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Apollo
Ἀπόλλων

Apollo. 1614: Roman statue by Apollonius. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

"The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to me, and I will declare to men the unfailing will of Zeus." (Apollo. Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo 131).


Apollo is the god of prophecy, of musical and artistic inspiration, of archers and of healing.

Leto persecuted

When the Titaness Leto had been seduced by Zeus, she was hunted over the whole earth by the jealousy of the god's wife Hera. And having wandered through many countries Leto came to the rocky island of Delos, which is one of the so called Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea, where she gave birth to her twins, first to Artemis and soon after to Apollo. This island came about, they say, when Leto's sister Asteria 1 cast herself into the sea in order to escape the amorous advances of Zeus, who transformed her into a quail. From her a floating island sprang which was first called Ortygia and later Delos, although some have said that Ortygia and Delos are two different islands, and that Artemis was born in the former and Apollo in the latter.

Birth

This happened, some say, with great difficulty, for after nine days of travail the goddess of childbirth Ilithyia had not yet arrived, since she was kept in heaven by the envy of Hera. But the goddesses who kept Leto company bribed the heavenly messenger Iris 1 with a necklace strung with golden threads, and she brought Ilithyia to Delos. On her arrival, Leto cast her arms around a palm tree or an olive tree and, kneeling on the meadow, gave birth first to Artemis and then, with the help of Artemis' midwifery, to Apollo.

The Lycian peasants

Leto's troubles did not stop after giving birth, for it is said that she, having arrived with her newborns to a certain place in Lycia in Asia Minor where there was a lake, was forbidden by the inhospitable locals to quench her thirst. No matter how much she begged them to let her drink, they would still forbid her to touch the water, and as Leto insisted the Lycian peasants threatened her and soil the pool with their feet and hands, stirring up the mud from the bottom. Seeing them so tight-fisted and mean, and at the same time so in love with the pool, Leto turned them into frogs so that they could live in its depth for ever enjoying the water and the mud.

Python

Others say that the twins, so soon they were born, punished all the men of that time who, when Leto was pregnant and in the course of her wanderings, refused to receive her when she came to their land. And it is said that only four days after his birth Apollo went to Mount Parnassus and killed Python, the dragon that gave oracular responses and that had followed the pregnant Leto in order to kill her.

Prophecy

It was then that Apollo took over Themis' oracle in Delphi. He then appointed Cretan sailors as the sanctuary first priests. For having seen a Cretan ship sailing from Cnossos in Crete to Pylos in the Peloponnesus, he turned himself into a dolphin and brought the ship into the Crisaean Gulf (the Phocian section of the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth). So from Crisa, the Cretan sailors came to Parnassus, conducted by Apollo. Having become priests of Apollo, they called the city Delphi, for the god, having appeared to them in the shape of a dolphin, told them:

"I sprang upon the ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphinius ..." (Apollo to the Cretan sailors. Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo 493).

Concerning the oracle, says a Pythian priestess of Delphi that the first to have prophetic powers was Gaia, who appointed Daphnis 4, a Mountain Nymph (Oread), as prophetess. After her came Themis, and then the Titaness Phoebe 1, who gave her seat at Delphi to Phoebus Apollo, called after her. Others say that Gaia and Poseidon had the oracle in common and that it was Themis who gave the oracle to Apollo as a gift, and that Poseidon was compensated receiving Calaureia, that lies off Troezen, in exchange for the oracle. It is told that Phemonoe was the first prophetess of Apollo at Delphi. A Delphian woman, Boeo, affirms that the Hyperboreans Pagasus 1, Olen and Agyieus established the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and that Olen was Apollo's first prophet. The seat of the oracle has been described as a cave hollowed out deep down in the earth with a narrow mouth, from which arose a breath which inspired a divine frenzy. Over the mouth a high tripod was placed, and when the Pythian priestess mounted it she received the breath and uttered oracles in both prose and verse. The oracle at Delphi was believed to be the most truthful, also because it was placed in the geographical center of Hellas or, as some claimed, in the centre of the inhabited world. For this reason it has been regarded as "the navel of the earth". Many riches were deposited in treasure-houses at Delphi, and these were offerings dedicated, for example, from spoils of war (see also Delphi).

