Philostratus' eight-book work on Apollonius of Tyana begins with an elaborate frame narrative in which the narrator describes how the empress Julia Domna commissioned him to edit a recently discovered authoritative account of that sage's career, written by one his disciples. This narrative has clear marks of conscious fictionality, and identifies the Apollonius with such pseudepigraphic works as Dictys Cretensis and The Wonders beyond Thule. This article will explore how this claim functions within Philostratus' larger narrative self-presentation. Philostratus in effect presents the reader with two models of how one obtains authoritative knowledge about cultural phenomena. The first is seen in the frame narrative, and involves single key texts authorized by politically powerful figures. The second is seen in the rest of the narrative, and involves wide-ranging research and critical argument by cultural professionals such as the narrator himself. Philostratus, although he would appear more to endorse the second model, ironically undercuts them both. The tension thus created is crucial to Philostratus' portrait of his protagonist's ambiguously human or divine status. It also has a key political component, however, inasmuch as various members of the Severan dynasty, like Philostratus' Julia, were claiming for themselves the power both to re-write political history and to redefine their status within Greco-Roman cultural discourse. The frame narrative and narratorial persona of the Apollonius are a uniquely sophistic reflection on the relationship of political power to Hellenic paideia.
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Research Article| April 01 2014
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Adam Kemezis; Roman Politics and the Fictional Narrator in Philostratus' Apollonius. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2014; 33 (1): 61–101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/CA.2014.33.1.61
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