Apollo | Greek God

Apollo Greek Mythology

Apollo (Greek: Ἀπόλλων; romaniz.: Apóllōn, or Ἀπέλλων, transl. Apellōn) is one of the main deities of Greco-Roman mythology, one of the Olympian gods. Son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother of Artemis, he possessed many attributes and functions, and possibly after Zeus was the most influential and revered god of all those of classical antiquity.

The origins of his myth are obscure, but in Homer's time he was already of great importance, being one of the most quoted in the Iliad. He was described as the god of divine distance, who threatened or protected from the high heavens, being identified as the sun and the light of truth.

He made men aware of their sins and was the agent of their ritual purification; he presided over the laws of religion and the constitutions of cities, was the symbol of prophetic and artistic inspiration, and was the patron of the most famous oracle of antiquity, the Oracle of Delphi, and leader of the muses.

He was feared by the other gods and only his father and mother could contain him. He was the god of sudden death, of plagues and diseases, but also the god of healing and protection against evil forces. In addition he was the god of Beauty, Perfection, Harmony, Balance and Reason, the initiator of the young into the adult world, he was connected to Nature, herbs and flocks, and was the protector of shepherds, sailors and archers.

Although he had numerous loves, he was unhappy on that ground, but had several children. He was represented numerous times from antiquity to the present, usually as a young man, naked and immature, at the height of his vigor, sometimes with a cloak, a bow and quiver of arrows, or a lyre, and with some of his symbolic animals, such as the serpent, the raven, or the griffin.

Apollo was identified syncretistically with a large number of major and minor deities in his various places of worship, and he survived veiledly throughout the flowering of early Christianity, which appropriated several of his attributes to adorn its own sacred personages, such as Christ and the archangel Saint Michael.

However, in the Middle Ages Apollo was often identified by Christians with the Devil. But since the association of Apollo with unholy power by the Roman emperor Augustus, a powerful symbolic imaginary has originated as an ideological support for the imperialism of monarchies and the personal glory of kings and princes.

His myth has been worked out over the centuries by philosophers, artists, and other intellectuals for the interpretation and illustration of a variety of aspects of human life, society, and phenomena of Nature, and his imagery is still present in a wide variety of forms today. Even his cult, after an oblivion of centuries, has recently been revived by currents of neo-paganism.


He was called Apollon or Apellon by the Greeks, Apollo by the Romans, and Apulu or Aplu by the Etruscans. The origin of the name Apollo is uncertain, as is that of his myth.

Apollo is a name that has no clear parallels in other Indo-European languages, and is the only Olympian god that does not appear on the thousand or so known tablets written in Linear B, a source of data about Greece in the Bronze Age.

While this omission may be only coincidental and future archaeological finds may bring other conclusions, statistically it remains a significant piece of evidence, pointing to a possibly Eastern origin and a relatively late period arrival in Greece.

Graf suggests the following hypotheses for its origin: it may have been an Indo-European deity, present but undocumented in the Greek Bronze Age, or it was introduced after the Greek Dark Ages, or it came from the Near East, possibly Anatolia or the Semitic region.

For Plotinus its name meant the negation of plurality: "not-many" (a-poli), adding that for the Pythagoreans it meant the One. Plutarch followed this line by saying that the Pythagoreans associated divine names with numbers, and that the Monad was identified with Apollo. Plato also thought similarly, linking Apollo with "the simple," and "the true."

Burkert suggested that it derives from "holding a sacred assembly," which Nagy considered plausible, based on what Hesychius of Alexandria had also referenced, but this etymology was rejected by Frisk, Chantraine, and Dietrich, who consider the origin of the name simply unknown. Bernal hypothesized that it was derived from Horus, the Egyptian sun god, through intermediate phonetic adaptations in Phoenicia. Herodotus claimed that Apollo and Horus were the same god.

His myth

The first literary references to Apollo are found in Homer, at the very foundation of Greek literature. And by this time the god already appeared so loaded with attributes that the poet found it difficult to choose where to begin his eulogy. As is evident, despite the uncertainties about the origin of the myth and the absence of previous documentation, by the 8th century B.C. it was already consolidated.

Apollo is quoted in the Odyssey, is the focus of one of the Homeric Hymns, and is one of the protagonist gods in the Iliad, and from these sources come the earliest descriptions of his history.

In the Iliad Apollo stands against the Greeks, and fights for the Trojans. He appears to avenge the outrage to his priest Crises, whose daughter Criseida had been captured by Agamemnon, and already appears showing some of the facets of his character,

the bellicosity and violence of which he was capable, and his attributes as a causer and healer of diseases, sowing the plague among the Greek soldiers, and pouring upon them his fiery rays like a rain of sharp arrows.