6819: Reconstruction of an ancient sevenstringed lyre. It has a turtle shell sound box (cheloneio). Made by artist G. Polyzos. Archaeological Museum, Leucas.

The Bow

Archers regard Apollo as their lord, for this is the god who strikes from afar. And when Philoctetes, for example, came to Italy after the Trojan War, he founded a sanctuary of Apollo to whom he dedicated his bow. This bow had been Heracles 1's, but the one used by Odysseus to massacre the SUITORS OF PENELOPE had been first given to King Eurytus 4 of Oechalia by Apollo. But Eurytus 4 (who was son of the archer Melaneus 5, himself son of Apollo) challenged Apollo to a contest with the bow and was killed by the wrath of the god. Others say that Eurytus 4 was slain by Heracles 1 for quite another reason. In any case, when Eurytus 4 died he left the bow to his son Iphitus 1 who, before being thrown down by Heracles 1 from the walls of Tiryns, gave Odysseus the bow. With its help Odysseus ended the SUITORS' pestering of Penelope, bathing his halls in their blood.

The Bow, Healing and Music

But when the god himself shoots his arrows with his silver bow another is usually the result, as when he and his sister, punishing the boasts and insults of Amphion 1's wife Niobe 2, caused the Royal House of Thebes to be left desolate by plague after shooting the NIOBIDS from afar. Likewise, in the tenth year of the Trojan War, Apollo came down from heaven darker than night (although he is usually called the bright one) and, in order to punish the arrogance of Agamemnon, who had humiliated and dismissed one of his priests, the god let his arrows rain on the Achaean camp, decimating the army by means of a pestilence that took many lives. Such is the power of Apollo on the subject of health, which otherwise could be thought to be preserved by following the counsels of the same god which were engraved upon a column at Delphi: "Know yourself" and "Nothing in excess". For these counsels are believed to preserve balance and harmony, which maintain health. Similarly, by bringing the same kind of consonance and agreement among the sounds, the harmony of music is created, just like the balance between the fast and the slow appropriately combined produces its rhythm. All these agreements, in both medicine and music, although the works of Love, are ruled by Apollo, who has been called Musegetes (Leader of the MUSES) on account of his musical and inspiring gifts. Apollo, who is a primary source of healing, transmitted his powers to his son Asclepius, who in turn carried the art among men to such a great pitch that he not only prevented some from dying, but even raised up the dead. This, they say, was not approved by Zeus, who fearing that mortals might acquire the healing art from him and so come to the rescue of each other, smote Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Grieved at the death of his beloved son, and not being able to raise his hand against his own father, Apollo, in revenge, slew the CYCLOPES, who had fashioned the thunderbolt with which Zeus smote Asclepius. Because of this, Zeus, who would have hurled Apollo to Tartarus if Leto had not intervened, ordered Apollo, as a penalty for having destroyed the CYCLOPES, to serve as a thrall to a mortal man for one year. This man came to be King Admetus 1 of Pherae, whom Apollo served as herdman. And since Apollo found he had been kindly treated when given in servitude to Admetus 1, he provided him with the wild beasts, with which Admetus 1 won Alcestis in marriage. But in offering a sacrifice at his marriage, Admetus 1 forgot to sacrifice to Artemis, and consequently found his marriage chamber full of coiled serpents. Apollo bade King Admetus 1 appease the goddess and meanwhile, because Admetus 1 was such a kind master towards him, he obtained a special favor of the MOERAE, which was that when Admetus 1 should be about to die, he might be released from death if someone else should choose voluntarily to die for him (see Alcestis).

