"To Apollon. Blest Paian, come, propitious to my prayer, illustrious power, whom Memphian tribes revere, Tityoktonos, and the god of Health, Lykoreus, Phoibos, fruitful source of wealth: Pytheion, golden-lyred, the field from thee receives its constant rich fertility. Titan, Gryneion, Smyntheus, thee I sing, Pythoktonos, hallowed, Delphion king: rural, light-bearing Daimon, and Mousagetos, noble and lovely, armed with arrows dread: far-darting, Bakkhion, twofold and divine, power far diffused, and course oblique is thine. O Delion king, whose light-producing eye views all within, and all beneath the sky; whose locks are gold, whose oracles are sure, who omens good revealest, and precepts pure; hear me...since to thy care the figured seal's consigned, which stamps the world with forms of every kind. Hear me, blest power, and in these rites rejoice, and save thy mystics with a suppliant voice."
(Orphic Hymn 34 To Apollo)
Apollo, a.k.a Apollon [Pronounced in English as "uh-paw-loh" and in Greek as "AH-PO-lon"], is the Greek god of light, music, truth, prophecy, healing, archery, rationality, reason and intellect, the founding of cities, plagues, protection from evil, protection of flocks and herds, poetry, male beauty, athletics and the gymnasium. Toward the end of the Hellenistic age, Apollo was sometimes equated with Helios, the god of the sun.
The meaning of the name Apollo is of uncertain origin. The most popular folk meaning of the name is "destroyer". However, the name may actually mean "averter of evil", "of the assembly", "of speech", and "purifier" as well.
Apollo is an extremely complex deity. When the Romans adopted his worship they did not equate him to one of their own gods but rather absorbed his worship and kept his Greek name intact. Apollo is the son of Zeus and the Titan, Leto, and is the twin brother of the goddess Artemis. He is one of the 12 Olympians.
Unlike the other Olympians, Apollo is universally portrayed as a divine kouros, a beautiful, beardless young man. A typical kouros is pubescent, a teenager in modern slang, and is approximately 15-17 years of age. Among the Greeks a male was accepted as a man at the age where he could grow a beard. However, the Greeks recognized that not all males developed at the same rate and thus accepted "adult kouros", men in the later teens and 20s, who were unable to grow beards, as adult men as well. The majority of the images of Apollo appear to show an adult kouros, a beardless man in his early 20s.
Apollo is considered to be the most beautiful male god of the Greek pantheon. He is portrayed as being beardless, having long, golden-blond hair which he does not cut but rather keeps styled-up upon his head. He is portrayed as having clear skin and blue eyes, with light emanating from both. His body is portrayed as an idealized, athletic male form, though softer in appearance than how Zeus and Poseidon are portrayed. Apollo is frequently portrayed nude or semi-nude, with a robe sometimes, if but barely, disguising his nakedness. He is rarely portrayed as fully robed. Apollo is generally portrayed holding a lyre, his sacred musical instrument, or else a silver bow and arrows. Apollo also possessed a golden sword as well as a magical shield but he was rarely portrayed in art with such.
At the time that Zeus wed Hera, the Titan, Leto, was already pregnant with his twins, Artemis and Apollo. Even though Zeus' relationship with Leto predated his involvement with Hera, Hera was nonetheless jealous of Leto and sought to prevent her from being able to give birth. Hera did this by securing a promise from Gaia, the goddess of the earth, that no land would allow Leto refuge, thus depriving her of anywhere to be able to give birth. Additionally, Hera sent out a dragon named Python, who was a son of Gaia and had the form of a giant serpent, to chase Leto.
Leto was forced to flee from the dragon and wander the earth in the agony of labour pains with no real hope of relief. However, Zeus did not forget Leto. He secretly ordered Boreas, the god of the north wind, to pick up Leto and fly her out to sea. There Zeus knew was a new island named Delos that was not fixed to the earth but floated freely. Thus, a loophole was found that Zeus exploited, allowing sanctuary for the goddess and giving her a location to give birth. When Hera found out about Delos she was livid. She halted her daughter, Eileithyia, the goddess of child birth, from going to Leto in a desperate bid to prevent Leto from giving birth. At this time the other gods and goddesses, knowing of the pain that Leto was experiencing, turned on Hera for her cruelty. Hera's own personal messenger, Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, was eventually able to quickly whisk Eileithyia away when Hera wasn't looking so she could cause Leto to give birth.