To placate him, not only was Crisisida returned to her father, but the Greeks had to offer the god "a perfect hecatomb of bulls and lambs," as well as singing and dancing. Satisfied, he suspended the plague.

Also Apollo was responsible for the antagonism between Agamemnon and Achilles, protected the Trojan heroes Pandaros, Paris and Aeneas, and also Hector as long as he could, thwarted the onslaughts of Patroclus, Diomedes and Achilles, and was the one who drove Paris' arrow that killed Achilles.

When Glaucus was wounded by an arrow from Theucros, he prayed to Apollo, who immediately closed the wound and restored his strength. Macaon and Podalyrium, two sons of Asclepius, one of Apollo's sons, were also present at the battle.

He was the one who healed Sarpedon's wounds, was Zeus' instrument to prevent the desecration of the warrior's body when he was killed, and watched over the body of Hector. In the Iliad Apollo also appears as the god of music, playing his lyre to the delight of the immortals, and as the guardian of the horses of Eumelo, and the cattle of Laomedon.

In the Hymn to Apollo, Homer described his birth in Delos to his apotheosis in Delphi. The hymn opens by showing Apollo as an adult, as the sublime archer, entering the palace of the gods and inspiring awe in all. Leto, his mother, welcomes him and leads him to his seat among the immortals, while his father Zeus welcomes him, along with the other gods.

Then the poet goes on to describe the circumstances of his birth. Leto, a nymph daughter of the titan Ceos, was loved by Zeus and became pregnant by Apollo and Artemis.

Hera, the legitimate wife of Zeus, discovered the romance and turned her wrath on Leto, who was driven on a long pilgrimage to find a place where she could give birth, all the while pursued by the serpent Python, set on her trail. Stopping at the island of Ortigia, she gave birth to Artemis, but only finally found shelter on a floating island, Delos, because Hera had ordered Gaia, the earth, not to offer any resting place to Leto.

Upon setting foot on the island, Leto spoke to her, begging her to receive him, and making the great oath in the name of the Styx, promised to build a temple and consecrate it to her son, whereupon the island acquiesced to his plea.

However, even though she was assisted by the goddesses Dione, Reia, Icneia, Temis and Amphitrite, for nine days and nine nights Leto suffered the pains of labor without Apollo being born, since Hera had prevented Ilicia, the goddess of childbirth, from helping her.

But the goddesses finally sent Iris, the messenger of the gods, to seduce Ilicia with the offer of a magnificent gold and amber necklace nine cubits long, and so, before Hera could protest, carried by the swift Iris she descended from Olympus to help Leto, and soon Apollo was born.

The infant was then bathed by the goddesses, wrapped in swaddling clothes and adorned with a crown of gold. Before he suckled at his mother's breast, Themis gave him the nectar of the gods to drink, and made him eat the divine ambrosia, conferring immortality upon him. Immediately he became an adult, broke loose from the bands, cried out claiming the lyre and the bow, and declared himself the spokesman of Zeus' will. His light rejoined, and Delos blossomed into gold.

Then Homer shows him back on Olympus, playing his lyre and presiding over the choir of Muses, and then he comes down from heaven and travels the earth, looking for a place to found his cult.

When he arrived at the Telfusa spring, he saw that it was a very pleasant place to build a temple and establish an oracle, but the spring warned him that men would build a noisy city there and would not pay him enough attention, and suggested that he found his oracle on the silent slopes of Mount Parnassus, which he did, but not before killing the monster Typhon, Hera's parthenogenetic son, who lived there devastating the region, and the serpent Python, who had chased his mother. He then sought out his first priests.

Disguised as an ivory, he captured a Cretan ship and took its sailors to the place he had chosen, imposing obedience on them, giving them the direction of the temple and the oracle, and prescribing the rituals that should be performed. Because he revealed himself to them in the form of a delphinium, he said that he should be invoked under the epithet of Apollo Delphinium, and the oracle was to be called the Oracle of Delphi.

In his Theogony, Hesiod, roughly contemporary with Homer, made only a brief allusion to Apollo, but other authors after them gave alternative versions for his story. Several localities claimed the privilege of being his birthplace: Ephesus, Tegyra, Zoster, and Crete.

The Egyptians and Cicero said he was the son of Isis and Dionysus, and he was also identified with the solar gods Phoebus and Helios, the Egyptian Horus, the Etruscan Aplu, and the eastern Mithra.

