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Thursday, 3 May 2012

God Apollo and the most famous myths of Apollo

Apollo one of the great divinities of the Greeks, was, according to Homer (Il. i. 21, 36), the son of Zeus and Leto. Hesiod (Theog. 918) states the same, and adds, that Apollo′s sister was Artemis (Diana).
Neither of the two poets suggests anything in regard to the birth-place of the god, unless we take Lukêgenês (Il. iv. 101) in the sense of "born in Lycia," which, however, according to others, would only mean "born of or in light."

Hesiod, Theogony 918 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And Leto was joined in love with Zeus who holds the aegis, and bare Apollo and Artemis delighting in arrows, children lovely above all the sons of Heaven."

The gods Leto, Artemis, Apollo and Delos (or Asteria), all holding laurel branches, stand beside the sacred palm tree on the island of 420 BC
The account of Apollo′s parentage was not the same in all traditions (Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 23), and the Egyptians made out that he was a son of Dionysus and Isis. (Herod. ii. 156.)
But the opinion most universally received was, that Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, was born in the island of Delos, together with his sister Artemis; and the circumstances of his birth there are detailed in the Homeric hymn on Apollo, and in that of Callimachus on Delos.
Hera in her jealousy pursued Leto from land to land and from isle to isle, and endeavored to prevent her finding a resting-place where to give birth. At last, however, she arrived in Delos, where she was kindly received, and after nine days′ labor she gave birth to Apollo under a palm or an olive tree at the foot of mount Cynthus.

Apollo sits on a stool strumming a lyre with one hand and pouring a libation from a cup with the other. He is crowned with a wreath of laurel leaves and is attended by a black crow or raven. ca 470 BC

The day of Apollo′s birth was believed to have been the seventh of the month, whence he is called hebdomagenês.

A surname of Apollo, which was derived, according to some, from the fact of sacrifices being offered to him on the seventh of every month, the seventh of some month being looked upon as the god's birthday. Others connect the name with the fact that at the festivals of Apollo, the procession was led by seven boys and seven maidens. (Aeschyl. Sept. 804; Herod. vi. 57; Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 434.)

  Museo Pio-Clementino, Musei Vaticani, Vatican City 

1. Apollo  the god who punishes and destroys (oulios) the wicked and overbearing, and as such he is described as the god with bow and arrows, the gift of Hephaestus. (Hom. Il. i. 42, xxiv.605, Od. xi. 318, xv. 410, &c.; comp. Pind. Pyth. iii. 15, &c.) Various epithets given to him in the Homeric poems, such as hekatos, hekaergos, hekêbolos, ekatêbolos, klutotoxos, and argurotoxos, refer to him as the god who with his darts hits his object at a distance and never misses it. All sudden deaths of men, whether they were regarded as a punishment or a reward, were believed to be the effect of the arrows of Apollo; and with the same arrows he sent the plague into the camp of the Greeks.
The circumstance of Apollo being the destroyer of the wicked was believed by some of the ancients to have given rise to his name Apollo, which they connected with apollumi, "to destroy."

2. The god who affords help and wards off evil. As he had the power of visiting men with plagues and epidemics, so he was also able to deliver men from them.

3. The god of prophecy. Apollo exercised this power in his numerous oracles, and especially in that of Delphi. (Dict. of Ant. s. v. Oraculum) The source of all his prophetic powers was Zeus himself (Apollodorus states, that Apollo received the mantikê from Pan), and Apollo is accordingly called "the prophet of his father Zeus." (Aeschyl. Eum. 19); but he had nevertheless the power of communicating the gift of prophecy both to gods and men, and all the ancient seers and prophets are placed in some relationship to him. (Hom. Il. i. 72, Hymn. in Merc. 3, 471.)
The Thracian goddess Bendis, dressed in a northern body suit, and wielding a hunting spear, is greeted by the gods Apollo and Hermes. Apollo is seated on a rock, wearing a quiver, and holding in one hand a laurel branch, and the other a hare, which he offers to the goddess. Hermes wears a petasos (traveler's cap) and leans on his caduceus wand. ca 370 - 360 BC

4. The god of song and music. We find him in the Iliad (i. 603) delighting the immortal gods with his play on the phorminx during their repast ; and the Homeric bards derived their art of song either from Apollo or the Muses. (Od. viii. 488, with Eustath.) Later traditions ascribed to Apollo even the invention of the flute and lyre (Callim. Hymn. in Del. 253; Plut. de Mus.), while the more common tradition was, that he received the lyre from Hermes. 

