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|God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge|
Apollo Belvedere, ca. 120–140 CE
|Symbol||Lyre, laurel wreath, python, raven, bow and arrows|
|Parents||Zeus and Leto|
|Children||Asclepius, Troilus, Aristaeus, Orpheus|
|God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge|
Apollo Belvedere, ca. 120–140 CE
|Symbol||Lyre, laurel wreath, python, raven, bow and arrows|
|Parents||Zeus and Leto|
|Children||Asclepius, Troilus, Aristaeus, Orpheus|
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|Ancient Greek religion and Modern Hellenismos|
Apollo (Attic, Ionic, and Homeric Greek: Ἀπόλλων, Apollōn (GEN Ἀπόλλωνος); Doric: Ἀπέλλων, Apellōn; Arcadocypriot: Ἀπείλων, Apeilōn; Aeolic: Ἄπλουν, Aploun; Latin: Apollō) is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Apollo is known in Greek-influenced Etruscan mythology as Apulu.
As the patron of Delphi (Pythian Apollo), Apollo was an oracular god—the prophetic deity of the Delphic Oracle. Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius, yet Apollo was also seen as a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague. Amongst the god's custodial charges, Apollo became associated with dominion over colonists, and as the patron defender of herds and flocks. As the leader of the Muses (Apollon Musegetes) and director of their choir, Apollo functioned as the patron god of music and poetry. Hermes created the lyre for him, and the instrument became a common attribute of Apollo. Hymns sung to Apollo were called paeans.
In Hellenistic times, especially during the 3rd century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon. In Latin texts, on the other hand, Joseph Fontenrose declared himself unable to find any conflation of Apollo with Sol among the Augustan poets of the 1st century, not even in the conjurations of Aeneas and Latinus in Aeneid XII (161–215). Apollo and Helios/Sol remained separate beings in literary and mythological texts until the 3rd century CE.
The name of Apollo is absent in the Linear B (Mycenean Greek) texts . The etymology of the name is uncertain. The spelling Ἀπόλλων had almost superseded all other forms by the beginning of the common era, but the Doric form Apellon (Ἀπέλλων), is more archaic, derived from an earlier *Ἀπέλjων. It cognates with the Doric month Apellaios (Ἀπελλαῖος), and the offerings apellaia (ἀπελλαῖα) at the initiation of the young men during the family-festival apellai (ἀπέλλαι). The words are derived from the Doric word apella (ἀπέλλα), which originally meant wall, fence for animals and later assembly within the limits of the square . Apella ( Ἀπέλλα) is the name of the popular assembly in Sparta, corresponding to the Ecclesia (εκκλησία)[clarification needed]
Several instances of popular etymology are attested from ancient authors. Thus, the Greeks most often associated Apollo's name with the Greek verb ἀπόλλυμι (apollymi), "to destroy". Plato in Cratylus connects the name with ἀπόλυσις (apolysis), "redeem", with ἀπόλουσις (apolousis), "purification", and with ἁπλοῦν ([h]aploun), "simple", in particular in reference to the Thessalian form of the name, Ἄπλουν, and finally with Ἀειβάλλων (aeiballon), "ever-shooting". Hesychius connects the name Apollo with the Doric ἀπέλλα (apella), which means "assembly", so that Apollo would be the god of political life, and he also gives the explanation σηκός (sekos), "fold", in which case Apollo would be the god of flocks and herds. In the Ancient Macedonian language πέλλα (pella) means stone, and some toponyms are derived from this word: Πέλλα (Pella:capital of Ancient Macedonia), Πελλήνη (Pellene-Pallene).
A number of non-Greek etymologies have been suggested for the name, The Hittite form Apaliunas (dx-ap-pa-li-u-na-aš) is attested in the Manapa-Tarhunta letter, perhaps related to Hurrian Aplu, a god of plague, in turn likely from Akkadian Aplu Enlil meaning simply "the son of Enlil", a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun. The role of Apollo as god of plague is evident in the invocation of Apollo Smintheus ("mouse Apollo") by Chryses, the Trojan priest of Apollo, with the purpose of sending a plague against the Greeks (the reasoning behind a god of the plague becoming a god of healing is of course apotropaic, meaning that the god responsible for bringing the plague must be appeased in order to remove the plague).
Apollo, like other Greek deities, had a number of epithets applied to him, reflecting the variety of roles, duties, and aspects ascribed to the god. However, while Apollo has a great number of appellations in Greek myth, only a few occur in Latin literature, chief among them Phoebus (// FEE-bəs; Φοῖβος, Phoibos, literally "radiant"), which was very commonly used by both the Greeks and Romans in Apollo's role as the god of light.
As sun-god and god of light, Apollo was also known by the epithets Aegletes (// ə-GLEE-teez; Αἰγλήτης, Aiglētēs, from αἴγλη, "light of the sun"), Helius (// HEE-lee-əs; Ἥλιος, Helios, literally "sun"), Phanaeus (// fə-NEE-əs; Φαναῖος, Phanaios, literally "giving or bringing light"), and Lyceus (// ly-SEE-əs; Λύκειος, Lykeios, from Proto-Greek *λύκη, "light"). The meaning of the epithet "Lyceus" later became associated Apollo's mother Leto, who was the patron goddess of Lycia (Λυκία) and who was identified with the wolf (λύκος), earning him the epithets Lycegenes (// ly-SEJ-ə-neez; Λυκηγενής, Lukēgenēs, literally "born of a wolf" or "born of Lycia") and Lycoctonus (// ly-KOK-tə-nəs; Λυκοκτόνος, Lykoktonos, from λύκος, "wolf", and κτείνειν, "to kill"). As god of the sun, the Romans referred to Apollo as Sol (// SOL; literally "sun" in Latin).