He was said to have been born on a day seven, or born of seven months, and so the number seven was sacred to him. The seventh day of every month was dedicated to him with sacrifices, and his festivals usually fell on a seventh day. He was a member of the council of the chief gods on Olympus, had the sun as his chariot, and as ruler of the Muses also resided on Mount Parnassus, at the base of which was his chief oracle.

The animals associated with him were the serpent, the wolf, the dauphin and the raven; some authors add the swan, the vulture and the griffin, and he was often represented with the bow and arrows, or with the lyre. His sacred plant was the laurel, with whose leaves the crowns of the winners of the athletic Games were made.

Evolution and interpretations of the myth

As we read in Homer, the first of his attributes were that of sudden death with his infallible arrows, music, vengeance and punishment for violations of sacred law, the causer of disease, and only secondarily a healer. In the course of time his myth was enriched, and the huge number of epithets that were associated with his name proves it.

His primitive character, marked by violence, became milder, and he was erected into a civilizing god, healer, protector, harmonizer and organizer, a more balanced justiciar and a complete prophet. Pythagoras played a role in this transformation.

He was considered by some a son of Apollo, by others an incarnation of the god himself, who had descended into the world of men with a therapeutic mission, and it is significant that Pythagoras only sacrificed on altars of Apollo, called himself a healer, played the lyre and placed great importance on music and divination.

Teaching a doctrine with a strong ethical basis and that emphasized harmony and purity, his influence on Greek culture was enormous, at the same time that the cult of Apollo was spreading. This theory was the basis of all Greek music from his generation onward and still remains influential.

Also important was the assimilation of Apollo by Orphism, whose mythical patron, the musician Orpheus, was believed to be the god's son. Its rites included music and divination, its doctrine emphasized strict moral discipline, purification, and asceticism, and included a belief in a beatific life after death. The Hymn to Apollo of the Orphics declares it as the god's function to harmonize the opposite poles of the cosmos with his music.

Apollo then assumed other attributes, other legends appeared, and several Greek authors, and later the Hellenists and Romans, showed him in poems, in dramas, and in iconography. Even the frightening lethality of his arrows could be expanded to make him the god of merciful death.

For Denis Huisman the influence of the Apollonian image was decisive in the formation of Socrates' philosophy and, consequently, that of Plato. Aristotle referred to the same, saying that from Delphi he had taken the moto Know thyself, which became the central organizing motif of his way of life and thought.

Plato emphasized its organizing facet in Religion, stating that the Oracle of Delphi was to be consulted about all matters concerning the establishment of shrines, sacrifices and other forms of worship of gods, daemones and heroes;

also about tombs and funeral rites, and nominations for public religious offices.  He also said that he had discovered medicine, the art of the bow, and divination under the impulse of desire and love, and therefore he was a disciple of Eros.

The poet Calimachus showed him as the inventor of the flute and the lyre - although the most current tradition says that he received both from his brother Hermes - and canonized the identification between Apollo and Helios, the specifically solar god, criticizing those who still made some distinction between the two, although already Homer called him Phebo, brilliant.

Also his role as the guardian of flocks became more marked than we read in Homer, and by extension he became the protector of shepherds. From what can be deduced from the fragmentary hymns of Pindarus, Apollo appears as the regulator of the sky and preserver of the order of the world, keeping the sun always on its course, making this a symbol of the path of wisdom. With the infallible aim of his arrows of light, he illuminates the human intellect, emphasizing its connection with the gift of prophecy. He also declared him as the patron of Doric migrations.

The poet Alceu of Mithilene described him as the instrument of Zeus' Justice, guardian of the oaths and sentences of the law, avenger of his transgressions, and punisher of the hubris.

The justice aspect of his character was explored in an interesting way in the tragedy Eumenes, part of Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, portraying Apollo in an ambiguous way. First the author has Thetis protest, saying that Apollo had been at her feast, sang to her and promised her happiness, and then killed her son.

Then Orestes is forced by Apollo to murder his own mother Clytemnestra, but in doing so he has made himself guilty of a crime against his own blood, a terrible taboo. Thus the character, despite having fulfilled a divine commandment, is tormented by an equally divine fury, personified in the Erinias, until Apollo intervenes as his lawyer at a trial in Athens.

But, despite the defense of such an excellent lawyer, the case ended up tied in the jury. Orestes was rescued, however, by Athena's vote in his favor. Later, Apollo himself purified him with the blood of a pig. It is worth noting that Plato, in the Republic, severely criticized this way of portraying the gods, saying that it was unseemly, false, and could bring nothing useful to society, nor could it be a good example to train young people.

