of sources and examples.

14The mention of records, which reflect real administrative practice, clearly serves the purpose of authenticating a number of narrative details, mainly concerning Apollonios, his journeys and his persecution by authorities.32 In particular, the account of the sage’s experience of Roman courts echoes known practices of the Roman judicial system: accusations were written down and read out.33 In one instance (c), the mention of documents supports the narrator’s account of an Indian practice, specifically the selection process for future philosophers, which makes use both of written information on candidates and live witnesses. This implies a synergy between the spoken and the written word, which we will encounter again below.

  • 34 On some historical background to the selling of grain in extraordinary circumstances, which could b (...)
  • 35 See Raeymackers (2000, 284-285) for examples; see also above, ch. 2.
  • 36 The Stoic view of Nature as a good and rational being is relevant to its identification with God; s (...)
  • 37 Cf. Haake (2013, 93-100; 107-108) on the function of two Athenian honorary decrees which he associa (...)
  • 38 See also above, ch. 1, n. 178 and further Goldhill (2001, 5-6). The combined use of Greek and Roman (...)

15The historical context of Apollonios’ letter to the grain-merchants is conceivable (though the letter itself is clearly not authentic).34 As a narrative theme, Apollonios’ intervention in the affairs of Aspendos is reminiscent of similar stories about visits of travelling sophists and sages to cities experiencing discord.35 But the main function of the incident, which is enriched by the writing tablet lying in its centre, is to contribute to the sage’s characterisation, since it encapsulates his moral concern for justice – an aspect of his sōphrosynē – and reveals a philosophical outlook which perceives a contrast between the goodness of nature (a Stoic concept)36 and the injustice of men. The force of the threat, which comes at the end of Apollonios’ reproach, stands in balance with the high emotional tone in the preceding narrative, which describes the gathering of a starved and desperate crowd, crying and ‘groaning as if about to die’ (1.15.3). The depiction of such a situation emphasises the self-discipline (another dimension of sōphrosynē) involved in Apollonios’ keeping of silence (‘he could scarcely help breaking into speech... yet he obeyed his vow of silence’). Apollonios’ personality and holy man’s career, which it is Philostratos’ aim to redeem, finds tangible recognition in the Ionian ψήφισμα at Smyrna,37 while another major aspect of his characterisation, his function as an advocate of classical Greekness, is reflected in his reaction to the listing of Roman names in this decree, which throws into relief the work’s Hellenocentric ideology.38

  • 39 Here lies a marked difference between the VA and narratives about Jesus: Jesus remains silent durin (...)
  • 40 Rhetorical speeches could circulate in written form, even if not necessarily in a single authoritat (...)
  • 41 See above, ch. 1 for explicit allusions to this virtue in the sage’s apology. On the apologia as a (...)

16The mention of written charges against the sage solidifies the fact of Apollonios’ prosecution in Nero’s Rome and increases its emotional effect on the reader. The absence of text from its expected place within a record is also a beneficial mechanism for the narrative. The disappearance of the text containing the accusations at the sage’s trial is a supernatural development that reflects the extraordinary nature of the sage, and it is also felt to undermine his prosecution. The accuser, Tigellinus, proceeds to substitute the written accusation with an oral cross-examination of the sage, in which he alludes not just to Apollonios’ disrespect of Nero but also to his reputation as an exorcist and prophet, with supporting evidence from hearsay. Unlike in (c) above, this oral evidence plays not only a supplementary role, but indeed appears to be necessitated by the absence of the written word, which, it is implied, would be of greater value to the proceedings than any oral testimony. As a potentially dangerous weapon that would threaten the sage, the written word duly disappears, and his oral exchange with Tigellinus showcases his virtuous and divine-like nature (that accounts for his special skills) and results in his eventual release (4.44.4). This procedure foreshadows the great trial of Book 8: before the beginning of the trial, we hear of a written record of the charges (8.4; the fact that this is indeed the second time that these charges are heard – Aelianus had mentioned them to the sage at their meeting – makes them more memorable to the reader); its end sees the sage disappear from the court after triumphing over the emperor at the end of an interrogation (8.5.4). Notably the written word does not vanish this time, but the sage does.39 From the point of view of narrative sequence, the role of the written word in the sage’s prosecution in Book 4 forms part of a prolepsis, which lies in the core of the story’s plot, and which enhances the hero’s characterisation. The disappearance of the written accusation at the first trial foreshadows the sage’s disappearance after the second and greatest trial. The written word is strong, but not stronger than Apollonios, who, being empowered by divine virtue, is a master not only of orality, but also of literacy, which he uses to his advantage: he allegedly composed his lengthy self-defence – a true philosophical tour de force – for the final trial in writing, though intending it for oral performance. As this trial is cut short, the apologia is never delivered (but the VA’s narrator may then claim to quote from a written text, thus ‘proving’ the authenticity of the apology and justifying its inclusion in his narrative: ξυνεγρἀφη, 8.6.1).40 The narrator also treats us to a meta-sophistic insight in the use of rhetoric by the wise man (8.6.1-2): by claiming that a wise man would intentionally use less craftiness so as to reflect wisdom (and thus differs from men with legal training), he implies that his sage is a fully-conscious speaker and writer, who manipulates style and language to the demands of the central feature of his identity, namely ideal virtue. The apologia indeed functions as a solid testimony of Apollonios’ sōphrosynē in its various manifestations and as a vital component of his image in the VA.41

2. Inscriptions / Epitaphs

  • 42 The geography is muddled. Cissia is not near Babylon, as noted by Jones (2001, 194-195).

17a. An inscribed epigram counts among the attractions of ‘Cissia’ in the region of Susa, which is placed by the narrator close to Babylon,42 where the Eretrians, carried by the Persians in the aftermath of the siege of their city (490 BC), had settled. Written on a grave of sailors and shipowners (καὶ τι καὶ ἐλεγεῖον ἀναγνῶναι γεγραμμὲνον ὲπι ναυτῶν τε καὶ ναυκλήρων σήματι· 1.24.2), the four-line poem commemorated the Eretrians’ old life in Euboia, as did carvings on the tombstones, which were allegedly seen by travelers, and which portrayed ships, the symbol of the existence of Eretria’s men, who worked either as sailors or as fishermen. The poem is quoted in full:

Οἴδε ποτ’ Ἀὶγαὶοιο βαθὑρροον οἶδμα πλὲοντες
    Ἔκβατἀνων πεδὶω κεὶμεθ’ ὲνὶ μεσἀτω.
Χαῖρε κλυτή ποτὲ πατρὶς Ερὲτρια, χαὶρετ’ Ἀθήναι,
    γεὶτονες Εὺβοίης, χαῖρε θἀλασσα φὶλη.

Here now we lie on Ecbatana’s plain,
    But once we sailed the deep Aegean’s swell.
Farewell, Eretrian homeland, old in fame,
    And nearby Athens, and dear sea, farewell.

18b. The name ‘Tantalos’, inscribed on a statue of the famous mythical figure, which is seen by Apollonios in India (3.25.3), is part of a vivid ekphrasis, which credits the statue with the appearance of an Argive man of about fifty years of age, with lifelike height (four cubits, about 1.83 tn.).

19c. The famous maxim inscribed at Delphi, ‘Know Thyself’, is mentioned by Apollonios in conversation with the Cynic philosopher Demetrios. In his response to Demetrios’ effort to dissuade him from meeting with Domitian, the sage evokes self-knowledge as a feature and a weapon of wise men (7.14.9-10).

20d. The illegible inscription on the pillars in the sanctuary of Herakles at Gadeira consisted of ‘Tetters that are neither Egyptian nor Indian, nor such as could be guessed’ and was read only by Apollonios (5.5.2).

  • 43 Skopelian further receives a biography in the VS (1.514-521), and Ep. Apoll. 19 is addressed to him (...)
  • 44 See also above, ch. 2, on Apollonios’ philanthropy.

21The Greek inscriptions listed above provide substantial enrichment to the narrative and Apollonios’ characterisation. The epigram (a) is the only verse inscription quoted in the VA and has a special narrative importance, which is reminiscent of the significance of the writing tablet in the Aspendos episode. It provides authentication to Apollonios’ visit to the area, a visit which was foreshadowed by a dream symbolising the Eretrians’ fate (1.23) and was ‘confirmed’ by the sage in a letter to the sophist Skopelian (1.24.3) – seemingly another literary trick.43 The epigram is not only aesthetically pleasant – a nice break of poetry – but also creates an atmosphere that sets the tone of Apollonios’ visit to the Eretrians of Susa. Much like at the meeting of Apollonios with the Aspendians, this is a tone of high emotionality, deriving not only from the poetic echo of a people’s sad fate, but also from the description of Apollonios’ reaction to the site: δακρὑσαντἀ τε καὶ ὑποπλησθὲντα όρμῆς (‘He wept... [and] stood filled with emotion’, 1.24.3; similarly at Aspendos he was moved by the tears of the people, to the point of nearly breaking his silence vow and compromising his sōphrosynē, as we have seen). The reference to the inscribed monument is enclosed within two striking dramatic passages: the account of the sage’s dream (of fish gasping for air and asking for his help), and the description of his sorrow. A sort of katharsis is then attempted in Apollonios’ short speech, where he points out that the Eretrians commemorated on the tombs at least received burial; this temperate remark may echo the spirit of sophistic consolation, but it also takes us back to the image of the sōphrōn sage.44

  • 45 See further Gyselinck and Demoen (2009, 102-104), who discern a subtle intertextual dialogue with H (...)
  • 46 Inscriptions from Susa: C77TI/2 nos. 1-50; IK Estremo Oriente nos. 172-223, including Philostratos’ (...)
  • 47 On such epigrams, see now Tacoma and Tybout (2016), with focus on the Greek East. Verse inscription (...)
  • 48 The fact that the epigram made its way into the Palatine Anthology (7.256), where it is attributed (...)

