Numerous Greek and Roman gods are associated with particular aspects of the natural and human worlds. Neptune is the god of the sea, Mars is the god of war, and Pluto is the god of the underworld. But some gods were so important to the Roman pantheon that they took on several different roles. Apollo is one of those more universal gods. Apollo’s importance to Roman leaders and his many roles throughout history have helped cement his legacy even to this day.


Apollo was a key deity for both the Greeks and the Romans in the ancient world. His attributes in the Greek world were somewhat associated with earlier sun gods. But over time, he took on multiple roles and a considerable degree of importance. Apollo had a similar meaning for the Romans as he did for the Greeks. The name Apollo is one of the few names that was not changed into a Latin name when the Roman Empire took on the Greek pantheon. His importance for the Romans peaked during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus believed that he was the son of Apollo and enlarged temples dedicated to the god. Apollo remained a chief deity in the Roman pantheon for the rest of the Roman Empire. This importance helped earn him a place in the influential Metamorphoses by Ovid. One of Ovid’s tales described how Daphne was turned into a tree in order to escape from a pursuing Apollo.


Apollo was the god of a number of different areas important to the Greeks and the Romans. He was the god of health and medicine. Individuals often appealed to him while they were sick or swept up in plagues. Apollo was often connected with the sun by the Greeks. This importance faded by the time of the Roman pantheon.

While he was not the god of the sun, he was sometimes depicted as controlling the chariot that sends the sun marching around the earth on a daily basis. This importance helped make him into the god who interceded to ward off evil on behalf of good. Apollo also became the god of art and music. He was the leader of the Muses who were invoked at the beginning of every epic poem from the ancient world. Apollo was the god that Hermes made the lyre for.


Apollo is most famously known today as the name of the many missions to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Nearly every Apollo mission was famous to a certain degree. The first Apollo mission ended in tragedy with one of the worst losses of life of any space disaster. Apollo 8 sent back several of the first color photographs of the earth from space. Apollo 11 was the first mission that sent human beings to the moon. Near the end of the Apollo program, the failure of Apollo 13 captivated the country and resulted in a famed movie. According to NASA, the name Apollo came from the importance of the mission and how its grand nature reminded researchers of the great trek of Apollo’s chariot across the sky every day.


Apollo is today remembered as the inspiration for the first human trip to the moon. But his influence stretches far beyond those moon trips. Odes to Apollo can be viewed throughout the worlds of art, music, and history. His likeness has been portrayed thousands of times and most likely influenced many individuals that people today are familiar with. As the god of light, health, and art, Apollo’s importance remains with us today whenever we consider any of these incredibly important fields.