Monday, April 6, 2015
Apollo was the ancient Greek god of music. He focused mainly on the lyre and directed the chorus of the Muses. He was also associated with light and the sun; one of his epithets was Phoebus (radiant) Apollo.
Often seen wearing his crown of laurel, or carrying a lyre or a bow and arrow, he was also believed to have the power to heal. He purified those who had committed sinful deeds, and could both bring and destroy plagues including rats and locusts.
The jealous Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of Olympus, banished Leto to wander until she gave birth to her twins on this tiny island near Mykonos. Swans flocked around Leto as she brought her son into the world. Thus the swan was sacred to him and Delos became the temple of Apollo.
His twin sister Artemis was also born on the tiny "floating" Aegean island of Delos, which was fixed by pillars to the ocean bed afterwards. With its avenue of lions and temple ruins, Delos today remains a place where no human is born or dies and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At Delphi on the Greek mainland, Apollo killed the fearsome Python (a snake or dragon), and made a dedication at the sanctuary. Known thereafter as Pythian Apollo, he bestowed divine powers on a priestess who became the Pythia, an oracle who inhaled vapours from the temple fissure and gave answers to supplicants. In this way, Delphi became Apollo's most sacred oracle.
Like his father, Apollo pursued many women. The nymph Daphne avoided his advances by turning into a laurel tree. Cyrene accepted the god's embraces and bore him a son, Aristaeus. The mortal woman Hecuba, wife of the Trojan king Priam, also gave birth to his son, Troilus, who was supposed to save the city of Troy; however, he was killed by Achilles before he could do so.
Cassandra, the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, was seduced by Apollo with the promise that he would teach her the art of prophecy. When she learned this art and then rejected him, the angry god decreed that her prophecies would never be believed.
Coronis bore the healing god Asclepius to Apollo, and he also fell for the Spartan prince Hyacinthus. This passion was ended by the jealousy of Zephyrus, who turned the wind to blow the discus the young men had been playing with. It hit Hyacinthus on the head and killed him.