22The context of the epigram, including the sage’s lament, further raises the familiar issue of cultural identity, a central concern of the VA (and generally of the second sophistic). Despite the fact that they lived among barbarians, the generations of Eretrians that followed retained knowledge of Greek to some extent and wrote Greek letters, albeit not identical with those of the Greeks; presumably they used those letters on their tombs (inscribed in the standard Greek fashion, ‘x son of y’), as well as on the altars which they dedicated to the Persian monarchs (VA 1.24.2). Although the story of the dislocated Eretrians is real enough (it is mentioned by Herodotos, 6.119),45 there is no indication that the tomb seen by Apollonios ever existed.46 The poem, whose date and authorship is not made clear, is presumably not a genuine epitaph. It is related to a tradition of real epigrams that testify to moving and dying abroad, but these always refer to individuals, not to groups.47 However, it bears testimony to diachronic Greekness.48

  • 49 Thus IK Estremo Oriente no. 411.
  • 50 On mythological inconsistencies in the VA, cf. also Anderson’s remarks (2009, 214). Tantalos’ garde (...)

23A statue bearing the name of Tantalos (b) is not attested elsewhere for India, although it is not impossible that such a thing may have existed.49 The mention of the inscribed name ‘Tantalos’ touches on the VA’s interests in the topics of Greekness and moral behaviour (the context is Indian criticism of Greek morality), as well as in mythology, and suggests a ‘correction’ to the standard version: Tantalos is a better man than his myth implies. The statue’s description includes an allusion to this myth (the figure ‘was sipping from a goblet large enough for one thirsty man’), but the statue and the inscribed name are here given positive connotations. The Indians – whose wisdom is strongly praised in the VA, and who are called Osocpi/AaraTOi (‘much favoured by the gods’) – judge Tantalos ‘a good man’ (ἀγαθὸν, 3.25 .3; he is also called theios, 3.25.2), which means that he cannot have incurred the anger of the gods; he only caused the poets to attack him ‘for giving mankind a taste of nectar’ (an act of philanthropic). This version of Tantalos, as a man who is a friend of the gods, and whom the Indians associated with serving a toast of friendship, for being ‘the friendliest of men’ (3.32.2), not only counterfeits this hero’s poor place in Greek myth, but also suggests a parallel to Apollonios, who is theios, philanthropes – and severely misunderstood, judging from the sources on his life and character. However, the Greek king who received eternal punishment for offending the gods is not forgotten, as proven later in the narrative. The mention of Tantalos’ gardens ‘which exist and yet do not exist’ (4.25.4) refers to his proverbial torment, which was witnessed by Odysseus during his visit to Hades (Odyssey 11.582-592). As a comparison for the fake display of luxury at the wedding of Apollonios’ follower, Menippos, to a woman who turned out to be a vampire, Tantalos’ illusory gardens suggest a more standard mythological narrative and a contrast to Apollonios’ association with truth.50

  • 51 The VA’s account of Demetrios’ actions and whereabouts is hopelessly muddled from a chronological p (...)

24The text of the Delphi inscription is enlisted in the rhetorical exchange between Apollonios and Demetrios in Book 7 (12, 14).51 Demetrios had spoken first and elaborated on the risk involved in facing the emperor: Apollonios would be led to his death without a chance of real justice. In his lengthy response, Apollonios argues that it is proper for a wise man to die for his beliefs and emphasises the moral inconsistency involved in acting contrary to one’s values; he draws support for this view from the Delphic maxim:

...καὶ εἴτε Ἀπὸλλωνος αὑτοῦ τὸ Πυθοἳγρἀμμα, εὶτε ἀνδρὸς ὑγιῶς ὲαυτὸν γνὸντος καὶ διἀ τοῦτο γνῶμην αυτὸ ποιουμὲνου ὲς πἀντας, δοκεῖ μοι ὸ σοφὸς ἐαυτὸν γιγνῶσκων καὶ παραστἀτην ἔχων τὸν ἐαυτοῦ νοῦν μήτ’ ἂν πτῆξαί τι ὧν οὶ πολλοὶ, μήτ’ ἂν θαρσῆσαί τι ὧν ἔτεροι μἡ ξὺν αίσχὺνῃ ἂπτονταɩ

Whether the inscription at Delphi is from Apollo himself, or whether it is from someone who truly knew himself and thereafter made it into a maxim for everybody, the wise man who knows himself, and has his own intellect as his companion, can never quail before the same things as most men do, nor bring himself to do what others can venture on only with shame. (7.14.9)

  • 52 On this passage, see further Tuozzo (2011, 185). Cf. Ti. 72a. On self-knowledge, see also above, ch (...)
  • 53 Philostratos’ readers may well think here of the other famous Delphic inscription, μηδἐν ἂγαν which (...)

25Perhaps the most famous Greek inscribed text, it needs no quotation. Its sense is philosophically narrativised in Apollonios’ description of his chosen attitude to freedom, fear and death: the philosopher should know himself and be true to his beliefs, whatever the risks. The connection between sophia, nous and self-knowledge in Apollonios’ words has Platonic overtones: it is reminiscent of Kritias’ use of the same maxim to equate self-knowledge with sōphrosynē in Charmides (164d-165b).52 Just like in Kritias’ speech, the allusion to the inscribed maxim in Apollonios’ response to Demetrios provides philosophical self-validation, including a nod to the sage’s virtue par excellence.53 The fact that the maxim is mentioned twice (7.14.9-10) reveals its importance, and its place towards the end of the sage’s speech means that this is where his argumentation culminates. Like the epigram (a), the maxim (c) further provides an important subtext for much of the VA’s philosophical discourse (cf. especially Apollonios’ exchange with larchas in Book 3, discussed in the previous chapter). The sage’s exhortation to his disciples as they are about to face the threat of Nero (4.38) makes a similar appeal to the philosopher’s ability to rise above fear.

  • 54 App. Hisp. 2; D. S. 5.20.2.
  • 55 See Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016, 96). But note that the Neopythagorean Moderates, a contemporary of (...)
  • 56 VA 5.4 mentions two, one Egyptian and one Theban, but they are not treated consistently. At 2.33.2  (...)
  • 57 As noted above, ch. 1.
  • 58 On Apollonios’ refusal to offer a reading of the inscription, see further Miles (2009, 141-143), wh (...)

26The almost supernatural feel of (d) represents a particularly high point in Apollonios’ relationship to texts and writing. The presence of an inscription that no one could read is in itself realistic enough: the sage and other people present might have been looking at old Phoinikian letters. Gadeira (mod. Cadiz) was a Tyrian foundation, and according to ancient authors, the temple of Herakles at the pillars was founded by Phoinikians.54 Additionally, pace the VA’s narrator, Gadeira does not seem to have undergone a process of Hellenisation.55 The addition of a Theban Herakles56 suits the narrative’s Hellenic agenda, but the writing, allegedly inscribed by the Egyptian Herakles on the pillars, is not Greek. For the purposes of the narrative, it is irrelevant whether the sage was confronted with the obscure Punic language or with unknown letters of possibly Egyptian provenance and mystic symbolism. As a result of his closeness to the divine, which is made possible by his excellent virtue, Apollonios once again proves stronger than the written word, whose power is in this case entailed in its illegibility and its elusiveness to the average mortals. After all, he is the sage who knows all languages:57 of foreign people (1.19.2), of animals (1.20.3) and now of undecipherable inscriptions. Although Apollonios claims to have been instructed by the Egyptian Herakles to reveal his knowledge, he does not offer a verbatim translation of the inscription but only alludes to its significance for the harmony between the elements, which finds a symbolic expression in the function of the pillars that ‘bind Earth and Ocean together’.58 The role of the written word here is both self-referential (mystic letters reveal a ‘secret’ of cosmic significance) and is suggestive of Apollonios’ quasi-divine extraordinariness.

3. Dedications

27a. The beginning of Book 2 sees Apollonios and his companions riding on camels on their way to India. The description of the trip includes a mention of leopards, who are attracted to spices growing in Pamphylia. In this connection, the narrator recalls a rumour (φασιν) about a female leopard once captured in Pamphylia, wearing a gold collar (στρεπτόν) with the following text inscribed in Armenian letters: ‘King Arsakes to the Nysian God’ (χρυσοῦς δὲ ἦν καὶ ἐπεγέγραπτο Ἀρμενίοις γρἀμμασι· ‘βασιλεὺς Ἀρσἀκης θεῷ Νυσὶω’, 2.2.2). The narrator explains that Arsakes was a king of Armenia, and ‘Nysian’ is used as an appellation for Dionysos in the East.

28b. On their journey towards India, Apollonios and his companions climb Mount Nysa and find a sanctuary of Dionysos. The narrator comments on the different Greek and Indian versions of the god and mentions an inscribed silver disc, which was dedicated by the god himself to Apollo at Delphi (‘Διόνυσος ὁ Σεμέλης καὶ Διὸς ἀπὸ ’Ινδῶν Ἀπόλλωνι Δελφῷ’, 2.9.1).

  • 59 No other source mentions this animal, which was allegedly named tor the great Homeric hero because (...)

29c. Apollonios and his companions see a herd of elephants at the river Indos. The narrator reminds the readers of those animals that were used by Poros at the fight against Alexander the Great. In particular, he mentions one elephant, who was rewarded by Alexander for his valiance, and who is described as wearing gold bangles on his tusks that bear a Greek votive inscription, which was offered by Alexander himself: ‘Alexander the son of Zeus dedicates Ajax59 to the Sun’ (γρἀμματα ὲπ’ αὐτῶν ʽΕλληνικὰ λέγοντα ‘Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Διὸς τὸν Αἴαντα τῷ ‘Ηλίῳ’, 2.12.2).

30d. Still during their Indian journey, thirty stades away from Hyphasis, Apollonios and his companions encounter altars with the inscriptions: ‘To my father Ammon, my brother Herakles, Athena of Forethought, Olympian Zeus, the Cabiri of Samothrace, the Sun of India, and Apollo of Delphi’ (‘Πατρὶ Ἄμμωνι, καὶ Ἡρακλεῖ ἀδελφῷ, καὶ Ἀθήνᾷ Προνοίᾳ, καὶ Διὶ Ὀλυμπίῳ, καὶ Σαμόθρᾳξι Καβείροις, καὶ Ἰνδῷ Ἡλὶῳ, καὶ Δελφῷ Ἀπόλλωνι’); and an inscribed bronze tablet with the text: ‘Alexander stopped there’ (‘Ἀλὲξανδρος ἐνταῦθα ἔστη’, 2.43).

