Pursuing our analysis of the various phases in the character of Phoebus-Apollo, we find that with the first beams of his genial light, all nature awakens to renewed life, and the woods re-echo with the jubilant sound of the untaught lays, warbled by thousands of feathered choristers. Hence, by a natural inference, he is the god of music, and as, according to the belief of the ancients, the inspirations of genius were inseparably connected with the glorious light of heaven, he is also the god of poetry, and acts as the special patron of the arts and sciences. Apollo is himself the heavenly musician among the Olympic gods, whose banquets are gladdened by the wondrous strains which he produces from his favourite instrument, the seven-stringed lyre. In the cultus of Apollo, music formed a distinguishing feature. All sacred dances, and even the sacrifices in his honour, were performed to the sound of musical instruments; and it is, in a great measure, owing to the influence which the music in his worship exercised on the Greek nation, that Apollo came to be regarded as the leader of the nine Muses, the legitimate divinities of poetry and song. In this character he is called Musagetes, and is always represented robed in a long flowing garment; his lyre, to the tones of which he appears to be singing, is suspended by a band across the chest; his head is encircled by a wreath of laurel, and his long hair, streaming down over his shoulders, gives him a somewhat effeminate appearance.
And now we must view the glorious god of light under another, and (as far as regards his influence over the Greek nation) a much more important aspect; for, in historical times, all the other functions and attributes of Apollo sink into comparative insignificance before the great power which he exercised as god of prophecy. It is true that all Greek gods were endowed, to a certain extent, with the faculty of foretelling future events; but Apollo, as sun-god, was the concentration of all prophetic power, as it was supposed that nothing escaped his all-seeing eye, which penetrated the most hidden recesses, and laid bare the secrets which lay concealed behind the dark veil of the future.
We have seen that when Apollo assumed his god-like form, he took his place among the immortals; but he had not long enjoyed the rapturous delights of Olympus, before he felt within him an ardent desire to fulfil his great mission of interpreting to mankind the will of his mighty father. He accordingly descended to earth, and travelled through many countries, seeking a fitting site upon which to establish an oracle. At length he reached the southern side of the rocky heights of Parnassus, beneath which lay the harbour of Crissa. Here, under the overhanging cliff, he found a secluded spot, where, from the most ancient times, there had existed an oracle, in which Gaia herself had revealed the future to man, and which, in Deucalion's time, she had resigned to Themis. It was guarded by the huge serpent Python, the scourge of the surrounding neighbourhood, and the terror alike of men and cattle. The young god, full of confidence in his unerring aim, attacked and slew the monster with his arrows, thus freeing land and people from their mighty enemy.
The grateful inhabitants, anxious to do honour to their deliverer, flocked round Apollo, who proceeded to mark out a plan for a temple, and, with the assistance of numbers of eager volunteers, a suitable edifice was soon erected. It now became necessary to choose ministers, who would offer up sacrifices, interpret his prophecies to the people, and take charge of the temple. Looking round, he saw in the far distance a vessel bound from Crete to the Peloponnesus, and determined to avail himself of her crew for his service. Assuming the shape of an enormous dolphin, he agitated the waters to such a degree, that the ship was tossed violently to and fro, to the great alarm of the mariners; at the same time he raised a mighty wind, which drove the ship into the harbour of Crissa, where she ran aground. The terrified sailors dared not set foot on shore; but Apollo, under the form of a vigorous youth, stepped down to the vessel, revealed himself in his true character, and informed them that it was he who had driven them to Crissa, in order that they might become his priests, and serve him in his temple. Arrived at the sacred fane, he instructed them how to perform the services in his honour, and desired them to worship him under the name of Apollo-Delphinios, because he had first appeared to them under the form of a dolphin. Thus was established the far-famed oracle of Delphi, the only institution of the kind which was not exclusively national, for it was consulted by Lydians, Phrygians, Etruscans, Romans, etc., and, in fact, was held in the highest repute all over the world. In obedience to its decrees, the laws of Lycurgus were introduced, and the earliest Greek colonies founded. No cities were built without first consulting the Delphic oracle, for it was believed that Apollo took special delight in the founding of cities, the first stone of which he laid in person; nor was any enterprise ever undertaken, without inquiring at this sacred fane as to its probable success.