Leto bore Artemis first, who then assisted as midwife for the birth of her brother, Apollo. Apollo was born under a palm tree and thus took it as one of his sacred plants. The twins quickly grew to maturity after being fed on ambrosia.
At only four days old, the young Apollo proved his strength and divinity by going to Hepheastus and asking him for a silver bow and arrows so that he might seek out and slay the serpent that Hera has sent to attack his mother. Hephaestus complied. Apollo found and then chased the dragon to the city of Delphi, where it sought refuge at the temple of it's mother, Gaia. Gaia was unable to protect it as Apollo barged into the secret and holy part of her sanctuary, where Python hid. Apollo slew the monster and it's body was either buried or fell into a crevice where fumes from it's decomposition were believed to inspire prophecy. Apollo then commandeered the temple for his own. Gaia was not pleased for the killing of her child and violation of her then temple. As punishment, Zeus ordered him to make compensation. Apollo did so by naming his priestesses "Pythia" in honor of Python and establishing the competition of the Pythian games in his honor as well.
Due to the ill treatment of Leto, both Artemis and Apollo were very touchy when it came to any perceived criticism of their mother. When the foolish Queen Niobe stated that she should be honored above Leto as Leto only had two children while she had 14, 7 sons and 7 daughters, Apollo and Artemis responded by drawing their bows and killing her children. Their bodies, as well as that of their weeping mother, were transformed into a cliff that had a small waterfall, where Niobe would weep forever.
As a divine archer, Apollo was referred to as "he who works from afar", meaning that he can kill from a distance by shooting his arrows. It was believed by the Greeks that any unexplained and sudden death of man was brought about by one of Apollo's arrows, while the same manner of death of a woman was caused by Artemis. Connected to this was the belief that Apollo was the origin of plagues. With poison arrows, Apollo could send plagues to punish humanity, when necessary. Just as easily as he could kill, he could also heal, as a god who can send a plague can also stop it. Thus, Apollo was also viewed as a god of healing.
Though Apollo was considered to be the most attractive male god his love life was far from perfect. He never married and the majority of his romances ended poorly. In fact, many of his loves died as a result of either becoming his lover or spurning the god. Like many male gods, Apollo took both female and male lovers.
Apollo's first love was for the nymph, Daphne. Daphne was a daughter of Gaia and the river god, Ladon. Apollo burned for desire for Daphne and quite simply, came on far too strong. He scared the nymph, causing her to flee. Making matters worse, Apollo was inexperienced with the art of seduction and decided that chasing Daphne down and forcing her to sleep with him would be the best thing to do. In terror at the approaching god, Daphne called out to her parents to protect her. They responded by turning her into the first Laurel tree, and literally at the last moment. Just as Apollo had grabbed the maiden he was quickly shocked to learn that he was rubbing against bark. Realizing that Daphne was now safe from his grasp forever, Apollo fashioned a wreathe from it's leaves and made the laurel one of his sacred plants.
Daphne would not be last of the loves of Apollo who met tragic ends. Here's but a brief breakdown;
1. Bolina - A maiden who was pursued by Apollo. She rejected him, he chased her, she threw herself off a cliff and into the sea to escape him, Apollo saved her by transforming her into a river.
2. Chione - A maiden who had sex with Apollo and Hermes on the same night. She bore them each a child. Later on she began trash talking Artemis. When Artemis found out, she shot and killed her with her arrows. When her father found out about her death he threw himself off a cliff but Apollo took pity on him and transformed him into a hawk before he hit the ground.
3. Cassandra - A Trojan princess who caught the attention of Apollo because of her beauty. He promised her the gift of prophecy if she slept with him. She agreed but demanded he give her the gift before the deed. He consented. After receiving the gift she changed her mind. However, once a divine gift has been given it can not be taken back. So Apollo cursed her saying that even though that she will prophecy true that nobody will believe her. In time, she became hated by the Trojans and was considered to be a raving lunatic. She tried in vain to convince the Trojans that the Greeks had hid themselves in the wooden horse given to them and that they would destroy the city, but to no avail.
4. Coronis - She was a princess that Apollo was madly in love with and whom he wanted to make his wife. She was pregnant with his child when she cheated on Apollo with a mortal man. Apollo had charged his sacred bird, the crow to spy on her. At that time the crow was pure white in color. When Artemis found out that Coronis was cheating on her brother with a mortal, she shot and killed her with one of her arrows. Hermes swooped in and rescued the baby from her womb and gave him to the centaur Chiron to raise. Because the crow did not report Coronis' infidelity to Apollo, Apollo cursed it by turning it black.