  • 60 To this list we might add the potential future dedications to Vespasian, which Apollonios foresees (...)

31e. At the tomb of Palamedes at Methymna, Apollonios uncovers a statue, the base of which bears the dedication ‘To the divine Palamedes’ (ἐπεγέγραπτο … ‘θείῳ Παλαμήδει’, 4.13.3).60

  • 61 Son of the Parthian king Artabanos III, mentioned in Tac. Ann. 6.31.
  • 62 Paus. 8.10.10. Note Veyne’s reading of this passage as a joke at the expense of the naïvete of the (...)
  • 63 Note the digression on elephants in Ach. Tat. 4.3-4: the elephant is a strange animal, known almost (...)
  • 64 See further Henrichs (2010, 65-67).
  • 65 See Petzke (1970, 198) on the role of Helios in the VA; see also above, ch. 1.
  • 66 Thus Praet (2009, 304). Another memorable collared animal is the lion that was identified by Apollo (...)
  • 67 It needs to be noted, however, that gold is mentioned often in the four romantic novels (more than  (...)

32This set of inscriptions alludes to a number of themes and figures that exemplify relations between the VA and its literary context. Examples (a) and (c) both concern exotic animals and make mention of gold. While animal statues as votive offerings with inscribed dedications were common enough, live animals bearing inscriptions are highly unusual in Greco-Roman literature. Both Philostratean examples are placed in the past: the time of Alexander and (probably) the brief period of reign of king Arsakes of Armenia (in the year 35).61 An Alexander-related story, and a ‘rumour’ about a leopard, both emit an aura of myth – just like Pausanias’ incredulous account of a very old deer, which was seen in Arkadia bearing an inscribed collar that said: ‘I was a fawn when captured, at the time when Agapenor went to Troy.’62 As far as animal species are concerned, a leopard (mentioned in a context related to camels) and an elephant are something out of the ordinary. Viewings and descriptions of such animals are a feature of novelistic exoticism,63 which is enhanced by the effect of a shining precious metal. The inscriptions associated with the two animals serve to place these (and any ensuing thoughts expressed by the narrator) more stably and convincingly in the narrative landscape; the dedications make the animals more striking. Philostratos’ leopard and elephant both enrich the story, even if they do not quite reach the importance of Heliodoros’ giraffe, whose appearance literally interrupts the flow of the action by bursting into an official ceremony (Hydaspes’ reception of embassies) and causing a stir among gathered crowds (10.27.1-4).64 Philostratos’ labeled animals are subtly integrated in their narrative context and in its poetic and political ideology: Alexander’s elephant brings memories of famous Greek historical moments (which are the subject of the work of Philostratos’ older contemporary, Arrian), and Dionysos’ mixed identity (on which see below) includes Greek associations. The elephant’s dedication to the Sun is further connected with the special religious vocation of the VA, which gives Helios a central place.65 The gold of the letters on the leopard’s collar may also be read as an allusion to Helios.66 There is, moreover, a literary context to support this: in the novel of Xenophon Ephesios (1.10), Anthia and Habrokomes visit the temple of Helios at Rhodes and offer a gold panoply; the secondary love pair Leukon and Rhode follow suit and dedicate a stēlē inscribed with golden letters (5.10.6).67

  • 68 A recurring toponym in the Dionysian tradition, mostly for cities founded by the god. See now Bäble (...)
  • 69 An account of the god’s Indian journey is also found in Arrian’s Indika (passim, citing Megasthenes (...)
  • 70 See Parker (2008, 125-131).

33The mention of Dionysos’ inscribed disc at Delphi (b) suggests an analogy with the narrator’s comment on Tantalos; in both cases, the narrator emphasises the differences between Greek and Indian views. In the case of Dionysos, he also presents the varied views of different Indian regions. Greek and Indian versions differ in their assumptions about the provenance of the disc’s dedicator, whose sanctuary is seen by Apollonios at Nysa:68 the Greeks identify him with the Theban Dionysos, while the Indians assume another god, an Assyrian or an Indian by birth (indeed the statue at Nysa is said to look like ‘a youthful Indian’, 2.8). Dionysos’ Anatolian persona occupies a central place in Greek literature and myth, often in contexts recounting the god’s mission to the East to propagate his cult, and his triumphal return to Hellas. The Greek story of the VA’s narrator is that ‘Dionysos travelled to India as a general and an ecstatic’ (2.9.1). From the Greek novelistic tradition, Longos (4.3) refers to an altar of the god with paintings depicting, among other themes, his conquest of the Indians.69 Dionysos’ alleged Delphi dedication ‘from the Indians’ in the VA echoes this tradition and reflects the imperial ideology that undercut views of Alexander the Great and his conquests;70 it also reflects the itinerant nature of the philosophical ministry of Apollonios, who is presented to carry the message of the good and virtuous life, a life based on Greek philosophical principles, to all of the known world.

  • 71 Arr. An. 5.29; Plu. Alex. 62; Plin. 6.21.62 etc. See further Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016, 92-95), w (...)
  • 72 See above, ch. 2.
  • 73 See Stoneman (1995, 162; 166; 169).
  • 74 See above, ch. 1. There is further discussion below on the rich analogy between Apollonios and Alex (...)

34The inscriptions (d), which are seen in India at the end of Book 2, are noteworthy for the pantheism expressed in the altar dedication (which includes Apollonios’ much-revered Helios), and for their relevance to the story of Alexander. The precise moment of the mention of these inscriptions in the VA is a pivotal one for the narrative, as Apollonios is about to cross Hyphasis and proceed further than Alexander was able to: the inscriptions and their texts provide authentication to the extraordinary progress of the philosopher’s journey, suggesting the superiority of philosophical virtue to kingly/military courage. A number of ancient sources suggest that Alexander the Great dedicated inscriptions when he reached the limit of his journey, the river Hyphasis, but do not quote inscribed texts.71 The narrator may be reproducing here a memory of what the inscribed dedications included; but there is no certainty, and as implied already,72 the Alexander-story was without doubt already contaminated with fiction, and our author was probably familiar with the legends collected in the Alexander romance, which repeatedly associated its hero with monuments and inscriptions.73 The dedication of the VA’s Alexander to multiple deities can be paralleled with the comprehensive character of Apollonios’ religiosity – an aspect of his sōphrosynē: he does not exempt any gods from his worship, he prays to Helios and also makes use of monotheistic concepts.74

  • 75 See Gyselinck and Demoen (2009, 115-116) on the focalisation of the episode.
  • 76 The inscription is included in IMT (571), but the source is the VA.
  • 77 There is more on Palamedes, the ‘forgotten’ hero of the Trojan war, in the VA and later in this cha (...)

35The last example in this list is derived from the account of the restoration of Palamedes’ tomb by Apollonios in Book 4 – an act of prudent respect, related to his holy man status and to his virtue. This story acquires extra credibility thanks to the mention of the inscribed statue, which confirms the link of the tomb to the hero, and ‘proves’ the truth of Apollonios’ supernatural communication with Achilles (which is recounted at 4.11-12, in a mixture of first and third person):75 Achilles was the source of the information about Palamedes’ burial place. The authenticating function of the passage reaches its peak when the narratorial ‘I’ claims to have seen the statue, and presumably the inscription.76 The fact that the statue was found buried creates an emotional effect, which reflects the sad and undue fate of Palamedes’ memory; this effect is intensified by the clarity and brevity of the inscribed text, whose presence, on the other hand, contributes to the hero’s reinstatement. The question is finally raised, why the statue should depict him at an older age (‘it looks too old to be Palamedes’); the answer is unclear.77

4. Magic / Incantations

36a. Γρἀμματα (letters) are turned into tools of magic by the Indians. They cast spells on letters weaved in cloth, which is used to catch snakes (3.8.2). Magical literacy is said to be combined with oral incantations, which are sang to the snake while it is being lured by the cloth: ‘This cloth captivates the unwavering eye of the snake, and the Indians also recite many secret spells against it, so that it is charmed into poking its head out of the hole and falling asleep over the letters.’ It is not only the spells that remain secret to the reader, but also the nature of the letters on the cloth.

  • 78 Philostratos’ allusion to amulets is perhaps relevant to Apollonios’ later association with magical (...)

37b. The emperor forbids Apollonios ‘to bring any amulet, paper, or any other document’ to the courthouse (ἀλλ’ απαγορεὑει σοι ὸ βασιλεὑς μήτε περὶαπτον μήτε βιβλὶον μήτ’ ἂλλο γραμματεἳον ὄλως μηδὲν ὲσφὲρειν ὲνταῦθα; 8.3). The clerk who gives these instructions provides no explanation for this prohibition, but it is fair to assume that inscribed objects or written documents were feared to contain magical spells, which would empower Apollonios.78

  • 79 On inscribed amulets, which were used in a wide range of situations, see Kotansky (1991).
  • 80 See Meyer (2004, 79, with references). On books with magic, see Bremmer (2015, 250-264), who notes (...)
  • 81 See Frankfurter (1994, 195-196) for a concise account and a comparison with Egyptian practice. Indi (...)
  • 82 See further Frankfurter (1994).

38Both examples here reflect the long practice of using writing as a tool of magic. In example (a), the power of the letters is presumably reinforced by an oral magic spell; in example (b) no such reinforcement is needed: amulets, which routinely carried writing, are by default associated with magic,79 while the mention of books and papers alongside these implies the view that any form of writing can serve the purposes of magic. A fear of the combined force of magic and writing (books, tablets) is also encountered elsewhere in our sources.80 This emphasis on writing does not necessarily contradict common assumptions on the predominantly oral nature of Greek magic:81 ancient readers might here assume that Apollonios was suspected of carrying written spells with the intention of reading them out in court. The association between magic and writing reflects a cultural attitude,82 as well as being a literary penchant (on which see more below). But the narrator, who assigns magical practice to the Indians, makes sure to dissociate his hero from it: Apollonios’ powers are the results of his virtue and wisdom and not magic.

