Pollo was barking orders to everyone. Servants were running this way and that, carrying linens, cleaning the great estate house, cooking and arranging the richly decorated furniture.
“Where’s Alexis?” he shouted. “Alexis, come here!”
An old man dressed in the blue toga that all the male servants of the manor house wore, came scurrying around a corner.
“Yes, Master, I’m here, I’m here,” he called.
“Alexis, my son will soon be here and nothing is ready. This house still needs cleaning and the cooking is way behind schedule. He will arrive and nothing will be prepared. If he finds this place a shambles, he’ll think we don’t care!”
The old man had a twinkle in his eye and a happy, single toothed smile filled his craggy face.
“Don’t worry, master, everything will be in order by the time Apollonius arrives. Alexis will take care. Alexis will see to it!”
Alexis ran off yelling at the other servants, his long arms and large hands flaying this way and that as he gave the directions that brought order out of the chaos. Alexis had been valet to ‘Pollo’s father and had attended to the needs of this rich and aristocratic family longer than anyone else. He was not the estate overseer nor was he the chief slave, but when it came to serving the young Apollonius, the other servants accepted his leadership. They knew that Apollonius looked to Alexis as to a grandfather.
As Alexis assumed command of the preparations, ‘Pollo went up to the patio on the roof of the manor house. From there, he looked across the fields of his farm dotted with slaves working among the grape arbors. He sat on a large, wooden chair, and with his right hand, began to play idly with his neatly cropped beard. His mind wandered to thoughts of his fourteen-year old son, Apollonius, who had been away at school in Tarsus for six months. ‘Pollo smiled. His real name was Apollonius, too, but all his life, he had been known by the familiar, “ ‘Pollo,” rather than the more formal, “Apollonius.” However, among his business associates, he was known as “Apollonius the Elder,” to distinguish between himself and his young son.
‘Pollo relaxed and looked out over his fields, his mind recalling images of his son.
“Oh, how I’ve missed him,” thought ‘Pollo. “He’s such a marvelous child, so handsome and happy.”
‘Pollo laughed to himself as he remembered how mischievous and playful Apollonius could be.
“There was the time,” he mused, “when he found Alexis sound asleep while fishing the small river that flows through the farm. Apollonius was only eight years old. That little scamp tied Alexis’s fishing line to an underwater root of a tree and then called to the old coot that a fish was tugging on his line. Alex pulled and pulled until his line snapped and he fell into the stream. Apollonius rolled on the ground with laughter. Alexis could never be angry with Apollonius and so he stood there dripping wet and laughed right along with the little imp. The next day, Apollonius brought Alexis a new toga to atone for his prank. Alexis told me that the real reason that Apollonius tied his line to the root was because he didn’t want any fish killed.”
‘Pollo shook his head.
“He’s such a loving and caring boy. He’s not at all like other youngsters. I have always marveled at how he treats servants and family with the same respect and deference. He’s never proud or conceited because of our wealth and rank.
I remember once, when old Alexis was so sick that he couldn’t stop vomiting. He was red with fever. Everyone thought he was dying, so dehydrated was he. But, Apollonius, eleven years old at the time, I believe, would not accept that. He cried and cried until we let him sit by Alexis’s bed. Apollonius made him drink cool water gathered at the river and continually bathed the old man’s head with a wet towel. He never left Alexis’s side for a day and a half until that fever broke. After that, Apollonius fed soup to Alexis with his own hand, making sure that the old fellow ate enough to regain his strength. It never mattered to him that Alexis was a slave.”
‘Pollo closed his eyes, letting his mind drift back to when the young Apollonius was only seven.
“He is so compassionate. We had a bumper crop of wheat that year. We needed help to bring it in. I hired some itinerant farm workers and built tents for them to live in while they were with us. I took Apollonius with me in a wagon one evening. We rode by those tents and Apollonius observed how simply those people lived and how poor they were. The next day, he had one of the household slaves pull a small wagon filled with his own clothes. He brought robes and togas and sandals. He gave them away to the young children of those poor farmers. Some of them were so excited to have the clothes that they just grabbed the gift and ran off and hid. I remember how angry I was when I found out what he had done.”
The elder Apollonius rubbed his forehead.
