Jas Elsner: Rezension von: Balbina Bäbler / Heinz-Günther Nesselrath: Philostrats Apollonios und seine Welt. Griechische und nichtgriechische Kunst und Religion in der Vita Apollonii, Berlin: de Gruyter 2016, in: sehepunkte 16 (2016), Nr. 11 [15.11.2016], URL:

Von Balbina Bäbler / Heinz-Günther Nesselrath

This is a curiously unbalanced review. The reviewer tells us what he would have liked to read, but could not find; he does not tell us what he could find (or could have found if he had looked for it). He is grumpy (his own word) because the authors did not write the book he wanted to see, but which they never intended to write in the first place. Had he spared a moment's time to look at the preface, he could have read that the authors wanted to present a selection of passages of the Vita Apollonii dealing with discussions on art and religion, to provide these passages with a new German translation and short notes and add a number of essays aiming at giving background and context - these things are promised in the preface, and this is just what the book delivers.

Dr. Elsner fails to give his readers information about large parts of the book. The introduction is not just "a short preface summarizing what is known of the author and his subject", but also gives an overview of the contents of the Vita Apollonii (bringing out its hero as a standard bearer of Hellenism), asks why Philostratus made such an effort to write an all-encompassing biographical account of a man who in his own life-time does not seem to have aroused much interest, tries to revive the possibility that Philostratus in fact wanted to build up Apollonius as an alternative to Jesus Christ, and finally even tries to justify the selection of texts that follow. Among the essays, Dr. Elsner has completely ignored the longest one (40 pages), which is devoted to Apollonius' voyage to India and tries to come to grips with the interesting mixture of fact and fiction Philostratus has created around this trip towards the eastern end of the world.

Among the rules provided for prospective reviewers by Bryn Mawr Classical Review, one can find the interesting sentence: "We expect that reviews will not have attacks [on a book] for not being the book you would have written." Maybe this would also be a good rule for sehepunkte reviewers, because it might prevent them from giving a completely distorted - and thus rather useless - account of a book which for whatever reason they did not like.

Anmerkung der Redaktion:
Jas Elsner hat auf eine Replik verzichtet.