Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
In the following study, I will survey what the ancient Greek sources say about Indian wise men and proceed to analyze what information the sophist Philostratus uses from these sources in his 'Life of Apollonius' and its depiction of Apollonius' trip to India and Ethiopia and the philosophers he meets there. I will argue that Philostratus manipulates the Western tradition in order to emphasize Apollonius's wisdom and respectability. To do this, Philostratus imbues the Indian Wise Men, with whose wisdom Apollonius associates himself, with all the attributes ascribed to Indian sages in the Western tradition that are positive from a western point of view. And on the other hand, Philostratus imbues the Ethiopian Naked Ones, whose philosophy Apollonius rejects, with all the negative attributes. Philostratus also presents certain attributes contained within the Western tradition as common to both the Indian Wise Men and the Ethiopian Naked Ones, but does so in a way that still praises the Indians and demeans the Ethiopians. I will also use my analysis of Philostratus' use of the Western tradition concerning Indian sages to provide a new perspective concerning one of Philostratus' most problematic sources: Damis. Philostratus claims that much of his biography is based on a travel journal written by a man named Damis who supposedly accompanied Apollonius for much of Apollonius' life. As I will detail below, a good deal of scholarly debate has arisen over whether Damis was a real person who wrote an account that Philostratus actually consulted or whether he, or his account, was a fictional creation of Philostratus. I will tentatively argue that, judging by Philostratus heavy use of the Western tradition in his depiction of Indian and Ethiopian sages and the portrayals that result, the Damis source is in fact fictional.
McVane, Samuel, "The Bare Necessities: Ascetic Indian Sages in Philostratus' 'Life of Apollonius'" (2011). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 362.
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