The Lyre

Daphne 1 escapes Apollo by turning into a laurel tree. 3824: Jean-Etienne Liotard 1702-1789: Apollo and Daphne. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

In the process of recovering the cattle that the newborn Hermes had stolen from him, Apollo discovered the lyre that Hermes had invented and was willing to give Hermes the cattle in exchange for the musical instrument. So they did, and Hermes went pasturing the cattle and he now made a shepherd's pipe for himself. This pipe was so amazing that Apollo desired it too, so he offered to give Hermes the golden wand which he used while he herded cattle, but in the bargain Hermes received from Apollo, besides the wand, the art of divining by pebbles. The golden wand—the Caduceus—is a splendid staff of riches and wealth, which keeps Hermes scatheless. Although Hermes invented the three-stringed lyre, it was Apollo, some say, who added four strings to it. Yet when Apollo quickly repented for what he had done to Marsyas, he, being distressed at his horrible deed, broke the four strings of the lyre that he had discovered. These, however, were later rediscovered by the MUSES, when they added a middle string, by one Linus, who added the string struck with the forefinger, and by Orpheus and Thamyris 1, who discovered the remaining two strings that Apollo had broken. Otherwise it is told that it was Apollo who taught Orpheus to play the lyre, and they add that after Orpheus' death the instrument was put by the MUSES among the stars (see also CONSTELLATIONS). Concerning the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas some have said that the latter was departing as victor when Apollo turned his lyre upside down, and played the same tune, a prowess that Marsyas could not do with the flute. But others tell that Marsyas was defeated when Apollo added his voice to the sound of the lyre. Marsyas, they say, protested arguing that the skill with the instrument was to be compared, not the voice. However, Apollo replied that when Marsyas blew into the pipes he was doing almost the same thing as himself. The argument presented by Apollo was judged by the Nysaeans or by the MUSES to be the most just. Accordingly, after comparing their skills again, Marsyas was defeated, and subsequently flayed alive by the god. Some have said that it was on this occasion that King Midas got the ears of an ass for having judged against Apollo:

"You will have ears to match the mind you have in judging" (Apollo to Midas. Hyginus, Fabulae 191).

The Laurel

Since Daphne 1, pursued by Apollo, changed into a Laurel tree, the god is associated with the Laurel. For it is said that while Apollo pursued her, she implored to Zeus to disappear from sight, and as her prayers were heard, she was turned into a laurel tree. That was all that remained of her, but Apollo broke a branch from the tree and placed it on his head declaring:

"Since you cannot be my bride, you shall at least be my tree. My hair, my lyre, my quiver shall always be entwined with you, O laurel." (Apollo. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.557).

Amours impossibles

Daphne 1 was not the only girl to refuse Apollo: Marpessa 1 chose Idas 2 (the man who killed Castor 1, one of the DIOSCURI) before Apollo as husband of fear that Apollo might desert her in her Old Age. Coronis 2 preferred Ischys to Apollo, who learned about it when a crow told him that she had wedded Ischys. Then the god cursed the crow, which became black instead of white, and killed the still pregnant Coronis 2, snatching Asclepius (her child by Apollo) from the funeral pyre as she was burning in it. Also Cassandra refused Apollo although she had promised to consent if he would teach her the art of prophecy. So when she, though having received the gift, still refused, Apollo deprived her prophecy of the power to persuade, thus making his gift vain. And so when later Cassandra warned the Trojans about the nature of the WOODEN HORSE, nobody listened and Troy was destroyed.

Love for young men

Apollo loved Hymenaeus 2 and this distraction gave Hermes a chance to steal his brother's cattle. He also loved Hyacinthus 1, but him the god involuntarily killed with the cast of a quoit, and in the place where his blood had stained the grass there sprang a flower.

The Cypress

Apollo

Of Cyparissus it is told that he could not find consolation after the death of a stag who was dear to him. Having asked Apollo for permission to grieve for ever, the god turned him into a cypress, deciding that his place would always be where others grieve. This is still so since cypresses are a common sight in many cemeteries.