III. Literacy and Orality

  • 83 See Slater (2009, 67, with references).

39As the above survey shows, not all inscribed texts mentioned in the VA are quoted verbatim. This is a known tendency in narrative texts: scholars have noted instances of invisibility or forgetability of the content of verse inscriptions in narratives, which quote them, only to pass them over in order to place the focus on other things.83 However, the verse inscription seen by Apollonios during his visit to the Eretrians of Persia is fully quoted, as we have seen: in this case, the inscription itself and its emotive text become the objects of focus. On the other hand, the exact content of records is omitted presumably when it can be sufficiently guessed by the context, and when it is felt that it would not add essential information to the narrative.

  • 84 He is one of several mythical ‘inventors’ of writing mentioned in Greek sources; others include Orp (...)
  • 85 Note that a boy recognised by Apollonios as the reincarnation of Telephos shares a fate similar to (...)

40However, concrete references to textual monuments are not the only manifestation of the ‘written word’ that deserves discussion. Our understanding of the narratological importance of writing, of relevant symbolic thinking and of the relationship between writing and ethical characterisation in the VA is helped by passages that refer to writing without containing direct allusions to written documents. One such passage concerns the Indian who is identified with Palamedes in a previous incarnation (3.22.2). He is said to possess wisdom and the skill of writing as innate features; a connection is suggested between these two features, which is inherited, as it were, from the Indian’s life as Palamedes, who is believed to have invented writing (εὗρε γρἀµματα, 4.33).84 The fate of Palamedes – who came to a bad end despite his abilities – undermines, however, the importance of these features in the Indian. Readers are invited to think on the relative significance of both wisdom and the skill of writing, as well as on the sweeping importance of reincarnation as a factor that determines life experiences.85

  • 86 Apollod. Epit. 3.8; Paus. 10.31.2.
  • 87 Note the sage’s caution about writing a letter of advice to the men he favoured as prospective lead (...)

41A revealing comment about the narrative’s awareness of the function of written sources is found at 4.33. Palamedes is mentioned once again, and this time the author pays homage to him as the inventor of letters. The context, however, is not meant to illustrate the importance of writing, but to exemplify the dangers, which are inherent in its wrongful use. This is a transparent allusion to the mythical story of Palamedes’ betrayal by Odysseus with the help of a forged letter, which led to the former hero’s execution.86 Significantly, however, Apollonios does not doubt the benefits of Palamedes’ invention, but notes that it should be used with care (in other words, with sōphrosynē): one needs knowledge (γιγνῶσκεινζ not just of how to write, but also of when and what to write and not to write.87

  • 88 Phdr. 275a-b; see also Frankfurter (1994, 190-191) for suggestions of the supremacy of orality in G (...)

42Indeed a major self-conscious concern of the VA lies in the functions of the written word, its absence and its relationship with the spoken word, as well as in the relationship of Apollonios (and other figures) with speaking and writing, a relationship that serves as a measure of truthfulness, wisdom and virtue. Several relevant hints are found in the examples listed above: in the Indian practice of combining oral and written evidence for evaluating prospective philosophers; in the implied power game between written accusations and the sage’s oral self-defence, and between the spoken and the written in the exercise of magic; and of course in the account given by the narrator of his sources at the beginning of the work, which are both written and oral, and not all equally truthful (1.2.3; see also above). This duality (written-oral) reflects a more general Greek cultural oscillation between the praise and the doubt of the written word as a means of communication, which is felt already in Plato’s critique88 and which is also implied in the example of Palamedes. In the VA’s universe, however, there is no uniform attitude to orality and the written word, no clear sense that either of the two is more potent or less significant. Each instance of communication must be individually evaluated: for example, there is no doubt about the primacy of Damis’ written testimony (only about the adequacy of his authorial skills), but Apollonios’ spoken word is stronger than the written accusations against him, and a powerful means of expression of virtue.

  • 89 On which see also above, ch. 2.
  • 90 Damis recorded the most important ones in writing (... γρἀψαι δὲ οὑ πἀσας, ἀλλἀ τἀς ἀναγκαὶας τε κα (...)
  • 91 A high level of Greek was clearly not among the features of the average Kappadokian. Contrast the c (...)

43Apollonios’ silent period,89 too, provides an excellent insight in the dynamics of orality and literacy. During the time when the sage refrains from speaking, whilst practicing Pythagorean sōphrosynē, he uses the written word as a means of self-expression. Once he resumes speaking, he does not communicate by writing, unless he needs to contact someone who is distanced from him geographically or otherwise impossible to meet in person, in which case he writes and sends letters. He transmitted his wisdom in the form of public lectures.90 Nevertheless, Apollonios wrote down his own apologia, as we have seen, and he is further said to have produced treatises; the narrator passes over them briefly (3.41.1; 4.19). Apollonios’ proficiency in both the oral and the written word is a direct reflection of his education (1.7.1): he studied γρἀµματα (literature) but also learned to speak fluent and unaccented Greek.91 Both orality and literacy contributed to the making of the sage and to the expression of his extraordinary character and virtue, as they did to the conception of the material, which the VA’s narrator calls his ‘sources’.

IV. The Inscribed Word in Context

  • 92 And further Iamblichos, Antonios Diogenes, Lucian, Petronius (who uses inscriptions more often than (...)

44It is now time to contemplate the contribution of mentions of written textuality to the discussion of the VA’s generic affinities. As noted already, although a major function of the written documents mentioned by the VA’s narrator is to validate their narrative context, it is very doubtful that the examples listed above reflect real, historical documents. The Delphic inscription is of course real enough, but the rest of the inscribed texts and documents mentioned are probably the products of the author’s imagination (which was perhaps fed by the varied reserves of stories about Apollonios) and have a loose, if at all, connection with reality; their main function is to provide literary enhancement and express the ideology of the work and its protagonist. From the documents listed above, the present section focuses primarily on inscriptions, whose evocation as ‘historical sources’ constitutes a literary tradition. This tradition is prominent, as mentioned above, in classical historians, and is continued, with less regard for historicity, by novelistic authors. Their use of inscriptions as validation tools for their stories has been studied before; relevant studies concern not just the romantic novels, but also as a number of ‘fringe’ authors and texts, such as the Life of Aisop and the Alexander romance.92

  • 93 Such as the Story of Apollonius King of Tγre; on the epigraphical implausibility of some novelistic (...)
  • 94 On letters in the Greek novel, see Letoublon (2003); Rosenmeyer (2001, 133-192).
  • 95 See Kasprzyk (2013, 264). Apollonios as a letter writer (with an output beyond the limits of the VA(...)
  • 96 Instances were collected and counted by Sironen (2003); he also notes the predominance of inscripti (...)

45Not all canonical romance authors refer to inscriptions. Two out of the five do, but such material is absent from Achilles Tatios, Longos and Chariton (although the last-named author evokes historical characters and events). What is more, references to inscriptions in the VA are more plausible than examples from other narratives.93Another interesting point concerns the frequency of mentions of inscriptions in comparison to letters.94 There are clearly more mentions of letters in the VA than of other forms of inscribed communications: around 40 passages refer to letters,95 some written by Apollonios, some by others. The predominance of letters is also a feature of the romances, with the exception of Longos, who does not refer either to letters or to inscriptions (though he mentions a few offerings; 2.22.1, 4.39). Chariton and Achilles Tatios include four and six letters respectively, and no inscriptions. Heliodoros mentions some inscribed dedications as well as eleven letters in his story (more than any other romantic novelist, but his novel is also the longest of the five). The only exception from this pattern is Xenophon Ephesios, who mentions six or seven inscribed texts and only three letters.96

  • 97 Pace Sironen (2003, 296): ‘inclusion of inscriptions [was thought] less appropriate in novels aimed (...)
  • 98 See Slater (2009, 69-70). The epigram in translation (by Anderson in Reardon 2008, 148): Hippothous (...)

46Relying on this data, it is hard to produce a uniform interpretation of the frequency of novelistic inscriptionality.97 The data, however, invites comparisons especially between the VA and the novels of Xenophon Ephesios and Heliodoros, whose use of inscriptions bears similar ideological features and contributes to the heroes’ moral characterisation. As the above survey shows, the context of the inscriptions of the VA is to a considerable extent religious (see especially the section on dedications). This is also true for the novel of Xenophon Ephesios: an inscribed epigram is dedicated to the temple of Helios by the pair of protagonists (1.12.2; a second dedication by other characters follows, 5.10.6). This novel is the only one among the ‘big five’ that contains a full poem from an inscribed sepulchral monument (3.2),98 which is comparable to the VA’s funerary epigram for Eretrian sailors. The dedicatee is a young man named Hyperanthes, who drowned at sea. He was the love interest of Hippothoos, who features in the novel as a robber and later as Habrokomes’ firm friend. A sea-related theme is common to both poems (both are four lines long), but unlike Hyperanthes in Xenophon’s epigram, and despite their sailor status, the Eretrians commemorated in Philostratos do not seem to have died in the ocean, but on land after a long career at sea. Both epigrams add emotional weight to the narrative segments to which they belong, namely Apollonios’ Eretrian visit and the account of Hippothoos’ love affair with Hyperanthes, and both belong to contexts that bring to light the characters’ humanity. The love novel’s epigram is part of a secondary tale that reflects the genre’s romantic spirit, and its influence resonates further in the main plot in Hippothoos’ instigation to Habrokomes in the memory of Hyperanthes to search and rescue Anthia (3.3). As we have seen, the epigram viewed by Apollonios has an ideological significance that transcends the boundaries of its immediate context.

  • 99 See above, ch. 3.

