The “Apotelesmata” of Apollonius of Tyana – now online in English

Anthony Alcock has sent in a translation of a curious anonymous Greek text in 8 chapters, concerning the Apotelemata (Talismans) of Apollonius of Tyana.  The content is astrological, concerned with names and words.

The work appears in medieval Greek astrological manuscripts, but also in a Syriac version as an appendix to the gnostic apocryphal Testament of Adam, itself perhaps dating from the 2-5th centuries AD.  There are also Armenian versions of part of it, themselves clearly translated from an unknown Arabic text.[1]

A Greek text was printed with Latin translation by Francois Nau in the Patrologia Syriaca 1, pp. 1362-1425, back in 1907, and another by Franz Boll in Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum 7: Codices Germanici, p.174-181, in 1908.

The translation is here:

I was able to find some discussion of this work in an article by Christopher P. Jones, “Apollonius of Tyana in Late Antiquity”, in: S.F. Johnson, Greek Literature in Late Antiquity: Dynamism, Didacticism, Classicism, 2016, p.57 f. The article is online here.

Jones writes (paragraphing mine):

“… Boll thought the work an ‘impudent fiction’ composed shortly before Eusebius’ Reply to Hierocles, while Nau was inclined to defend it as genuine; the obviously later ingredients, such as the reference to a church built by Apollonius in Tyana, he explained as later interpolations. The work cannot be by Apollonius and, as Speyer has noted, must be much later than Boll supposed, though it is still an interesting document deserving of consideration here. …

The writer reveals his Christianity at every point, both in his subject-matter and in his choice of words. He thinks that Apollonius was born early enough to predict the birth of Christ, and even (if the obvious interpretation is correct) that he founded a church in Tyana.

As for language, ναός denoting a Christian church is first apparently found in Eusebius, and προσκυνητός seems almost entirely a Christian usage. For στοιχειόω in the sense of ‘enchant’, ‘perform talismanic operations upon’, Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods cites no example before Theophanes Continuatus (not earlier than the ninth century).

A span of 800–1200 is presumably about right for the composition of the work. It may be relevant that Tyana was an episcopal see as early as 325, and after being lost to the Arabs was recovered for the Byzantine empire in the tenth century; the site has also produced remains of a church datable to that same century. 

Though irrelevant to Apollonius’ fortunes in late antiquity, therefore, the treatise shows the same acceptance of him into Byzantine Christianity that is implied inter alia by his appearance in art as a prophet of Christ.

Thank you, Dr Alcock, for making this interesting text more widely accessible.

  1. [1]M. E. Stone, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Armenian Studies, 2006, p.473 f.

New book on Hellenistic astrology

Chris Brennan has written to tell me about his new book, on Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune.

Ancient astrology is something that I ought to know about, but don’t.  There’s a whole class of ancient texts like Vettius Valens which incorporate information.  Probably if we knew more about it, we would see references to it in all sorts of works.

Chris himself is an astrologer, and well aware of the hostility that the profession attracts.  But a book written by someone who actually knows how to cast a horoscope, ancient or modern, must be a useful insight to those who need to know.

Here’s the description.

Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune is a survey of the history, philosophy, and techniques of Hellenistic astrology, which is a tradition of horoscopic astrology that was practiced in the Mediterranean region from approximately the first century BCE through the seventh century CE.

Although Hellenistic astrology is the source of many of the modern traditions of astrology that flourish around the world today, it is only recently that many of the surviving texts of this tradition have become available again for astrologers to study.

During this process many techniques and concepts have been recovered that were lost in the transmission of astrology over the past 2000 years.

The product of over a decade of research, this book provides one of the first comprehensive treatments of Hellenistic astrology in modern times. … Learn the history and origins of western astrology. Explore the philosophical foundations of astrological practice. Become acquainted with the works of the most influential astrologers of antiquity. Understand the original conceptual motivations for many techniques that astrologers use today. Recover powerful timing techniques that were lost during the transmission of astrology. 50+ diagrams and tables, which provide rich visual illustrations of the concepts covered. 100+ example charts, which demonstrate how the techniques work in practice. A detailed bibliography of works related to the study of ancient astrology.

A table of contents is available at the site, and the price is $48.  Worth a look for those interested in ancient Astrology!