Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
Form: Gr. Apollon.
Son of Zeus by Leto (Latona), who, according to the legend most widely current, bore him and his twin-sister Artemis (Diana) at the foot of Mount Cynthus in the island of Delos. Apollo appears originally as a god of light, both in its beneficent and its destructive effects; and of light in general, not of the sun only, for to the early Greeks the deity that brought daylight was Helios, with whom it was not till afterwards that Apollo was identified. While the meaning of his name Apollo is uncertain, his epithets of Phoebus and Lycius clearly mark him as the bright, the life-giving, the former also meaning the pure, holy; for, as the god of pure light, he is the enemy of darkness, with all its unclean, uncouth, unhallowed brood. Again, not only the seventh day of the month, his birthday, but the first day of each month, i.e. of each new-born moon, was sacred to him, as it was to Janus, the Roman god of light; and according to the view that prevailed in many seats of his worship, he withdrew in winter time either to sunny Lycia, or to the Hyperboreans who dwell in perpetual light in the utmost north, and returned in spring to dispel the powers of winter with his beams. When the fable relates that immediately after his birth, with the first shot from his bow he slew the dragon Python (or Delphyne), a hideous offspring of Gaea and guardian of the Delphian oracle, what seems to be denoted must be the spring-god's victory over winter, that filled the land with foul marsh and mist. As the god of light, his festivals are all in spring or summer, and many of them still plainly reveal in certain features his true and original attributes. Thus the Delphinia, held at Athens in April, commemorated the calming of the wintry sea after the equinoctial gales, and the consequent reopening of navigation. As this feast was in honour of the god of spring, so was the Thargelia, held at Athens the next month, in honour of the god of summer. That the crops might ripen, he received firstfruits of them, and at the same time propitiatory gifts to induce him to avert the parching heat, so hurtful to fruits and men. About the time of the sun's greatest altitude (July and August), when the god displays his power, now for good and now for harm, the Athenians offered him hecatombs, whence the first month of their year was named Hecatomboeon, and the Spartans held their Hyacinthia (see HYACINTHUS). In autumn, when the god was ripening the fruit of their gardens and plantations, and preparing for departure, they celebrated the Pyanepsia (q.v.), when they presented him with the firstfruits of harvest. Apollo gives the crops prosperity, and protection not only against summer heat, but against blight, mildew, and the vermin that prey upon them, such as field-mice and grasshoppers. Hence he was known by special titles in some parts of Asia. He was also a patron of flocks and pastures, and was worshipped in many districts under a variety of names referring to the breeding of cattle. In the story of Hermes (q.v.) stealing his oxen, Apollo is himself the owner of a herd, which he gives up to his brother in exchange for the lyre invented by him. Other ancient legends speak of him as tending the flocks of Laomodon and Admetus, an act afterwards represented as a penalty for a fault. As a god of shepherds he makes love to the nymphs, to the fair Daphne (q.v.), to Coronis (see ASCLEPIUS), and to Cyrene, the mother of Aristaeus, likewise a god of herds. Some forms of his worship and some versions of his story imply that Apollo, like his sister Artemis, was regarded as a protector of tender game and a slayer of rapacious beasts, especially of the wolf, the enemy of flocks, and himself a symbol of the god's power, that now sends mischief, and now averts it. Apollo promotes the health and well-being of man himself. As a god of prolific power, he was invoked at weddings; and as a nurse of tender manhood and trainer of manly youth, to him (as well as the fountain-nymphs) were consecrated the first offerings of the hair of the head. In gymnasia and palaestrae he was worshipped equally with Hermes and Heracles; for he gave power of endurance in boxing, with adroitness and fleetness of foot. As a warlike god and one helpful in fight, the Spartans paid him peculiar honours in their Carneia (q.v.), and in a measure the Athenians in their Boedromia. Another Athenian festival, the Metageitnia, glorified him as the author of neighbourly union. In many places, but above all at Athens, he was worshipped as Agyieus, the god of streets and highways, whose rude symbol, a conical post with a pointed ending, stood by streetdoors and in courtyards, to watch men's exit and entrance, to let in good and keep out evil, and was loaded by the inmates with gifts of honour, such as ribbons, wreaths of myrtle or bay, and the like. At sea, as well as on land, Apollo is a guide and guardian, and there, especially under the name Delphinius, taken from his friend and ally the dolphin, the symbol of the navigable sea. Under this character he was widely worshipped, for the most part with peculiar propitiatory rites, in seaports and on promontories, as that of Actium, and particularly at Athens, being also regarded as a leader of colonies. While he is Alexicacus (averter of ills) in the widest sense, he proves his power most especially in times of sickness; for, being god of the hot season, and himself the sender of most epidemics and the dreaded plague, sweeping man swiftly away with his unerring shafts, he can also lend the most effectual aid; so that he and his son Asclepius were revered as the chief gods of healing. As a saviour from epidemics mainly, but also from other evils, the paean (q.v.) was sung in his honour. In a higher sense also Apollo is a healer and saviour. From an early time a strong ethical tinge was given to his purely physical attributes, and the god of light became a god of mental and moral purity, and therefore of order, justice, and legality in human life. As such, he, on the one hand smites and spares not the insolent offender, Tityos for instance, the Aloidae, the overweening Niobe, and the Greeks before Troy; but, on the other hand, to the guilt-laden soul, that turns to him in penitence and supplication, he grants purification from the stain of committed crime (which was regarded as a disease clouding the mind and crushing the heart), and so he heals the spirit, and readmits the outcast into