December 11, 2011
The Adventures of Apollo
Have you ever wondered what makes the sun shine or where the term “bright” comes from? Both are attributes of the Greek god, Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto. In addition to illumination, Apollo is the main god of prophecy for the people of Delphi. Apollo is also the god of other elements such as music, poetry, and medicine. Apollo has many names and meanings. There are also many stories about this all-knowing god, but the most famous story is the story of his young love, Daphne. In the pantheon of the Greek gods, Apollo is the most worthy of our respect.
Apollo’s origin is rooted in jealousy. Zeus had many relationships before and after he married Hera. One of his relationships was with a nymph named Leto. Consumed with jealousy, Hera sends a giant python after Leto. In an attempt to protect Leto, Zeus commands the northern wind, Boreas, over the ocean and the wind to take Leto to the lonely island of Delos where she delivers twins, Artemis and Apollo. Artemis is born first and nine days later Apollo is born. When Apollo and Artemis are old enough, Zeus gives them both their bows. Apollo is given a gold bow and Artemis a silver bow. With these weapons Apollo and Artemis are given the job of protecting Leto from the giant python and other threats.

When Apollo grows strong enough, he chases the great Python into a cave at Delphi. Apollo climbs on top of the cave and burns leaves to smoke the monster out. With bow fully outstretched, Apollo waits for the snake to come out, and when it does, Apollo shoots it with his arrow. In honor of his triumph, the people that lived around Delphi and Mt. Parnassus create the Pythian Games. The games consist of athletic and musical competitions performed in honor of Apollo.

The cave at Delphi is not just the place where all the Pythian Games are held, but also where the Oracle of Delphi lives and gives her prophecies. When Apollo killed the Python, the area in and around the cave is considered sacred ground. Greek priests begin to build temples around the cave and use women, sometimes virgins, to communicate with Apollo. The women, at first called priestesses, communicate with Apollo by burning bay leaves and breathing in the fumes. The priestess falls into a trance and soon is ready to tell the future. Centuries later, the priestess of Delphi comes to be known as the Oracle of Delphi. Her job is to give prophesies on the seventh day of each month. Once word gets out, people from all over the world travel to consult her and have their questions about the future answered. “His oracleat Delphi was the most famous in the world, and his cultspread far beyond the Greek world (Myth Encyclopedia)”.

Apollo is god of other gifts too. He is god of music, poetry, medicine, disease and is such an expert archer, that Zeus decides to make them the god of archery. With the power of music, Apollo is also a master musician. On Mt. Olympus Apollo plays for all of the other gods and he is never seen without his lyre. As god of poetry, he uses his sweet poems to lure women into his clutches. Another of Apollo’s powers is the power of healing, however; he is not the god of healing. The god of healing is actually one of his sons, Asclepius. In The Iliad, Apollo is described as not only the god of medicine, but also the god of disease. Apollo is told to bring disease and plague, with his solid gold bow and arrows, to his most hated enemies. In The Iliad it is said that when Paris shot Achilles in the heel, Apollo guided the arrow to strike right through his heel. Because one of Apollo’s powers is that of illumination, he is restricted from telling a lie. This fact makes Apollo an honest god.

The name Apollo originally came from Greece, but when the Romans conquered Greece, the Romans adopted the religious views of the Greeks and Apollo was renamed Phoebus, “bright or shining one.” Apollo is also known as the Lycian, meaning “wolf god.” Like every major god, Apollo has an animal affiliation. The animal symbol for Apollo is the dolphin. “…Apollo was born on the Greek island of Delos and grew to adulthood in just four days. To escape the island, he changed himself into a dolphin… (Myth Encyclopedia)”.Apollo is also known as the most beautiful of the male gods.

“Although, most nymphs and mortals found Apollo irresistible, his first love, Daphne, did not” (DeLuca, Erika). As a young boy, Apollo is a very mischievous and challenges the gods constantly. One day Apollo angers Aphrodite so much that she asks her son, Eros, to shoot Apollo with one of his arrows which causes him to fall in love with the nymph, Daphne. Although Apollo, as the most beautiful man on Olympus, was likely an appealing mate, Daphne is attracted to Artemis’ philosophy that women should be free and not be forced to marry so Daphne refuses to marry Apollo. Over powered by love, Apollo chases Daphne until she drops to her knees from exhaustion. She begs her father, the river god, to save her, and as soon as Apollo touches Daphne, she becomes a laurel tree. Sad that he cannot have Daphne, Apollo promises to give Daphne eternal youth. The leaves of the laurel tree would never die in return for the use of her leaves as a crown for himself to remind him of his first love, and for the winners of the Pythian Games each year. After this, the laurel tree became what is now known as his sacred tree.

Of all the Greek gods, Zeus included, Apollo is the most revered. “…one point is certain and attested by thousands of facts, that Apollo and his worship, his festivals and oracles, had more influence upon the Greeks than any other god (Atsma, Aaron J.)”. Apollo’s beauty, his worshipers, his vast powers, and his scope of influence make him the most formidable of gods. No matter what his name is, Apollo’s triumphs and adventures will be remembered forever.

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