47Xenophon’s heroes dedicate inscriptions, which they author themselves. This is true for those inscribed dedications that lead to recognitions, as well as for the epigram in honour of Hyperanthes. In most of the instances of written textuality collected for the VA, Apollonios is not the author; either he is the (intradiegetic) reader of inscriptions in real narrative time or he simply reminisces about them (or rather the narrator does). Exceptions are the written text he produces as a way of communicating with the people of Aspendos during his time of silence, and the inscribed magical texts, which he is suspected of carrying to court – a suspicion which is proven to be unfounded. This suspicion can be paralleled with the accusation of sexual promiscuity against the sage,99 which is denied as false. Philostratos qua narrator controls the reception of the relevant evidence and of any written texts mentioned in association with his hero, and makes sure that negative suspicions are never confirmed, and that the hero’s excellent virtue, in particular his sōphrosynē, is never truly questioned.

  • 100 Sironen (2003, 290-291). See also Slater (2009, 73-74).
  • 101 As mentioned already, Heliodoros may have been aware of Philostratos’ book, while his enlisting of (...)

48Xenophon Ephesios mentions a number of private dedicatory inscriptions, which form part of plot mechanisms leading to recognitions and reunion of lost persons (5.11.5-6; 5.12).100 But it is Heliodoros who exploits the narratological potential of inscriptions in a most elaborate way. There is Charikleia’s silk waistband, which is embroidered in native Ethiopian characters (2.31), is deciphered (4.8) and translated into Greek (4.11); and a ring inscribed with sacred characters (8.11.9). These are signs and tokens of recognition (thus called at 2.31), which will serve the identification of the heroine, and they occur more often towards the end of the story, when their purpose is nearing fulfillment (9.24; 10.13; 10.18). Heliodoros’ heroes further write secret messages (graffiti) on shrines, statues, herms, stones at crossroads (5.4.7-5.5.2; 5.7.7), including pseudonyms and passwords. Such elements suggest an analogy with the illegibile inscription, which is read by Philostratos’ Apollonios, and with the obscure magical letters of the Indians. Philostratos and Heliodoros move beyond the purely authenticatory function of inscriptions, to the exploration of the mystifying power of the written word, which appropriately complements the depiction of such a ‘divine’ figure as Apollonios and of such a lofty heroine as Charikleia.101

  • 102 Extremities: Babylon, India (six examples – one seen at Delphi, but originated in India; IK Estremo (...)

49The study of the VA’s inscribed texts is furthermore relevant to that of the narrative’s geographical and ethnic interests. Ten out of the seventeen references to inscribed texts listed here (including the epigram from Persia) come from the extremities of the geography of Apollonios’ travels.102 These faraway journeys form of course a large part of the VA’s narrative; they are also the hardest to authenticate, a fact implied by Strabo in reference to India (1.15.1-3). We have already identified the limits of the authenticatory function, which is entailed in the VA’s use of inscribed textuality, and noted that the narrator’s priority lies in putting together a fascinating nattative. The following passage should sound as a warning to historically-minded readers of the VA:

The reader must receive the account of this country with indulgence, for it lies at a very great distance, and few persons of our nation have seen it; those also who have visited it have seen only some portions of it; the greater part of what they relate is from report, and even what they saw, they became acquainted with during their passage through the country with an army, and in great haste. For this reason they do not agree in their accounts of the same things, although they write about them as if they had examined them with the greatest care and attention. Some of these writers were fellow-soldiers and fellow-travellers, as those who belonged to the army which, under the command of Alexander, conquered Asia; yet they frequently contradict each other. If, then, they differ so much respecting things which they had seen, what must we think of what they relate from report? Nor do the writers who, many ages since Alexander’s time, have given an account of these countries, nor even those who at present make voyages thither, afford any precise information. (Strabo 1.15.1-3)

  • 103 See ch. 1.

50The rest of the examples in our list come either from the heart of the Greco-Roman world or from Asia Minor cities (which lie closer to the empire’s Greek cultural centre than, say, Persia and India). Irrespective of provenance, the largest share of the VA’s inscribed texts is certainly or most probably in the Greek language. Greekness is indeed one of the VA’s most important themes, and is closely connected with sophia and sōphrosynē in Apollonios’ characterisation.103 Apollonios encountered Greek inscriptions at Delphi, but also in Persia and India (2a-c); his written communication with the merchants in Aspendos was in Greek (la); this is clearly the language of the decree viewed in Smyrna (ld); Dionysos dedicated to Apollo at Delphi an Indian bronze disc bearing a Greek inscription (3b); the dedication on the elephant offered by Alexander the Great is explicitly said to be in Greek letters (3c); and the magical texts, which Apollonios was suspected of carrying to his meeting with Domitian (4b), would presumably be in Greek. On the other hand, a court in Rome would keep records of charges against the sage in Latin (le-f); registering Apollonios at Babylon (lb in the above list) required the help of an interpreter, and the relevant record would probably be in the local language; the language of the information record on Indian philosophy candidates (1c) is not explicitly stated, but it is fair to assume that the indigenous tongue was used; the same goes for the magical letters used by Indians for catching snakes (4a); the inscribed collar of the female leopard is in Armenian (3a); finally, the illegible inscription, which is read only by Apollonios, is in no recognisable language (2d).

  • 104 Cf. Zadorojnyi (2013, 368). The decipherment of the inscription opens a window to Greek mythologica (...)
  • 105 This is what Slater called the ‘unreality effect’ (2009, 64).
  • 106 See Stoneman (1995, 165-168); Slater (2009, 72); Sironen (2003, 297-298), who notes that not all in (...)
  • 107 On the fascination with foreign letters and riddled texts as a Hellenistic feature, related to Gree (...)
  • 108 On Alexander’s skills, see Stoneman (1995, 160; 164-166). Similarities between Apollonios and Alexa (...)
  • 109 Especially in the early Byzantine recension y of the Romance, as Stoneman notes (1995, 169 with ref (...)
  • 110 See also Zadorojnyi (2013, 377-382) on the use of epigraphy in narratives on Alexander the Great: A (...)

51The variation of the language of inscriptional texts between Greek, foreign and unintelligible mirrors the pluralism, which is inherent, like Greekness, in the world of the VA and in the character of Apollonios. As we saw in the first chapter, elements of Greek identity tend to be given an air of superiority, but this does not cancel out other identities, which enrich the narrative. Indian and Armenian letters exude exoticism, and Apollonios’ reading of a script which defies linguistic identification implies that the sage, albeit an admirer of Greek culture, is marked by a an intellect that transcends linguistic and cultural limitations: he is a native Tyanean, but versed equally well in Greek, in Anatolian languages and in unidentifiable languages.104 Inscriptions ‘in exotic settings or with riddling texts’ further have an increased narratological interest, as they invite the reader to think upon their significance and their implications for plot and characterisation, while they constitute a kind of departure from narrative realism.105 A similar exoticism marks Alexander’s encounters with inscriptions in the Romance.106 These are reported at greater length than Apollonios’ relevant experiences, but manifest a similar interest in the relationship between inscribed texts and wisdom. Apollonios reads an inscription, which is illegible to all others; Alexander solves riddles,107 understands an inscription in hieroglyphics, and even composes a riddle of his own.108 Several episodes associate Alexander with the building of monuments.109 Apollonios restores the tomb of Palamedes and marks a sanctuary around it (4.13.3), and he further reinstates a number of rites at cities he visits. Like Alexander, but at a smaller scale, Apollonios meets with a mixture of texts that reflect his Hellenism, his cross-culturalism and his transcedency. Apollonios is an imperialist of Hellenic sophia and sōphrosynē: like Alexander, he transports Greekness and allows it to be enriched by foreignness.110

  • 111 Thus Stoneman (1995, 167).
  • 112 Admittedly Apollonios refers to the fabulist Aisop and to the wisdom and morality of his tales, not (...)
  • 113 See Jouanno (2002, 203-209).
  • 114 See Stoneman (1995, 166); Sironen (2003, 297). Cf. Lucian’s faded caricature inscription in VH 1.7, (...)

52Apollonios’ and Alexander’s skills suggest an analogy with Aisop, who displays a capacity for deciphering and interpreting the written word; this is a feature of his wisdom111 which is also praised in the VA (though not from quite the same angle; 5.14-15).112 The deciphering skills of Aisop, and to some extent of the novelistic Alexander,113 are tantamount to the abilities of a ‘trickster’, whereas Apollonios by contrast owes his ability to his divine virtue. Obviously this ability was just as open to doubt as other aspects of Apollonios’ wisdom, as we may infer from the subversion of the theme of reading inscriptions in the Life of Aisop. At G 78-80, Aisop deciphers an acrostic inscription to produce three different meanings: this is a satire of the process of deciphering inscribed texts and of the ‘wisdom’ which is inherent in this process.114

  • 115 Nic. 1. See Zadorojnyi (2013), with examples and caveats (not all epigraphic evidence is deemed tru (...)
  • 116 The term symbola generally refers to Pythagorean maxims/sayings (also known as acusmata), but it ma (...)
  • 117 See above, ch. 2.

53The evocation of inscriptions and writing is furthermore a recognised feature of imperial historiographical and biographical narratives, especially Plutarch, who explicitly alludes to this practice.115 Flipping through pages of the wise-men lives, including those of Pythagorean interest, the reader is sure to find examples of this trope. In lamblichos’ On the Pythagorean way of life, for example, a shrine, which was dedicated to Apollo on Samos (2.9), concretises Pythagoras’ Apollonian connections: the dedicator, Pythagoras’ father, received a Pythian oracle about the success of his impending voyage to Syria and about the birth of his son (a child of extraordinary beauty and wisdom, 2.5), and built a shrine ‘to the Pythian god’ on his return to Samos (ίερὸν ἐδείματο τῷ Ἀπὸλλωνι, Πυθὶου ὲπιγρἀψας). In the same work we also find references to the Pythagorean practice of communicating by means of written symbols (23.104-105 and 33.238) – a practice not followed by Apollonios in the VA.116 We saw in a previous chapter the significance of written communication in the life of another philosopher that shows Pythagorean influence, Sekoundos the Silent.117

  • 118 See Wills (1995, 13; 103, n. 60). Wills notes the purposeful use of decrees in the Jewish novel and (...)
  • 119 Note the New Testament’s use of formulae with γὲγραπται (kittel and Friedrich s.v. ypacpco), and se (...)
  • 120 Jn (19: 20-22) elaborated further: the text was written in three languages (Greek, Latin and Hebrew (...)