To view Apollo and Muses click here


5. The god who protects the flocks and cattle. These characteristics of Apollo necessarily appear in a peculiar light, if we adopt the view which was almost universal among the later poets, mythographers, and philosophers, and according to which Apollo was identical with Helios, or the Sun.
If Apollo be regarded as the Sun, the powers and attributes which we have enumerated above are easily explained and accounted for; that the surname of Phoibos (the shining or brilliant), which is frequently applied to Apollo in the Homeric poems, points to the sun; and lastly, that the traditions concerning the Hyperboreans and their worship of Apollo bear the strongest marks of their regarding the god in the same light. (Alcaeus, ap. Himer. xiv. 10; Diod. ii. 47.)
Still greater stress is laid on the fact that the Egyptian Horus was regarded as identical with Apollo (Herod. ii. 144, 156 ; Diod. i. 25; Plut. de Is. et Os. 12, 61; Aelian, Hist. An. x. 14), as Horus is usually considered as the god of the burning sun.

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Apollo rests his arm on a pillar with a lizard. C1st - C2nd AD 

In classical sculpture Apollo was portrayed as a handsome youth, or adolescent boy, with long unshorn locks of hair, often tied back above his head. His usual attributes were an arrow, lyre, lizard or snake (the latter symbolizing the Python serpent of Delphi).

To view God Apollo, Hyacinth, Hermaphroditus, androgyny click here

The long-haired youth Apollo strides over a lyre. ca 550- 520 BC

 Apollo holding a lyre supported by a serpent-entwined rock. C2nd BC 

Apollo with long hair, and draped with the folds of a mantle.  C2nd AD 

 A feminine Apollo with long hair and lyre. Imperial Roman

In the religion of the early Romans there is no trace of the worship of Apollo.The first time that we hear of the worship of Apollo at Rome is in the year B. C. 430, when, for the purpose of averting a plague, a temple was raised to him, and soon after dedicated by the consul, C. Julius. (Liv. iv. 25, 29.) A second temple was built to him in the year B. C. 350. The worship of this divinity, however, did not form a very prominent part in the religion of the Romans till the time of Augustus, who, after the battle of Actium, not only dedicated to him a portion of the spoils, but built or embellished his temple at Actium, and founded a new one at Rome on the Palatine, and instituted quinquennial games at Actium. (Suet. Aug. 31, 52; Dict. of Ant. s. v. Aktia.)

 Apollo and Diana Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

 Apollo Hendrik Goltzius,

 Albrecht DÜRER, Apollo with the Solar Disc

 Diego Velázquez, Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan

The most famous myths of Apollo include:--

  1. His birth on the island of Delos;
  2. The slaying of the serpent Python which guarded the oracular shrine of Delphi;
  3. The slaying of the giant Tityos who attempted to carry off the god's mother Leto;
  4. The destruction of the Niobides whose mother had offended Leto with her boasts;
  5. His music contest with the satyr Marsyas who lost and was flayed alive;
  6. His love for the youth  Hyacinthus who was killed by a discus throw and transformed into a flower;
  7. His love for the nymph Daphne who fled from him and was transformed into a laurel tree;
  8. His love for Coronis who was slain by Artemis for her infidelity;
  9. The murder of the Cyclopes who had forged the lightning bolt used to destroy his son Asclepius;
  10. His service as bondsman to the mortal Admetos;
  11. His struggle with Heracles for the Delphic tripod;
  12. The Trojan War in which he brought plague to the Greeks and helped Paris slay Achilles.
 The slaying of the serpent Python which guarded the oracular shrine of Delphi;