5. Sibyl - She was a mortal woman desired by Apollo. Apollo offered to grant her one wish if she would have sex with him. She likewise wanted the wish granted in advance of the deed. Apollo consented. She picked up a handful of sand and wished to live for as many years as there were grains of sand in what she held. Apollo granted her wish. However, she too changed her mind and refused to sleep with Apollo. Since a divine gift, once given, can not be taken back, Apollo cursed her. He told her that she would live a year for every grain of sand she held but she would not possess eternal youth, something he would have freely given her had she slept with him. As a result, Sibyl aged. Each year she got older and older and with time shrunk. She eventually shrunk to the size of grasshopper and was kept in a small cage. If anyone dared ask her what she desired most she always responded "to die".
6. Cyparissus - He was a male lover of Apollo who was given a gift of a stag by the god. Cyparissus loved the stag so much that when he accidentally killed it he sunk into such a great despair and depression that he died. Apollo transformed his body into the first Cyprus tree.
7. Carnus - He was a male lover of Apollo. Apollo saw him when he was a youth and promised him the gift of prophecy if he would sleep with him. Carnus agreed, did the deed, and was given the gift of prophecy. When an old man he was murdered by Hippotes because he gave him a vague prophecy.
8. Leucates - He was a beautiful youth who was desired by Apollo. However, Leucates did not want to have sex with Apollo and as a last ditch effort to escape the god's advances, he threw himself off a cliff and killed himself.
9. Hyacinthos - He was a Spartan prince whom both Apollo and Zephyros, the god of the west wind, desired. He chose Apollo as his lover. Zephyros was so angry and jealous that Hyacinthos spurned him that he constantly stalked him and spied upon him. One day as Hyacinthos and Apollo were playing discuss, Zyphyros became so enraged by their displays of love that he blew the discuss so that it struck Hyacinthos in the head, killing him. Apollo refused to let him die and transformed him into a flower that was then named after the youth, "hyacinth". It is claimed that written on the petals is the word, "alas".
10. Acantha - She was a nymph who Apollo desired to have sex with. However, she was not interested and attacked Apollo, scratching his face. Apollo turned her into the first Acanthus plant, known for having thorns.
Of all of Apollo's loves, Daphne and Hyacinthos were most cherished by the god.
Not all of Apollos' loves met tragic ends. He had several satisfying relationships, with both men and women. Below are some loves of Apollo that seemingly went well.
1. Admetus - He was a king that Apollo was sentenced to work for because he killed the Cyclops in retaliation after his son, Asclepius, was killed by Zeus because he raised a person from the dead. During his stay with Admetus, Apollo became attracted to him and the two had sex. Admetus was married at the time.
2. Atymnius - He was an attractive youth and son of Cassiopeia. Apollo saw him and lusted after him. The pair had sex.
3. Branchus - He was either a male lover of Apollo or the son of Apollo. In the myths where they were lovers, Apollo chanced upon him and immediately felt intense desire for the youth and had sex with him. In the myths where Branchus was his son, he impregnated his mother in the form of a ray of light.
4. Hymenaios (Hymen) - He was the god of the marriage hymn and festival and was so beautiful that he drove Apollo nuts. Apollo was so sexually aroused by him that he refused to leave his father's home and wanted nothing but constant sex with the young god. Hermes took advantage of his "sexual madness" to steal Apollo's herd of oxen.
5. Iapis - He was a male lover of Apollo. Apollo likewise offered to grant him a wish if he would have sex with him. Iapis chose the gift of healing in order to save his father's life.
6. Cyrene - She was a princess who loved hunting. Apollo chanced upon her wrestling a lion and he fell madly in love with her. He whisked her away and transformed her into a nymph so that she would live a great deal longer than a normal human. She bore him Aristaeus, a rustic god who invented bee-keeping.
7. Rhoio - She was a maiden whom Apollo loved. When she became pregnant, Rhoio's father believed she had slept with a mortal man and locked her up in a chest and had the chest cast into the ocean. Apollo saved her and she bore him a son named Anios.