Some interventions related to Troy

It was Apollo and Poseidon who fortified Troy, wishing to put King Laomedon 1 to the test. Assuming the likeness of mortal men, they undertook to fortify the city for wages. Yet when they had accomplished their work, the king would not pay their wages, and that is why Apollo sent a pestilence, and Poseidon a sea-monster which snatched away the people of the plain. Later, during the Trojan War, Apollo destroyed by pestilence a large part of the Achaean army to punish Agamemnon, who, while refusing to give Chryseis 3 back to her father Chryses 3, humiliated him who was a priest of Apollo. And in the tenth year of the war Apollo, in conjunction with the archer Paris, killed Achilles. The god is also remembered for his warning to Diomedes 2, who wounded Aphrodite when she protected Aeneas. The goddess then handed over Aeneas to Apollo, and as Diomedes 2 persisted in his attack, Apollo shouted at him:

"... Give way! Do not aspire to be the equal of the gods. The immortals are not made of the same stuff as men that walk on the ground!" (Apollo to Diomedes 2. Homer, Iliad 5.440).

Apollo is also held responsible for the death of Laocoon 2 (who threw his spear against the WOODEN HORSE) and his sons, having sent snakes to kill them. Trying to help his sons, Laocoon 2 was also killed. But others say that these serpents were sent by Athena.


Family 

Parentage

Mates

Offspring

Notes

Zeus & Leto

Hypermnestra 2

"a)", "b)", etc. = different versions.

Hypermnestra 2 is daughter of Thestius 1. For Amphiaraus see also SEVEN AGAINST THEBES and Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1.

Dryope 1

Amphissus

For Dryope 1 see NYMPHS.

Acalle

Amphithemis 1

Acalle was loved by Apollo in the house of Carmanor. Fearing the wrath of her father King Minos 2 of Crete, who drove her from home to dwell in Libya, she exposed her son Miletus.

Rhoeo

Anius

Apollo lay with Rhoeo but her father, believing that her seduction was due to a man, was angry and he shut up her in a chest and cast her into the sea. However she gave birth at Delos, where the chest was washed up. Anius was King of Delos and priest of Apollo.

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Apis 2

Apis 2 took over power in the Peloponnesus, which he called after himself Apia, but being a stern tyrant he was conspired against and probably slain by his son Thelxion.


Cyrene
 

Aristaeus

Cyrene is daughter of Hypseus 1, king of the LAPITHS. Aristaeus received from the MUSES the arts of healing and of prophecy. Grieved at the death of Actaeon (who was destroyed by his own dogs), he migrated to Sardinia. He competed with his honey against the wine of Dionysus 2 but Zeus gave the first prize to the wine. Aristaeus also discovered the olive. After dwelling some time near Mount Haemus he never was seen again by men and received immortal honours. Aristaeus married Autonoe 2, daughter of Cadmus & Harmonia 1.

a) Coronis 2
b) Arsinoe 2

 

Stilbe

Centaurus

Stilbe is a daughter of the River God Peneus. For Centaurus, who is also said to be the offspring of Ixion and Nephele 1, see CENTAURS.

Thero 2

Chaeron

Thero 2 is daughter of Phylas 2, son of Antiochus 1, son of Heracles 1. Chaeron is the eponym of Chaeronea in Boeotia.

Chryseis 3

Chryses 4

Chryseis 3 is the daughter of the priest of Apollo Chryses 3. She is the one Agamemnon refused to give back when her father demanded her. Because of that refusal Apollo punished the Achaean army which besieged Troy with pestilence. Chryses 4 is also said to be son of Agamemnon. This Chryses 4, on account of his family ties, intervened to save Orestes 2, son of Agamemnon, by killing King Thoas 3 of Tauris, who threatened his life.

Chrysorthe

Coronus 2

 

Thalia 2

 

Hyrie

Cycnus

Cycnus 7 was loved by Phylius who brought him many gifts but. Cycnus 7 commanded him often to perform several tasks. But as Phylius refused one of them he cast himself from a cliff and was turned into a swan. Hyrie melted away in tears or else threw herself into a lake and was also turned into a swan.

a) Celaeno 3
b) Thyia 1
c) Melaena

Delphus

After Delphus the city of Delphi was named. Celaeno 3 is daughter of Hyamus, son of Lycorus, son of Apollo. Thyia 1 was Priestess of Dionysus 2 and the first to celebrate orgies in his honour; she was daughter of the Phocian Castalius. Melaena is daughter of the River God Cephisus.

