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  • Philostratus
    Excerpt from The Life of Apollonius of Tyana

    The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus Excerpt taken form

     

    "The Buried Classic" from Ancient Greece,
    and the roots of the Western World....

    The Life of Apollonius of Tyana

     

    By Philostratus {220 AD}

     

    Of other

    Mythological Creatures...

     

    And inasmuch as the following conversation also has been recorded by Damis as having been held upon this occasion with regard to the mythological animals and fountains and men met with in India, I must not leave it out, for there is much to be gained by neither believing nor yet disbelieving everything. Accordingly Apollonius asked the question, whether there was there an animal called the man-eater (martichoras); and Iarchas replied:

    "And what have you heard about the make of this animal? For it is probable that there is some account given of its shape."

    "There are," replied Apollonius, "tall stories current which I cannot believe; for they say that the creature has four feet, and that his head resembles that of a man, but that in size it is comparable to a lion; while the tail of this animal puts out hairs a cubit long and sharp as thorns, which it shoots like arrows at those who hunt it."

    And he further asked about the golden water which they say bubbles up from a spring, and about the stone which behaves like a magnet, and about the men who live underground and the pigmies also and the shadow-footed men; and larchas answered his questions thus:

    "What have I to tell you about animals or plants or fountains which you have seen yourself on coming here? For by this time you are as competent to describe these to other people as I am; but I never yet heard in this country of an animal that shoots arrows or of springs of golden water. However about the stone which attracts and binds to itself other stones you must not be sceptical; for you can see the stone yourself if you like, and admire its properties. For the greatest specimen is exactly of the size of this finger nail," and here he pointed to his own thumb, "and it is conceived in a hollow in the earth at a depth of four fathoms; but it is so highly endowed with spirit, that the earth swells and breaks open in many places when the stone is conceived in it. But no one can get hold of it, for it runs away, unless it is scientifically attracted; but we alone can secure, partly by performance of certain rites and partly by certain forms of words, this pantarbe, for such is the name given to it. Now in the night-time it glows like the day just as fire might, for it is red and gives out rays; and if you look at it in the daytime it smites your eyes with a thousand glints and gleams. And the light within it is a spirit of mysterious power, for it absorbs to itself everything in its neighbourhood. And why do I say in its neighbourhood? Why you can sink anywhere in river or in sea as many stones as you like, and these not even near to one another, but here there; and everywhere; and then if you let down this stone among them by a string it gathers them all together by the diffusion of its spirit, and the stones yield to its influence and cling to it in bunch, like a swarm of bees."

    AND having said this he showed the stone itself and all that it was capable of effecting. And as to the pigmies, he said that they lived underground, and that they lay on the other side of the Ganges and lived in the manner which is related by all. As to men that are shadow-footed or have long heads, and as to the other poetical fancies which the treatise of Scylax recounts about them, he said that they didn't live anywhere on the earth, and least of all in India".

    As to the gold which the griffins dig up, there are rocks which are spotted with drops of gold as with sparks, which this creature can quarry because of the strength of its beak.

    "For these animals do exist in India," he said, "and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun; and the Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them abreast to draw the images; and in size and strength they resemble lions but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight; for they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air; and the tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds."

    "And the phoenix," he said, "is the bird which visits Egypt every five hundred years, but the rest of that time it flies about in India; and it is unique in that it gives out rays of sunlight and shines with gold, in size and appearance like an eagle; and it sits upon the nest; which is made by it at the springs of the Nile out of spices. The story of the Egyptians about it, that it comes to Egypt, is testified to by the Indians also, but the latter add this touch to the story, that the phoenix which is being consumed in its nest sings funeral strains for itself. And this is also done by the swans according to the account of those who have the wit to hear them."

     

     

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