Apollo had numerous offspring with his female lovers. However, what set him apart from other gods was that the majority of his offspring were mortals. His divine offspring are Asklepios, the god of medicine, and Aristaeus, a rustic god who invented bee-keeping and cheese-making. One of his prominent mortal sons is Orpheus, the musician and prophet who dared venture into the Underworld to retrieve his deceased wife. The majority of Apollo's mortal offspring were noteworthy for the founding of cities. Apollo also had a foster son who was a Centaur named Chiron.
Apollo's son, Asklepios, was one of the rare mortals who was transformed into a god. He was the son of Apollo and the mortal princess, Coronis, who unfortunately cheated on Apollo while she was pregnant with Apollo's baby. Apollo, being unable to keep an eye on Coronis due to his responsibilities as a god, sent his sacred bird, the crow, to watch over her and to report back to him. At that time the crow's feathers were pure white in color. When Artemis found out about Coronis' infidelity, she shot and killed her with one of her arrows. Hermes rescued the infant Asklepios from his mother's corpse right before she was cremated and then took him to the Centaur, Chiron, for him to raise.
One day, while out seeking medicinal herbs, Asklepios came upon a serpent that was under duress and would have died had Asklepios not saved it. Later that night, the serpent slithered up to Asklepios, who was fast asleep, and began to lick his ears. Doing so either provided Asklepios with mystical knowledge of healing or else gave him the power to raise the dead, a reward for having saved the serpent's life. This would ultimately be the cause of his own death.
Word soon spread that Asklepios had the power to bring the dead back to life. When Hades found out about such, he became angry and complained to Zeus that Asklepios threatened the very order of the Universe. Zeus, seeing no alternative, struck Asclepios with a lightening bolt, killing him.
Apollo was furious. To get revenge Apollo killed the Cyclopes who made Zeus' lightening bolts, since he was unable to outright harm Zeus. Zeus resurrected the Cyclopes but as punishment for his actions, Apollo was banished from Olympus and was forced to transform into a mortal man and become the slave of King Admetus for a year. It was during his stay with Admetus that the pair became lovers.
After spending a year trapped in the body of a mortal man, Apollo was allowed to return to Olympus. To keep the peace, Zeus resurrected Asklepios and transformed him into the god of medicine. Zeus made Asklepios swear a sacred oath that he would never resurrect a mortal without obtaining his permission.
Apollo's son, Aristaeus, had a somewhat better life. He was the son of Cyrene. He was born mortal but he displayed such creativity and invention that it was quickly decided that he should be made a god. While still young he was kidnapped and taken to Olympus by Hermes and there was allowed to eat the food and drink of the gods which granted him immortality. Aristaeus was a rustic god of the countryside and was connected to hunting, fishing, bee-keeping, cheese-making, animal husbandry, and orchards. He was additionally said to be responsible for sending the Etesian winds, cool breezes that brought relief to workers toiling under the hot sun.
Chiron was Apollo's adopted son. Although he was a Centaur, part-horse and part-man, his appearance differed from the other Centaurs. Chiron had body of a man, complete with two human legs, but his backside was the elongated body of a horse, having the two back-legs of a horse as well. Chiron was the immortal son of Chronus and the nymph, Philyra. His mother abandoned him after birth because of his unusual physical appearance. Apollo rescued him and raised him as his own son. Because of such, Chiron became educated and civilized, qualities that most Centaurs did not possess.
Chiron had the reputation of being the best mentor and was generally called upon to educate young mortal men and gods. He was the favorite teacher of the majority of the heroes in Greek myth. So he gladly took Asklepios on as a student and raised him to maturity. Chiron taught Asklepios medicine and of the nature and properties of all of the medicinal herbs.
Chiron was accidentally shot by his student, Heracles. A fight ensued between other drunken Centaurs and Heracles was forced to kill many of them by using arrows that were poisoned with the blood of the Hydra. In the heat of battle, Heracles mistook Chiron for one of the enemy Centaurs and accidentally shot him. Because Chiron was immortal, the venom could not kill him. However, the pain from the venom was unbearable and there was no antidote. Chiron had no other choice but to voluntarily give up his immortality so that he could die and not have to suffer for eternity. Before doing so, he made Heracles promise to free Prometheus from the rock he was chained to and from the fate of having an eagle consume his liver each day. This was Prometheus' punishment for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humans. Ashamed and remorseful for his actions, Heracles vowed he would do as Chiron requested. After Chiron's death the gods mourned so severely that Zeus resurrected him and brought him to Olympus.