Phthia 2

Dorus 2

Dorus 2 is father of Xanthippe 1, wife of Pleuron, after whom the city in Aetolia was named. Pleuron is son of Aetolus 2 & Pronoe 2 and brother of Calydon. Aetolus 2, who was king of Elis, killed Dorus 2.

Aethusa

Eleuther 1

Aethusa is daughter of Poseidon & Alcyone 1. Eleuther 1 was a singer who won a Pythian victory for his loud and sweet voice.

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Epidaurus

 

Arsinoe 2

Eriopis 3

Arsinoe 2 was daughter of Leucippus 2, son of Perieres 1 & Gorgophone 2.

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Hilaira

Hilaira was a priestess of Artemis.

Evadne 3

Iamus

Evadne 3 is daughter of Poseidon & Pitana. From Iamus descend the diviners called Iamides.

Idmon 2

For Cyrene see NYMPHS. Idmon 2 was a seer who is found among the ARGONAUTS. He was killed by a boar, in the land of the Mariandynians, or died of disease during the voyage with the ARGONAUTS.

Urea

Ileus 1

Urea is a Nymph, daughter of Poseidon.

Creusa 1

Creusa 1 is daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens. From Ion 1 the Ionians derive their name. Ion 1 died in Attica helping the Athenians in their war against the Eleusinians.

Phthia 2

Laodocus 2

 

Stilbe

Lapithus 1

 

Urania 2

Linus 1

Urania 2 is one of the MUSES. Linus 1 (Oetolinus) won great reputation as a musician and master of eloquent speech. Some say Apollo killed him, for being his rival in singing. It is also said that Linus 1 was son of Amphimarus (son of Poseidon) & Urania 2.

Psamathe 2

Linus 3

Psamathe 2 is daughter of Crotopus, a king in Argolis. Linus 3 was exposed by his mother and destroyed by the sheep-dogs of Crotopus. Because of his death Apollo sent Poine (Vengeance) to punish the Argives.

Calliope

Linus 4

Calliope is one of the MUSES. Linus 4 taught Heracles 1 to play the lyre, but Heracles 1 killed him with a blow of the lyre.

Parthenope 2

Lycomedes 3

Parthenope 2 is a Lelegian, daughter of Ancaeus 2, son of Poseidon and King of Samos. The Lelegians lived about the river Satnioeis in Asia Minor. Otherwise they were scattered over parts of Greece and Asia Minor.

Corycia

Lycorus

 

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Melaneus 5

King of the Dryopians (people living between the Sperchius River and Mount Parnasus).

a) Aria
b) Deione
c) Acalle

Miletus

Miletus is the founder of the city of Miletus.

Manto 1

Mopsus 2

Manto 1, daughter of the seer Tiresias, is a seeress and Priestess of Apollo. Mopsus 2 was a diviner, who drove the Carians out of their country and defeated Calchas in the art of divination. He was killed in a fight with Amphilochus 2 (son of Alcmaeon 1, son of Amphiaraus, son of Oicles or Apollo). Mopsus 2 and Amphilochus 2 killed each other.

Rhetia

Nine of the CORYBANTES

 

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Oncius

Oncius lived in Oncium in Thelpusian territory in Arcadia.

Chrysothemis 2

Parthenos

Parthenos hurled herself down from a rock in fear of her father's severity as a swine destroyed the wine she was watching, and wine was a drink which had only recently been discovered.

Othris

Phagros

 

a) Chione 2
b) Leuconoe 3
c) Philonis

Philammon

Both Apollo and Hermes fell in love with Chione 2 at the same time. Hermes touched her face with his sleep-compelling wand and then made love to her at once. But Apollo waited until night had come and, assuming an old woman's form, made love to her. Artemis killed Chione 2 for having criticized the goddess' beauty.
Leuconoe 3 is daughter of Eosphorus, who is Lucifer, that is the morning and evening star (Venus).
Philonis is sister of Chione 2, daughter of Daedalion, a cruel man.
Philammon was famous for his song and zither. He was killed by an armed force of Phlegyans that marched against the sanctuary at Delphi.