“Who is he, this boy I call my son? He’s not like me, certainly. No, he is his mother’s son. He is good and kind, like her,” he thought.
‘Pollo sighed as he remembered his wife who had died three years earlier. He missed her still.
“He has her fine, chiseled features,” he thought. “When I look at him, I see her. Maybe that’s why I love Him so.”
He scratched the beard of his chin and his eyes moistened.
“How strange was the story of her pregnancy with Apollonius,” he remembered.
“She had that dream, that crazy dream. She said that Proteus, the Egyptian God, came to her in that dream and told her that he would be born as her son...our son. I don’t know much about Proteus except that He’s supposed to be very wise and knows the past and the future. Some say that he has the ability to elude capture. Many soldiers of many nations along the Middle Sea have adopted Proteus as their Patron. They pray to him to protect them from harm and from capture by the enemy. Well,” he sighed, “my boy is intelligent and wise beyond his age. Alexis says that Apollonius knows the future...and the past…like Proteus. It’s hard for me to believe that. I have had no evidence of it. Still...Alexis doesn’t lie and he is very close to the boy. Maybe, he is...Proteus.”
‘Pollo wet his lips.
“My God, what am I thinking? Could it be true? Is it possible that he is Proteus? I remember what happened the day Apollonius was born. My wife wandered with her retinue of slaves and servants amid the flower garden in the back of the Manor house. Suddenly there was a rainbow across the sky when there had been no rain! The colors were so intense. It was hard to understand. Then she collapsed...passed right out. I was in the horse barn checking on my favorite mount that had injured his hoof. A servant ran in to tell me that she had fallen. I started to run to the garden when I heard the music of lyres and drums and pipes playing in the manor house. I didn’t know whether to run to her or to investigate the intrusion of musicians into my home. All of a sudden, the door of the house flew open and several house servants rushed outside. They told me they had heard musical instruments playing outside. They ran out of the house as I was running in. What I heard inside, they heard outside. Yet, there were no musicians anywhere, either inside or out.
When I finally reached the garden, my wife was sitting up and her attendants were helping her to give birth. I saw a bright blue light engulf her and hover about her. The baby Apollonius entered the world easily. The blue light surrounded him also. Suddenly, thunder and lightning erupted across the bright, sunny, blue sky. We all stood in the garden hypnotized by these strange events.
I noted the time of birth and sought out the priests of three different temples to have them consult the stars. The priests all confirmed that Apollonius was a special child. One of them said that he would have great fame as a miracle worker. Another said that he would advise emperors and the third predicted a life of wandering and travel among many peoples. I still can’t believe everything they said. I mean, can it all be true? Is Apollonius truly one of those great souls that come to earth from age to age? Is He another Socrates or Plato?”
‘Pollo opened his eyes and scanned the fields. In the distance, his oldest son, Hestiaeus was riding his horse among the workers. He pulled up his mount and with his riding crop, swatted a worker who was resting on his pitchfork.
“Apollonius is so different, not at all like Hestiaeus.” said ‘Pollo out loud. “Apollonius could not bring harm to any living thing. He would never strike a worker in the fields.”
‘Pollo stood up and walked to the low wall that ran around the rooftop patio.
“Hestiaeus is a hunter and a fisherman for sport,” he thought. Apollonius won’t even remain in the same room if meat is served. He eats only what the earth yields from the fields. While his brother spends my money on women, clothes and wine, Apollonius accounts for every silver coin that I send to him in Tarsus. He lives frugally and purchases only what is necessary. Ha! I have never seen him drink a goblet of my own wine.”
The elder Apollonius pursed his lips and whistled softly to himself.
“Still, I am proud of his goodness and pleased that he carries my name, ‘Apollonius.’ Yet, he does not share my love of business and, I fear, will never join my undertakings. He could share in the profits of my farms, wineries, granaries and shipping enterprises and become one of the most respected and wealthy men in Greece. From me, he could inherit many farms and businesses that I worked so hard to accumulate. Yet, to this time, he shows no interest in prosperity. But, someday, he must! He is my son, after all. Ours is a wealthy and respected Greek family. We can trace our ancestors for seven generations back to the noble Menodotus, and so, Apollonius must at least be well educated. Whether he joins my enterprises and participates in the family business some day, only the gods know. I pray that he will. All I can do is see to it that he has a good education to prepare him for his duties if he does assume responsibilities for some of my enterprises. Hopefully, his studies will kindle in him a desire for business that I have not been able to instill in him myself.”