One of Apollo's famous mortal sons was Orpheus. Orpheus' mother, who remains unnamed in myth, was a princess, a daughter of King Pierus. Orpheus was a great musician, and excelled in poetry as well as prophecy. Apollo, recognizing the musical talent of his mortal son, gave him a golden lyre. When Orpheus sang and played his lyre he created such beautiful music and song that all of creation was entranced. Wild animals would draw near and sit tamely at his feet. Trees would uproot themselves and crawl towards him. Rocks and boulders would creep and jostle for positions close to the god. Mortals would weep out of sheer euphoria. All creation fell madly in love with Orpheus and followed him wherever he went when he played.
Orpheus was married to a beautiful Dryad, a tree nymph and in her case a nymph of an Oak, named Eurydice. Nymphs, though extremely long-lived, are mortal. One day while Eurydice was frolicking in nature, a Satyr spotted her and attempted to rape her. Eurydice fled and in her panic accidentally fell into a nest of vipers and was bitten and died from the venom. Orpheus was so heart-broken that he took up his golden lyre and dared venture into the Underworld in hopes of bringing her back. His music ended up saving his life.
Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of Hades, was entranced by his music and rushed up to Orpheus like a mere puppy wanting to be pet. Thus, Orpheus was allowed entry to the netherworld.
Orpheus overcame every obstacle that stood between him and a meeting with the dreaded king and queen of the Underworld, Hades and Persephone. When Orpheus stood before the royal pair he took out his lyre and sang of his undying love for his wife. All of the dark gods of the Underworld were amazed. Even the terrifying Erinyes (Furies) wept out of the sheer beauty of Orpheus' song. The beautiful goddess, Persephone, also wept uncontrollably as her frozen heart melted. She begged her husband to return Eurydice to Orpheus. Hades, seeing the tears in his wife's eyes, consented but only upon one condition. Orpheus must lead the way back home with Eurydice following him from a distance. At no time shall Orpheus ever turn to look behind him until they have both reached sunlight or else Eurydice would immediately return back to the Underworld. Orpheus agreed.
The way back to the surface world seemed to take an eternity. With each passing minute Orpheus grew more anxious and panicked as to whether or not Eurydice was actually following him. Just at the point where he could see the bright light of day a ways off in the distance, Orpheus broke down and turned around. He was greeted with the image of his beautiful wife being yanked back into the darkness and hearing her scream out his name. All hope had now been lost.
After losing his wife for the second time, Orpheus then swore off the love of all women. He took only male lovers for the rest of his life. He wandered the earth playing his music, giving prophecies, performing miracles, and teaching mysteries that would later be called "Orphic Mysteries" or "Orphism".
One day, as Orpheus sat upon a boulder and played his lyre, a group of Maenads, female nymphs and followers of the god, Dionysus, chanced by. They instantly fell madly in love with him and demanded that he return their love by sleeping with them. Orpheus, having rejected the love of women long before, ignored them. The Maenads were infuriated over such treatment and went insane. They savagely attacked him, tearing apart his body and decapitating him. Orpheus did not even try to defend himself against their wrath. The Maenads threw Orpheus head and lyre into a river and the items were later recovered by the Muses. The Muses placed Orpheus' golden lyre in the heavens as the constellation, Lyra. Orpheus was then reunited with his beloved wife in the Underworld.
Apollo could be very quick to temper, as well as vengeful, if those he loved were threatened or if he or his loved ones were offended. When the foolish giant Tityus tried to rape his mother, Leto, Apollo set loss his divine wrath and slayed him with his arrows and golden sword. As punishment for his crime, Tityus was sentenced to Tartarus, the Greek version of Hell, where he was chained and had two vultures attack him and rip his liver from his body and consume it. Each night his liver would grow back.
Marsyas was another fool who learned the hard way what could happen when one purposefully pissess off the god. Marsyas was a Satyr, a male nature spirit that was part-animal, part-human. Satyrs were originally portrayed as having the ears and tail of a horse or mule, snub noses, and large foreheads. By the time of the Romans Satyrs were believed to be beings that appeared as horned men having the legs of a goat. Satyrs were lustful nature gods who when not chasing after nymphs for sex, were generally causing trouble. Satyrs were usually not that bright as well.