He went on to say that it was a daring and decadence to make a character out of a god, attributing to them traits proper to men, thus depriving art of its ethical purpose and its capacity as an educational instrument.

At the same time, by the time of Plato, the view that Apollo was the antithesis and complement of his brother Dionysus, the god of excesses, of the relationship between body and soul, of drunkenness, orgy,

uncontrolled emotions, transgression, and hidden mysteries, had already become common, while Apollo was more connected to the rational sphere, daily life, art, and social order, preserving his role as inspirer of prophecy and bearer of the divine word, or Logos,

also a symbol of the spirit and intellect. Also for the initiates in the orphic mysteries Apollo and Dionysus were polar manifestations of the same divinity. As the infallible archer and god of light, slayer of the Python serpent, which was a symbol of the forces of the underworld and irrational chaos, Apollo was an image of the initiate who penetrates the mysteries of Nature through science and masters the animality of human nature through will, knowledge, and discipline;

he was also, therefore, the god of atonements, purifications, and penances. One version of his myth says that he himself, after killing the monster Python, which was nevertheless a divine creature, had to purify himself and make atonements for eight years by exiling himself to the Valley of Tempe under the protection of a laurel tree.

Being a healing god and linked to the social order, by extension he was associated with the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, becoming the image of the ideal educator, providing inspiration and instruction for the cultivation of body and mind in a harmonious balance and for a correct social insertion of the youngster into community life.

For the Greeks this balance was one of the goals of a broad ethical-pedagogical system known as paideia, conceived for the realization of kalokagathia, that is, the gathering of all Virtues within the sphere of Beauty, which included physical excellence as a reflection of moral, civic and spiritual excellence.

In his attributes as initiator and educator, Apollo was also elevated to the status of patron of gymnastic exercises - although this role was shared with Hermes and secondarily with Hercules - with the result that he was attributed the character of god of physical beauty.

That's why Greek gymnasiums were placed under his tutelage, not only because of his association with body cultivation and intellectual, artistic, social and moral education, but also because gymnastics was considered as valuable for health promotion as Medicine, of which he was also the patron. In Athens the gymnasium had been placed under the tutelage of Apollo Likeios - hence also the origin of the word Lyceum as a place of learning.

A consequence of these attributes is reflected in the stories in which Apollo took young male lovers, such as Hyacinthus and Cyparchus. In Greek culture male homosexuality was socially accepted and encouraged, within certain well-defined parameters, and had pedagogical and ritualistic functions of great importance.

A mature man, the erastes, would court a young man, the eromenos, making him both lover and disciple, initiating him into the mysteries of adulthood and his social responsibilities. The very form of sexual contact was subject to convention.

As soon as the signs of puberty appeared, the young man was declared an adult, and the relationship was broken off. He would then marry a woman, start a family, and in turn assume the role of erastes, taking on a young eromenos and continuing the tradition.

Although there are reports of the perversion of this initiatory system, with the pursuit of pleasure assuming the utmost importance, ideally it was meant to form a disciplined and moral man. Where Apollo was worshipped under the epithet Carneios (horned), acts of pederasty in public were part of the religious ritual of male initiation.

Accounts survive of the invocation to Apollo before the homosexual act is performed, where the erastes begs the god that his arete, virtue, be transferred to the eromenos. At the same time, depictions of Apollo always as a young, immature man point to his character as an eternal effete, an image of perennial youth.

Proclo, in his Platonic Theology, established a divine hierarchy where Apollo was an emanation of Helios and figured, along with Hermes and Aphrodite, as an intermediary deity between the gods of the primordial universe and the higher sphere and the world of mortals, together forming a trinity whose main attribute was those of elevating human souls to themselves.

Hermes would be responsible for elevating the soul to the knowledge of Good, and Aphrodite to the plane of Beauty. Apollo would have the function of elevating the soul to the sphere of Truth and the Light of Reason through music, whose virtue lay in its ability to produce harmony and rhythm.

The Muses would be, in this hierarchy, secondary emanations of Apollo. Proclotus later, in Philebo, synthesized the concept of Goodness as encompassing Truth, Beauty, and Symmetry, and linked these three aspects respectively to three forms of life, that of the philosopher,

protégé of Hermes, that of the lover, devotee of Aphrodite, and that of the musician, follower of Apollo, and linked these forms to three types of madness produced by divine inspiration, respectively the prophetic and philosophical mania, the erotic mania, and the poetic mania.