In association with his birthplace, Mount Cynthus on the island of Delos, Apollo was called Cynthius (// SIN-thee-əs; Κύνθιος, Kunthios, literally "Cynthian"), Cynthogenes (// sin-THOJ-i-neez; Κυνθογενής, Kynthogenēs, literally "born of Cynthus"), and Delius (// DEE-lee-əs; Δήλιος, Delios, literally "Delian"). As Artemis's twin, Apollo had the epithet Didymaeus (// did-i-MEE-əs; Διδυμαῖος, Didymaios, from δίδυμος, "twin").
Apollo was worshipped as Actiacus (// ak-TY-ə-kəs; Ἄκτιακός, Aktiakos, literally "Actian"), Delphinius (// del-FIN-ee-əs; Δελφίνιος, Delphinios, literally "Delphic"), and Pythius (// PITH-ee-əs; Πύθιος, Puthios, from Πυθώ, Pythō, the area around Delphi), after Actium (Ἄκτιον) and Delphi (Δελφοί) respectively, two of his principal places of worship. An etiology in the Homeric hymns associated the epithet "Delphinius" with dolphins. He was worshipped as Acraephius (// ə-KREE-fee-əs; Ἀκραιφιος,[clarification needed] Akraiphios, literally "Acraephian") or Acraephiaeus (// ə-KREE-fee-EE-əs; Ἀκραιφιαίος, Akraiphiaios, literally "Acraephian") in the Boeotian town of Acraephia (Ἀκραιφία), reputedly founded by his son Acraepheus; and as Smintheus (// SMIN-thews; Σμινθεύς, Smintheus, "Sminthian"—that is, "of the town of Sminthos or Sminthe") near the Troad town of Hamaxitus. The epithet "Smintheus" has historically been confused with σμίνθος, "mouse", in association with Apollo's role as a god of disease. For this he was also known as Parnopius (// par-NOH-pee-əs; Παρνόπιος, Parnopios, from πάρνοψ, "locust") and to the Romans as Culicarius (// KEW-li-KARR-ee-əs; from Latin culicārius, "of midges").
In Apollo's role as a healer, his appellations included Acesius (// ə-SEE-zhəs; Ἀκέσιος, Akesios, from ἄκεσις, "healing"), Acestor (// ə-SES-tər; Ἀκέστωρ, Akestōr, literally "healer"), Paean (// PEE-ən; Παιάν, Paiān, from παίειν, "to touch"), and Iatrus (// eye-AT-rəs; Ἰατρός, Iātros, literally "physician"). Acesius was the epithet of Apollo worshipped in Elis, where he had a temple in the agora. The Romans referred to Apollo as Medicus (// MED-i-kəs; literally "physician" in Latin) in this respect. A temple was dedicated to Apollo Medicus at Rome, probably next to the temple of Bellona.
As a protector and founder, Apollo had the epithets Alexicacus (// ə-LEK-si-KAY-kəs; Ἀλεξίκακος, Alexikakos, literally "warding off evil"), Apotropaeus (// ə-POT-rə-PEE-əs; Ἀποτρόπαιος, Apotropaios, from ἀποτρέπειν, "to avert"), and Epicurius (// EP-i-KEWR-ee-əs; Ἐπικούριος, Epikourios, from ἐπικουρέειν, "to aid"), and Archegetes (// ar-KEJ-ə-teez; Ἀρχηγέτης, Arkhēgetēs, literally "founder"), Clarius (// KLARR-ee-əs; Κλάριος, Klārios, from Doric κλάρος, "allotted lot"), and Genetor (// JEN-i-tər; Γενέτωρ, Genetōr, literally "ancestor"). To the Romans, he was known in this capacity as Averruncus (// AV-ər-RUNG-kəs; from Latin āverruncare, "to avert"). He was also called Agyieus (// ə-GWEE-ews; Ἀγυιεύς, Aguīeus, from ἄγυια, "street") for his role in protecting roads and homes; and Nomius (// NOH-mee-əs; Νόμιος, Nomios, literally "pastoral") and Nymphegetes (// nim-FEJ-i-teez; Νυμφηγέτης, Numphēgetēs, from Νύμφη, "Nymph", and ἡγέτης, "leader") for his role as a protector of shepherds and pastoral life.
In his role as god of prophecy and truth, Apollo had the epithets Manticus (// MAN-ti-kəs; Μαντικός, Mantikos, literally "prophetic"), Leschenorius (// LES-ki-NOHR-ee-əs; Λεσχηνόριος, Leskhēnorios, from λεσχήνωρ, "converser"), and Loxias (// LOK-see-əs; Λοξίας, Loxias, from λέγειν, "to say"). The epithet "Loxias" has historically been associated with λοξός, "ambiguous". In this respect, the Romans called him Coelispex (// SEL-i-speks; from Latin coelum, "sky", and specere, "to look at"). The epithet Iatromantis (// eye-AT-rə-MAN-tis; Ἰατρομάντις, Iātromantis, from ἰατρός, "physician", and μάντις, "prophet") refers to both his role as a god of healing and of prophecy. As god of music and arts, Apollo had the epithet Musagetes (// mew-SAJ-i-teez; Doric Μουσαγέτας, Mousāgetās) or Musegetes (// mew-SEJ-i-teez; Μουσηγέτης, Mousēgetēs, from Μούσα, "Muse", and ἡγέτης, "leader").
As a god of archery, Apollo was known as Aphetor (// ə-FEE-tər; Ἀφήτωρ, Aphētōr, from ἀφίημι, "to let loose") or Aphetorus (// ə-FET-ər-əs; Ἀφητόρος, Aphētoros, of the same origin), Argyrotoxus (// AR-ji-rə-TOK-səs; Ἀργυρότοξος, Argyrotoxos, literally "with silver bow"), Hecaërgus (// HEK-ee-UR-gəs; Ἑκάεργος, Hekaergos, literally "far-shooting"), and Hecebolus (// hi-SEB-ə-ləs; Ἑκηβόλος, Hekēbolos, literally "far-shooting"). The Romans referred to Apollo as Articenens (// ar-TISS-i-nənz; "bow-carrying"). Apollo was called Ismenius (// iz-MEE-nee-əs; Ἰσμηνιός, Ismēnios, literally "of Ismenus") after Ismenus, the son of Amphion and Niobe, whom he struck with an arrow.
