Apollo is the ancient Greek God of light, enlightenment, prophecy, plague, medicine, archery, poetry, dance, reason and herds or flocks.
The Birth of Apollo
Leto gave birth on Delos, a floating island that wasn’t really mainland or really an island. It was surrounded by swans that moved the island around. Artemis was born first and the next day she helped her mother give birth to Apollo.
Later, Zeus secured Delos so that it wouldn’t float around anymore and it became sacred to Apollo.
Oracles of Apollo
There were many Oracles of Apollo throughout ancient Greece and surrounding civilizations. Most were associated with a body of water from which the inspiration from their prophecies would come. The water was said to contain the pneuma of Apollo.
The Oracle at Delphi
The serpent Python lived at Delphi beside the Castalian Spring. Apparently it attacked Leto and Apollo went forth and slew it. But Python was a child of Gaia and so Apollo was banned from Olympus for nine years. During this time he served as a shepherd for to King Ademetus whom he rewarded by allowing him to choose another to take his place when the time came for him to die.
When Apollo was allowed to return to Olympus, he ordered his Cretan priests to establish a temple to him at Delphi and he blessed the oracle there that she should be the most famous and accurate. The fumes from the Castlian Spring allowed the oracle to enter a trance state.
The Oracle at Delos
The birthplace of Apollo had a sanctuary adjacent to the Sacred Lake.
The Oracle at Didyma
On the coast of Anatolia west of Lydian Sardis. Priests received inspiration by drinking from a sacred spring there.
The Oracle at Hieropolis Bambyce
A temple to a Syrian Goddess contained a Apollo statue that would move spontaneously in response to questions.
Lovers and Offspring
Eros had become irritated with Apollo’s constant singing and when he said so Apollo mocked his archery skills. So, Eros shot an arrow at Apollo causing him to fall madly in love with the nymph Daphne and in turn shot her with an arrow of repulsion.
So disgusted was she by Apollo’s affections, she turned herself into a bay laurel tree so he’d leave her alone.
By Cyrene, Apollo fathered Aristaeus who taught humanity dairy skills and the arts of beekeeping, trapping and fishing with nets.
Hecuba, wife of King Priam of Troy, bore Apollo a son named Troilius. If the boy had lived to the age of twenty, Troy would have won the war, but Achilles ambushed and killed him.
Apollo also loved Cassandra, Hecuba and Priam’s daughter and bestowed upon her the gift of prophecy in an attempt to seduce her. She asked for one more gift and he promised her anything she wanted. She asked that he leave her a virgin. Enraged, he cursed her that nobody would ever believe her prophecies.
Apollo also loved Coronis, daughter of the King of Lapiths but while she carried Apollo’s son Asclepius, she had an affair with a mortal named Ischys. A crow informed Apollo of the affair, but he didn’t believe it and turned all crows black for lying. But Artemis knew the truth and killed Coronis in childbirth.
The truth out, Apollo made crows sacred and gave them the task of announcing important deaths. He rescued the baby and gave him to Chiron to raise. Coronis’s father burned Delphi in revenge for his daughter’s death and Apollo killed him.
Hyacinthus was a Spartan prince and athlete beloved by both Apollo and Zephyrus. Zephyrus, jealous of the youth’s preference for Apollo, caused a discus to fly off course while the two were practicing and strike Hyacinthus in the head, killing him. Apollo created the hyacinth flower out of his lover’s blood.
Apollo gave his lover Cyparissus a tame deer as a gift, but the boy accidentally killed it. Heartbroken, he asked Apollo to let his tears flow forever, so Apollo turned him into a Cypress tree.
Apollo is closely associated with the Muses and is said to be the leader of their choir.
Although he was not originally, Apollo became associated with the Sun sometime between the third century BCE and the third century CE and many of the stories of Helios were eventually attributed to him. His sister Artemis became associated with the moon around the same time and thus took over most of the tales of Selene in similar manner.
Apollo has been associated with the Hittite God Aplu, Nergal and Shamash (Aplu may be an epithet of Nergal) as well as the Roman God Sol.
- bow and arrow,
- bay laurel,
- the lyre,
- the plectrum,
- the tripod.
The Pythian Games were held every four years at Delphi in honor of Apollo.