Among the Romans, his oracle was known since the time of the kings, but the cult was only consolidated under the empire of Augustus. Ovid made him the knower of the past, present and future, and owner of the power of all medicinal herbs, Horace sang the god higher than the Roman gods, and Virgil said that in the sequence of the Ages of the world the last would be ruled by Apollo, which was confirmed by the famous Sibylline Books, but his profile was more publicized as a healer and patron of the arts, and rather than a royal deity he had more of a symbol status.

However Augustus revived his cult, placed the Roman state under the protection of Apollo, but identified with Febo, the Roman solar deity, and over the following centuries, through the influence of Mithraism from the East, the cult turned more to the Sun than to Apollo himself, who had his multiple attributions and his former predominant place among the Greeks reduced to healing and art. Since then both religious and profane power have competed for the use of solar symbolism.

Apollo in Christianity, the arts and the modern state

With the rise of Christianity the pagan gods fell into progressive oblivion. The Church Fathers and Christian philosophers actively contributed to this process by denouncing them as false gods. Lactantius, for example, ridiculed the myths of Apollo and the other gods as an obvious impossibility - they were born from sexual unions, which he saw as irreconcilable with the divine nature, and said that they were mere magnified mortals.

As for Apollo himself, Aristides analyzed his character and accused him of being a rapist, a murderer and a swindler, envious and irascible, saying that it was absurd that someone who should not reign even among mortals should be considered one of the celestial powers.

However, before the final sunset of paganism authors like Celsus attacked Christianity on similar grounds to those used by Christians to destroy the pagan Pantheon, asking how a virgin could have conceived, and if she could do so, why the pagan gods could not love mortal women in the same way and generate offspring; moreover, the god who figured in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, often angry, murderous and vengeful, could not be considered an example of virtue either.

It should be remembered that even amidst all the condemnation of paganism, Paleo-Christian theology was largely indebted to classical philosophy and metaphysics, especially the Neoplatonists, as evidenced in reading patristic literature and in the Bible itself, where the Gospel of John opens with the phrases, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Christ is said to be the incarnation of the Word, which immediately refers to the Greek identification of Apollos with the Divine Word through prophecy. Strictly speaking Apollo does not claim prophecy as his own

; he is a powerful god, but subordinate to his father, Zeus, the supreme god, and necessarily places himself very close to him in his role as his spokesman. Homer, in his Hymn to Apollo, has Apollo say, "May the lyre be dear to me, and also the bow bowed, and to men I will proclaim in oracles the infallible counsel of Zeus," and in the Orphic Hymn to Apollo the god is described as "the light of life," so the similarities between Christian and pagan theologies are evident.

The negative view of Greek mythology continued throughout the Middle Ages, and Apollo came to be identified with the Devil. But the popular tradition of worship of the sun gods was too deeply rooted for their meaning to be obliterated by Christians, and indeed several of the Apollonian attributes were transferred to new characters on the changing religious scene,

in a "politics of solarization," as Christian Mandon put it. St. Jerome oriented the baptismal liturgy by saying that the Christian should die to sin and turn to the East - where the sun rises - establishing an alliance with the "Sun of Justice", the Christ, in whom he could be reborn. Around the 6th century there appeared replacing Apollo the cult of the archangel St. Michael, whose victory over the "Old Serpent" - one of the Devil's names - is the clearest example of parallelism with Apollo's victory over the Python.

His cult spread rapidly in the Middle Ages, often instituted over ancient Apollo shrines, and in some places in Europe supplanted that of Christ himself. At the same time, the iconography of Apollo, especially that developed in the Hellenistic-Roman period, was quickly absorbed into Christianity for the first depictions of Christ.

As early as the 4th century images of Christ with typical Apollo attributes appeared, such as the halo, a crown of rays of light, sometimes leading a quadriga, just as Apollo-Febo-Mitra was figured in older paintings and mosaics. Also in 6th-VIIth century poetry Christ imitates Apollo, being described in Ambrosian hymns as the "True Sun" who dispels darkness.

The resurrected Christ thus became the new Apollo, a man-god, triumphant in his resurrection, drawing all power to himself and imperially radiating it over the whole earth. To this contributed the later development of a "theology of light," which had its flowering in the Gothic period, from the 11th-12th centuries, and the concept of the Church Militant, the typical fruit of which were the Crusades, which according to Pierre Val were an Apollonian interpretation of Christianity.

The association between the two remained alive for centuries to come. St. Francis of Assisi composed a hymn in honor of Brother Sun where he said that the sun was the closest image to divinity, and Petrarch elaborated a personal theology where Christ and Apollo appear linked in an image that pervades all his poetic work.