‘Pollo sighed. It hurt him to think that Apollonius, his son and namesake, was not just like him. He wanted the family fortune to expand and he had prayed in all of the temples of Tyana that his sons would follow him in his businesses.
“If Apollonius could be just a little like Hestiaeus and Hestiaeus a little like Apollonius,” he said to himself in an inaudible whisper.
Apollonius the elder sat back down in the big wooden chair, folded his hands across his slightly expanding stomach and closed his eyes. Although he was happy that he would see Apollonius soon, ‘Pollo was concerned that his son was coming home for a visit only six months after he left for Tarsus. He suspected there was a reason why Apollonius was coming home so soon. He worried that something was wrong.
“Muscellus is with Apollonius,” thought ‘Pollo. “He’s one of my most trusted servants. He is totally loyal to my house. He will certainly tell me the truth about how Apollonius is doing in Tarsus. “
Tarsus! The thought of that decadent city made ‘Pollo open his eyes.
“There are so many distractions for a young man in that city,” thought ‘Pollo, recalling his own youth. “I spent as much time in the brothels as I did in school!” He smiled at his own memories.
“Has that harlot of a city changed my son?” he asked himself. “Has he become a regular patron of the brothels and bars of that city? Well, Muscellus will tell me. I hope he has been seduced by some of its temptations. Then, maybe, he might be ready to concentrate on our family affairs rather than philosophy and God, God, God! We’ll see soon enough.”
‘Pollo dozed off, warmed by the late afternoon sun, his chin falling to his chest. Light breezes wafted comfortably across the rooftop. He slept soundly for a little while. Suddenly, someone shouting at him from behind his chair awakened him. He turned to see Alexis waving his long arms at him and calling him to come down from the Patio.
“He’s here, master, he’s here! Apollonius has arrived!”
“Apollonius the Elder jumped up and ran toward the stairwell that led down from the patio to the floors below. He was so excited that he ran into Alexis who was moving as fast as his tired old legs would allow. Both men were shouting as they ran.
“Apollonius! Apollonius! Welcome home! Welcome home!”
They rushed from the stair, through the Atrium to the main door and then outside. There, in the distance was a small carriage being pulled at a trot by a small brown horse. ‘Pollo could see that the carriage carried two men, Muscellus, the family servant and Apollonius the Younger. When the carriage reached the estate manor, Apollonius quickly jumped down. First, he bowed to his father respectfully and then warmly embraced him around his shoulders. Apollonius was already taller than his father. The embrace pleased the elder Apollonius and warmed his heart. He was so happy to see his son that he almost burst into tears. With all of his inner strength, he fought back the urge and managed to smile happily.
As Muscellus jumped from the carriage, Apollonius turned toward Alexis and hugged him warmly.
“How are you, old friend?” he asked the elderly Alexis.
“I am fine, now that I find you home,” said Alexis with that wide, single tooth grin of his.
Alexis dropped to his knees to touch the feet of the younger Apollonius, who, with a loving smile, bent down and raised the old man up. ‘Pollo was again amazed at the genuine love that Apollonius showed to this old slave.
Out of the corner of his eye, the elder Apollonius noticed his elder son, Hestiaeus, silently come through the front door of the manor house. Hestiaeus hung back until Apollonius approached him and warmly kissed him on the cheek. Hestiaeus was friendly and cordial with Apollonius, but didn’t show the same warmth and affection towards him that the elder Apollonius exhibited. ‘Pollo shook his head and sighed.
Muscellus reached to take the two trunks that were on the back of the carriage. ‘Pollo noted that Apollonius wouldn’t let his servant carry both pieces. He took one from Muscellus. They carried the trunks inside the house where two household slaves appropriated them.
Apollonius the Elder walked with his young son, through the Atrium and into his private office. ‘Pollo noted that his son had grown taller and more muscled since he left for Tarsus just six months ago. He was tanned and appeared healthy. ‘Pollo noticed that a light auburn fuzz was visible above his upper lip.
