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Parents: Apollo was born by Zeus, the King of the Gods, and the Titaness Leto on the Greek island of Delos.
Siblings: Apollo had an older twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt Artemis.
Relationships: The Nymphs Cyrene and Daphne and the mortal Coronis.
Children: Asclepius (the god of Healing), the legendary musician Orpheus and the heroes Troilus and Aristaeus.
Apollo’s symbols were the lyre, the tripod, the laurel tree and the navel stone. His plants were the myrtle and the laurel. Apollo’s sacred animals were the wolf, the raven and the lizard.
Apollo was the Greek god of the Music. He invented the lute (a plucked string instrument with a body shaped like a pear), but he was more popular for playing the lyre, which was invented by Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Apollo was the leader of the Muses, the goddesses of Art and Sciences, therefore he was oftentimes called “Apollo Musagetes” in Ancient Greece.
Apollo excelled in important music contests, competing against Greek god Hermes and the Satyr Pan as well as other deities.
In addition, Apollo owned the precious gift of prophecy, given to him by his father Zeus in his infancy. He was the patron of the ancient city of Delphi, where the first oracle of Ancient Greece was located. The district was considered to be the Navel of the World (the “Omphalus”) in Ancient times.
More about Apollo
The son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis. Apollo was the god of music (principally the lyre, and he directed the choir of the Muses) and also of prophecy, colonization, medicine, archery (but not for war or hunting), poetry, dance, intellectual inquiry and the carer of herds and flocks. He was also a god of light, known as “Phoebus” (radiant or beaming, and he was sometimes identified with Helios the sun god).
He was also the god of plague and was worshiped as Smintheus (from sminthos, rat) and as Parnopius (from parnops, grasshopper) and was known as the destroyer of rats and locust, and according to Homer’s Iliad, Apollo shot arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Apollo being the god of religious healing would give those guilty of murder and other immoral deeds a ritual purification. Sacred to Apollo are the swan (one legend says that Apollo flew on the back of a swan to the land of the Hyperboreans, he would spend the winter months among them), the wolf and the dolphin. His attributes are the bow and arrows, on his head a laurel crown, and the cithara (or lyre) and plectrum. But his most famous attribute is the tripod, the symbol of his prophetic powers.
Apollo’s first achievement was to rid Pytho (Delphi) of the serpent (or dragon) Python. This monstrous beast protected the sanctuary of Pytho from its lair beside the Castalian Spring. There it stood guard while the “Sibyl” gave out her prophecies as she inhaled the trance inducing vapors from an open chasm. Apollo killed Python with his bow and arrows (Homer wrote “he killed the fearsome dragon Python, piercing it with his darts”). Apollo not only took charge of the oracle but rid the neighboring countryside of widespread destruction, as Python had destroyed crops, sacked villages and polluted streams and springs. However, to make amends for killing Python, as the fearsome beast was the son of Gaia, Apollo had to serve king Admetus for nine years (in some versions eight) as a cowherd. This he did, and when he returned to Pytho he came in the guise of a dolphin bringing with him priests from Crete (Apollo’s cult title “Delphinios” meaning dolphin or porpoise, is probably how Delphi was so named). After killing Python and taking possession of the oracle, the god of light (Phobus) became known as “Pythian Apollo”. He dedicated a bronze tripod to the sanctuary and bestowed divine powers on one of the priestesses, and she became known as the “Pythia”. It was she who inhaled the hallucinating vapors from the fissure in the temple floor, while she sat on a tripod chewing laurel leaves. After she mumbled her answer, a male priest would translate it for the supplicant. Delphi became the most important oracle center of Apollo, there were several including Clarus and Branchidae.
Apollo, as with Zeus his father, had many love affairs with goddesses and mortals. Apollo’s infatuation for the nymph Daphne, which had been invoked by the young god of love Eros, because Apollo had mocked him, saying his archery skills were pathetic, and Apollo’s singing had also irritated him. Daphne was the beautiful daughter of the river god Ladon, and she was constantly pursued by Apollo. To escape from Apollo’s insistent behavior, she fled to the mountains, but the persistent Apollo followed her. Annoyed by this, she asked the river god Peneus for help, which he did. As soon as Apollo approached Daphne, he tried to embrace her, but when he stretched out his arms she transformed into a laurel tree. Apollo, distraught by what had happened, made the laurel his sacred tree. Apollo also loved Cyrene, she was another nymph, and she bore Apollo a son: Aristaeus, a demi-god, who became a protector of cattle and fruit trees, and a deity of hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping. He taught men dairy skills and the use of nets and traps in hunting.
The most famous mortal loves of Apollo was Hecuba, she was the wife of Priam, the king of Troy. She bore him Troilius. Foretold by an oracle, as long as Troilius reached the age of twenty, Troy could not be defeated. But the hero Achilles ambushed and killed him, when the young prince and his sister Polyxena secretly visited a spring. Apollo also fell in love with Cassandra, the sister of Troilius, and daughter of Hecuba and Priam. He seduced Cassandra on the promise that he would teach her the art of prophecy, but having learnt the prophetic art she rejected him. Apollo, being angry of her rejection punished her, by declaring her prophecies never to be accepted or believed.
Asclepius, the god of healing, was also Apollo’s offspring, after his union with Coronis, who was daughter of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths. While she was pregnant by Apollo, Coronis fell in love with Ischys, son of Elatus, but a crow informed Apollo of the affair. Apollo sent his twin sister Artemis to kill Coronis, and Artemis carried out he brothers wishes. While her body was burning on the funeral pyre, Apollo removed the unborn child, and took him to Chiron, who raised the child Asclepius.
Apollo was worshiped throughout the Greek world, at Delphi every four years they held the Pythian Games in his honor. He had many epithets, including “Pythian Apollo” (his name at Delphi), “Apollo Apotropaeus” (Apollo who averts evil), and “Apollo Nymphegetes” (Apollo who looks after the Nymphs). As the god of shepherds he also had the cult titles “Lukeios” (from lykos; wolf), protecting the flocks from wolfs, and “Nomius” (of pastures, belonging to shepherds). Being the god of colonists, Apollo influenced his priests at Delphi to give divine guidance, as to where the expedition should proceed. This was during the height of the colonizing era circa 750-550 BCE. Apollo’s title was “Archigetes” (leader of colonists). According to one legend, it was Apollo who helped either Cretan or Arcadian colonists found the city of Troy.In art Apollo is at most times depicted as a handsome young man, clean shaven and carrying either a lyre, or his bow and arrows. There are many sculptures of Apollo and one of the most famous is the central figure from the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus, at Olympia, showing Apollo declaring victory in favor of the Lapiths in their struggle against the Centaurs.
A song sung in honor of Apollo is called a paean.