The cult centers of Apollo in Greece, Delphi and Delos, date from the 8th century BCE. The Delos sanctuary was primarily dedicated to Artemis, Apollo's twin sister. At Delphi, Apollo was venerated as the slayer of Pytho. For the Greeks, Apollo was all the Gods in one and through the centuries he acquired different functions which could originate from different gods. In archaic Greece he was the prophet, the oracular god who in older times was connected with "healing". In classical Greece he was the god of light and of music, but in popular religion he had a strong function to keep away evil. Walter Burkert discerned three components in the prehistory of Apollo worship, which he termed "a Dorian-northwest Greek component, a Cretan-Minoan component, and a Syro-Hittite component."
From his eastern-origin Apollo brought the art of inspection from "symbols and omina" (σημεία και τέρατα : semeia kai terata), and of the observation of the omens of the days. The inspiration oracular-cult was probably introduced from Anatolia. The ritualism belonged to Apollo from the beginning. The Greeks created the legalism, the supervision of the orders of the gods, and the demand for moderation and harmony. Apollo became the god of shining youth, the protector of music, spiritual-life, moderation and perceptible order. The improvement of the old Anatolian god, and his elevation to an intellectual sphere, may be considered an achievement of the Greek people.
The function of Apollo as a "healer" is connected with Paean (Παιών-Παιήων), the physician of the Gods in the Iliad, who seems to come from a more primitive religion. Paeοn is probably connected with the Mycenean pa-ja-wo-ne (Linear B: 𐀞𐀊𐀍𐀚), but this is not certain. He did not have a separate cult, but he was the personification of the holy magic-song sung by the magicians that was supposed to cure disease. Later the Greeks knew the original meaning of the relevant song "paean" (παιάν). The magicians were also called "seer-doctors" (ἰατρομάντεις), and they used an ecstatic prophetic art which was used exactly by the god Apollo at the oracles.
In the Iliad, Apollo is the healer under the gods, but he is also the bringer of disease and death with his arrows, similar to the function of the terrible Vedic god of disease Rudra. He sends a terrible plague (λοιμός) to the Achaeans. The god who sends a disease can also prevent from it; therefore, when it stops, they make a purifying ceremony and offer him a hecatomb to ward off evil. When the oath of his priest appeases, they pray and with a song they call their own god, the beautiful Paean.
Some common epithets of Apollo as a healer are "paion" (παιών, literally "healer" or "helper") "epikourios" (ἐπικουρώ, "help"), "oulios" (οὐλή, "healed wound", also a "scar" ) and "loimios" (λοιμός, "plague"). In classical times, his strong function in popular religion was to keep away evil, and was therefore called "apotropaios" (ἀποτρέπω, "divert", "deter", "avert") and "alexikakos" (from v. ἀλέξω + n. κακόν, "defend from evil"). In later writers, the word, usually spelled "Paean", becomes a mere epithet of Apollo in his capacity as a god of healing.
Homer illustrated Paeon the god, and the song both of apotropaic thanksgiving or triumph. Such songs were originally addressed to Apollo, and afterwards to other gods: to Dionysus, to Apollo Helios, to Apollo's son Asclepius the healer. About the 4th century BCE, the paean became merely a formula of adulation; its object was either to implore protection against disease and misfortune, or to offer thanks after such protection had been rendered. It was in this way that Apollo had become recognised as the god of music. Apollo's role as the slayer of the Python led to his association with battle and victory; hence it became the Roman custom for a paean to be sung by an army on the march and before entering into battle, when a fleet left the harbour, and also after a victory had been won.
The connection with Dorians and their initiation festival apellai[clarification needed] is reinforced by the month Apellaios in northwest Greek calendars, but it can explain only the Doric type of the name, which is connected with the Ancient Macedonian word "pella" (Pella), stone. Stones played an important part in the cult of the god, especially in the oracular shrine of Delphi (Omphalos). The "Homeric hymn" represents Apollo as a Northern intruder. His arrival must have occurred during the "dark ages" that followed the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, and his conflict with Gaia (Mother Earth) was represented by the legend of his slaying her daughter the serpent Python.
The earth deity had power over the ghostly world, and it is believed that she was the deity behind the oracle. The older tales mentioned two dragons who were perhaps intentionally conflated. A female dragon named Delphyne (δελφύς, "womb"), who is obviously connected with Delphi and Apollo Delphinios, and a male serpent Typhon (τύφειν, "to smoke"), the adversary of Zeus in the Titanomachy, who the narrators confused with Python. Python was the good daemon (ἀγαθὸς δαίμων) of the temple as it appears in Minoan religion, but she was represented as a dragon, as often happens in Northern European folklore as well as in the East.
Apollo and his sister Artemis can bring death with their arrows. The conception that diseases and death come from invisible shots sent by supernatural beings, or magicians is common in Germanic and Norse mythology. In Greek mythology Artemis was the leader (ἡγεμών, "hegemon") of the nymphs, who had similar functions with the Nordic Elves. The "elf-shot" originally indicated disease or death attributed to the elves, but it was later attested denoting arrow-heads which were used by witches to harm people, and also for healing rituals.
The Vedic Rudra has some similar functions with Apollo. The terrible god is called "The Archer", and the bow is also an attribute of Shiva. Rudra could bring diseases with his arrows, but he was able to free people of them, and his alternative Shiba, is a healer physician god. However the Indo-European component of Apollo, does not explain his strong relation with omens, exorcisms, and with the oracular cult.
It seems an oracular cult existed in Delphi from the Mycenaean ages. In historical times, the priests of Delphi were called Labryaden, "the double-axe men", which indicates Minoan origin. The double-axe, labrys, was the holy symbol of the Cretan labyrinth. The Homeric hymn adds that Apollo appeared as a dolphin and carried Cretan priests to Delphi, where they evidently transferred their religious practices. Apollo Delphinios was a sea-god especially worshiped in Crete and in the islands, and his name indicates his connection with Delphi and the holy serpent Delphyne ("womb"). Apollo's sister Artemis, who was the Greek goddess of hunting, is identified with Britomartis (Diktynna), the Minoan "Mistress of the animals". In her earliest depictions she is accompanied by the "Mister of the animals", a male god of hunting who had the bow as his attribute. We don't know his original name, but it seems that he was absorbed by the more powerful Apollo, who stood by the "Mistress of the animals", becoming her brother.