Acalle

Philander

The child Philander was suckled by a goat.

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Phoebe 2

A priestess of Athena, wife of Polydeuces, one of the DIOSCURI.

Acalle

Phylacides

Phylacides was as a baby suckled by a goat.

Phthia 2

Polypoetes 2

 

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Pythaeus

 
 

Sinope

Syrus 1

Syrus 1 became king of the Syrians, who were named after him.

Melia

Tenerus

Melia is one of the OCEANIDS. Tenerus was given the art of divination by Apollo.

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Tenes

King of Tenedos. He was killed by Achilles.

Troilus, also called son of Priam 1, was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.

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Trophonius

Trophonius built, together with his brother, the fourth temple of Apollo at Delphi. One day the earth opened and swallowed him.

Syllis

Zeuxippus

Syllis is a Nymph. Zeuxippus became king of Sicyon when Phaestus 2 migrated to Crete.


Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Amphiaraus , Amphissus, Amphithemis 1, Anius, Apis 2, Apollo, Aristaeus, Artemis, Asclepius, Centaurus, Chaeron, Chryses 4, Coeus, Coronus 2, CORYBANTES , Cronos, Cycnus 7, Delphus, Dorus 2, Eleuther 1, Epidaurus, Eriopis 3, Gaia, Hilaira, Iamus, Idmon 2, Ileus 1, Ion 1, Laodocus 2, Lapithus 1, Leto, Linus 1, Linus 3, Linus 4, Lycomedes 3, Lycorus, Melaneus 5, Miletus, Mopsus 2, Oncius, Parthenos, Phagros, Philammon, Philander, Phoebe 1, Phoebe 2, Phylacides, Polypoetes 2, Pythaeus, Rhea 1, Scylla 1, Syrus 1, Tenerus, Tenes, Troilus, Trophonius, Uranus, Zeus, Zeuxippus.


Related sections Artemis, Asclepius, Cassandra, Daphne 1, Delphi, Hyacinthus 1, Leto, Marsyas, MUSES
Apollo in GROUPS: METAMORPHOSES, ZEUS' OFFSPRING, OLYMPIANS, CONSTELLATIONS, SERVANTS, SEERS
 
Sources
Abbreviations

Aes.Eum. passim; Aes.Supp.262; Apd.1.3.2-4, 1.4.1, 1.7.6-7, 3.1.2, 3.10.1-3, 3.12.5; Apd.Ep.3.10, 3.23-26, 6.3; Arg.2.500ff., 4.1490ff.; Cal.Ar.37; Cic.ND.3.45; Col.35; Dio.4.69.1, 4.72.1, 4.81.1-3, 5.62.1, 5.74.5; DH.1.50.1; Eur.Ion.10-57; Hes.Fra.1; Hes.The.918; Hes.WD.771; Hes.CWE.63, 83, 91; Hes.GE.13; Hes.Mel.1; Nonn.5.215, 9.215, 13.298; Hom.Apo. passim; Hom.Od.8.224, 11.580; Hyg.Fab.14, 70, 73, 121, 140, 161, 200; Hyg.Ast.2.7, 2.15, 2.22, 2.25; Lib.Met.12, 13, 30, 32; Ov.Met.7.371, 9.356, 9.443, 13.640; Pau.1.43.7, 2.5.8, 2.6.7, 2.26.2, 2.35.2, 3.16.1, 4.2.2, 4.3.2, 7.4.1, 8.25.4, 9.10.6, 9.37.5-7, 9.40.5, 10.6.3-4, 10.16.5, 11.317; Pin.Oly.6.28ff.; QS.4.420; Stat.Theb.570ff.; Strab.9.5.22, 10.5.2, 14.1.27, 14.5.16; Vir.Geo.4.318.

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