Apollo Greek Mythology Greek Gods
Apollo is to young men as Ares is to war, Hera to marriage, and Hades to the dead. He is principally the patron god of young men among numerous others, including archery, music, and prophecy. Today, he is most commonly recognized as the Sun god. However, this is a title which only passed to him in later times, presumably because of his association with light, and which belonged to Helios in the era of ancient Greece.
Along with his twin sister, Artemis, Apollo was one of the many children of Zeus. Like the majority of Zeus’ children, they were not the children of Hera, Zeus’ nominal wife. Since Hera was unable to avenge herself for being slighted in this manner upon Zeus, whose power far outranked hers, she resorted to her usual tactic of persecuting the woman he had slept with. Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, was forced to wander the earth, endlessly searching for a place to deliver her children and being constantly turned away because no one dared to defy Hera by aiding her. Luckily for Leto, she eventually stumbled upon Delos, the wandering island.
Since Delos had no fixed position at that time, floating at random through the ocean, it was entirely deserted when Leto arrived there. Leto took advantage of this fact to bribe Delos into allowing her to give birth there by swearing that the island would experience great prosperity as a sacred site to her son, Apollo. According to legend, four pillars rose from the sea to fix Delos in position as an early confirmation of her words. Thus it was that Delos became one of the two chief locations sacred to Apollo.
The other chief location that was important to Apollo was the site of the famed oracle, Delphi.
The site for his temple there is rumored to have been chosen by Apollo himself because of the great locale.
Rulers and peasants alike flocked to the Delphic oracle, who had a direct line to Apollo, for both practical advice and prophecy from the Greek god of light and truth. Most famously, the parents of Oedipus received the prophecy that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother from the oracle at Delphi and tried to change that fate, but only succeeded in bringing it about through their efforts.
Depictions of Apollo in art and sculpture allude to some of the various myths about him. He was usually portrayed as an athletic-looking young man who is wearing a crown of laurel leaves and carrying both a bow, complete with arrow, and a lyre. As the patron god of young men, Apollo was cast as the ideal image of how such youths should appear. The presence of his wreath of laurel leaves is due to one of his thwarted amours. A young water nymph named Daphne caught his eye one day. Determined to have her, he descended to earth and began pursuing her, but she fled in fright.
However, her speed was no match for Apollo’s and he gained rapidly on her. Seeing that flight was hopeless, Daphne called out for aid from her father, the river spirit, who turned her into a laurel tree mere moments before Apollo caught her. Disappointed but determined, Apollo decided that since he could not have her, he would at least carry part of her with him always and fashioned his trademark circlet with leaves plucked from the tree formerly known as Daphne.
Apollo’s bow and arrows attest to his famed skill with the weapon. With it, he slew the monstrous serpent, Python, earning him the title of Pythian for his valorous deed. The Pythian Games, an athletic competition similar to the Olympics, were founded in commemoration of his slaying the serpent. The lyre Apollo is usually seen carrying hints at his musical aptitude, despite being a gift from his half-brother Bacchus, who can justly be called Apollo’s alter ego. Bacchus, as the god of wine, represented the wild, uninhibited side of man. Apollo, on the other hand, was usually typified as representing the rational, orderly side of mankind. If any of the Greek gods could be said to personify virtue, Apollo would certainly be the one.