Philostratus, sometimes called “the Elder” or “of Athens,” was born in the later second century and died about the middle of the third. He was of a well connected Athenian family that had particular links with the island of Lemnos, which even at this date still formed part of Athens’s possessions. By profession, he was a “sophist” in the sense that this word developed particularly in the Roman period. That is, he was a public speaker of a very special kind, specializing in the type of speech called a “declamation” (meletē) that drew its subjects either from imagination or very loosely from history of the classical period. The sophists also employed their skills in real life, on embassies, when delivering speeches to visiting dignitaries, and on other occasions. Some also rose to high positions in the imperial administration. Many, including Philostratus, were active as authors in a variety of genres: poetry, history, handbooks on oratory or on literary subjects such as the art of letter-writing.
Philostratus appears to have received his sophistic education largely or wholly in Athens. Though he is not known to have held a position as a Roman administrator, he was very intimately connected with imperial circles. One of his teachers, Antipater of Hierapolis, became head of the Greek correspondence (ab epistulis Graecis) under Septimius