For Denis Cosgrove, the theme of Christ's ascension into heaven, where he became the Pantocrator, the supreme ruler, bearing the globe, symbol of imperial power, and/or the book of the Law, image of his omniscience and wisdom, when reflected through the Greco-Roman heritage became consolidated into a theology of the universality of Christianity, which with its universal light redeemed all peoples, and no longer just the "chosen people" of the Jews.

Throughout the Renaissance, when everything that referred to classical antiquity was avidly studied and emulated, a rescue of the Greco-Roman myths without travesties could finally be effected in their own right. It is not without symbolism that one of the most expressive classical representations of Apollo, Leocares' Apollo Belvedere, was rediscovered in an archaeological excavation at this time, arousing widespread enthusiasm among the entire European intelligentsia and influencing generations of artists for centuries ahead. 

At this time Apollo, as god of light, beauty, arts and reason, became a tutelary image for artists and art theorists, who were engaged in developing a figurative art based on rationalism, scientific anatomical study and geometry, together with a conception of art as a divine inspiration.

Because of its interpretation as an image of the human quest for a comprehensible and organized universe and for man's location in this cosmic order, the myth of Apollo and Marsias was the subject of particularly copious Renaissance representation, with over one hundred works identified, a tradition that continued into the Baroque. For Renaissance humanists, too, Apollo was an important figure, often associated with Christ in his purifying and redeeming character.

In the political field, since the time of Augustus it had become commonplace to associate the sun with regal power, majesty and glory, while this personal association of the monarch with the star of the day became an easy pretext for potentates to justify imperialist and absolutist pretensions.

This ideology was renewed by the Renaissance princes, who claimed for themselves the synoptic, universal and centralizing position of Apollo, stimulating the formation of an imaginary tinged by the ideas of totality, transcendence, radiance and intellectual detachment, updating an old tradition but now based on rediscovered original sources, and giving it the character of a new cultural project.

The most typical case of this association between the sun and the monarchy in the Modern Age was that of Louis XIV of France, nicknamed the "Sun-King", who set up a complex courtly ritual to emphasize his exalted status and put all the high nobility under his direct control. In the arts of his time the image of the sun and mention of Apollo are ubiquitous, and the king publicly presented himself at balls and parties as a personification of the solar deity.

The actuality of the myth

In recent times the myth of Apollo has continued to be worked upon. During the Enlightenment his role as source of the light of Reason and dispeller of ignorance and error became generally recognized, but also the universality of his light gave rise to interpretations justifying the eradication of potential disagreements and individual particularisms.

Winckelmann, however, the greatest theorist of the Neoclassicals, placed him on the heights, saying that the description of Apollo demands the most sublime style: a devotion to all that pertains to humanity. With the Romantics his position varied; Shelley saw him more as a symbol of cultural and political tyranny, John Ruskin considered him the symbol of light fighting darkness, and the power of life fighting decrepitude. 

and Oscar Wilde saw him as an image of the purity of the natural world in contrast to the decadence of civilization, but among academics since the nineteenth century the importance of the study of myths to provide a key to interpreting modern society and man became apparent, with pioneering studies by Friedrich Max Müller in the field of Comparative Religion and Friedrich von Schelling in the field of the Philosophy of Mythology, among others.

For Nietzsche, Apollo was the god of dreams, in contrast to Dionysus, the god of intoxications, and both states were for him the original prototypes of all art (Urbilder), in which the artistic instincts of Nature, the Primordial Unity, find their supreme and immediate satisfaction.

Nietzsche believed that the glorious divine figures appeared to mortals first in dreams, and that the value of dreams lay in the fact that aesthetically sensitive man maintained a relationship with dreams that was the same as that which philosophers maintained with the reality of existence; sensitive man was thus also an observer of life, for dream images provided an interpretation for his life, and therefore dreams were experienced by men as a jubilant necessity and as a source of intense pleasure.

He went on to say that the joyous need for oneiric experience had been embodied by the Greeks in their Apollo, who rose then as the glorious image and agent of the individuation process, a process characterized by balance and moderation, recalling the sayings long associated with Apollo,

inscribed in his temple at Delphi, which recommended self-knowledge and moderation. In other words, Apollo and Dionysus were complementary poles of the same essence, and the irrational disorder, exuberant vitality, instability, and fugacity of Dionysian impressions were to be made objective, fixed, understandable, and transmissible through Apollo's moderating, articulating, and organizing power.

With his theory of complementary contrast between the Apollonian and the Dionysian - which in fact was already clear to the ancient Greeks themselves - he laid the immediate foundations for its further elaboration by modern Psychology, Aesthetics, Art and Philosophy, in a discussion that continues to this day and has been worked on by a large number of authors, expanding it to other areas of knowledge.

