Apollo was the Son of the God Zeus and Leto, one of his mistresses. He was the twin brother of Artemis, the Goddess of the hunt. He is revered as one of the most important and complex of the Olympian Gods.
Significance of Apollo
He is regarded as the God of Archery, with some records stating that he and Artemis invented archery and hunting.
Apollo is also regarded as the God of Truth and Prophecy and is the patron God of the Oracle of Delphi, from where the most legendary of Prophecies was foretold. He is said to be the one who averts evil. And was a patron to seafarers as well as the protector of refugees and fugitives. He was the patron of shepherds and herdsmen, the protector of crops and flocks from disease, pestilence, and predators.
He was one who encouraged the formation of new settlements and cities and was the giver of laws, and his oracles were looked upon to set the laws of the cities. He is regarded as the God of medicine, where he relieves the suffering from their ills but is equally capable of inducing suffering with his poison-tipped arrows.
He is the protector of the young and presides over the health and the education of young children. As a marked tribute to Apollo, the boys’ long hair was cut at the coming of age.
Apollo presided over all forms of art, such as music, dance, songs, and poetry, and was said to be the companion of Muses.
He is one of the few Gods who has the same name as his equivalent in Roman Mythology.
The Birth of Apollo
When Hera found out that Leto was pregnant with a child of Zeus, she made sure that Leto would not be able to give birth anywhere on Earth. So Leto searched high and low for a place to give birth but was refused or turned away.
It was Apollo himself who had to direct his mother towards the floating island called Delos, where Leto could finally settle down and give birth peacefully. It is said that all the Goddesses except Hera were present to witness the birth of Apollo, with Hera going as far as to kidnap Eileithyia, the Goddess of childbirth.
After the birth of Apollo, he was fed Ambrosia, and upon tasting the divine food, he declared that he would be master of the Lyre and archery, and his aim would be to spread the word of Zeus to the mortals.
The Slaying of Python
Python was a serpent dragon, the child of Gaia and the guardian of the oracle of Delphi. Hera was so infuriated at the pregnant Leto that she unleashed Python to chase after her and devour her when she was found. Apollo had prophesied the death of Python at the time when he was but a mere fetus in the womb of his mother.
Apollo was but a mere child when he fought and killed Python with the bow and arrows Hephaestus had crafted for him. When he killed Python, though, who was a child of Gaia, it was considered blood murder. Gaia was livid. She wanted Apollo to be banished to Tartarus for his role in the death of Python.
His father, Zeus, disagreed and ordered Apollo to serve as an enslaved person for nine years. After which, he would return, and Zeus himself would purify him. He was then escorted to the shrine of Delphi by his sister Artemis where the ocular powers of the shrine were handed over to him by Gaia.
Apollo and Admetus
Apollo spent the nine years of his labor and service under Admetus as a herdsman. He was pleased with how Admetus had treated him in the years together and granted many a blessing to him, including helping him win the hand of the daughter of the King of Pelias.
The Walls of Troy
Apollo and Poseidon, on the orders of Zeus, had to serve under the Trojan King Laomedon.
It is also stated that the Gods went in disguise willingly to serve under the King to check his Hubris.
The two Gods set about the task of building the famed walls of Troy and took on an assistant called Aeacus. Two sections of the wall were built by the Gods, but one section was built by Aeacus. Suddenly, the wall was attacked by three snakes. The snakes dropped dead when they attacked the portion built by the Gods. But the last snake managed to get in from the portion Aeacus built.
It was then prophesied by Apollo that the wall would one day fall to the Greeks in a mighty battle which was a reference to the future Trojan war.
After the work was done, the King not only refused to give the Gods their wages but also threatened to have their hands bound and to have them sold away as slaves. This angered both Apollo and Poseidon, where Apollo sent disease and pestilence to the city to ravage its inhabitants while Poseidon unleashed the sea monster Cetus to destroy the city.