The old oracles in Delphi seem to be connected with a local tradition of the priesthood, and there is not clear evidence that a kind of inspiration-prophecy existed in the temple. This led some scholars to the conclusion that Pythia carried on the rituals in a consistent procedure through many centuries, according to the local tradition. In that regard, the mythical seeress Sibyl of Anatolian origin, with her ecstatic art, looks unrelated to the oracle itself. However, the Greek tradition is referring to the existence of vapours and chewing of laurel-leaves, which seem to be confirmed by recent studies.
Plato describes the priestesses of Delphi and Dodona as frenzied women, obsessed by "mania" (μανία, "frenzy"), a Greek word he connected with mantis (μάντις, "prophet"). Frenzied women like Sibyls from whose lips the god speaks are recorded in the Near East as Mari in the second millennium BC. Although Crete had contacts with Mari from 2000 BC, there is no evidence that the ecstatic prophetic art existed during the Minoan and Mycenean ages. It is more probable that this art was introduced later from Anatolia and regenerated an existing oracular cult that was local to Delphi and dormant in several areas of Greece.
A non-Greek origin of Apollo has long been assumed in scholarship. The name of Apollo's mother Leto has Lydian origin, and she was worshipped on the coasts of Asia Minor. The inspiration oracular cult was probably introduced into Greece from Anatolia, which is the origin of Sibyl, and where existed some of the oldest oracular shrines. Omens, symbols, purifications, and exorcisms appear in old Assyro-Babylonian texts, and these rituals were spread into the empire of the Hittites. In a Hittite text is mentioned that the king invited a Babylonian priestess for a certain "purification".
A similar story is mentioned by Plutarch. He writes that the Cretan seer Epimenides, purified Athens after the pollution brought by the Alcmeonidae, and that the seer's expertise in sacrifices and reform of funeral practices were of great help to Solon in his reform of the Athenian state. The story indicates that Epimenides was probably heir to the shamanic religions of Asia, and proves together with the Homeric hymn, that Crete had a resisting religion up to the historical times. It seems that these rituals were dormant in Greece, and they were reinforced when the Greeks migrated to Anatolia.
Homer pictures Apollo on the side of the Trojans, fighting against the Achaeans, during the Trojan War. He is pictured as a terrible god, less trusted by the Greeks than other gods. The god seems to be related to Appaliunas, a tutelary god of Wilusa (Troy) in Asia Minor, but the word is not complete. The stones found in front of the gates of Homeric Troy were the symbols of Apollo. The Greeks gave to him the name ἀγυιεύς agyieus as the protector god of public places and houses who wards off evil, and his symbol was a tapered stone or column. However, while usually Greek festivals were celebrated at the full moon, all the feasts of Apollo were celebrated at the seventh day of the month, and the emphasis given to that day (sibutu) indicates a Babylonian origin.
The Late Bronze Age (from 1700 to 1200 BCE) Hittite and Hurrian Aplu was a god of plague, invoked during plague years. Here we have an apotropaic situation, where a god originally bringing the plague was invoked to end it. Aplu, meaning the son of, was a title given to the god Nergal, who was linked to the Babylonian god of the sun Shamash. Homer interprets Apollo as a terrible god (δεινὸς θεός) who brings death and disease with his arrows, but who can also heal, possessing a magic art that separates him from the other Greek gods. In Iliad, his priest prays to Apollo Smintheus, the mouse god who retains an older agricultural function as the protector from field rats. All these functions, including the function of the healer-god Paean, who seems to have Mycenean origin, are fused in the cult of Apollo.
Unusually among the Olympic deities, Apollo had two cult sites that had widespread influence: Delos and Delphi. In cult practice, Delian Apollo and Pythian Apollo (the Apollo of Delphi) were so distinct that they might both have shrines in the same locality. Apollo's cult was already fully established when written sources commenced, about 650 BCE. Apollo became extremely important to the Greek world as an oracular deity in the archaic period, and the frequency of theophoric names such as Apollodorus or Apollonios and cities named Apollonia testify to his popularity. Oracular sanctuaries to Apollo were established in other sites. In the 2nd and 3rd century CE, those at Didyma and Clarus pronounced the so-called "theological oracles", in which Apollo confirms that all deities are aspects or servants of an all-encompassing, highest deity. "In the 3rd century, Apollo fell silent. Julian the Apostate (359 - 61) tried to revive the Delphic oracle, but failed."
Apollo had a famous oracle in Delphi, and other notable ones in Clarus and Branchidae. His oracular shrine in Abae in Phocis, where he bore the toponymic epithet Abaeus (Ἀπόλλων Ἀβαῖος, Apollon Abaios) was important enough to be consulted by Croesus. His oracular shrines include:
Oracles were also given by sons of Apollo.
A lot of temples dedicated to Apollo were built in Greece and in the Greek colonies.
When Zeus' wife Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Zeus was the father, she banned Leto from giving birth on "terra firma". In her wanderings, Leto found the newly created floating island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island. She gave birth there and was accepted by the people, offering them her promise that her son would be always favourable toward the city. Afterwards, Zeus secured Delos to the bottom of the ocean. This island later became sacred to Apollo.
It is also stated that Hera kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The other gods tricked Hera into letting her go by offering her a necklace, nine yards (8 m) long, of amber. Mythographers agree that Artemis was born first and then assisted with the birth of Apollo, or that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, on the island of Ortygia and that she helped Leto cross the sea to Delos the next day to give birth to Apollo. Apollo was born on the seventh day (ἑβδομαγενής, hebdomagenes) of the month Thargelion —according to Delian tradition—or of the month Bysios—according to Delphian tradition. The seventh and twentieth, the days of the new and full moon, were ever afterwards held sacred to him.