Marsyas chanced upon the discarded flute that Athena had invented. Athena threw it away because the other goddesses laughed at her because her cheeks puffed out when she attempted to play it. Marsyas began to experiment with the flute and soon realize he had a gift for playing it. He was remarkably quite good. However, he let his ego run amok and it soon developed into a bad case of hubris.
Marsyas knew that Apollo was the god of music. Marsyas began to foolishly believe that he was better at music than Apollo was and thus felt that he should be worshiped in his place. So what did Marsyas do? He brazenly approached Apollo and dared challenge him to a contest. Marsyas would play his flute and Apollo would play his lyre. The winner would not only be worshiped as the god of music but could also do to the loser anything he wanted. The contest began in earnest.
Believe it or not, the contest was almost declared a tie. Marsyas truly did have a gift but his ego was his downfall. Realizing that the contest was about to be declared a tie, Apollo challenged Marsyas by saying that the two of them should play their instruments upside down. By upside down, it is meant from the reverse end of the instrument. Marsyas agreed, not realizing that it was impossible to play the flute from the reverse end. However, the lyre is easily played from it's reverse end. As a result, Apollo was declared the winner.
Apollo's punishment was swift and brutal. He ordered that Marsyas was to be flayed alive and his skin hung from a Pine tree. Marsyas' screams of agony were so great that Apollo himself felt pity for him and tore the strings out of his own lyre, swearing off the playing of the instrument for a period of time. In some versions of the myth, Marsyas was then resurrected and became a follower of Dionysus.
Apollo obtained his lyre and became the god of music in a very interesting way. While Apollo was sexually obsessing over the beautiful Hymenaios, the god of the marriage hymn, his younger brother Hermes was born. Just a few short hours after birth, Hermes sneaked out of his crib and began to wander. He came upon Apollo's sacred herd of cattle and proceeded to steal them. He was so bright that he knew to sweep away his footprints so that Apollo would not know what direction the cattle were taken. Back home he sacrificed two of the animals and feasted. Hermes then came upon a tortoise and killed it. Being a crafty god, Hermes used the tortoise's shell and the strings from the guts of the cattle he sacrificed to create the first lyre. Apollo then busted Hermes for his theft. Hermes was taken before the court of the gods and in an attempt to get out of trouble, Hermes offered to give Apollo his new invention in exchange for his release. Apollo was so pleased with the lyre that he forgave Hermes. Apollo even went as far as giving Hermes responsibility over all herds while he himself took on the role as god of music.
Together, Apollo and Hermes would become the patron gods of athletics and gymnasiums, as both gods tended to be idealized versions of the physical perfection of male youth.
As god of music Apollo was most often found in the company of the nine Muses, goddesses of the arts and sciences, the goddesses who were responsible for granting artistic inspiration to mortals. Together, with Apollo as their leader, they frolicked on Mount Helicon amid sacred springs of water and inspired mortals to create great pieces of literature, poetry, songs, sculpture, dance and examples from every art.
Apollo was most famous for his role as god of prophecy. In actuality, all prophecy was said to come from Zeus. In this sense, Apollo was said to be the mouth of Zeus, being that he was the god of truth. There were numerous temples to Apollo throughout all of Greece and it's colonies. Each one possessed sacred priestesses called "Pythias", that went into trances from various means, either the inhaling or ingesting of psychoactive herbs or substances or by possession of the god directly.
The prophecies of the Pythias were vague or obscure and had to be interpreted by male priests. It was generally believed that the true understanding of a prophecy would not be fully understood until after the event had transpired, meaning that all prophecy was realized after the fact. The vagueness of the Pythias' prophecies infuriated many people. However, it did not dim the popularity of the god. People traveled from far away lands just to consult the oracles of Apollo.
Apollo's most famous temple and oracle was held at Delphi, the same location that the dragon, Python was slayed. Delphi was considered to be the center of the world and it's reputation endured through even the Roman conquest.
Apollo ruled at the temple of Dephi during the growing season. When Winter approached, Apollo flew upon his sacred swan and traveled to the land of the Hyperborea, a mythical paradise in the far North that was inhabited by beautiful giants who worshiped Apollo as their lord. During the Winter months, Apollo allowed his brother, Dionysus, to rule the temple in his absence.