For Carl Jung, Apollo represented a specific psychological typology, characterized by introspection, introversion, and contemplation. James Hillman and William Guthrie considered the Apollonian principle, or at least an absorption of traces of its profile, as indispensable when a person needs a sense of form, discipline, detachment,

clarity of thought and objectivity, and for Gregory Nagy, Apollo is an image of the word waiting for fulfillment, of a youth who never reaches maturity, of a man who never surpasses his father.

Vincenzo Vitiello saw in Apollo a mythical foreshadowing of the concept that the entire philosophical tradition of the West can be described as a continuing effort to develop the faculty of thinking. He also read his myth as an account of the violence necessary for the structuring of the cosmos out of chaos.

Trindade & Schwartz used the relationship between Themis and Apollo to discuss the process of desacralization of the modern judicial system, considering that Themis had given the ambrosia and nectar to Apollo at his birth, and that she was an earlier tutelary deity of the oracle that Apollo took over at Delphi.

For the authors, Themis represents Justice in the abstract, and Apollo the instrument of its diffusion among men, but through a sensibility they call poetic and divinely inspired.

Faced with what they see as a trivialization of both Justice and Art today, they advocate the restoration of the ancient connection between Apollo and Themis in order to bring people back to a plane where it is possible to understand the beauty of Law, recognize the distinction between right and wrong, and accept the authority of Justice as essential to the civilizing process, of which Apollo is the symbol.

According to Vilanova Artigas, Apollo is a symbol of the acceptance of society as it is, but also of a project of potentially infinite improvement through fidelity to principles of order, discipline, conscience and law, and the technologies that culture may develop, for the benefit of all.

But for Cosgrove the image of apollinic universalism has problematic aspects for contemporaneity, having generated imperialist policies that if on the one hand were important to consolidate a sense of identity for Westerners, on the other hand had negative repercussions in other regions of the planet,

with the result of unjustified domination of other nations by Western countries and the appearance of deep ethical dilemmas regarding human rights, and also gave rise to ideas of domination over Nature that brought serious consequences for world ecology.

Also the patriarchalism that guided the Apollonian conception represented a source of oppression for the feminine universe. The author, however, thinks that the image of Apollo is too complex and rich to be reduced to any focal approach, and its importance is proven by the immense range of echoes it has produced in numerous areas of human life throughout history.

Among its positive points for contemporary culture, for him, is that of being the model of an integrated and harmonious world, of a sphere of beauty and vitality, bathed in a beatific and poetic vision that does not exclude the stimulus to scientific progress, the most obvious testimony to which was the naming of the North American space project the Apollo Program.[78]

Lovers and offspring

Apollo had a great number of loves, male and female, mortal and immortal, but usually he was unrequited, or when he was, some tragedy interrupted the romance. Here are just a few, remembering that according to the various sources divergent versions of each story can be found.

Ovid said in the Metamorphoses that Apollo's first love was Daphne, a nymph, but the love was thwarted by Eros, who, by shooting his lead arrow at the nymph, made her reject the god, while shooting his golden arrow at Apollo, provoked intense passion in her.

He had reason to do so, for Apollo had sneered at the god of love's skill with the bow and boasted of his own victories. After being relentlessly pursued by Apollo, Daphne begged her father to be turned into a laurel. Apollo then declared that the laurel tree would be his sacred tree. The winners of the Games received a crown of laurel leaves.

Cyparisso was especially fond of a domesticated deer. He accidentally killed it with his javelin, and, inconsolable, asked Apollo, who loved him, to mourn him forever. Apollo granted his request by turning him into a cypress tree, which became a tree symbolizing mourning. Hermes and Apollo disputed the love of Chion, because of her great beauty.

Fearful that Apollo would win her, Hermes touched her lips with his caduceus, made her sleep, and possessed her. Nevertheless, Apollo, disguised as an old woman, entered her room and loved her too. From Hermes Quione conceived Autolycus, and from Apollo, Philamon, but she was too proud of this, thinking herself more beautiful than Artemis. So the reviled goddess killed her. Chione's father, overcome with grief, threw himself off a cliff, but Apollo turned him into a fierce eagle.

Coronis bore him Asclepius as his son, but he betrayed him, and so died by the arrow of the outraged god. Asclepius, becoming a master of healing so powerful that he could raise the dead, threatened the sovereign power of Zeus, outraged Themis, and stole subjects from Hades, so he was killed by Zeus' thunderbolt. To take revenge, since he could not turn against his father,

Apollo killed the Cyclopes, who had forged the thunderbolts, and for this he was punished. He should have been banished to Tartarus, but thanks to his mother's interference the punishment was commuted to a year of hard labor as a mortal for King Admetus.