“He is handsome,” thought ‘Pollo. “He has his mother’s smile and eyes.”
After father and son exchanged questions and answers about the younger man’s health and the conditions of life in Tarsus, Apollonius informed his father that Euthydemus, his teacher, a rhetor from Phoenicia, was coming to the manor and should arrive before dinner. ‘Pollo was delighted. That gave him another person to quiz about Apollonius’ studies and activities in Tarsus. Soon, Apollonius begged leave of his father for a short time in order to bathe and refresh himself. The journey had been long and the roads dusty.
After Apollonius was excused, ‘Pollo sent for Muscellus. Muscellus was forty years old, three years younger than the elder Apollonius. He was a native of Syria, dark skinned, and wore his graying hair short and combed back across his ears. Muscellus had been a slave in the household since childhood. He and ‘Pollo had been great friends as children, but the realities of the master-slave relationship eventually lessened the familiar contact between the two boyhood friends. Yet, ‘Pollo never forgot his happy childhood memories and at the first opportunity, manumitted Muscellus, giving him his freedom and employment at a reasonable pay within the household.
Muscellus came immediately to ‘Pollo’s office. He was smiling, but then, Muscellus always smiled. Muscellus was very intelligent. Many years earlier, when ‘Pollo realized that Muscellus was teaching himself to read and write, he arranged for a tutor to make sure that his old friend acquired those skills. Both men loved each other even though their station in life kept them separated and apart. It was that love, that quiet friendship between them that made Muscellus so loyal to the elder, Apollonius. It was that loyalty that made the senior Apollonius assign Muscellus as his son’s servant while the boy was in Tarsus.
‘Pollo asked Muscellus to sit with him. Muscellus was surprised. In spite of their friendship, the unwritten rules and regulations of their stations in life did not encourage familiarity.
“Tell me, Muscellus, asked ‘Pollo, “why has Apollonius returned home only six months into his stay at Tarsus?”
“I think it’s better if Apollonius answers that directly, ‘Pollo.”
Of all the slaves and servants, it was only Muscellus who was allowed to address Apollonius the Elder by his nickname, ‘Pollo.
“Muscellus, old friend, you are in my employ. When I ask you a question, I expect a direct answer, especially as regards my son, Apollonius. Now tell me, how is Apollonius progressing with his studies?”
Muscellus took a deep breath. He was greatly relieved. In his exasperation, ‘Pollo had changed the question from “...why has Apollonius returned home…?” to “..how is Apollonius progressing with his studies?” Muscellus answered quickly now before ‘Pollo realized that he had changed the direction of the inquiry.
“Apollonius is doing very well indeed,” said Muscellus. “This year, his subjects of study are mathematics, philosophy, art and rhetoric. He excels in all these disciplines. In fact, certain teachers have been coming to him to hear his thoughts and opinions on certain aspects of philosophy. He is revered by many as one who knows philosophy innately without the need of study.”
“But how can this be?” asked the elder Apollonius. “He’s just a boy?”
“No, master, not just a boy,” chuckled Muscellus. “Apollonius has many extraordinary gifts.”
He looked warily at ‘Pollo and decided to risk more. “He can see the future! Many students, teachers and even the political leaders of Tarsus, have sought him out to prophesize future events.”
“I don’t believe this,” said ‘Pollo quietly. “They are treating him like a great master! He is only fourteen, for God’s sake!”
Still, he is recognized as …exceptional, ‘Pollo,” answered Muscellus, shrugging his shoulders.
“Exceptional? Yes, he is exceptional, but is he studying? I want him to help manage some of my enterprises some day,” insisted ‘Pollo. “Is he learning any mathematics? Is he progressing in the study of rhetoric? These are the subjects that he will need to develop to do well in business. Is he ‘exceptional’ in these disciplines?”
“He does exceedingly well in both areas of study, ‘Pollo,” said Muscellus quietly. “Yet there is a problem. They’re not his first love. He lives for philosophy. The study of the divine is his very nature. Yet, most of the teachers in Tarsus, even the philosophers, don’t live their teachings. They say one thing but live quite another. Apollonius seems distracted by the lack of depth and interest in the world of spirit at Tarsus. The teachers there are very much into their minds.”
“That is precisely why I sent him there in the first place,” said ‘Pollo. “I want him to develop his mind!”