But that which brought Apollo more closely home to the hearts of the people, and raised the whole moral tone of the Greek nation, was the belief, gradually developed with the intelligence of the people, that he was the god who accepted repentance as an atonement for sin, who pardoned the contrite sinner, and who acted as the special protector of those, who, like Orestes, had committed a crime, which required long years of expiation.
Apollo is represented by the poets as being eternally young; his countenance, glowing with joyous life, is the embodiment of immortal beauty; his eyes are of a deep blue; his forehead low, but broad and intellectual; his hair, which falls over his shoulders in long waving locks, is of a golden, or warm chestnut hue. He is crowned with laurel, and wears a purple robe; in his hand he bears his silver bow, which is unbent when he smiles, but ready for use when he menaces evil-doers.
But Apollo, the eternally beautiful youth, the perfection of all that is graceful and refined, rarely seems to have been happy in his love; either his advances met with a repulse, or his union with the object of his affection was attended with fatal consequences. Refer to the Loves of Apollo.
The chief seat of the worship of Apollo was at Delphi, and here was the most magnificent of all his temples, the foundation of which reaches far beyond all historical knowledge, and which contained immense riches, the offerings of kings and private persons, who had received favourable replies from the oracle. The Greeks believed Delphi to be the central point of the earth, because two eagles sent forth by Zeus, one from the east, the other from the west, were said to have arrived there at the same moment.
The Pythian games, celebrated in honour of the victory of Apollo over the Python, took place at Delphi every four years. At the first celebration of these games, gods, goddesses, and heroes contended for the prizes, which were at first of gold or silver, but consisted, in later times, of simple laurel wreaths.
On account of its being the place of his birth, the whole island of Delos was consecrated to Apollo, where he was worshipped with great solemnity; the greatest care was taken to preserve the sanctity of the spot, for which reason no one was suffered to be buried there. At the foot of Mount Cynthus was a splendid temple of Apollo which possessed an oracle, and was enriched with magnificent offerings from all parts of Greece. Even foreign nations held this island sacred, for when the Persians passed it on their way to attack Greece, they not only sailed by, leaving it uninjured, but sent rich presents to the temple. Games, called Delia, instituted by Theseus, were celebrated at Delos every four years.
A festival termed the Gymnopedaea was held at Sparta in honour of Apollo, in which boys sang the praises of the gods, and of the three hundred Lacedaemonians who fell at the battle of Thermopylae. Wolves and hawks were sacrificed to Apollo, and the birds sacred to him were the hawk, raven, and swan.
The Myth & History of Apollo
The Myth of Apollo
The story of Apollo is featured in the book entitled "A Hand-Book of Greek and Roman Mythology. The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome" by E.M. Berens, published in 1894 by Maynard, Merrill, & Co., New York.
The Myth of Apollo - the Magical World of Myth & Legend
The story of Apollo is one of the stories about the history of ancient gods and goddesses featured in ancient mythology and legends. Such stories serve as a doorway to enter the world of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The names of so many of the heroes and characters are known today through movies and games but the actual story about such characters are unknown. Reading a myth story about Apollo is the easy way to learn about the history and stories of the classics.
The Magical World of Gods, Goddesses, Myth and Legend
The Short Story and Myth of Apollo
The myth about Apollo is featured in the book entitled The story of Apollo is featured in the book entitled "A Hand-Book of Greek and Roman Mythology. The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome" by E.M. Berens, published in 1894 by Maynard, Merrill, & Co., New York. Learn about the the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome that are available on this website.
Myths and Stories about gods and goddesses