Being treated well by the king during his atonement, Apollo helped him obtain Alceste and have a longer life than what fate had reserved for him. One version of the story expands it, and says that while Apollo was among the mortals he taught them music, dancing, and all the arts and crafts that make life more pleasant;

he also taught people athletic games, hunting, the contemplation of nature, and the perception of its own beauties, and every day seemed a day of celebration. The gods, seeing that life on earth was becoming more pleasant than their own, called Apollo back to Olympus.

He also disputed the love of Marpessa with Idas, and Zeus ordered her to choose between the two. Fearing she would be rejected when she became old and lost her beauty, she decided on Idas. She desired the Trojan princess Cassandra, and gave her the gift of prophecy as a gift.

Even so, she repudiated the god, and Apollo punished her by making no one believe her, although her prophecies later always turned out to be true. A similar fate befell the Sibyl of Cumas, who demanded that her life be prolonged by as many years as the grains of sand in her hand.

Granted the favor, she denied his love, and then Apollo didn't revoke her gift, but caused her beauty and youth not to be preserved throughout her lifetime of millennia, aging into a hideous, dried-up, shriveled creature hidden inside a vase, whose only desire was to die. Meanwhile, Apollo was happy with Cyrene, a nymph, having their son Aristeus, who became a deity of vegetation and agriculture.

He loved the handsome Hyacinthus so intensely that, according to Ovid, he forgot himself, his bow, and his lyre, and spent all his time away from Delphi entertaining himself with the young man. But Hyacinth was also the favorite of the wind Zephyrus, who, jealous of Apollo's primacy over the young man's heart, one day when they were playing the discus, deflected Apollo's throw, and the disc hit Hyacinth, killing him.

Filled with grief, Apollo prevented him from being taken away by Hades, and turned him into a flower that was named after him. One of Apollo's tears touched one of the petals, leaving a mark. Hyacinthus later received an important cult of his own, especially cultivated in Sparta, and festivals dedicated to him still survive today.

With Creusa he begot Ion, the mythical founder of the Ionian people.From Dyope he begot Amphysus; with Hecuba, wife of Priam, he is sometimes said to have begot Troilus, prince of Troy. From Manto, a seer, he had Mopso, a prophet. He also had romances with some Muses: with Thalia he fathered the Coribantes, followers of Dionysus, and with Urania he begot the musicians Lino and Orpheus.

Some historical characters are also cited as children of Apollo: the tradition about Pythagoras refers to him either as a son or as a true incarnation of Apollo, and Atia, mother of the emperor Augustus (r. 27 BC-14 AD), is said to have been impregnated by the serpent-shaped god when she slept in his temple.

Other stories

After the dismemberment of Orpheus, Apollo prevented a serpent from eating his head, turning the reptile to stone. Apollo killed the sons of Niobe, avenging the offense she had uttered against her mother Leto, boasting that she had many sons, while Leto had had only two. He also killed the Aloides, giants sons of Posidon, who threatened Olympus He sent two serpents to kill his priest Laocoon and his sons, because he had offended him by breaking his vow of chastity.

As for music, there is a legend regarding the origin of the lyre and the siringe, a kind of flute. While serving King Admeto, Apollo became so enamored of Himeneus that he forgot his job as keeper of the king's flocks. Taking advantage of this, Hermes, his brother by Zeus, stole the cattle. Apollo accused him to Maia, Hermes' mother, but she did not believe him.

Zeus then ordered Hermes to return the cattle, but Apollo saw him playing the lyre, which he had invented by attaching the shell of a tortoise as the body of the instrument, and using cow's guts as its strings. Apollo was so delighted that in exchange for the cattle he asked for it for himself.

Later Hermes invented the syringe, which Apollo also wanted for himself, but in return Hermes demanded that his brother teach him the art of prophecy. He showed him the way, and also gave Hermes his shepherd's staff, which became the Hermetic caduceus.

Apollo competed in a musical contest with Cyniras, his son, who lost and therefore committed suicide. He also competed with the satyr Marias, and it was set beforehand that if Marias lost, he would be flayed alive. He lost, and suffered the tragic consequence.

All nature mourned Marsias, and his tears, gathered up by the earth, drained into its bloodless veins, and he became a river, which was named after him. He also competed with Pan, when King Midas was judge. Giving Pã as the winner, Midas was punished by the god of music by receiving donkey ears. According to Ovid, through the power of his music Apollo built the walls of Troy.