Apollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana
Ideal portrait of Apollonius of Tyana, in De Divinatione et Magicis, by Jacques Boissard.

Apollonius of Tyana (first c. C.E.) One of the most reputed Adepts of the Roman Empire, skilled in healing, Magic, and Alchemy. A romantic but unreliable account of his life, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, was written by Philostratus in the third century C.E. Though little is known about his life for certain, it is evident that Apollonius was a popular hero, at least by the second century. He is sometimes identified with another figure of the same period, Balinas.

Apollonius was born on an unknown date in the first century in Tyana, Cappadocia, now part of Turkey. He may have studied with the neo-Pythagorean branch of philosophy. A charismatic, he gained fame throughout Asia Minor as a magician or miracle worker and a teacher. He wrote at leastone book, On sacrifices, though other books are attributed to him, including a four-volume work titled On astrology and a work on Pythagoras and his doctrines.

Philostratus, a Greek sophist born circa 170 c.e., sought to portray Apollonius as a champion of Greek culture. According to Philostratus, Apollonius traveled widely throughout the ancient world with his disciple and traveling companion, Damis, and had numerous adventures. He learned the Hermetic knowledge. Apollonius had regular contact with the Magi and influenced the king of Babylonia. In India, the sages taught him magical and mystical arts. He visited Pergamum, the shrine of Asclepius, and Troy, and conversed with the ghost of Achilles. He saved a pupil, Menippus, from his vampire bride and banished Demons. In Rome, Apollonius fell in and out of favour with the emperor Nero. In Alexandria, he advised the new emperor Vespasian.

Traveling on to Ethiopia, he spent time with the gymnosophists, who he considered to be inferior in wisdom to the Indians. The tyrannical emperor Domitian, whom Apollonius opposed, had him imprisoned and put on trial. Apollonius was acquitted at the trial and miraculously disappeared from the court. Later while in Ephesus, he observed by Clairvoyance or remote viewing the murder of Domitian in Rome. He declined the request of the succeeding emperor, Nerva, to act as his adviser, sending Damis instead. After his death, Apollonius appeared in a dream to a young man to confirm the immortality of the soul. According to Philostratus, throughout this action- filled life, Apollonius performed numerous healings and miraculous acts.

Letters of Apollonius is a collection of more than 100 letters allegedly written by him. Most are known to be written anonymously. Some are older than Philostratus’s account and seem to be based on information known about Apollonius. In two letters, Apollonius acknowledges being a “magician.”

In the 19th century, magician Eliphas Levi attempted to conjure the spirit of Apollonius in a necromancy ritual. A spirit appeared and terrified Levi, but he never acknowledged whether or not it was indeed Apollonius. Francis Barrett described Appollonius as “one of the most extraordinary persons that ever appeared in the world.”

See Also:

Further Reading:

  • Flinterman, Jaap-Jan. “Summary of Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius.” Available online. URL: https://www.livius.org/ apark/apollonius/apollonius_life.html. Downloaded January 10, 2005.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy  Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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