PYTHON was a monstrous serpent which Gaia (Mother Earth) appointed to guard the oracle at Delphi. The beast was sometimes said to have been born from the rotting slime left behind after the great Deluge. When Apollo laid claim to the shrine, he slew the dragon with his arrows. The oracle and festival of the god were then named Pytho and Pythian from the rotting (pythô) corpse of the beast. According to some, Apollo slew the monster to avenge his mother Leto, who had been pursued relentlessly by the dragon during her long pregnancy.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Terra [Gaia] [was born] : Python a divine snake."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 140 :
"Python, offspring of Terra [Gaia], was a huge Draco who, before the time of Apollo, used to give oracular responses on Mount Parnassus. Death was fated to come to him from the offspring of Latona [Leto]. At that time Jove [Zeus] lay with Latona, daughter of Polus [Koios]. When Juno [Hera] found this out, she decreed that Latona should give birth at a place where the sun did not shine. When Python knew that Latona was pregnant by Jove, he followed her to kill her. But by order of Jove the wind Aquilo [Boreas] carried Latona away, and bore her to Neptune [Poseidon]. He protected her, but in order not to make voice Juno’s decree, he took her to the island Ortygia, and covered the island with waves. When Python did not find her, he returned to Parnassus. But Neptunus brought the island of Ortygia up to a higher position; it was later called the island of Delos. There Latona, clinging to an olive tree, bore Apollo and Diana [Artemis], to whom Vulcanus [Hephaistos] gave arrows as gifts. Four days after they were born, Apollo exacted vengeance for his mother. For he went to Parnassus and slew Python with his arrows. Because of this deed he is called Pythian. He put Python’s bones in a cauldron, deposited them in his temple, and instituted funeral games for him which are called Pythian."

Apollo, seated on the omphalos stone of Delphi, and beside the Delphic tripod, shoots arrows at the monster Python, the old guardian of the shrine. The beast is depicted with a woman's head and breast, matching the poet Hesiod's description of Echidna. ca 470 BC

Seneca, Medea 700 ff :
"[The witch Medea summons deadly serpents with a spell by calling out the names of the great Drakones :] `In answer to my incantations let Python come, who dared to attack the twin divinities [Apollo and Artemis] . . . Let Hydra return . . . Thou, too, ever-watchful dragon [of the Golden Fleece].'"

Gustave Moreau, Apollo Vanquishing the Serpent Python

 The slaying of the giant Tityos who attempted to carry off the god's mother Leto;

Homer, Odyssey 11. 580 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"I [Odysseus in Hades] saw Tityos (Tityus) also, son of the mighty goddess Gaia (Earth); he lay on the ground, his bulk stretched out over nine roods. Two vultures, one on each side of him, sat and kept plucking at his liver, reaching down to the very bowels; he could not beat them off with his hands. And this was because he had once assaulted a mistress of Zeus himself, the far-famed Leto, as she walked towards Pytho through the lovely spaces of Panopeus."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 23 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Tityos saw Leto when she came to Pytho and in a fit of passion tried to embrace her. But she called out to her children, who shot him dead with arrows. He is being punished even in death, for vultures feast on his heart in Hades’ realm."

 Apollo strikes down the giant Tityos with his sword for attempting to ravish the god's mother Leto. The god is depicted as a youth, with long uncut hair, a bow and holding arrows and a sword. Leto lifts her veil in a gesture of female modesty. ca 455 BC

   Tityus, by Titian

His love for the nymph Daphne who fled from him and was transformed into a laurel tree;

 Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree as she runs fleeing from the amorous pursuit of the god Apollo. The Nymph is depicted in mid-transformation with laurel-branches rising from the earth to encompass her form. The god reaches out in futility to grasp her. He is shown crowned with a shining aureole. C2nd - C3rd AD
 Robert Lefevre Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo

 John William Waterhouse, Apollo and Daphne 

 Nicolas Poussin, Apollo and Daphne

His music contest with the satyr Marsyas who lost and was flayed alive;

MARSYAS was a Phrygian Satyr who first composed tunes for the flute. He obtained his instrument from Athena, who had invented the device but discarded it in her displeasure over the bloating effect on the cheeks. Later, in hubristic pride over the new-found music, Marsyas dared challenge the god Apollo to a contest. The Satyr inevitably lost, when, in the second round, the god demanded they play their instruments upsidedown--a feat ill-suited to the flute. As punishment for his presumption, Apollo had Marsyas tied to a tree and flayed him alive. The rustic gods in their pity then transformed him into a mountain stream.
The satyr Marsyas challenges Apollo to a musical contest. He sits on a rock playing his double-flute, and is shown with the features common to his kind: pug nose, horse's tail and ears. Beside him stands Apollo holding a laurel branch staff, and to either side a pair of Muses, one holding a lyre, the other a scroll box, who have been appointed as judges in the contest.  Period: Early Classical.

  Titian, The Flaying of Marsyas

His love for Coronis who was slain by Artemis for her infidelity;

Coronis ("crow" or "raven"), daughter of Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths, was one of Apollo's lovers. While Apollo was away, Coronis, already pregnant with Asclepius, fell in love with Ischys, son of Elatus. A white crow which Apollo had left to guard her informed him of the affair and Apollo, enraged that the bird had not pecked out Ischys' eyes as soon as he approached Coronis, flung a curse upon it so furious that it scorched its feathers, which is why all crows are black. Apollo sent his sister, Artemis, to kill Coronis because he could not bring himself to. Afterward Apollo, feeling dejected, only regained his presence of mind when Coronis' body was already aflame on a funeral pyre. Upon a sign from Apollo, Hermes cut the unborn child out of her womb and gave it to the centaur Chiron to raise. Hermes then brought her soul to Tartarus.

 Adam Elsheimer, Apollo and Coronis

The murder of the Cyclopes who had forged the lightning bolt used to destroy his son Asclepius;

TheElder Cyclopes were the three, orb-eyed, immortal giants who forged the lightning-bolts of Zeus. As soon as they were born, their father Uranus (the Sky) locked them away inside the belly of Earth, along with their stormy brothers, the Hekatonkheires. When the Titans overthrew him, they then drove the giants into the pit of Tartarus. Zeus and his brothers eventually released them and in return they provided the god with his thunderbolt, Poseidon with his storm-raising trident, and Hades with a helm of invisibility. Some say there were a total of seven forging Cyclopes. The additional four, sons of the first, were slain by Apollo to avenge the death of his son Asclepius, who was struck down by lightning.

Hesiod, Catalogues of Women & Eoiae Fragment 92 (from Philodemus, On Piety 34) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"But Hesiod (says that Apollon) would have been cast by Zeus into Tartarus [for killing the Cyclopes] : but Leto interceded for him, and he became bondman to a mortal."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 118 - 122 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Zeus slew Apollon's son Asclepius with a thunderbolt :] This angered Apollo, who slew the Cyclopes, for they designed the thunderbolt for Zeus. Zeus was about to throw Apollo into Tartarus, but at the request of Leto he ordered him instead to be some man’s servant for a year."
Asclepius stands bare-chested and holding a serpent-entwined staff. 

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Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 28 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Typhon felt an urge to usurp the rule of Zeus and not one of the gods could withstand him as he attacked. In panic they fled to Aigyptos (Egypt), all except Athena and Zeus, who alone were left. Typhon hunted after them, on their track. When they fled they had changed themselves in anticipation into animal forms. Apollo became a hawk [i.e. the Egyptian god Horus] ... Artemis a cat [i.e. the Egyptian Neith or Bastet] . . . and Leto a shrew mouse [i.e. the Egyptian Wadjet]."