“Yes, I understand, master,” said Muscellus, “but Apollonius finds these teachers too intellectual, without passion for their subjects. He believes that they don’t experience or live what they profess.”
The elder Apollonius stood and walked around the room rubbing his hands.
“Friends? Does He have any...friends?”
“Ah yes, he does,” answered Muscellus with a smile. Many students follow after him like a gaggle of geese following the lead goose in flight.”
“Well then,” said ‘Pollo, “he is active in the social life of Tarsus.”
The observation was framed as a statement but in reality was a question. Muscellus answered cautiously.
“Your son is well liked and is often asked to attend parties and affairs sponsored by students, teachers and even your business associates in Tarsus. Yet, He doesn’t usually accept those invitations as he finds such evenings trivial and a waste of time. When we first arrived in Tarsus, Orynx, a client of yours and wealthy in his own right, invited him to a party at his villa. Because of Orynx’s relationship with you, Apollonius accepted. As it turned out, for him, it was a disaster.”
“What do you mean?” asked the elder. “Orynx is a good friend. I’m sure that he did everything possible to make Apollonius comfortable.”
“Well, maybe he did, but Apollonius was anything but comfortable. The party became quite rowdy with many of the guests drinking too heavily. Apollonius excused himself and left the hall. A young woman, Orynx’s daughter, followed him. She is quite beautiful. Orynx had told her to become familiar with Apollonius as he was from a wealthy family. Orynx had hopes that his daughter might marry your son, even though she is four years his senior. He thought it a good match...economically. When the daughter saw Apollonius and realized how comely he is, Orynx did not have to persuade her to pursue your son. When He left the hall for the garden, she followed him and made advances. Brazenly, she threw her arms around him and kissed him.”
“What happened?” asked ‘Pollo, “Did my son return her affections?”
Muscellus cleared his throat.
“No. He simply turned and left the villa of Orynx. He never saw her again.”
‘Pollo slapped his forehead.
“My god, what was he thinking? He is certainly not like his brother, Hestiaeus! Hestiaeus would have bedded the wench and forgotten it in the morning!”
The elder Apollonius placed his hands on his hips and raised his head to the ceiling. “Muscellus, I swear, I have no idea who my own son is” cried ‘Pollo. “I don’t understand him. Others call him, uh, uh, uncommon! Hrummph, maybe he is, I don’t know. I do know that he’s different, so very different.”
Suddenly, ‘Pollo’s eyes became as large as dinner plates.
“Oh my God, he is not so different as to prefer men, is he?”
Muscellus burst out laughing.
“No, no, ‘Pollo, you have nothing to fear in that regard. Men do not motivate Apollonius. He’s just spiritually inclined.”
Alexis burst into the room.
“Master, Euthydemus, Apollonius’ teacher has arrived. He has traveled here directly from Tarsus without rest. He awaits you in the atrium. While you greet him, I’ll see to his chamber and arrange a bath.”
“Thank you, Alexis. Please tell him that I’m on my way,” ‘Pollo said as he dismissed Alexis with a wave of his hand. He turned to Muscellus and asked,
“What does this Euthydemus teach, Muscellus?”
“Mathematics, rhetoric and philosophy master,” answered Muscellus, “mostly the thoughts of Plato and the teachings of Socrates. He is very eloquent and is in demand for his rhetoric.”
“Is he an ascetic?” asked ‘Pollo.
“No, far from it. He’s like the worldly teachers of Tarsus that I described earlier. Euthydemus is not personally comfortable with the rigors of austere disciplines. However, he’s a good man and an excellent teacher. I have observed that he has a good heart and that he loves Apollonius.”
‘Pollo greeted Euthydemus warmly.
“I have heard that you love my son, Euthydemus. For that reason, if for no other, you are welcome under my roof. Dinner is being prepared. Yet there is a little time before it will be served. Alexis, my servant, has prepared your chamber and a bath. Do take advantage of the few minutes left before dinner. Bathe and rest until Alexis calls you to join us.”
Euthydemus was a tall, slender man. His beard was gray and neatly trimmed. His piercing, deep, brown eyes set close to the bridge of his long nose made him look somewhat like a wolf. Although he was a great orator and commanded a beautiful, deep, resonant voice, privately, he was a shy man, given to few words. He bowed gracefully to his host and followed Alexis who arrived to bring him to his chamber.