At Delphi, a middle-aged Pythia would ritually bathe, ingest Laurel (bay) leaves, and then sit on a tripod and inhale mysterious vapors that arose from a chasm that the temple was built over. She would then go into trance and deliver the words of Apollo. Her last prophecy occurred after the rise of Christianity and during Christian persecution of pagans. Many temples and statues were destroyed by fanatical Christians. The Pythia's last prophecy was such:
"Tell to the king that the temple wall is fallen in decay; Apollo has no chapel left, no prophesying bay. No talking stream. The stream is dry that had so much to say."
With such prophecy the ancient voice of Apollo fell silent.
Parents: Zeus and the Titan, Leto
Offspring: Asklepios, Aristaeus, Orpheus, Chiron (adopted), Numerous Mortals
Attendants: The Muses
Sacred Epithets/Aspects: Thearios (Of the Oracle), Proopsios (Foreseeing), Klêdônes (Omen in Words and Sounds), Klêrios (Distributing by Lot), Hekatos (Shooter from Afar), Agraios (Hunter, Of the Hunt), Mousêgetês (Leader of the Muses), Paian (Healer), Akesios (Of Healing), Oulios (Of Sound Health), Alexikakos (Averter of Evil, Averter of Harm), Epikourios (Succouring, Helping), Boêdromios (Rescuer), Smintheios (Of the Mice), Lykios (Of the Wolves), Parnopios (Of the Locusts), Erythibios (Of the Mildew), Argyieus (Of the Streets), Prostatêrios (Standing Before the Entrance), Epibatêrios (Of Sacrifices), Delphinios (Of the Dolphins), Aktios (Of the Foreshore), Theoxenios (God of Strangers), Korynthos (Of the Corynthus-Cake), Enthryptos (Of the Enthryptos-Cake), Latôios (Son of Leto), Pythios (Of Python), Horios (Of Boundaries/Borders), Dekatêphoros (Bringer of Tithes), Aiglêtos (Shining), Akersekomês (Beautiful Hair), Agêtôr (Leader of Men), Agônios (Helper in Contests), Aguieus (Protector of the Streets), Archêgetês (Founder of Colonies), Kataibatês (glad return), Chrusaôr (golden sword), Dêlios (Of Delos), Epaktios (God of the Coast), Epibatêrios (Leader of Sailors), Hebdomagetês (The 7th of every Month), Intonsus (uncut/unshaved), Isodetês (He who Equally Binds), Loimios (Savior from Plague), Loxias (Vague Prophecy), Lukêgenês (Born of Light), Marmarinos (Of Marble), Moiragetês (Leader of the Fates), Noumios (Leader of Shepherds), Phoibos (Bright/Shining), Phuzios (Protector of Fugitives), Spodios (Sacred Altar Ash), Zosterius (Savior), Helios (Sun), Phanaeus (Giving Light), Iatrus (Physician), Nymphegetes (Leader of the Nymphs), Leschenorius (Converser), Manticus (Prophetic), Aphetorus (To let Loose), Argyrotoxus (With Silver Bow), Eleleus (War Cry), Embasius (Blesser of those embarking), Enolmus (Of the Seat), Erasmius (Beloved), Aglaotimus (Splendidly Honored), Agnós (Holy), Agréfs (Hunter), Ágrios (Wild), Alexicacus (Diverter of Calamity), Ánax (King), Arótrios (Blesser of Farmers/Shepherds), Cerdous (Gainful), Chrysokomes (Golden Haired), Comaeus (Flowing Hair), Culicarius (Averter of Flies/Gnats), Daphnephorios (Bearing Laurel), Didymeus (Twin), Dicerus (Two Horned), Efrypharetres (With wide Quiver), Hecatombæus (Sacrifice of 100), Karneios (Horned), Kharopiós (Bringer of Joy), Khrismohdós (Chanting Prophecies), Khrysolýris (Of the Golden Lyre), Kitharohdós (Player of the kithára), Kourotróphos (Nurturer of Children), Kourídios (Legal Husband), Kozmoplókos (Holder of the World), Kýdimos Kouros (Famous Youth), Mælioukhos Turannæ (Ruling with Sweetness), Mákar (Blessed), Metageitnius (Remover form the Neighborhood), Myricæus (Bearing Broom), Napæus (Of Groves), Næomínios (New Moon), Olviodótis (Bestower of Bliss), Panderkes Omma (All Seeing Eye), Pangkratís (All Powerful), Pantothalís (Making Everything Bloom), Patróös (Father), Philísios (Friendly), Prophítis (Speaker for a God), Prostaterius (Protector of Houses), Psykhodotír (Giver of the Soul), Semne (Holy/Revered), Saligena (Rising from the Sea), Sauroktonos (Lizard Slayer), Soter (Savior), Sosianus (Healer of Madness), Spærmeios (Presiding over Seed), Spelaites (Of Grottos), Tælǽstohr (Sacred Teacher/Priest), Thermius (Warm), Thorates (Engendering), Thyræus (Of the Gate/Entrance), Tityoktónos (Slayer of the Giant Tityos), Toxovǽlæmnos (Of Bow and Arrows), Ulius (Healthy), Viodóhtis (Giver of Life), Genetor (Ancestor), Zosterius (Encircling the World)