Four days after his birth, Apollo killed the chthonic dragon Python, which lived in Delphi beside the Castalian Spring. This was the spring which emitted vapors that caused the oracle at Delphi to give her prophecies. Hera sent the serpent to hunt Leto to her death across the world. To protect his mother, Apollo begged Hephaestus for a bow and arrows. After receiving them, Apollo cornered Python in the sacred cave at Delphi. Apollo killed Python but had to be punished for it, since Python was a child of Gaia.
Hera then sent the giant Tityos to kill Leto. This time Apollo was aided by his sister Artemis in protecting their mother. During the battle Zeus finally relented his aid and hurled Tityos down to Tartarus. There he was pegged to the rock floor, covering an area of 9 acres (36,000 m2), where a pair of vultures feasted daily on his liver.
Apollo shot arrows infected with the plague into the Greek encampment during the Trojan War in retribution for Agamemnon's insult to Chryses, a priest of Apollo whose daughter Chryseis had been captured. He demanded her return, and the Achaeans complied, indirectly causing the anger of Achilles, which is the theme of the Iliad.
In the Iliad, when Diomedes injured Aeneas, Apollo rescued him. First, Aphrodite tried to rescue Aeneas but Diomedes injured her as well. Aeneas was then enveloped in a cloud by Apollo, who took him to Pergamos, a sacred spot in Troy.
Apollo aided Paris in the killing of Achilles by guiding the arrow of his bow into Achilles' heel. One interpretation of his motive is that it was in revenge for Achilles' sacrilege in murdering Troilus, the god's own son by Hecuba, on the very altar of the god's own temple.
When Zeus struck down Apollo's son Asclepius with a lightning bolt for resurrecting Hippolytus from the dead (transgressing Themis by stealing Hades's subjects), Apollo in revenge killed the Cyclopes, who had fashioned the bolt for Zeus. Apollo would have been banished to Tartarus forever for this, but was instead sentenced to one year of hard labor, due to the intercession of his mother, Leto. During this time he served as shepherd for King Admetus of Pherae in Thessaly. Admetus treated Apollo well, and, in return, the god conferred great benefits on Admetus.
Apollo helped Admetus win Alcestis, the daughter of King Pelias and later convinced the Fates to let Admetus live past his time, if another took his place. But when it came time for Admetus to die, his parents, whom he had assumed would gladly die for him, refused to cooperate. Instead, Alcestis took his place, but Heracles managed to "persuade" Thanatos, the god of death, to return her to the world of the living.
Niobe, the queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion, boasted of her superiority to Leto because she had fourteen children (Niobids), seven male and seven female, while Leto had only two. Apollo killed her sons, and Artemis her daughters. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to some versions of the myth, a number of the Niobids were spared (Chloris, usually). Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Apollo after swearing revenge.
A devastated Niobe fled to Mount Sipylos in Asia Minor and turned into stone as she wept. Her tears formed the river Achelous. Zeus had turned all the people of Thebes to stone and so no one buried the Niobids until the ninth day after their death, when the gods themselves entombed them.
Love affairs ascribed to Apollo are a late development in Greek mythology. Their vivid anecdotal qualities have made some of them favorites of painters since the Renaissance, the result being that they stand out more prominently in the modern imagination.
Daphne was a nymph, daughter of the river god Peneus, who had scorned Apollo. The myth explains the connection of Apollo with δάφνη (daphnē), the laurel whose leaves his priestess employed at Delphi. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Phoebus Apollo chaffs Cupid for toying with a weapon more suited to a man, whereupon Cupid wounds him with a golden dart; simultaneously, however, Cupid shoots a leaden arrow into Daphne, causing her to be repulsed by Apollo. Following a spirited chase by Apollo, Daphne prays to her father, Peneus, for help, and he changes her into the laurel tree, sacred to Apollo.
Artemis Daphnaia, who had her temple among the Lacedemonians, at a place called Hypsoi in Antiquity, on the slopes of Mount Cnacadion near the Spartan frontier, had her own sacred laurel trees. At Eretria the identity of an excavated 7th- and 6th-century temple to Apollo Daphnephoros, "Apollo, laurel-bearer", or "carrying off Daphne", a "place where the citizens are to take the oath", is identified in inscriptions.
Leucothea was daughter of Orchamus and sister of Clytia. She fell in love with Apollo who disguised himself as Leucothea's mother to gain entrance to her chambers. Clytia, jealous of her sister because she wanted Apollo for herself, told Orchamus the truth, betraying her sister's trust and confidence in her. Enraged, Orchamus ordered Leucothea to be buried alive. Apollo refused to forgive Clytia for betraying his beloved, and a grieving Clytia wilted and slowly died. Apollo changed her into an incense plant, either heliotrope or sunflower, which follows the sun every day.
Castalia was a nymph whom Apollo loved. She fled from him and dove into the spring at Delphi, at the base of Mt. Parnassos, which was then named after her. Water from this spring was sacred; it was used to clean the Delphian temples and inspire the priestesses. In the last oracle is mentioned that the "water which could speak", has been lost for ever.
By Cyrene, Apollo had a son named Aristaeus, who became the patron god of cattle, fruit trees, hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping. He was also a culture-hero and taught humanity dairy skills, the use of nets and traps in hunting, and how to cultivate olives.
Hecuba, was the wife of King Priam of Troy, and Apollo had a son with her named Troilus. An oracle prophesied that Troy would not be defeated as long as Troilus reached the age of twenty alive. He was ambushed and killed by Achilleus.
Cassandra, was daughter of Hecuba and Priam, and Troilus' half-sister. Apollo fell in love with Cassandra and promised her the gift of prophecy to seduce her, but she rejected him afterwards. Enraged, Apollo indeed gave her the ability to know the future, with a curse that she could only see the future tragedies and that no one would ever believe her.
