THE EIDOLONES were daimones (spirits) or ghosts which possessed the living. The following two stories, describing Eidolon-possession, are set in Athens and India in the C1st A.D. The central figure of the tale, Apollonios of Tyana, was a respected pagan prophet of the age.
Nowhere stated (they were perhaps the ghosts of men)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
THE INDIAN EIDOLON
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 38 ff (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"And he [a messenger to the sages of India] brought forward a poor woman who interceded in behalf of her child, who was, she said, a boy of sixteen years of age, but had been for two years possessed by a Eidolon (Phantom). Now the character of the Daimon was that of a mocker and a liar. Here one of the sages asked, why she said this, and she replied : ‘This child of mine is extremely good-looking, and therefore the Daimon is amorous of him and will not allow him to retain his reason, nor will he permit him to go to school, or to learn archery, nor even to remain at home, but drives him out into desert places and the boy does not even retain his own voice, but speaks in a deep hollow tone, as men do; and he looks at you with other eyes rather than with his own. As for myself I weep over all this and I tear my cheeks, and I rebuke my son so far as I well may; but he does not know me. And I made my mind to repair hither, indeed I planned to, do so a year ago; only the Daimon (Demon) discovered himself using my child as a mask, and what he told me was this, that he was the ghost of man, who fell long ago in battle, but that at death he was passionately attached to his wife. Now he had been dead for only three days when his wife insulted their union by marrying another man, and the consequence was that he had come to detest the love of women, and had transferred himself wholly into this boy. But he promised, if I would only not denounce him to yourselves, to endow the child with many noble blessings. As for myself, I was influenced by these promises; but he has put me off and off for such a long time now, that he has got sole control of my household, yet has no honest or true intentions.’
Here the sage asked afresh, if the boy was at hand; and she said not, for, although she had done all she could to get him to come with her, the Daimon had threatened her with steep places and precipices and declared that he would kill her son, ‘in case,’ she added, ‘I haled him hither for trial.’
‘Take courage,’ said the sage, ‘for he will not slay him when he has read this.’ And so saying he drew a letter out of his bosom and gave it to the woman; and the letter, it appears, was addressed to the ghost and contained threats of an alarming kind."
THE ATHENIAN EIDOLON
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 20 ff (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Now while he [Apollonios of Tyana] was discussing the question of libations [in Athens], there chanced to be present in his audience a young dandy who bore so evil a reputation for licentiousness, that his conduct had once been the subject of coarse street-corner songs . . . Apollonios then was talking about libations . . . when the youth burst out into loud laughter, and quite drowned his voice. Then Apollonios looked up at him and said : ‘It is not yourself that perpetrates this insult, but the Daimon, who drives you on without your knowing it.’
And in fact he youth was, without knowing it, possessed by a Daimon; for he would laugh at things that no one else laughed at, and then he would fall to weeping for no reason at all, and he would talk and sing to himself. Now most people thought that it was the boisterous humour of the youth which led him into such excesses; but he was really the mouthpiece of a Daimon, though it only seemed a drunken folic in which on that occasion he was indulging. Now when Apollonios gazed on him, the Eidolon (Ghost) in him began to utter cries of fear and rage, such as one hears from people who are being branded or wracked; and the Eidolon (Ghost) swore that he would leave the young man alone and never take possession of any man again. But Apollonios addressed him with anger, as a master might a shifty, rascally, and shameless slave and so on, and he ordered him to quit the young man and show by a visible sign that he had done so. ‘I will throw down yonder statue,’ said the Daimon and pointed to one of the images which was in the King's portico, for there it was that the scene took place. But when the statue began moving gently, and then fell down, it would defy anyone to describe the hubbub which arose thereat and the way they clapped their hands with wonder. But the young man rubbed his eyes as if he had just woke up, and he looked towards the rays of the sun, and won the consideration of all who now had turned their attention to him; for he no longer showed himself licentious, nor did he stare madly about, but he had returned to his own self, as thoroughly as if he had been treated with drugs; and he gave up his dainty dress and summery garments and the rest of his sybaritic way of life, and he fell in love with the austerity of philosophers and donned their cloak, and stripping off his old self modelled his life in future upon that of Apollonios."
Eusebius, Treatise of Eusebius Against Hierocles 26 (trans. Jones) (Greek rhetorician C4th A.D.) :
"Apollonios as they say, drives out one Daimon (Demon) with the help of another. The first of the Daimones expelled from an incorrigible youth, while the second disguises itself by assuming the form of a woman: and the latter our clever author calls by no other names than those of Empousa (Empusa) and Lamia."
Eusebius, Treatise of Eusebius Against Hierocles 31 :
"If we admit the author [Philostratus] to tell the truth in his stories of miracles, he yet clearly shows that they were severally performed by Apollonios with the co-operation of a Daimon (Demon) . . . The licentious youth was clearly the victim of an indwelling Daimon; and both it and the Empousa (Empusa) and the Lamia which is said to have played off its mad pranks on Menippos, were probably driven out by him with the help of a more important Daimon . . . You must then, as I said, regard the whole series of miracles wrought by him, as having been accomplished through a ministry of Daimones."
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Eusebius, Treatise of Eusebius Against Hierocles - Greek Rhetoric C4th A.D.