Olympian God of the Sun, the Arts, Music and Prophecy
Apollo was a multi-faceted god, connected with the sun, light, harmony, the arts, music, prophecy, medicine and archery.
Apollo was god of the sun and light. He was also god of music and poetry, and was closely associated with the nine Muses. His music had the ability to stop violence and even make Ares, the god of war, fall asleep. His music was loved by everyone but feared by the Titans.
Physical Features, Symbols and Character
Apollo is depicted as a young man, handsome, graceful and beardless.
Apollo’s attributes are the bow and the lyre, his sacred tree is the laurel and his sacred animal the swan.
Apollo had very close ties with his sister, Artemis. Both were excellent archers, and both were quick to take vengeance when offended.
The birth of Apollo is related in detail, the oldest account being that of Homer. Leto got pregnant from Zeus and began a long search of a place to give birth in. Wherever she turned, they turned her down for fear of Hera’s wrath. Finally she came to Delos (a small, barren island off Mykonos), who agreed to let her give birth on the term that her son would build his first temple there. Leto vowed on the waters of Styx that her son would honour the island, but still had to wait for nine days to give birth, as Hera had kept Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, from hearing or seeing Leto by obscuring the former in a golden cloud. Finally, the goddesses who had gathered on the island to aid Leto convinced Iris (the messenger goddess) to summon Eileithyia to help with the labour. She agrees, and the moment she steps foot on the island, Leto embraces a palm tree that grew on the island and gives birth to Apollo and then Artemis (other sources say that Artemis was born first and then helped with his birth the following day).
Themis feeds the newly born Apollo with nectar and ambrosia (the food of the gods), he grows instantly and announces his godly role: he is to play the kithara (a musical instrument in the lyre family) and notify men of the gods’ will.
|Apollo at a Glance|
|Rules over - Patron of||Music, Poetry, Art, Oracles, Archery, Plague, Medicine, Sun, Light and Knowledge|
|Symbols||Lyre, Laurel wreath, Python, Raven, Bow and arrows|
|Sacred Animals||Wolf, Dolphin|
|Parents||Zeus and Leto|
|Children||Asclepius, Troilus, Aristaeus, Orpheus|
Apollo’s most important site of worship was the oracle at Delphi. Apollo wandered in his search of the right place to create his primary site of worship, the way his mother wandered before in order to find a place to give birth in. He finally reached Delphi, where a serpent (initially without a name, later called Delphine or Python) was lurking near a spring, killing anyone who would cross its path. Apollo killed the monster with a single arrow and established the oracle.
The first priests at the oracle of Delphi were Cretans. Apollo saw a Cretan merchant ship headed to Pylos (located in southwest Peloponnese). The god turned into an enormous dolphin and jumped on the deck of the ship, leading it to a coast near Delphi instead.
Apollo and laurel
Daphne (=laurel) is said to have been Apollo’s first love. According to a popular version of the myth, the beautiful nymph Daphne, daughter of the river Peneios, was a follower of Artemis and refused to marry, choosing to spend her time hunting in the forest. Apollo saw her one day and pursued her but Daphne, wanting to stay chaste, pleaded her father to save her. He turned her into a laurel and Apollo, in honour of her, made the tree sacred.
Laurel was widely utilized in the worship of Apollo: Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, would chew on laurel leaves before prophesying; it was used by Apollo to cleanse Orestes after the latter murdered his mother, Clytaemnestra; in the Pythian Games, laurel wreaths were set on the winner’s heads.
Apollo and Asclepius
Apollo’s most important son was Asclepius, whom he had with Coronis and was raised by the centaur Chiron. The centaur was the one who taught Asclepius medicine. Asclepius became an excellent healer and protector of medicine. When he reached the point of resurrecting the dead, Zeus became furious and struck him with thunder. Apollo, to avenge his son’s death, killed the Cyclops who made Zeus’s thunderbolts. Zeus, in turn, punished the god by making him serve a mortal, king Admetus, for a year.
In the Trojan War Apollo sided with the Trojans, helping them in any way he could, most notably plaguing the Greeks and by guiding Paris’ arrow to hit Achilles’s heel, his sole vulnerable body part.
Apollo’s main epithet was “Phoebus” (Φοῖβος) meaning “bright,” which recalls the name of his maternal grandmother and titan, Phoebe, and directly connects the god with light.
Homer’s Iliad. Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Apollodorus’s Library, Euripides’ Ion, Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Odyssey, Horace’s Odes, Hyginus’s Fabulae, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Pindar’s Pythian Odes.