Coronis, was daughter of Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths. Pregnant with Asclepius, Coronis fell in love with Ischys, son of Elatus. A crow informed Apollo of the affair. When first informed he disbelieved the crow and turned all crows black (where they were previously white) as a punishment for spreading untruths. When he found out the truth he sent his sister, Artemis, to kill Coronis (in other stories, Apollo himself had killed Coronis). As a result he also made the crow sacred and gave them the task of announcing important deaths. Apollo rescued the baby and gave it to the centaur Chiron to raise. Phlegyas was irate after the death of his daughter and burned the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Apollo then killed him for what he did.
In Euripides' play Ion, Apollo fathered Ion by Creusa, wife of Xuthus. Creusa left Ion to die in the wild, but Apollo asked Hermes to save the child and bring him to the oracle at Delphi, where he was raised by a priestess.
Hyacinth or Hyacinthus was one of Apollo's male lovers. He was a Spartan prince, beautiful and athletic. The pair was practicing throwing the discus when a discus thrown by Apollo was blown off course by the jealous Zephyrus and struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him instantly. Apollo is said to be filled with grief: out of Hyacinthus' blood, Apollo created a flower named after him as a memorial to his death, and his tears stained the flower petals with the interjection αἰαῖ, meaning alas. The Festival of Hyacinthus was a celebration of Sparta.
Another male lover was Cyparissus, a descendant of Heracles. Apollo gave him a tame deer as a companion but Cyparissus accidentally killed it with a javelin as it lay asleep in the undergrowth. Cyparissus asked Apollo to let his tears fall forever. Apollo granted the request by turning him into the Cypress named after him, which was said to be a sad tree because the sap forms droplets like tears on the trunk.
Other male lovers of Apollo include:
Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. The story is told in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. His mother, Maia, had been secretly impregnated by Zeus. Maia wrapped the infant in blankets but Hermes escaped while she was asleep.
Hermes ran to Thessaly, where Apollo was grazing his cattle. The infant Hermes stole a number of his cows and took them to a cave in the woods near Pylos, covering their tracks. In the cave, he found a tortoise and killed it, then removed the insides. He used one of the cow's intestines and the tortoise shell and made the first lyre.
Apollo complained to Maia that her son had stolen his cattle, but Hermes had already replaced himself in the blankets she had wrapped him in, so Maia refused to believe Apollo's claim. Zeus intervened and, claiming to have seen the events, sided with Apollo. Hermes then began to play music on the lyre he had invented. Apollo, a god of music, fell in love with the instrument and offered to allow exchange of the cattle for the lyre. Hence, Apollo then became a master of the lyre.
In Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, Clytemnestra kills her husband, King Agamemnon because he had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia to proceed forward with the Trojan war, and Cassandra, a prophetess of Apollo. Apollo gives an order through the Oracle at Delphi that Agamemnon's son, Orestes, is to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, her lover. Orestes and Pylades carry out the revenge, and consequently Orestes is pursued by the Erinyes (Furies, female personifications of vengeance).
Apollo and the Furies argue about whether the matricide was justified; Apollo holds that the bond of marriage is sacred and Orestes was avenging his father, whereas the Erinyes say that the bond of blood between mother and son is more meaningful than the bond of marriage. They invade his temple, and he says that the matter should be brought before Athena. Apollo promises to protect Orestes, as Orestes has become Apollo's supplicant. Apollo advocates Orestes at the trial, and ultimately Athena rules with Apollo.
Another contender for the birthplace of Apollo is the Cretan islands of Paximadia.
Once Pan had the audacity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and to challenge Apollo, the god of the kithara, to a trial of skill. Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen to umpire. Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower, Midas, who happened to be present. Then Apollo struck the strings of his lyre. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to Apollo, and all but Midas agreed with the judgment. He dissented, and questioned the justice of the award. Apollo would not suffer such a depraved pair of ears any longer, and caused them to become the ears of a donkey.
Apollo has ominous aspects aside from his plague-bringing, death-dealing arrows: Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a contest of music. He had found an aulos on the ground, tossed away after being invented by Athena because it made her cheeks puffy. The contest was judged by the Muses.
After they each performed, both were deemed equal until Apollo decreed they play and sing at the same time. As Apollo played the lyre, this was easy to do. Marsyas could not do this, as he only knew how to use the flute and could not sing at the same time. Apollo was declared the winner because of this. Apollo flayed Marsyas alive in a cave near Celaenae in Phrygia for his hubris to challenge a god. He then nailed Marsyas' shaggy skin to a nearby pine-tree. Marsyas' blood turned into the river Marsyas.
The Roman worship of Apollo was adopted from the Greeks. As a quintessentially Greek god, Apollo had no direct Roman equivalent, although later Roman poets often referred to him as Phoebus. There was a tradition that the Delphic oracle was consulted as early as the period of the kings of Rome during the reign of Tarquinius Superbus.
On the occasion of a pestilence in the 430s BCE, Apollo's first temple at Rome was established in the Flaminian fields, replacing an older cult site there known as the "Apollinare". During the Second Punic War in 212 BCE, the Ludi Apollinares ("Apollonian Games") were instituted in his honor, on the instructions of a prophecy attributed to one Marcius. In the time of Augustus, who considered himself under the special protection of Apollo and was even said to be his son, his worship developed and he became one of the chief gods of Rome.
After the battle of Actium, which was fought near a sanctuary of Apollo, Augustus enlarged Apollo's temple, dedicated a portion of the spoils to him, and instituted quinquennial games in his honour. He also erected a new temple to the god on the Palatine hill. Sacrifices and prayers on the Palatine to Apollo and Diana formed the culmination of the Secular Games, held in 17 BCE to celebrate the dawn of a new era.
Apollo's most common attributes were the bow and arrow. Other attributes of his included the kithara (an advanced version of the common lyre), the plectrum and the sword. Another common emblem was the sacrificial tripod, representing his prophetic powers. The Pythian Games were held in Apollo's honor every four years at Delphi. The bay laurel plant was used in expiatory sacrifices and in making the crown of victory at these games.
