- Pronunciation: ah-PAHL-o
- Origin: Greek and Roman
- Role: God of sun, music, light, knowledge, medicine, art, poetry and archery
- Symbols: Lyre, Laurel
- Father: Zeus
- Siblings: Artimus
- Other Names: Phoebus, Apollon
Who Is Apollo?
Apollo was god of many things, making him one of the more important gods in Greek mythology. He was the god of poetry, art, archery, plague, sun, light, knowledge and music. He was born on the island of Delos and had a twin sister named Artemis. He was also an oracular god and a patron of Delphi.
He was a wise god and his myths describe him as a cheerful individual. He could also become jealous when provoked. He believed in the power of law and order and wanted the people of Greece to be happy and peaceful.
It’s safe to say that Apollo was a favorite god. His myths were also adapted by the Romans, where he would prove to once again be a favorite among the people.
Though he would eventually become one of the most worshipped gods in Greek mythology, his origins can be traced to outside of Greece. History shows that cults in Asia were the first to worship Apollo and it is speculated that his first role was actually as the protector of shepherds.
The Greeks wouldn’t be the last to worship Apollo though. After being conquered by the Romans, most of the Greek gods were adopted by the Romans. Their names were often changed but their myths and symbolism stayed the same. Apollo had the same name in Roman mythology but his parents were Jupiter and Latona and his twin sister was Diana.
Legends and Stories
There are many myths surrounding Apollo, all of them with great elements of adventure. We’ll be exploring the Greek versions of these myths. The Roman versions are nearly identical except for names and locations. The core messages are the same.
One of the more popular myths surrounding Apollo is the story of his birth. Apollo’s mother, Leto, was the goddess of motherhood. She seduced Zeus and became pregnant with twins. But Hera, Zeus’ wife, was furious over the affair and made sure that Leto was unable to find a shelter to give birth. Hera even kept her own daughter, Eileithyia, from helping Leto give birth, as she was the goddess of childbirth.
Zeus felt terrible for the pain and suffering Leto was going through and turned her into a quail so that she could find refuge. Leto searched all over Greece until she found a small island known as Delos. Hera was unable to stop Leto from settling on the island as it was being blown by the wind and moved by the waves.
Leto suffered for nine days and nine nights with terrible labor pains. On the tenth day, she went to a small lake and leaned up against a palm tree. She loosened her belt and gave birth alone to Artemis who would become the Greek goddess of the hunt. But Artemis immediately took on a new role and assisted her mother in the birth of her brother Apollo. Because of this, she replaced Eileithyia and also became known as the goddess of childbirth.
The God of Music
There is a myth telling why Apollo became known as the god of music. It begins by describing a Python who lived on Mount Parnassus. He would spread mischief through the land and leave behind an obnoxious smell wherever he went. He was also lethal, killing anyone who crossed him. Apollo had just been born but even at only four days old, he was strong and able. He had been given a silver bow with golden arrows from the blacksmith Hephaestus. Apollo wanted to seek revenge on Python for everything he had done to the Greeks, including chasing his mother while she was pregnant.
Apollo went to the Python’s cave. As he entered it, he was greeted by the monster who was already furious that the young boy had come after him. He lunged at Apollo and attempted to snatch him but Apollo was faster. He shot an arrow at the Python and it pierced him in the forehead. The Python screamed in pain so loudly that all of Greece heard it. He did everything he could to save himself but he succumbed to his injury.
Apollo was thrilled to have saved the Greeks from the Python. He reached for his lyre and played a song of victory for everyone to hear. The song was so perfect that it earned him the title of god of music. After the song was complete, the young boy took the body of his victim and buried it beneath the slopes of Mount Parnassus. On top of it, he build the oracle of Delphi, which would became the most famous oracle in the land.
Even though he had gotten rid of the dreaded Python, his actions were still considered a crime by the laws of Mount Olympus. Zeus punished him by ordering him to institute the Pythian Games at Delphi. There were athletic and musical competitions and Apollo even took part in some of them. The games were then held every four years as a tribute to Apollo.
Apollo’s family is a bit different between the Roman and Greek versions. The Roman version has Jupiter and Latona as his parents (Jupiter is the Roman version of Zeus) and his twin sister is Diana instead of Artemis. The Roman version of him says his children are Asclepius, Orpheus, Trolius and Aristaeus. He never married but had many lovers.
There are only a few descriptions of Apollo in literature but they were detailed enough to give us a good idea of what he looked like. In artistic representations of the god, he is shown as a young and handsome man with golden hair. Unlike most other male gods, Apollo does not have a beard and is usually shown with a crown of laurel leaves on his head.
There are many symbols associated with Apollo, including bow and arrows, his musical instrument the lyre and a snake, a tribute to his battle with the Python. He is also associated with many symbols relating to his headwear, including rays of light, a wreath and laurel branches.