pollo is one of the great divinities of the Greeks, the son of Zeus and Leto and brother of Artemis. He was born on the island of Delos, where Leto had fled from the jealous Hera. Apollo was often called Phoebus the bright or pure.
Hera, jealous of Zeus's union with Leto, had set the serpent Python to pursue Leto to the ends of the earth. After a nine-day labour on the island of Delos Artemis, born first, served as midwife for Apollo.
The two immortals loved their mother Leto - and when King Amphion of Thebes and Niobe boasted that she they had seven times as many children as Leto, Apollo and Artemis killed all fourteen sons and daughters of Niobe.
Apollo's brother Hephaestus, the greek god of fire and workshops, presented him with a bow and arrows when he was four days old. Apollo's first task was to slay Python, which had fled to Gaia's oracle at Delphi on Mount Parnassus.
He killed the serpent within the sacred precincts, and when Zeus heard of this he ordered his son to purify himself at Temple and, as further penance, to preside over the athletic contests instituted in honour of Python, the Pythian Games.
Apollo ignored Zeus and retuming to Delphi, seized the oracle for himself. Delphi then became the most sacred shrine of prophecy in the ancient world, and the priestess of Apollo was known as the Pythoness.
Apollo is the god of song and music, a prophet and a healer. He taught the Muses to sing, and accompanies them on his lyre.
One day the satyr Marsyas discovered a flute Athena had discarded as it distorted her features, and discovered that it emitted the most beautiful strains of music ever heard. With his flute he challenged Apollo to a musical contest. The victor would be honored and allowed to do whatever he pleased with the vanquished and the muses were to be the judges.
Marsyas played upon his flute and Apollo the cithara. When the Muses decided in favour of Apollo the god flayed Marsyas alive and hung him in a cave. His blood became the source of the river Marsyas and in ancient times statues in cities to commemorated the story of Marsyas and the punishment of arrogant presumption.
As the god of prophecy Apollo appears at Delphi and has the power of communicating prophetic words among gods and men. Apollo is the god who punishes men in disgrace and thus is represented with a bow and quiver of arrows.
In the Trojan War he sided with Troy killing the Cyclops and Tityus who had come up from out of the earth. Sudden deaths were said to be due to the arrows of Apollo and in the Trojan War he sent a plague on the Greeks.
Apollo hated Achilles , the principal hero of the Greeks, who was schooled in the arts of war, fought in armour, and whose greatest passions were ambition and honour. In the war against Troy Achilles sought out and pursued Hector, the only remaining defender of the women and children of Troy, piercing him with his spear and tying his body to his chariot, thence circling three times about the walls of the city.
In the Iliad Apollo declares to Ares, the god of war:-
'O you who shakes the earth, of no sound mind would you think me if
I went into battle against you for miserable humans
who, like the leaves, grow and burn with vigour
as they eat the fruits of the land, and now and then perish in death.
Let us, therefore, cease this battle
and let them continue the struggle themselves'
(The Iliad, XXI 462-466)
Although Apollo never married, he fathered many children; on the Muse Thalia, Corybantes; with Urania, the musicians Linus and Orpheus; on Cyrene, his son Aristaeus; on Coronis, Aesclepius the first physician.
Aesclepius was a son of Coronis and Apollo. When Coronis was with child by Apollo she became enamoured of Ischys. Apollo, informed of the illicit affair by a raven, killed them both. When the bodies were burnt, Apollo, who had no quarrel with the child, plucked it from the flames and delivered it to Chiron, who instructed it in the art of healing and hunting.
Apollo loved the nymph Daphne, who was daughter of the river god Peneus. She did not reciprocate and fled away. Apollo pursued her and began to overtake her. She then prayed to her father for aid and metamorphosed into a laurel tree. From that day on the laurel became Apollo's emblem and the symbol of inspired verse.
Apollo also fell in love with Hyacinthus, with whom the West Wind Zephyrus and the North Wind Boreas were also smitten. One day while Apollo instructed the young man on the art of discus throwing jealous Zephyrus gusted and blew it toward Hyacinthus, splitting his skull open. From the dead boy's blood Apollo caused the hyacinth flower to bloom.
Zeus tested Apollo twice by killing his son Aesclepius with a thunderbolt, and then by ordering him to be a slave before certain mortals. Aesclepius, not only cured the sick, but brought the dead to life, and Zeus, fearing men might cheat death altogether, destroyed him with his thunderbolt. On the intercession of Apollo, Zeus placed him among the stars.
When Zeus condemned Apollo to be a herdsman before King Admetus of Therae Apollo was well received and brought prosperity to the land.
Apollo is often depicted as a handsome youth, tall and with the appearance of robust strength. He is outstanding in word and deed, and the model and protector of young people.
Despite his beauty and glory and his many loves of gods and mortals he is often depicted in poetry as unhappy in love. Apollo is the god of towns and civil constitutions and in ancient times a town was never founded by the Greeks without first consulting the oracle of Apollo.