The Trojan War
Apollo sided with the Trojans in the Trojan War. He helped retrieve the body of Sarpedon, cleaned the body, and gave it to Hypnos and Thanatos so that they could escort the body away from the battlefield and lay it to rest.
He favored the Trojan war hero Hector and healed him when he was severely injured. He encouraged him to take up arms against Achilles and even helped him in the duel that ensued. He helped Hector kill Patroclus, a close friend of Achilles.
After the death of Hector, Apollo protected his corpse by covering it with a cloud so as to prevent the desecration of the corpse at the hands of Achilles.
Apollo had always detested Achilles and was said to be the one who guided the arrow of Paris towards the heel of Achilles, finally killing the Greek hero.
Apollo and Heracles
When Heracles was driven mad by Lyssa on the orders of Hera and committed the sin of murdering his own wife and children, he was to be handed out punishment by the Gods. He went to consult the Oracle of Delphi. And it was Apollo who, through Pythias, ordained that Heracles would have to serve for 12 years under King Eurystheus to complete the ten labors that the King would give him.
Apollo also renamed him Heracles, who was formerly known as Alcides.
After serving the King and redeeming himself, Heracles fell ill with a disease. He went to the Oracle of Apollo and asked Pythia to give a prophecy so that he may rid himself of the disease. The Pythia refused to give a prophecy, and Heracles, livid and enraged, snatched the Sacred tripod and walked away, intending to start his own oracle. Apollo was not amused, and this started a war between the brothers.
Zeus intervened and asked Apollo to give a solution to Heracles, which Apollo did by directing Heracles to serve under the Queen of Lydia, Omphale, for one year to cleanse himself.
The Protector of the Young
Apollo was said to be the one who protected and nurtured the young.
Chiron, the abandoned centaur, was nurtured by Apollo, who instructed and guided him in the field of medicine, archery, prophecy, and more.
Apollo once rescued a shepherd boy from death in a large unknown cave by means of vultures. To commemorate him and honor him, the boy built a temple for Apollo by the name Vulturius.
Apollo and Music
The moment Apollo was born, he invented the Lyre and became the God of music. The swans, which are considered to be musical and uttered the most beautiful of melodies, became the symbols and singers of Apollo.
Apollo, also with the help of his music, was able to deliver people of their pain, and hence was also called the deliverer.
He was once challenged by Pan, the satyr, to a musical contest and won the bout.
Apollo the Protector and Patron of Sailors
There are many accounts of where Apollo has himself intervened to protect seafarers.
When the Argonauts were caught in a terrible storm, Jason, the hero, prayed to his patron Apollo to help them tide through it. And Apollo used his golden bow and arrow to shoot and shine light upon an island that revealed itself in the midst of the storm.
This way, the Argonauts were safely able to disembark on the island and continue the journey once the storm was past. The island was named Anaphi, which meant “He who revealed it.”
During the Trojan War, as a gesture of thanks to the hero Odysseus, Apollo sent gentle breezes so that Odysseus could travel safely.
Apollo was considered the greatest epitome of the Greek Gods. He was considered the most Greek of any of the Gods. He was depicted as being beardless and in perfect shape and fitness, athletically built with a Laurel crown on his head. He was always pictured with either his Lyre or bow and arrow by his side.
The wolf, Dolphin, Swan, and Python were animals considered to be sacred because of their close association with Apollo.
He was one of the few Greek Gods who was actually not too condescending to the mortals and actually cared about the well-being of the humans. He would protect them, nurture them, teach them, heal them and watch over them.
The festival of the Pythian games, which was the chief Apollian festival, would be held every four years in the city of Delphi.
All in all, Apollo was a God who was revered by the Greek people. They would willingly and periodically orchestrate sacrifices and festivals in honor of Apollo. Because it was believed that he brought them the gift of light and good health in a world afraid of committing even the most minor of mistakes, resulting in the wrath of one God or another.