Several minutes later, Euthydemus stretched out his tall frame in a marble tub filled with warm water. The servants left him alone to relax after his long trip.
“My God, how luxurious this bath feels,” thought Euthydemus. “I’m so grateful to be able to rest here alone for a little while. I have a feeling there will be great tension in this household when ‘Pollo learns that his son wishes to leave his studies in Tarsus and register as a student at the medical school of Aesculapius in Aegae.”
Euthydemus realized that if Apollonius registered in Aegae, he would lose his position as chief tutor to this wealthy young man. The thought caused him great anxiety as Euthydemus had no other source of income. He knew the elder Apollonius would question him about the plans of the younger.
‘Pollo will want to know if it’s in the best interest of the young master, to transfer to Aegae.”
Euthydemus was an honorable man. He would tell the elder Apollonius the truth, and the truth was that Apollonius could gain nothing by remaining his student.
“There is nothing more that I can teach him,” thought Euthydemus sadly. “He seems to absorb the lessons before I give them and he never forgets anything. His memory is tremendous. What is amazing to me, is that although the study of rhetoric, logic, and numbers comes easy to him, he’s not interested in the pursuit of them. He is totally consumed with philosophy and the study of divinity, always...divinity. Everything else bores him.”
Euthydemus reluctantly drew himself out of the bath.
“I’ll lose my tutoring position, I know,” he sighed. “Yet, I must tell ‘Pollo that his son, Apollonius, wishes to go to Aegae to study philosophy and medicine. He’s so different, sometimes I think him, at the very least, a genius, or maybe a daemon.”
He laughed nervously.
“There will be tension between father and son tonight, but Apollonius will go to Aegae. I’m sure of it”
Euthydemus, Hestiaeus, ‘Polo and Apollonius dined together. Hestiaeus was sullen. He didn’t want to be with his brother or his father. He wanted to be in the city with his friends. The conversation of the learned Euthydemus bored him and his sibling jealousy of his brother rankled him. Euthydemus was uncomfortable. He expected ‘Pollo to be furious when he heard Apollonius’ plan to begin medical studies at the Temple of Aesculapius in Aegae. He didn’t relish being part of the argument that he knew would follow Apollonius’ declaration.
‘Pollo, too, was on edge. He was disturbed and uneasy about Apollonius. ‘Pollo didn’t quite know why, but he sensed something in the air. Only Apollonius seemed relaxed. His conversation at dinner was pleasant and cheerful. ‘Pollo decided to find out if his misgivings were well founded. He invited everyone to join him on the rooftop patio. Hestiaeus begged to be excused as he had another appointment. Hestiaeus didn’t have any knowledge of Apollonius’ activities in Tarsus so Pollo allowed him to leave. However, ‘Pollo knew that Muscellus knew more than they discussed earlier so ‘Pollo sent for Muscellus to join them on the patio.
When Muscellus arrived, ‘Pollo wasted no time and got right to the point.
“Apollonius, my son, I’m very happy to see you and have you home,” he said sincerely. “I have missed you greatly during these last six months. However, I’m concerned that you have returned home so quickly after beginning your studies in Tarsus. Is there a particular reason why you have interrupted your schooling and come home?”
Muscellus standing behind Euthydemus stiffened. Euthydemus took out his handkerchief and wiped his brow. Both men were very anxious and knew that ‘Pollo would be very upset as soon as he learned of Apollonius’ intentions. Apollonius, however, did not seem perturbed. He answered his father’s question directly.
“Father, I am unhappy in Tarsus. It’s an immoral and wicked city. I’m not comfortable with its corrupt attractions. Tarsus is a city of prostitution and greed. I wish for a more noble environment.”
‘Pollo interrupted him.
“But I’m not asking you to debase yourself. I’m only asking you to gain an education. I want you to have training and knowledge in rhetoric and mathematics. These will help you in business. It’s important, too, that you have an appreciation of fine ideas and art so that you can converse with educated, intelligent and wealthy men in an intelligent manner worthy of your station in life. Tarsus offers you that education!”
‘Pollo was slamming his left hand with his right fist.
