As god of the sun, music, health, knowledge, agriculture and much more, Apollo was an ideal mix of the perfect Ancient Greek morals, intellect and physical appearance. He appears with the same name in both Greek and Roman religion.
Apollo was born as the son of Zeus and Leto, when she was chased to the sea and the island of Deos by the slithery dragon, Python. Upon birth, he was fed with nectar and ambrosia – the food of immortality – and it was said that he immediately transformed into a man. Depicted as clean-shaven, athletic and youthful, Apollo wore a laurel wreath, one of his most recognised symbols. He was also known as “Phoebus” meaning “bright”.
According to people of Ancient Greece, the god’s name meant “destroyer”, however modern historians tend to throw doubt upon this, suggesting that his name actually derived from “apella” meaning “a flock of sheep”. Therefore, Apollo would have started out as a shepherd.
Artemis, his sister, was the goddess of hunting and both siblings enjoyed archery. Apollo asked his father, Zeus, for a bow and arrows as bright as the sun. He then proceeded to take revenge on the dragon, Python, by shooting the beast with his arrows.
“I will remember, nor could I forget, far-shooting Apollo,
whom gods tremble before as in Zeus’s abode he is striding—
then as he comes up close to the place they are sitting, they leap up,
all of them, out of their seats, as he stretches his glittering bow back.“
Then he founded the Oracle at Delphi, where the Temple of Apollo was dedicated to him. Following this, a priestess of Delphi, called Pythia, was instituted and controlled the Oracle, which detailed the wishes of Zeus. People visited Delphi to look into the future and sort out problems. When the priestess at Delphi refused to answer Hercules’ enquiry, he attempted to destroy the Oracle. He was unable to as Apollo protected it. Because he was understood to be extremely honest, he was given the privilege of owning it.
“Of Phocis two cities are the most famous, Delphi and Elateia. Delphi, because of the temple of the Pythian Apollo, and because of the oracle, which is ancient, since Agamemnon is said by the
poet to have had an oracle given him from there; for the minstrel is introduced as singing “the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus, how once they strove . . . and Agamemnon, lord of men, rejoiced at heart . . . for thus Phoebus Apollo, in giving response to him at Pytho, had told him that it should be“
As one of the twelve Olympians, Apollo was friends with the Nine Muses, which gained him his association with music. Hermes, the youngest Olympian and also a son of Zeus, crafted Apollo his lyre, a harp-like instrument that quickly became Apollo’s most loved icon. Apollo was a patron of fun and entertainment. The “Pythian” games where held every four years at Delphi in honour of Apollo.
“If, Romans, ye would drive the Forman forth,
Who come from far to mar your land, then see,
That games be held as each fourth year comes round,
In honour of Apollo and the State,
Shall bear its part and all your folk shall share,
The holy work, each for himself and his”
Apollo had multiple children, but his most loved son, Asclepius, was also a god of medicine. When he brought back people from the Underworld, Zeus was furious as he had not given his permission for him to do so.
A cyclops – one-eyed giant – supplied Zeus with thunderbolts which he used to strike down Asclepius. Apollo, enraged, killed this cyclops.
Apollo played a large role in the Trojan War. As he was the god of health and medicine, he had the power to decimate much of the Greek camp with a terrible plague. Moreover, he helped direct Paris’ arrows towards Achilles’ heel, killing Greece’s finest warrior.
Because Apollo aided colonists, he was much loved by Greek explorers and was worshipped when new settlements sprung up. Apollo was the most loved of all Greek gods.
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