54Among other narrative traditions, which were touched on in the previous chapters, the Jewish novel contains allusions to writing and to inscribed texts, which are turned into tools of moral characterisation. In Joseph and Aseneth (15.4), the inscription of Aseneth’s name in the ‘Book of Life’ is presented as a reward for her chastity and symbolises the bestowment of spiritual gifts on her, while in the Greek Esther, Haman’s decree against the Jews triggers in Esther a show of ascetic self-abasement.118 More famously, Christian narratives engage with the notion of written sources. The New Testament frequently alludes to ‘what has been written’, and Jesus is presented to read and use Scripture;119 the links between the Old and New Testament provide two-way authentication. Apart from these allusions, a famous reference to written textuality in the Gospels concerns the inscription on Jesus’ cross (‘Jesus, king of the Jews’), which is mentioned by all four Evangelists and functions as an ironical comment on Jesus’ inability to save himself in spite of his alleged kingly status;120 on a symbolic level, the inscription temporarily repudiates the dominant characterisation of Jesus as wise and godlike by implying a view of him as aphrōn (which was entertained by part of the intradiegetic audience).

55To sum up, Pausanias’ quote at the beginning of this chapter spells out the deliberate character of references to inscriptions in literature. These references suggest links between texts belonging to the broader categories of ‘biography’ and ‘novel’, but also between the themes that are seen as generic markers and were touched on in this book’s previous chapters. Firstly, the encounter with inscribed monuments is part of the novelistic experience of travel and discovery, in which all heroes, in one form or other, partake. Additionally, the involvement of romantic heroes with inscribed texts is linked both with the travel theme and the love theme, as we have seen. Secondly, the reading and/or writing of texts by heroes of novelistic and biographical narratives have implications for the way these heroes’ characters – in particular, their skills, virtue and wisdom – are perceived by both internal and external audiences. Apollonios’ use of and reaction to the inscribed word reveals his sōphrosynē.

  • 121 Thus Zadorojnyi (2013, 371), referring to the Rhodian oration of Dio Chrysostom (Or. 31), which exp (...)
  • 122 As Stoneman deduces about the role of inscriptions in the Alexander romance’, the work is set ‘in a (...)

56Allusions to inscriptional texts in the VA ultimately reflect Greco-Roman awareness of the ideological and symbolic properties of the inscribed word. Inscribed texts are used as markers of ‘social and existential identity’ in both historical and literary settings;121 in the latter, they come to function as a narratological tool, which has special significance for the novelistic genre.122 The allusion to inscriptions in novelistic plots serves both as a way of validating the narrated stories and as a means of allocating authority to characters within the story and to narrating voices. This chapter suggests as its conclusion that allusions to written textuality in the VA mainly express the pseudo-historical character of the work, and that Apollonios relates to the written word in similar ways to the novelistic heroes. It has also been shown that he is a master of both the spoken and the written word, and that his skills in both areas of communication contribute greatly to his characterisation as an extraordinary human being, who possesses the highest form of virtue: sōphrosynē. Philostratos’ elaborate use of the theme of writing is finally linked to a long and generically varied literary tradition, which appeals both to readers of popular narratives and to readers of longer, more sophisticated works.

  • 123 Cf. Zadorojnyi (2013, 373-377) on inscriptions which are relevant to Roman political discourse and (...)
  • 124 See above, ch. 2.

57A piece of inscribed evidence that is conspicuously absent from the VA is one that would mark and honour the end of the hero’s life. The narrative makes clear that ‘Damis’ did not cover any events related to his master’s death, and the narrator of the VA allocates his hero no known tomb (8.31.3). One should imagine that an epigraphic dedication in the spirit of the epigraphic metriopatheia, which is described by Plutarch in respect to statesmen (Political precepts 820d), would be an appropriate way to mark the passing of Philostratos’ Apollonios (no grandiose monument, but a modest form of inscribed recognition, in keeping with his sdphrosyne).123 The later monument from Kilikia, which bears an epigram in his honour,124 seemingly seeks to fill the gap, which is left by the VA’s narrator. But the absence of an allusion to such a monument in the VA is in tune with the nature of the sage’s ‘death’ (he dies or vanishes, but no clear manner of death is reported) and reflects his ontological elusiveness.

  • 125 See also above, ch. 2. A satire of alleged after-death apparitions is found in Lucian, Peregr. 40.
  • 126 ‘When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you (...)
  • 127 With respect to the afterlife of Jesus’ and Apollonios’ philosophies, however, it must be noted tha (...)

58Apollonios is further claimed to have transferred in a celebratory manner to a metaphysical kind of existence, which provides the ultimate proof of his supreme virtue and near-divinity – a proof too transcendental to be bound with the written testimony of one man (πλεὶους μὲν λὸγοι, VA 8.29). Apollonios’ supernatural departure is comparable to the theme of the resurrection of Jesus, which is central in the Gospels and authenticates the authors’ claims about the divine nature of their subject. Jesus’ ascent to heaven in a cloud (as depicted in Acts 1: 9-11) provides an even closer parallel to the VA’s image of the departing Apollonios.125 Paul’s account of Jesus’ rise from the dead in his Areopagos sermon caused a strong reaction among listeners (Acts 17: 16-34).126 The culmination of the VA’s narrative (Apollonios walks into a sanctuary and vanishes; already departed, he communicates with a doubting student) would have had a similar stirring effect on Philostratos’ readers, an effect derived from the power of traditional stories about the sage and linked only secondarily with fixed textuality.127

Notes

1 Herodotos mentions no more than thirty inscriptions (there are some unclear cases, and the method of counting varies, as e.g. between West 1985 and Fabiani 2003); not many survive today. Thoukydides mentions only eight (Fabiani ibid., 163). The exact nature of Herodotos’ epigraphical interests is a debated topic; see West ibid, and further Rhodes (2007) on the use of inscriptions by ancient historians, including Herodotos. See now also Thonemann (2016, with bibliography).

2 But not engraved images (of which there are a few, e.g. the bronze tablets at Taxila, which picture the exploits of Alexander the Great and Poros, VA 2.20). On the artistic material culture of the VA, see now Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016).

3 On this exclusion, see Introduction and also below.

4 Thus Sironen (2003, 296).

5 On inscriptions in literary sources, see, more broadly, Liddel and Low (eds 2013).

6 See, introductorily, Bodel (2001, 6-15, with bibliography).

7 See e.g. the definition of ‘document’ used by Rhodes (2007, 56).

8 On the benefits of contextualising inscriptions in literary texts and of narrativising epigraphy, see more generally Zadorojnyi (2013, 366-367, with references).

9 See also the Introduction.

10 This may imply his historicity, assuming that the narrator would not have invented a person and credit him with possession of an official post (see Dzielska 1986, 34-35; 54 n. 7). Maximos is entered as historical in FGrH (1066), just before Moiragenes (1067). But note the doubts expressed by some scholars (Schirren 2005, 2-9, with references).

11 On records of cities, see Dzielska (1986, 51-84). On Apollonios’ letters, see the Introduction.

12 See Bowie (1994, 195-196), with examples from the text. Apollonios is also said to have been accompanied during his travels by a shorthand writer and a calligrapher (1.18), but no further mention is made of these or of their role.

13 See above, the last section of ch. 2, on the notion of an appropriate ending.

14 Cf. the use of oral sources by Herodotos; see Rhodes (2007, 56), who notes the great value of oral testimony at that time – perhaps greater than of written evidence. A poem of Simonides (quoted by D. L. 1.89-90 = PMG 581) hints at the potential impermanence of inscriptions, which are subject to the destructive force of nature, gods and humans; in a sense, the immateriality of oral stories makes them more resilient (even if they are not entirely fixed and stable).

15 See also above, Introduction.

16 Damis’ skills and philosophical qualities receive a mixed review in the VA. He is ‘not devoid of wisdom’ (οὺκ ἂσοφος, 1.3.1), he claims to know ‘every one of the barbarian languages’ (1.19.1), and he is versed in fables (7.30); but his philosophical inferiority to Apollonios is often made manifest in the narrative (their conversation on art as imitation at 2.22 is a good example). Substantial criticism of Damis is found later in the work, when he (following Demetrios) tries to deter his master from confronting Domitian: in Apollonios’ words, Damis, being accustomed to barbaric servility, ‘has no lofty ideas of freedom’ (7.14.1). This implicitly necessitates the editing of his memoirs by the NTs narrator also on a philosophical and ideological level.

17 Cf. Whitmarsh (2007b, 414), who compares the VA’s narrator to Herodotos in his handling of sources.

18 See also above, ch. 3.

19 Cf. Sironen (2003) on references to inscriptions as a technique of authentication in fictitious narratives (he does not mention Philostratos). No inscribed documents are mentioned after 8.29 (the limit of Damis’ coverage).

20 See further Kasprzyk (2013, 284-285) on letters that facilitate Apollonios’ travels. An exceptionally powerful letter is that of the Indian Wise Man, which manages to drive away an evil spirit from a possessed boy (3.38).

21 Except for a small fragment from On sacrifices, probably genuine (mentioned briefly in ch. 1 above). Dzielska (1986, 149-150) thought that it was originally written in Aramaic, but this is highly speculative.

22 See also Introduction.

23 Travellers’ tales, perhaps with some unidentifiable historical features? Apollonios’ legend and pure hearsay? Philostratos’ own invention?

24 On the typology followed here, cf. Sironen (2003, 299-300).

25 The text has also been treated as a letter and is included in editions of Apollonios’ letters. See Penella’s brief commentary (1979, 130).

26 On the practice of physiognomy, see also above, ch. 3.

27 On the Ionian koinon in the imperial period and the Panionia (also mentioned in Philostr. VS 2.612), see Herrmann (2002), who notes the continuation of the tradition of honorific decrees, as well as the virtual absence of extant examples from this period (ibid., 225-227).

28 See McLean (2002, 215). The term ψήφισμα features once more in the VA for a hypothetical motion that might have decreed the crowning of Aristides, the Athenian statesman, for his justice (6.21.5). According to Haake (2013), psephismata are one of the two most common types of epigraphic evidence cited in Hellenistic philosophical biographies (the other one being epitaphs).

