Apollo is one of the most famous Greek gods, with his name and likeness appearing in countless books and works of fine art. He is also the only significant god with the same name in the mythology of both Greece and Rome. Another aspect that makes Apollo different from other Greek gods is that he is not a god of just one thing, or even a pair of things. He is the god of the all the following:
- sun and light
- music and poetry
- prophecy and knowledge
- archery and agriculture
- order and beauty
- healing and plagues
Apollo has further been considered as a symbol of moderation and reason, and because of this he has often been thought of by many as the opposite of his brother Dionysus, who is the god of wine and dance. Apollo is also often depicted in art as handsome, well built and without a beard. He further usually wears a laurel on his head and carries a musical instrument called the lyre or a bow and arrow.
The Origins of Apollo
The origins of Apollo’s name have been in dispute throughout history. Many have thought the name to mean a “destroyer,” a “purifier” or a “redeemer,” but today most people believe that his name derives from the ancient Greek word for a herd of sheep. This signifies to some that Apollo originally was nothing more than a protector of herds.
Apollo is the son of Zeus, who is the king of all Greek gods and men, and a Titan goddess named Leto. Because Zeus’ wife Hera was jealous of Leto, she sent a dragon called Python to pursue Leto while she was pregnant with Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, who is the goddess of the moon. This forced Leto to give birth to the two on the remote island of Delos. First Artemis was born, who then helped her mother birth Apollo.
Apollo later pursued Python and he killed it while it hid in a sanctuary in the ancient Greek city of Delphi, and he afterward became the patron of the city. The ancient Greeks also built him a temple there on Mount Parnassus.
The Legends of Apollo
Apollo is often associated with music. His younger half-brother Hermes invented the lyre, and after stealing his brother’s cattle he gave him the lyre as a gift. Apollo then became a master of the instrument, and he won many famous competitions against his rivals. These rivals included a satyr named Marsyas, the god Pan and a king of Cyprus named Cinyras.
Apollo is also well known for his many love affairs. One of these affairs was with a mortal woman named Coronis, who then fell in love with a mortal named Ischys while pregnant with Apollo’s son Asclepius. Apollo got so mad when he found out that he had his sister Artemis kill Ischys. Apollo later fell in a love with another mortal called Marpessa. But she, too, fell in love with a mortal. His name was Idas, and when Zeus gave her choice of either him or Apollo, she chose him.
In the famous Trojan war, Apollo sided with the Trojans against the Greeks. This was because Agamemnon, who was the leader of the Greeks, had captured a nymph who was the daughter of one of Apollo’s priests. Agamemnon eventually released her after Apollo spread plague and disease among his army. Apollo further helped a Trojan prince named Paris kill Achilles, who was a famous Greek warrior