“It may do all of that father,” but I’m not interested in business or worldly culture. I am intent on learning more of God and philosophy. I wish to be a servant to mankind and so, I wish to attend the Temple of Aesculapius in Aegae to study medicine. I ask for your blessings on that endeavor for I can not study philosophy or divinity or medicine among the materialistic teachers of Tarsus.”
‘Pollo was visibly upset. He rose from his chair and walked across the patio. He turned abruptly and shouted at Apollonius.
“Medicine! Philosophy! How did a son of mine become so blind to the realities of the world that he ignores prestige, wealth and business and seeks only divinity!”
“Father, don’t you see?” asked Apollonius. “It is time for me to begin my life’s mission. It is time for me to serve mankind.”
“Mission? What are you talking about? What mission? Your duty is to follow in my footsteps and to take over your share of my enterprises.”
“No father, my duty is to serve others,” said Apollonius. “I must begin my spiritual journey.”
‘Pollo was beside himself. He slapped his forehead and looked to Euthydemus for support, begging his help with sad eyes.
“Please Euthydemus, you’re his tutor. Explain to him how important it is that he prepare to manage the family enterprises, not waste his time with healing and philosophy. Explain to him how much he needs your education and help in order to do this. Please, make him understand!”
Euthydemus rubbed his head before he responded, trying to choose ideas that would diffuse the situation and help ‘Pollo understand. Try as he might, he could not find the words to calm the elder Apollonius.
“No sir, I can’t do what you ask,” he answered softly. “Your son has no further need for an education from me or from any other tutor. He knows the lessons that I impart before I teach them. He has absorbed the lessons for boys four years older than himself. Apollonius’ memory is already famous in Tarsus. He remembers everything word for word. Whether he reads it in a text or hears it from me or from others, he absorbs it totally. No, he needs no further schooling. ‘Pollo, your son is now my teacher. I learn from him!”
‘Pollo was enraged. His hands shook and spittle came out of his mouth with his words. He screamed at Euthydemus.
“What? And is this son of mine so schooled at age fourteen that he’s ready to take over my businesses and my farms? Is he trained to manage the estate that five generations of my family have worked so hard to accumulate?”
Apollonius stood before his father.
“Father, I did not take birth at this time, on this plane, to live the life of a householder or a businessman. I am here to teach and to heal.”
‘Pollo could not believe what he was hearing. He turned to Muscellus, his servant, who had traveled to Tarsus with his son. Although ‘Pollo had called him to join the discussion on the rooftop patio, Muscellus was not comfortable enough to sit with his master and the others. He stood behind Euthydemus.
“Muscellus! You’re my servant. Tell me the truth. Don’t hide anything from me.
Are Euthydemus and my son, Apollonius, acting here in concert? Is there a nefarious conspiracy between them to promote a wicked scheme or has Euthydemus, here, drugged my young son’s mind? Answer me! Has Apollonius a need to leave Tarsus for some indiscretion that he may have perpetrated? Oh my god, how can my son abandon his family and its vast holdings for the life of a doctor or a wandering philosopher, living off alms?”
He spit out the questions so fast that he lost his breath and had to sit down. Muscellus walked to him. The loyal servant put a loving hand on his shoulder. He would tell ‘Pollo the truth.
“Master,” he began respectfully, “Euthydemus is an honorable man. He’s not using your son for his own ambitions. In fact, if your son goes to Aegae, Euthydemus will lose a very good income and will have to seek out a new student to teach. No, Euthydemus is honest and no conspirator. As to Apollonius, please know that his character and morality is of the highest order. He has no ulterior motive behind his desire to transfer to the Temple of Aesculapius and to serve others. He has told you the simple truth tonight. He finds that his soul is called by the Gods.”
“Called by the Gods! What are you saying?” screamed ‘Pollo. “You are all idiots! I haven’t worked hard all my life so that my sons could become philosophers or, or worse, priests!”
The senior Apollonius turned to his son and pointed an accusing finger in his direction.
“If I command you to return to Tarsus and continue your studies, what will you do?”
Without hesitation, Apollonius responded: “I will obey your command, Father.” ‘Pollo was taken aback. He didn’t expect such a quick response and he didn’t expect total obedience after all that had transpired that night.