The palm tree was also sacred to Apollo because he had been born under one in Delos. Animals sacred to Apollo included wolves, dolphins, roe deer, swans, cicadas (symbolizing music and song), hawks, ravens, crows, snakes (referencing Apollo's function as the god of prophecy), mice and griffins, mythical eagle–lion hybrids of Eastern origin.
As god of colonization, Apollo gave oracular guidance on colonies, especially during the height of colonization, 750–550 BCE. According to Greek tradition, he helped Cretan or Arcadian colonists found the city of Troy. However, this story may reflect a cultural influence which had the reverse direction: Hittite cuneiform texts mention a Minor Asian god called Appaliunas or Apalunas in connection with the city of Wilusa attested in Hittite inscriptions, which is now generally regarded as being identical with the Greek Ilion by most scholars. In this interpretation, Apollo's title of Lykegenes can simply be read as "born in Lycia", which effectively severs the god's supposed link with wolves (possibly a folk etymology).
In literary contexts, Apollo represents harmony, order, and reason—characteristics contrasted with those of Dionysus, god of wine, who represents ecstasy and disorder. The contrast between the roles of these gods is reflected in the adjectives Apollonian and Dionysian. However, the Greeks thought of the two qualities as complementary: the two gods are brothers, and when Apollo at winter left for Hyperborea, he would leave the Delphic oracle to Dionysus. This contrast appears to be shown on the two sides of the Borghese Vase.
Apollo is a common theme in Greek and Roman art and also in the art of the Renaissance. The earliest Greek word for a statue is "delight" (ἄγαλμα, agalma), and the sculptors tried to create forms which would inspire such guiding vision. Greek art puts into Apollo the highest degree of power and beauty that can be imagined. The sculptors derived this from observations on human beings, but they also embodied in concrete form, issues beyond the reach of ordinary thought.
The naked bodies of the statues are associated with the cult of the body that was essentially a religious activity. The muscular frames and limbs combined with slim waists indicate the Greek desire for health, and the physical capacity which was necessary in the hard Greek environment. The statues of Apollo embody beauty, balance and inspire awe before the beauty of the world.
The evolution of the Greek sculpture can be observed in his depictions from the almost static formal Kouros type in early archaic period, to the representation of motion in a relative harmonious whole in late archaic period. In classical Greece the emphasis is not given to the illusive imaginative reality represented by the ideal forms, but to the analogies and the interaction of the members in the whole, a method created by Polykleitos. Finally Praxiteles seems to be released from any art and religious conformities, and his masterpieces are a mixture of naturalism with stylization.
The evolution of the Greek art seems to go parallel with the Greek philosophical conceptions, which changed from the natural-philosophy of Thales to the metaphysical theory of Pythagoras. Thales searched for a simple material-form directly perceptible by the senses, behind the appearances of things, and his theory is also related to the older animism. This was paralleled in sculpture by the absolute representation of vigorous life, through unnaturally simplified forms.
Pythagoras believed that behind the appearance of things, there was the permanent principle of mathematics, and that the forms were based on a transcendental mathematical relation. The forms on earth, are imperfect imitations (εἰκόνες, eikones, "images") of the celestial world of numbers. His ideas had a great influence on post-Archaic art, and the Greek architects and sculptors were always trying to find the mathematical relation, that would lead to the esthetic perfection. (canon).
In classical Greece, Anaxagoras asserted that a divine reason (mind) gave order to the seeds of the universe, and Plato extended the Greek belief of ideal forms to his metaphysical theory of forms (ideai, "ideas"). The forms on earth are imperfect duplicates of the intellectual celestial ideas. The Greek words oida (οἶδα, "(I) know") and eidos (εἶδος, "species") have the same root as the word idea (ἰδέα), indicating how the Greek mind moved from the gift of the senses, to the principles beyond the senses. The artists in Plato's time moved away from his theories and art tends to be a mixture of naturalism with stylization. The Greek sculptors considered the senses more important, and the proportions were used to unite the sensible with the intellectual.
Kouros (male youth) is the modern term given to those representations of standing male youths which first appear in the archaic period in Greece. This type served certain religious needs and was first proposed for what was previously thought to be depictions of Apollo. The first statues are certainly still and formal. The formality of their stance seems to be related with the Egyptian precedent, but it was accepted for a good reason. The sculptors had a clear idea of what a young man is, and embodied the archaic smile of good manners, the firm and springy step, the balance of the body, dignity, and youthful happiness. When they tried to depict the most abiding qualities of men, it was because men had common roots with the unchanging gods. The adoption of a standard recognizable type for a long time, is probably because nature gives preference in survival of a type which has long be adopted by the climatic conditions, and also due to the general Greek belief that nature expresses itself in ideal forms that can be imagined and represented. These forms expressed immortality. Apollo was the immortal god of ideal balance and order. His shrine in Delphi, that he shared in winter with Dionysius had the inscriptions: γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seautón="know thyself") and μηδὲν ἄγαν (mēdén ágan, "nothing in excess"), and ἐγγύα πάρα δ'ἄτη (eggýa pára d'atē, "make a pledge and mischief is nigh").
In the first large-scale depictions during the early archaic period (640–580 BC), the artists tried to draw one's attention to look into the interior of the face and the body which were not represented as lifeless masses, but as being full of life. The Greeks maintained, until late in their civilization, an almost animistic idea that the statues are in some sense alive. This embodies the belief that the image was somehow the god or man himself. A fine example is the statue of the Sacred gate Kouros which was found at the cemetery of Dipylon in Athens (Dipylon Kouros). The statue is the "thing in itself", and his slender face with the deep eyes express an intellectual eternity. According to the Greek tradition the Dipylon master was named Daedalus, and in his statues the limbs were freed from the body, giving the impression that the statues could move. It is considered that he created also the New York kouros, which is the oldest fully preserved statue of Kouros type, and seems to be the incarnation of the god himself.
The animistic idea as the representation of the imaginative reality, is sanctified in the Homeric poems and in Greek myths, in stories of the god Hephaestus (Phaistos) and the mythic Daedalus (the builder of the labyrinth) that made images which moved of their own accord. This kind of art goes back to the Minoan period, when its main theme was the representation of motion in a specific moment. These free-standing statues were usually marble, but also the form rendered in limestone, bronze, ivory and terracotta.
