Alright, so I’m on the final stretch for my thesis. For my final analysis I focused on how Philostratus models the Indian Wise Men on the Greek understanding of the Brachmanes and the Ethiopian Naked Ones on the Greek understanding of the Gymnosophistai. He does this because the Gymnosophistai, in Greek literature, were heavily influenced by Cynics, who were not so respected in the time of Philostratus (and centuries earlier in the time of Apollonius). As a result, Philostratus depicts the Naked Ones as these Cynic Gymnosophistai, whom Apollonius subsequently defeats in philosophical debate, distancing him from any criticism for his asceticism (which would have associated him with the radically ascetic Cynics). Furthermore, by separating the “bad” attributes and the “good” attributes associated with Indian sages as a result of the Greek tradition concerning Indians and placing them in two separate groups, one of which Apollonius reveres, the other which he condemns, Philostratus cleanly elevates Apollonius through his association with the all-good Indian Wise Men. Had Philostratus not done this, the negative attributes associated with the Indian Gymnosophistai would have implicitly tainted the ideal Wise Men.
Last Friday I had my Honors Colloquium and presented my research publicly (at least in a lecture format) for the first time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Honors Colloquiums at the College, I’ll briefly outline their primary purpose, which is twofold: [Read more…]
So I am now moving into the final analysis of Philostratus’ Apollonius of Tyana. I have outlined the influences on Philostratus’ depiction of the Indian Wise Ones and Ethiopian Naked Ones, and will soon outline what information concerning Indians Philostratus adds that is an accurate reflection of historical ancient Indians. This will likely demonstrate that Philostratus used other Greek sources no longer extant, and will add to the historically accurate information Greeks knew about Indian sages. On the other hand, if his depiction of Indian Wise Men demonstrates both some amount of accuracy and a consistent description of a specific Indian philosophical school (e.g. Brahmans, Buddhists, etc.), then this could be interpreted as some amount of proof that Damis was real and that he and Apollonius really did visit India. But I believe, and it seems so far, that this is not true. Lastly, I will describe some of the ways Philostratus uses the Indian Wise Men and the Ethiopian Naked Ones to portray Apollonius. There are two primary ways: first, by alluding to Apollonius superiority to Alexander the Great in their interactions with India, and, second, by portraying Apollonius as a superior to Pythagoras, since Apollonius visited, according to Philostratus, the source of the Pythagorean philosophy, the Indians. Pythagoras, according to Philostratus, only got this philosophy in an incomplete form from the Egyptians, who got it from the Ethiopians, who got it from the Indians. These are the final analyses.
I have returned to school and am ending a brief interim I had taken in Thesis work. From approximately my birthday (mid-January – towards the end of the break) until this past Tuesday, when I first met with my Thesis Advisor since being back, I have not looked at any Thesis related materials. Yet, right before my meeting with my advisor I finally re-opened my Thesis word document to refresh myself on my most pressing questions. I had been dreading the return to Thesis work and before I took my half-month pause I had been feeling as though I had sort of reached a wall. I had 30 some pages, including an outline of the majority of the piece as well as some more fully written sections, but (and I feel I am reporting fear and anxiety all too often in this blog) I worried about how to fill in the missing bits and chunks and about the strength of the parts I had fully drafted. Anyway, I think undergraduate Theses are an exercise in enacting the mantra “keep calm and carry on.”
So I spent most of my winter break finishing graduate school applications, so now I can focus entirely on my thesis. This is a very good thing because I have a lot to do in less than two months. I am currently working on compiling all the various influences of prior authors on Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana, regarding Apollonius’ meeting with the Indian wise men. Fortunately, it is not particularly hard work but is rather time consuming. The more abstract and lofty analysis will come in the final chapter concerning Philostratus’ use of his depictions of Apollonius and the wise men.