civic life and religious fellowship. Of this he had himself set the pattern, when, after slaying the Delphian dragon, he fled from the land, did seven years' menial service to Admetus in atonement for the murder, and when the time, of penance was past had himself purified in the sacred grove of baytrees by the Thessalian temple, and not till then did he return to Delphi and enter on his office as prophet of Zeus. Therefore he exacts from all a recognition of the atoning power of penance, in the teeth of the old law of vengeance for blood, which only bred new murders and new guilt. The atoning rites propagated by Apollo's worship, particularly from Delphi, contributed largely to the spread of milder maxims of law, affecting not only individuals, but whole towns and countries. Even without special prompting, the people felt from time to time the need of purification and expiation; hence certain expiatory rites had from of old been connected with his festivals. As the god of light who pierces through all darkness, Apollo is the god of divination, which, however, has in his case a purely ethical significance; for he, as prophet and minister of his father Zeus, makes known his will to men, and helps to further his government in the world. He always declares the truth; but the limited mind of man cannot always grasp the meaning of his sayings. He is the patron of every kind of prophecy, but most especially of that which he imparts through human instruments, chiefly women, while in a state of ecstasy. Great as was the number of his oracles in Greece and Asia, all were eclipsed in fame and importance by that of Delphi (q.v.). Apollo exercises an elevating and inspiring influence on the mind as god of Music, which, though not belonging to him alone any more than Atonement and Prophecy, was yet pre-eminently his province. In Homer he is represented only as a player on the lyre, while song is the province of the Muses; but in course of time he grows to be the god, as they are the goddesses, of song and poetry, and is therefore Musagetes Leader of the Muses) as well as master of the choric dance, which goes with music and song. And, as the friend of all that beautifies life, he is intimately associated with the Graces. Standing in these manifold relations to nature and man, Apollo at all times held a prominent position in the religion of the Greeks; and as early as Homer his name is coupled with those of Zeus and Athena, as if between them the three possessed the sum total of divine power. His worship was diffused equally over all the regions in which Greeks were settled; but from remote antiquity he bad been the chief god of the Dorians, who were also the first to raise him into a type of moral excellence. The two chief centres of his worship were the Island of Delos, his birthplace, where, at his magnificent temple standing by the sea, were held every five years the festive games called Delia, to which the Greek states sent solemn embassies; and Delphi, with its oracle and numerous festivals (see PYTHIA, THEOXENIA). Foremost among the seats of his worship in Asia was Patara in Lycia with a famous oracle. To the Romans Apollo became known in the reign of their last king Tarquinius Superbus, the first Roman who consulted the Delphian oracle, and who also acquired the Sibylline Books (q.v.). By the influence of these writings the worship of Apollo soon became so naturalized among them, that in B.C. 431 they built a temple to him as god of healing, from which the expiatory processions (see SUPPLICATIONES) prescribed in the Sibylline books used to set out. In the Lectisternia (q.v.), first instituted in B.C. 399, Apollo occupies the foremost place. In 212 B.C., during the agony of the Second Punic War, the Ludi Apollinares were, in obedience to an oracular response, established in honour of him. He was made one of the chief gods of Rome by Augustus, who believed himself to be under his peculiar protection, and ascribed the victory of Actium to his aid: hence he enlarged the old temple of Apollo on that promontory, and decorated it with a portion of the spoils. He also renewed the games held near it, previously every two years, afterwards every four, with gymnastic and artistic contests, and, regattas on the sea; at Rome he reared a splendid new temple to him near his own house on the Palatine, and transferred the Ludi Soeculares (q.v.) to him and Diana. The manifold symbols of Apollo correspond with the multitude of his attributes. The commonest is either the lyre or the bow, according as he was conceived as the god of song or as the far-hitting archer. The Delphian diviner, Pythian Apollo, is indicated by the Tripod, which was also the favourite offering at his altars. Among plants the bay, used for purposes of expiation, was early sacred to him (see DAPHNE). It was planted round his temples, and plaited into garlands of victory at the Pythian games. The palm-tree was also sacred to him, for it was under a palm-tree that he was born in Delos. Among animals, the wolf, the dolphin, the snow-white and musical swan, the hawk, raven, crow, and snake were under his special protection; the last four in connexion with his prophetic functions. In ancient art he was represented as a long-haired but beardless youth, of tall yet muscular build, and handsome features. Images of him were as abundant as his worship was extensive: there was scarcely an artist of antiquity who did not try his hand upon some incident in the story of Apollo. The ideal type of this god seems to have been fixed chiefly by Praxiteles and Scopas. The most famous statue preserved of him is the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican (fig. 1), which represents him either as fighting with the Pythian dragon, or with his aegis frightening back the foes who threaten to storm his sanctuary. Other great works, as the Apollo Musagetes in the Vatican, probably from the hand of Scopas, show him as a Citharoedus in the long Ionian robe, or nude as in fig. 2. The Apollo Sauroctonus (lizard-killer), copied from a bronze statue by Praxiteles, is especially celebrated for its beauty. It represents a delicate youthful figure leaning against a tree, dart in hand, ready to stab a lizard that is crawling up the tree. It is preserved in bronze at the Villa Albani in Rome, and in marble at Paris.

Pictures and Media
THE BELVEDERE APOLLO.(Rome, Vatican Museum.)
APOLLO, WITH LYRE AND GRIFFIN. (Rome, Capitoline Museum.)
Type: Standard
gutter splint
gutter splint
gutter splint