29 On this term’s meanings, see DGE s.v. γραμματεῖον.

30 Jones translates ‘paper’; Mumprecht’s German has ‘Schrift’, and Del Como’s Italian ‘scritto’. Βιβλὶον means literally ‘papyrus scroll’. The length of the text, which this book contained, is hard to guess. The book of charges is included in the present list (although other βιβλὶα mentioned in the VA are not) for its status as official record.

31 ‘What knowledge, Apollonius, makes you wear clothing that is not the same as everyone else’s, but peculiar and idiosyncratic?’; ‘Why is it that men call you a god?’; On what basis… did you predict to the Ephesians that they would have the plague?’; ‘Tell me… on whose behalf did you sacrifice the boy?’ (8.5.1-2) All questions correspond to important aspects of Apollonios’ philosophical and religious profile, and are duly covered by the sage in the ensuing apology.

32 Cf. the formal start of Apollonios’ hearing at 4.44: ‘Apollonius named his father, his city, and his purpose in studying wisdom.’

33 See Meyer (2004, 85-86), citing a number of sources and examples.

34 On some historical background to the selling of grain in extraordinary circumstances, which could be undertaken by magistrates as well as by private individuals, see Erdkamp (2005, 283-306). On the tendency of the literary sources to blame merchants for food shortages, see Erdkamp (ibid., 263). See also Mumprecht’s note (1983, 1031) on the proverbial attribution of excessive love of money to the Aspendians. Cf. Raeymackers (2000), who notes the relevance of the episode to economic history, even if this is considered fictional.

35 See Raeymackers (2000, 284-285) for examples; see also above, ch. 2.

36 The Stoic view of Nature as a good and rational being is relevant to its identification with God; see Sellars (2006, 91-95) and above, ch. 2, n. 105.

37 Cf. Haake (2013, 93-100; 107-108) on the function of two Athenian honorary decrees which he associates with the Hellenistic biographical tradition about Aristotle and Zeno respectively, and which serve as ’arguments’ in favour of the political and moral integrity of the honorands.

38 See also above, ch. 1, n. 178 and further Goldhill (2001, 5-6). The combined use of Greek and Roman names (usually a Greek name as cognomen, together with a Roman nomen and praenomen) was common for Greek holders of Roman citizenship. Cf. Artem. 1.35 for Roman citizenship and the loss of ‘former name and status’ as a negative thing.

39 Here lies a marked difference between the VA and narratives about Jesus: Jesus remains silent during his trial before Pontius Pilate (and before Herodes Antypas in Luke’s Gospel) and does not respond to the accusations against him, nor does he disappear. On this point (which was exploited by pagan critics of Jesus and was revisited by Origen), see also Frede (1999a, 144-145; 1999b, 232-233). Note also that Apollonios calls silence in court (though he does not practice it himself) a skill that served Sokrates well (VA 8.2), because ‘he did not die’ (perhaps an allusion to Sokrates’ teaching about the soul’s immortality as presented in Pl. Phd. 106e, and as shared by the Pythagoreans, e.g. D. L. 8.31). However, the reference to Sokrates in the correspondence between Apollonios and the imprisoned Musonios suggests a different reading of Sokrates’ fate (VA 4.46).

40 Rhetorical speeches could circulate in written form, even if not necessarily in a single authoritative version. See e.g. Thomas (1992, 160-161). Although the persistent importance of orality in most functions of Roman society cannot be doubted, there is no doubt about the increasing role of written texts, not just in administration, but also in oratory and philosophy. On the real, but questionable practice of reading or reciting written speeches in court, see Meyer (2004, 216 n. 1).

41 See above, ch. 1 for explicit allusions to this virtue in the sage’s apology. On the apologia as a ‘text within a text’, which encapsulates the main elements of the story of Apollonios’ life, enriching it with Platonic intertextuality and contributing to its fictionalisation, see Robiano (2016).

42 The geography is muddled. Cissia is not near Babylon, as noted by Jones (2001, 194-195).

43 Skopelian further receives a biography in the VS (1.514-521), and Ep. Apoll. 19 is addressed to him. Cf. Civiletti (2002, 456 n. 39), and see also Jones (2001, 196-197).

44 See also above, ch. 2, on Apollonios’ philanthropy.

45 See further Gyselinck and Demoen (2009, 102-104), who discern a subtle intertextual dialogue with Herodotos. Apollonios’ declaration both to the satrap and to the Parthian king that he travels for icrropia (VA 1.21.2; 1.27) has perhaps prepared the reader for a Herodotean subtext.

46 Inscriptions from Susa: C77TI/2 nos. 1-50; IK Estremo Oriente nos. 172-223, including Philostratos’ poem (no. 177), but only as ‘literary’. The poem’s reference to Ekbatana, 300 km north of Susa (which is problematic from a geographical point of view) is also an indication of its rogue historicity; see Jones (2001, 196).

47 On such epigrams, see now Tacoma and Tybout (2016), with focus on the Greek East. Verse inscriptions are occasionally found in the epigraphical material from the ‘Extrême-Orient grec’, see e.g. CII II/l no. 32 (a 3rd c. funerary epigram from Susa); no. 12 (a 2nd/3rd c. dedicatory epigram on a statue, also from Susa) = IK Estremo Oriente no. 187; no. 214. Merkelbach and Stauber (2005) present eleven examples of verse inscriptions.

48 The fact that the epigram made its way into the Palatine Anthology (7.256), where it is attributed to Plato, matches ‘the bookish atmosphere of the whole episode’ (Gyselinck and Demoen 2009, 103). Cf. the state of the Greeks of Borysthenes (Olbia) as reflected in Dio Chrysostom’s Or. 36 (Borysthenikos), presumably mixing truth and fiction: surrounded by barbarians, they speak a corrupt form of Greek but hold on to their Greek identity. See further Salmeri (2000, 85-87); Trapp (2007a, 185-190).

49 Thus IK Estremo Oriente no. 411.

50 On mythological inconsistencies in the VA, cf. also Anderson’s remarks (2009, 214). Tantalos’ gardens are mentioned in the VS as a symbol of vain endeavour (1.513; 2.595).

51 The VA’s account of Demetrios’ actions and whereabouts is hopelessly muddled from a chronological point of view (see e.g. Bowersock 1970, 17- 18). Apollonios’ meeting with him, as with other philosophers in the VA, is meant to create an appropriate philosophical setting, not to reflect true facts.

52 On this passage, see further Tuozzo (2011, 185). Cf. Ti. 72a. On self-knowledge, see also above, ch. 2.

53 Philostratos’ readers may well think here of the other famous Delphic inscription, μηδἐν ἂγαν which also exhorts to sōphrosynē. See North (1966, 10-11).

54 App. Hisp. 2; D. S. 5.20.2.

55 See Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016, 96). But note that the Neopythagorean Moderates, a contemporary of Apollonios, originated from Gadeira (on him see e.g. Riedweg 2007, 164-165).

56 VA 5.4 mentions two, one Egyptian and one Theban, but they are not treated consistently. At 2.33.2 it is stated that it was the Egyptian, not the Theban Herakles who had reached Gadeira.

57 As noted above, ch. 1.

58 On Apollonios’ refusal to offer a reading of the inscription, see further Miles (2009, 141-143), who notes that this refusal stresses the mystery of the temple. On the inscription’s philosophical significance, cf. the Pythagorean concept of harmony and Empedokles’ teaching on love and strife (see e.g. Porph. VP 30-31 and Inwood 2001, passim).

59 No other source mentions this animal, which was allegedly named tor the great Homeric hero because of its strength (VA ibid.). But another elephant named Ajax, owned by Antiochos the Great, is mentioned by Pliny the Elder (8.5.11).

60 To this list we might add the potential future dedications to Vespasian, which Apollonios foresees if the former secures popularity by granting the Romans freedom to choose their constitution (5.34.3; πανταχοῦ μὲν γεγράψῃ τῆς πόλεως, πανταχοῦ δὲ ἑστήξεις χαλκοῦς), noting that he will be their chosen leader, if they opt for monarchy. On historical dedications to the emperor Vespasian, see Levick (2017, xlix and passim).

61 Son of the Parthian king Artabanos III, mentioned in Tac. Ann. 6.31.

62 Paus. 8.10.10. Note Veyne’s reading of this passage as a joke at the expense of the naïvete of the author’s fellow Greeks (1988, 96), with support from passages of a similar mood (ibid., 150 n. 176).

63 Note the digression on elephants in Ach. Tat. 4.3-4: the elephant is a strange animal, known almost exclusively through pictures; the Indian elephant is thought to be stronger than the Egyptian. The VA’s lengthy description of elephants (2.11-16) assigns to these animals quasi-human intelligence and compares them to other wild animals (2.14-15). See also Mumprecht’s relevant notes (1983, 1046-1049).

64 See further Henrichs (2010, 65-67).

65 See Petzke (1970, 198) on the role of Helios in the VA; see also above, ch. 1.

66 Thus Praet (2009, 304). Another memorable collared animal is the lion that was identified by Apollonios as the reincarnated Pharaoh Amasis; after its identification, the lion was adorned with a collar and ribbons (στρεπτῷ καὶ ταινὶαις, 5.422) but there is no mention of letters or gold.

67 It needs to be noted, however, that gold is mentioned often in the four romantic novels (more than 100 occurrences; e.g. golden weapons, jewels, coins).

68 A recurring toponym in the Dionysian tradition, mostly for cities founded by the god. See now Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016, 90-91), who also offer an informative summary of Dionysos’ traces in India (numerous artifacts found in the country depicting Dionysian scenes), including his likely syncretistic merge with the Indian god Ṧiva.

69 An account of the god’s Indian journey is also found in Arrian’s Indika (passim, citing Megasthenes as his source) and in his Anabasis in connection with Alexander (5.1-2) and is a popular topic in art. See further Stančo (2012, 84-95). Dionysos and his Indians did not escape Lucian’s satire (Bacchos).

