Thursday 21 April 2016

Life. 1.3 Introducing Damis

Map c.1000 CE


"Life of Apollonius of Tyana" by Philostratus

Book 1

1.3 We are introduced to Damis, Apollonius' travelling companion and scribe.

While Damis was likely to be an actual person, some of the content he wrote on his travels doesn't seem to "add up". Therefore, what Philostratus cites as being "Damis", may not be entirely accurate, Philostratus says. We could infer that Damis' own words may have been "added to" or otherwise "embellished" by some scribes who came after him, to defame the name of Apollonius - possibly agents of Rome. Here's some of the points Philostratus makes about Damis:
  • Damis was in no means stupid.
  • He came from the ancient city of Ninevah (see map above), which by all accounts is far inland, in the region known in those times (1 CE) as the "Hindu Kush" region. The old city today is located in northern Iraq, just west of Mosul by the look of it.
  • Damis followed Apollonius as he was a student of 'wisdom' (Sophia, hence: PhiloSophia)
  • Damis "records [Apollonius'] opinions and discourses and all his prophecies."
  • It was one of Damis' kinsmen who informed Julia Domna, wife of [Emperor] Septimius Severus that this previously unknown documentation of Apollonius' life, existed.

Philostratus says: "Now I belonged to the circle of the empress, for she was a devoted admirer of all rhetorical exercises; and she commanded me to recast and edit these essays, at the same time paying more attention to the style and diction of them; for the man of Nineveh [Damis] had told his story clearly enough, yet somewhat awkwardly."

As well as the record kept by Damis, Philostratus also references these primary sources:
  • the book of Maximus of Aegae, which comprised all the life of Apollonius in Aegae
  • a will composed by Apollonius

Philostratus states very clearly: "We must not pay attention anyhow to Moeragenes, who composed four books about Apollonius, and yet was ignorant of many circumstances of his life."

Philostratus: "That then I combined these scattered sources together and took trouble over my composition, I have said; but let my work, I pray, redound to the honor of the man who is the subject of my compilation, and also be of use to those who love learning. For assuredly, they will here learn things of which as yet they were ignorant."

And I must add here:  We in these modern times, thank YOU Philostratus, for your diligence to your task. I am sure we look forward to a scholarly work, and one that might astound us at times. But to yourself and Julia Domna, to you both, humanity is very much indebted. And a heartfelt thank you also to those men and women who risked life and limb to smuggle Philostratus' biography of Apollonius out of the library of Alexandria in the common era (CE), before it was burned. Thank you - from BronnyNZ and the world. Much love belongs to you all. I acknowledge you here.

Note from another source: The Great Library of Alexandria
"Apollonius of Tyana's biography was recorded in a work by Philostratus, the Life of Apollonius, which was written some time after the death of Julia Domna (the wife of [Emperor] Septimius Severus) in AD 217."

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