Sacred Color: White
Sacred Number: 7
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Sacred Symbols: Lyre, Silver Bow/Arrows, Golden Sword, Tripod, Wreath of Laurel, Tripod, The Sun
Sacred Incense: Frankincense
Sacred Offerings: Libations of Water, Wine, Milk, Honey and Olive Oil, Cakes or Cookies in the Form of his Sacred Animals, Sacred Plants, Roses, Fruit, Honeycomb, Music, Poetry
Sacrificial Animals: White or Light Colored Steer/Bulls, Sheep, Goats
Sacred Plant: Laurel (Bay), Myrtle, Palm, Hyacinth (Probably Larkspur), Broom
Sacred Bird: Crow, Swan, Hawk
Sacred Animal: Wolf, Dolphin, Serpent, Mouse, Deer, Cicada
Festivals: Boedromia, Carneia, Carpiae, Daphnephoria, Delia, Hyacinthia, Metageitnia, Pyanepsia, Pythia, and Thargelia
Apollo - Learn Out Loud
***NOTE: The Greeks viewed Apollo as the quintessential Greek god.
***NOTE: It's extremely important that readers understand that the myths are not meant to be taken literally. They are allegory, metaphor and symbolism. The myths are designed to subtly communicate truths of human existence.
***NOTE: Apollo appears in the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, where he is said to be the Angel of the Bottomless Pit that is set free. He is also called Abaddon in the passage. The majority of Christians believe this is a reference to either Satan or the Antichrist. However, a small minority believe that the Angel of the Bottomless Pit is not demonic but is in fact an Angel who is tasked with destroying humanity as part of God's plan. It's likely that the name Apollo was used as a Christian attack on traditional Greek polytheism.
***NOTE: The plant that we call Hyacinth today is not the same plant that is referenced in the myth of Apollo and Hyacinthos. There have been many plants suggested as being the one referenced by the Greeks but there is no firm evidence for which plant it may be. A popular theory is that it is actually Larkspur (Delphinium).
***NOTE: There is no evidence that the myth of Apollo and Acantha is of ancient origin. It's likely that it is a modern invention.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, Chiron is placed in the heavens as the constellation, Sagittarius.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, Asklepios is placed in the heavens as the constellation, Ophiucus.
***NOTE: In myth, Orpheus is said to be the inventor of pederasty, the practice of adult men taking on teenage boys as lovers.
***NOTE: The Orphic Mysteries, or "Orphism", is the oldest Greek Mystery religion. It also is claimed to have survived the coming of Christianity. Believers insist the teachings have been passed down in families through the ages, but admit that much of the actual rituals have been lost to time. Orphism teaches that the soul is divine but trapped in a mortal prison. It is the goal of the soul to be perfected through various incarnations, cycling from the simplest of animals to that of human beings, until it has reached a state of perfection and enlightenment, upon which the soul becomes a god and joins the company of the gods in the Elysian fields. Upon becoming a god, the soul no longer incarnates and no longer has to experience the suffering and hardship of this world.
***NOTE: In some versions of the myth, the sea god Glaucus, taught Apollo the art of prophecy. It was generally believed that sea gods were gifted with prophetic powers.
***NOTE: Apollo, in his form as Apollo Karneios, was portrayed as having horns, usually those of a ram.
***NOTE: The Hyperboreans were believed to worship Apollo as the god of the sun and in a giant, circular temple that was open to the sky. Some scholars feel that this is a reference to the Celtic peoples, with the circular temple possible being a reference to Stonehenge.
***NOTE: The popularity of the Oracle at Delphi began to decline when the mysterious gas that issued from a cleft in the ground stopped being produced after an earthquake. It was this gas that the Pythia inhaled and which would send her into a trance. Christians then finally put an end to the oracle upon rising to power.