“But Father,” continued Apollonius, “it is my destiny to teach and heal and so, even if you deny my request, eventually, my mission will begin.”
The elder Apollonius picked up his wine goblet from the table next to his chair and hurled it over the wall to the ground below and stormed off, leaving Apollonius, Euthydemus and Muscellus in silence.
‘Pollo stood in the middle of his private chamber, shaking with anger and crying. He didn’t know what to do. All of his dreams for his son were crashing down around him. His anger became self-pity.
“I have planned for a lifetime to invest my sons with wealth and power,” he said out loud to no one, “and Apollonius refuses my offer. My goals, my work are all for naught. My son will not join our family enterprises.”
He lay down on his bed, his arm across his eyes. His feelings were very foreign to him. He felt...failure.
Abruptly, there was a soft knock on the door of the chamber. Before ‘Pollo could ask who was there, the door opened and the old servant of the manor house, Alexis, entered the room. ‘Pollo was embarrassed to be found on his bed in tears.
“I didn’t give you permission to enter,” he bellowed.
Alexis ignored the remark and approached the bed and addressed his master, formally:
“Apollonius, let the boy go to Aegae and the Temple of Aesculapius,” said Alexis sternly.
“What? What right do you have to question my judgments!” screamed ‘Pollo. “I will have you flogged!”
The old man sighed and turned up the palms of his hands.
“You can have me killed for all I care, ‘Pollo, I am an old man and I don’t have much time to live anyway.”
Alexis sat down on the foot of the bed. ‘Pollo could not believe his insubordination.
“Master, I served your father and helped raise both you and your two sons, in turn. My love for you and your boys can’t be questioned. My loyalty to you both is part of my very nature. I come to you now, because there is a need to help you understand. Your son, Apollonius, is unique. You are blind to his true nature because he is your son. Know this! He is sent from the gods. He has a mission, a mission, which must be accomplished.
‘Pollo jumped from the bed and extended his arms almost in supplication.
“What would you have me do, Alexis? Do you want me to let him wander the world, dependent on alms when I have the power to grant him great wealth, influence, even political power?”
‘Pollo sat down heavily on the bed and put his head in his hands.
“I don’t know what to do,” he cried softly.
Alexis rubbed ‘Pollo’s shoulder and then took his hands in his.
“Your son is not like other men, ‘Pollo. He will bring great respect to your family name and his work will bring great honor to your house. His fame will extend over the lands of the Middle Sea, beyond Tyana, beyond Cappadocia and Greece. He will be a light to the world.”
As Alexis spoke, his face shone with joy and inspiration. ‘Pollo was deeply moved.
“How do you know this, Alexis?” he asked quietly.
Alexis smiled sweetly.
“I have always known it from the miraculous day of his birth to this very moment.” whispered Alexis. “While you rejoiced over a son to inherit, I found a leader, felt his love and kindness and listened to his wisdom. And yes, I saw his miraculous power.”
“What are you talking about? What power?” asked ‘Pollo.
“He has the power of the gods,” answered Alexis. “He can command the elements.”
The elder Apollonius was apprehensive.
“What do you mean?”
Alexis looked out the window as he recalled a scene several years earlier.
“Once when Apollonius and I were walking through the fields north of the manor house, dark storm clouds arose behind us. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled above us. I told Apollonius that we should run to the house to avoid the impending storm. He laughed and raised his hands to the sky and yelled out: ‘Be calm for Alexis is an old man and can not run!’ When the storm caught up with us, it parted and as we walked along, it rained and stormed to our left and to our right, behind us and before us. Yet, the sky directly above us was blue and clear. When we reached the manor house, the storm raged all about, but we had arrived safely and dry. No rain fell upon us.”
The elder Apollonius stared at the old man incredulously.
“Why didn’t you tell me of this event when it occurred?”
“Because, at that time, you would not have listened to me, let alone believe me,” said Alexis. “I kept it in my heart.”
Alexis released ‘Pollo’s hands and stood up.
“Give him your permission to go to Aegae, ‘Pollo, please. Let him go with his father’s blessings. Let this eagle...fly!”
Alexis turned and walked out of the chamber. The door closed behind him. ‘Pollo sat on his bed alone and wondered.
Spiritual education is the only true education.
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