"De hele wereld is Hellas voor een wijs man". Griekse identiteitsbepaling in Flavius Philostratus' Vita Apollonii



This paper examines the literary strategies with which Philostratus
questions, constructs and affirms a Greek universalising identity in his Vita
Apollonii. Despite the rapidly changing position of pagan Greeks and the rise
of Christianity in the third century A.D., Philostratus constructs in his
fictionalised biography an idealised Greek identity, embodied by the protagonist,
Apollonius of Tyana. This idealised identity is confirmed by
Apollonius' confrontation with "alterity" during his travels around the world:
he finds Greece everywhere. A discussion of the issue of "Greekness" in the
Second Sophistic is revealing for Philostratus' characterisation of both his
Greek hero and the various forms of "otherness" he encounters. Perhaps the
most important "other" for a Greek of the Imperial period was the Roman
emperor. His dealing with the "good" emperor Vespasian is presented as a
paradigmatic relationship between a Greek philosopher and a Roman emperor.
His conflict, on the other hand, with the "evil" Roman emperor Domitian,
whom he gloriously overcomes by his miraculous disappearance, demonstrates
the superiority of Philostratus' superhero. This ultimate divinisation of his
hero reveals certain tensions between literary fiction and the historical position
of a Greek elite under Roman rule.