70 See Parker (2008, 125-131).

71 Arr. An. 5.29; Plu. Alex. 62; Plin. 6.21.62 etc. See further Bäbler and Nesselrath (2016, 92-95), who note that the recipients of Alexander’s dedicatory inscriptions in the VA were perhaps Philostratos’ own invention. The VA’s Alexander inscriptions have nevertheless found their way in IK Estremo Oriente (nos. 401-408), where they make the largest part of Greek inscriptional material from India proper. On these inscriptions and the memory of Alexander, see also Parker (2008, 293-294). For the phrasing of the altar inscriptions, cf. the famous dedication of the temple of Athena Polias in Priene (ca. 334 ΒΟ): βασιλεὑς Ἀλὲξανδρος |ἀνὲθηκε τὸν ναὸν | Ἀθηναὶηι Πολιἀδὶ (IPri2 149).

72 See above, ch. 2.

73 See Stoneman (1995, 162; 166; 169).

74 See above, ch. 1. There is further discussion below on the rich analogy between Apollonios and Alexander in the VA.

75 See Gyselinck and Demoen (2009, 115-116) on the focalisation of the episode.

76 The inscription is included in IMT (571), but the source is the VA.

77 There is more on Palamedes, the ‘forgotten’ hero of the Trojan war, in the VA and later in this chapter.

78 Philostratos’ allusion to amulets is perhaps relevant to Apollonios’ later association with magical objects, in particular talismans, which were allegedly made by him and were in circulation in the Greek East from the 4th c. (see Dzielska 1986, 99-103).

79 On inscribed amulets, which were used in a wide range of situations, see Kotansky (1991).

80 See Meyer (2004, 79, with references). On books with magic, see Bremmer (2015, 250-264), who notes that literary mentions of such books include Acts 19: 19; the novel of Antonios Diogenes (Photios 110a); and Lucian Philops. 31; 34.

81 See Frankfurter (1994, 195-196) for a concise account and a comparison with Egyptian practice. Indian magic was also practiced both orally and with the help of writing, as our example (a) shows; see also Stutley (1980, 89) on singing and reciting spells, which were later written down (but sung spells were thought to have a special power).

82 See further Frankfurter (1994).

83 See Slater (2009, 67, with references).

84 He is one of several mythical ‘inventors’ of writing mentioned in Greek sources; others include Orpheus and the Egyptian god Thoth. See Frankfurter (1994, 189-191).

85 Note that a boy recognised by Apollonios as the reincarnation of Telephos shares a fate similar to that of the Homeric hero (VA 6.43.1-2): both suffer injuries that find their cure in their cause.

86 Apollod. Epit. 3.8; Paus. 10.31.2.

87 Note the sage’s caution about writing a letter of advice to the men he favoured as prospective leaders, Nerva, Orfitus and Rufus, while Domitian was in power, since correspondence could be intercepted (VA 7.8).

88 Phdr. 275a-b; see also Frankfurter (1994, 190-191) for suggestions of the supremacy of orality in Greek culture.

89 On which see also above, ch. 2.

90 Damis recorded the most important ones in writing (... γρἀψαι δὲ οὑ πἀσας, ἀλλἀ τἀς ἀναγκαὶας τε καὶ περὶ μεγἀλων σπουδασθεὶσας, 4.19)

91 A high level of Greek was clearly not among the features of the average Kappadokian. Contrast the clumsy Greek of the inscription recorded by Arr. Peripl. M. Eux. 1.2-4, written by barbaroi, presumably Trapezountians (not far from Apollonios’ native Tyana).

92 And further Iamblichos, Antonios Diogenes, Lucian, Petronius (who uses inscriptions more often than Apuleius), and the late antique Story of Apollonius king of Tyre. See Sironen (2003, 289; 296-297).

93 Such as the Story of Apollonius King of Tγre; on the epigraphical implausibility of some novelistic inscriptions, see Sironen (2003, 294). They do not adhere to strict stylistic rules, while bits of text which might have been plausible as inscribed communications are only spoken. For example, Hid. 9.26.3 has the sound of a written communication, but is in fact an oral message, which Hydaspes wishes to send his brother, the Persian king, via a messenger.

94 On letters in the Greek novel, see Letoublon (2003); Rosenmeyer (2001, 133-192).

95 See Kasprzyk (2013, 264). Apollonios as a letter writer (with an output beyond the limits of the VA) may be vaguely compared to Paul the Apostle, whose epistles hold a central place in the New Testament canon.

96 Instances were collected and counted by Sironen (2003); he also notes the predominance of inscriptions against letters in Luc. VH (5 against 1), and in the Story of Apollonius king of Tyre (6 or 7 against only 2). Letters are especially prominent in the Alexander romance (a total of 35; Nawotka 2017, 18-19).

97 Pace Sironen (2003, 296): ‘inclusion of inscriptions [was thought] less appropriate in novels aimed at a more sophisticated readership.’ Some popular narratives indeed show a taste for inscriptions (see also below), but so does Philostratos.

98 See Slater (2009, 69-70). The epigram in translation (by Anderson in Reardon 2008, 148): Hippothous fashioned this tomb for far-famed Hyperanthes, / A tomb unworthy of the death of a sacred citizen. / The famous flower some evil spirit once snatched from the land into the deep, / On the ocean he snatched him as a great storm blew.

99 See above, ch. 3.

100 Sironen (2003, 290-291). See also Slater (2009, 73-74).

101 As mentioned already, Heliodoros may have been aware of Philostratos’ book, while his enlisting of the inscribed word in the theme of recognition may further owe a debt to Attic New Comedy. See Sironen (2003, 295).

102 Extremities: Babylon, India (six examples – one seen at Delphi, but originated in India; IK Estremo Oriente no. 410), Susa, Gadeira (Iberia) and Armenia (if accepted as the place of provenance of the leopard caught in Pamphylia; IK Estremo Oriente [no. 23] lists it under Armenia).

103 See ch. 1.

104 Cf. Zadorojnyi (2013, 368). The decipherment of the inscription opens a window to Greek mythological notions (Earth, Ocean, Fates), but need not be seen as a result of the sage’s Greek paideia; after all he mentions Egyptian Herakles.

105 This is what Slater called the ‘unreality effect’ (2009, 64).

106 See Stoneman (1995, 165-168); Slater (2009, 72); Sironen (2003, 297-298), who notes that not all inscriptions are found in all recensions. An early Byzantine recension of the Romance (λ) further assigns to Alexander a multilingualism similar to that of Apollonios (see Jouanno 2002, 322).

107 On the fascination with foreign letters and riddled texts as a Hellenistic feature, related to Greek interest in remote lands, see Stoneman (1995, 167- 168), who also draws attention to a group of riddled epigrams from the AP. Riddles as such are not present in the VA, but are prominent in the Story of Apollonius king of Tyre (see e.g. Panayotakis 2012, 95-104, 503-524).

108 On Alexander’s skills, see Stoneman (1995, 160; 164-166). Similarities between Apollonios and Alexander were also noted in ch. 2 above.

109 Especially in the early Byzantine recension y of the Romance, as Stoneman notes (1995, 169 with references).

110 See also Zadorojnyi (2013, 377-382) on the use of epigraphy in narratives on Alexander the Great: Alexander romance, Arrian, Plutarch. A similar function is evoked for the god Dionysos in the VA, who is briefly referenced as a traveller and (as we have seen) a dedicator of an inscription.

111 Thus Stoneman (1995, 167).

112 Admittedly Apollonios refers to the fabulist Aisop and to the wisdom and morality of his tales, not to the roguish hero of the picaresque novel. See further Miles and Demoen (2009) on Philostratos’ treatment of Aisop.

113 See Jouanno (2002, 203-209).

114 See Stoneman (1995, 166); Sironen (2003, 297). Cf. Lucian’s faded caricature inscription in VH 1.7, as well as the inscribed pillar to be placed in mid-air as a record of the peace-treaty between the Moon and the Sun people (see Zadorojnyi 2013, 370). Cf. also the acronymic interpretation of an inscription in the Alexander romance (1.32).

115 Nic. 1. See Zadorojnyi (2013), with examples and caveats (not all epigraphic evidence is deemed trustworthy by ancient authors); see also Haake (2013, 81 and n. 16).

116 The term symbola generally refers to Pythagorean maxims/sayings (also known as acusmata), but it may also mean written signs, intelligible only to other Pythagoreans (see e.g. Zhmud 2012, 196).

117 See above, ch. 2.

118 See Wills (1995, 13; 103, n. 60). Wills notes the purposeful use of decrees in the Jewish novel and stresses their literary effect, downplaying their authenticatory function.

119 Note the New Testament’s use of formulae with γὲγραπται (kittel and Friedrich s.v. ypacpco), and see further Powery (2003).

120 Jn (19: 20-22) elaborated further: the text was written in three languages (Greek, Latin and Hebrew), and it caused a disagreement between the Jewish archpriests and Pilate, who would not alter the its formulation to the more accurate: ‘he (Jesus) claimed to be the king of the Jews.’

121 Thus Zadorojnyi (2013, 371), referring to the Rhodian oration of Dio Chrysostom (Or. 31), which expresses fear for the loss of identity of honorands, once honorific inscriptions undergo reuse (metagraphe).

122 As Stoneman deduces about the role of inscriptions in the Alexander romance’, the work is set ‘in a context of the development of the novel’ (1995, 166).

123 Cf. Zadorojnyi (2013, 373-377) on inscriptions which are relevant to Roman political discourse and to perceptions of individual political identities, and which sometimes reflect egocentrism and arrogance.

124 See above, ch. 2.

125 See also above, ch. 2. A satire of alleged after-death apparitions is found in Lucian, Peregr. 40.

126 ‘When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” ’ (Acts 17: 32, NRSV).

127 With respect to the afterlife of Jesus’ and Apollonios’ philosophies, however, it must be noted that it was largely thanks to the power of its texts that Christianity established itself in the Roman empire (a point made by Cameron [1991], who also discussed the strong effect of Christian oral discourse). Apollonios and his story did not become associated with an equally powerful current of written production (pagan communities more generally did not match Christianity’s penchant for literacy, see Cameron ibid., 109-110).

© C.H.Beck, 2018

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