The earliest examples of life-sized statues of Apollo, may be two figures from the Ionic sanctuary on the island of Delos. Such statues were found across the Greek speaking world, the preponderance of these were found at the sanctuaries of Apollo with more than one hundred from the sanctuary of Apollo Ptoios, Boeotia alone. The last stage in the development of the Kouros type is the late archaic period (520–485 BC), in which the Greek sculpture attained a full knowledge of human anatomy and used to create a relative harmonious whole. Ranking from the very few bronzes survived to us is the masterpiece bronze Piraeus Apollo. It was found in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens. The statue originally held the bow in its left hand, and a cup of pouring libation in its right hand. It probably comes from north-eastern Peloponnesus. The emphasis is given in anatomy, and it is one of the first attempts to represent a kind of motion, and beauty relative to proportions, which appear mostly in post-Archaic art. The statue throws some light on an artistic centre which, with an independently developed harder, simpler, and heavier style, restricts Ionian influence in Athens. Finally, this is the germ from which the art of Polykleitos was to grow two or three generations later.
In the next century which is the beginning of the Classical period, it was considered that beauty in visible things as in everything else, consisted of symmetry and proportions. The artists tried also to represent motion in a specific moment (Myron), which may be considered as the reappearance of the dormant Minoan element. Anatomy and geometry are fused in one, and each does something to the other. The Greek sculptors tried to clarify it by looking for mathematical proportions, just as they sought some reality behind appearances. Polykleitos in his Canon wrote that beauty consists in the proportion not of the elements (materials), but of the parts, that is the interrelation of parts with one another and with the whole. It seems that he was influenced by the theories of Pythagoras. The famous Apollo of Mantua and its variants are early forms of the Apollo Citharoedus statue type, in which the god holds the cithara in his left arm. The type is represented by neo-Attic Imperial Roman copies of the late 1st or early 2nd century, modelled upon a supposed Greek bronze original made in the second quarter of the 5th century BCE, in a style similar to works of Polykleitos but more archaic. The Apollo held the cythara against his extended left arm, of which in the Louvre example, a fragment of one twisting scrolling horn upright remains against his biceps.
Though the proportions were always important in Greek art, the appeal of the Greek sculptures eludes any explanation by proportion alone. The statues of Apollo were thought to incarnate his living presence, and these representations of illusive imaginative reality had deep roots in the Minoan period, and in the beliefs of the first Greek speaking people who entered the region during the bronze-age. Just as the Greeks saw the mountains, forests, sea and rivers as inhabited by concrete beings, so nature in all of its manifestations possesses clear form, and the form of a work of art. Spiritual life is incorporated in matter, when it is given artistic form. Just as in the arts the Greeks sought some reality behind appearances, so in mathematics they sought permanent principles which could be applied wherever the conditions were the same. Artists and sculptors tried to find this ideal order in relation with mathematics, but they believed that this ideal order revealed itself not so much to the dispassionate intellect, as to the whole sentient self. Things as we see them, and as they really are, are one, that each stresses the nature of the other in a single unity.
In the archaic pediments and friezes of the temples, the artists had a problem to fit a group of figures into an isosceles triangle with acute angles at the base.
The Siphnian Treasury in Delphi was one of the first Greek buildings utilizing the solution to put the dominating form in the middle, and to complete the descending scale of height with other figures sitting or kneeling. The pediment shows the story of Heracles stealing Apollo's tripod that was strongly associated with his oracular inspiration. Their two figures hold the centre. In the pediment of the temple of Zeus in Olympia, the single figure of Apollo is dominating the scene.
These representations rely on presenting scenes directly to the eye for their own visible sake. They care for the schematic arrangements of bodies in space, but only as parts in a larger whole. While each scene has its own character and completeness it must fit into the general sequence to which it belongs. In these archaic pediments the sculptors use empty intervals, to suggest a passage to and fro a busy battlefield. The artists seem to have been dominated by geometrical pattern and order, and this was improved when classical art brought a greater freedom and economy.
Apollo as a handsome beardless young man, is often depicted with a kithara (as Apollo Citharoedus) or bow in his hand, or reclining on a tree (the Apollo Lykeios and Apollo Sauroctonos types). The Apollo Belvedere is a marble sculpture that was rediscovered in the late 15th century; for centuries it epitomized the ideals of Classical Antiquity for Europeans, from the Renaissance through the 19th century. The marble is a Hellenistic or Roman copy of a bronze original by the Greek sculptor Leochares, made between 350 and 325 BCE.
The life-size so-called "Adonis" found in 1780 on the site of a villa suburbana near the Via Labicana in the Roman suburb of Centocelle is identified as an Apollo by modern scholars. In the late 2nd century CE floor mosaic from El Djem, Roman Thysdrus, he is identifiable as Apollo Helios by his effulgent halo, though now even a god's divine nakedness is concealed by his cloak, a mark of increasing conventions of modesty in the later Empire.
Another haloed Apollo in mosaic, from Hadrumentum, is in the museum at Sousse. The conventions of this representation, head tilted, lips slightly parted, large-eyed, curling hair cut in locks grazing the neck, were developed in the 3rd century BCE to depict Alexander the Great. Some time after this mosaic was executed, the earliest depictions of Christ would also be beardless and haloed.
Apollo has often featured in postclassical art and literature. Percy Bysshe Shelley composed a "Hymn of Apollo" (1820), and the god's instruction of the Muses formed the subject of Igor Stravinsky's Apollon musagète (1927–1928).
In discussion of the arts, a distinction is sometimes made between the Apollonian and Dionysian impulses where the former is concerned with imposing intellectual order and the latter with chaotic creativity. Friedrich Nietzsche argued that a fusion of the two was most desirable. Carl Jung's Apollo archetype represents what he saw as the disposition in people to over-intellectualise and maintain emotional distance.
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