Apollo is associated principally with music,
prophecy, sickness, and medicine. Like most of his fellow Olympians,
Apollo did not hesitate to intervene in human affairs.
Apollo was a gifted musician who delighted
the gods with his performance on the lyre. Therefore he is sometimes referred
to as the god of music and songs which are heard during times when light
triumphs over darkness. He was also known as a master archer and
a fleet-footed athlete, credited with having been the first victor in the
ancient Olympic Games. Apollo was the special protector of young men. He
was also the god of agriculture and cattle and of light and truth. He taught
humans the art of healing. He is associated with youth and strength. The
physical aspect of Apollo is also known as Helios or Hyperion.
He was also a god of light, known as "Phoebus"
(radiant or beaming, and he was sometimes identified with Helios the sun
god). He was also the god of plague and was worshiped as Smintheus (from
sminthos, rat) and as Parnopius (from parnops, grasshopper) and was known
as the destroyer of rats and locust, and according to Homer's Iliad, Apollo
shot arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Apollo being the god of religious
healing would give those guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual
purification. Sacred to Apollo are the swan (one legend says that Apollo
flew on the back of a swan to the land of the Hyperboreans, he would spend
the winter months among them), the wolf and the dolphin.
Apollo, in Greek mythology, son of the
god Zeus and Leto, daughter of a Titan. He also bore the epithets "Delian"
from Delos, the island of his birth, and "Pythian," from his killing of
the Python, the fabled serpent that guarded a shrine on the slopes of Mount
Parnassus. In Homeric legend Apollo was primarily a god of prophecy. His
most important oracle was at Delphi, the site of his victory over the Python.
He sometimes gave the gift of prophecy to mortals whom he loved, such as
the Trojan princess Cassandra.
He was eternally youthful and was originally
distinguished by his amorous adventures (not all were successful), his
quick temper, his pride, and his harsh violent reactions (he flayed alive
a musical competitor). But after Apollo had killed the Cyclopes and was
punished by Zeus by having to tend sheep for a year, he learned his lesson.
Thereafter he counseled moderation and self knowledge.
Know Yourself and Nothing to Excess were
emblazoned on his temple at Delphi. He even brought the muses down from
their home on Mt. Helicon to Delphi, tamed their wild frenzy, and taught
them formal and decorous dances.
Apollo became a Panhellenic god, second
only to Zeus. He embodies the Greek spirit; because almost everything which
distinguishes the Greek outlook on life from that of other peoples around
them--sensitivity in art, poetry, music, youthful good health, respect
for law, and love of orderliness and moderation--all these civilizing concepts
are symbolized by Apollo. Even today the term Apollonian means harmonious,
measured, ordered, and balanced in character.
Apollo is represented as the ideal form
of male physical beauty. Perhaps because of his beauty, Apollo was represented
in ancient art more frequently than any other deity. As the ideals
are altered by time, so do the appearances of Apollo. But normally he is
represented as a young man, beardless, and delicately framed. As a musician
he sometimes wears a tunic. His attributes include: bow, arrow and
quiver; the lyre--as patron of music, laurel leaf crown, for his achievements
in the arts, and a chariot for his association with the sun god Helios.
Apollo was worshiped throughout the Greek
world, at Delphi every four years they held the Pythian Games in his honor.
He had many epithets, including "Pythian Apollo" (his name at Delphi),
"Apollo Apotropaeus" (Apollo who averts evil), and "Apollo Nymphegetes"
(Apollo who looks after the Nymphs). As the god of shepherds he also had
the cult titles "Lukeios" (from lykos; wolf), protecting the flocks from
wolfs, and "Nomius" (of pastures, belonging to shepherds). Being the god
of colonists, Apollo influenced his priests at Delphi to give divine guidance,
as to where the expedition should proceed. This was during the height of
the colonizing era circa 750-550 BCE. Apollo's title was "Archigetes" (leader
of colonists). According to one legend, it was Apollo who helped either
Cretan or Arcadian colonists found the city of Troy.
Apollo is in many respects the paradigm
of a Greek god. He represents order, harmony, and civilization in a way
that most other Olympian deities cannot quite equal. One only has
to compare him with Dionysos to understand how Apollo is depicted as a
bright, rational counterpart to the chaotic and frenzied god of wine and