1902 Encyclopedia > Apollo


APOLLO. The influence of the sun on nature in a country like Greece, either brightening the fields and _cheering mankind, or scorching and destroying with a pestilence, or again dispelling the miasma collected from marshes by night, was taken by the Greeks to be under the control of a divine being, to whom they ascribed, on human analogy, a form and character in which were reflected their own sensations. That divine being they called Apollo, a name which applied to him in two ways, either as airohXvwv, _from airoAAu/u, "the destroyer," or as a7reAA<ov, from oireXAo) = cwrapycD, the " repeller of ills." Apellon is both the Doric and the old Roman form of his name. Under the frequent title of Phoebus, he was hailed as god of the streaming light of the sun. Next to its daily course, which, however, •was under the guidance of a special subordinate deity, Helios, the most obvious and invariable phenomenon of *he sun was its withdrawal in winter and return in summer, and accordingly on this was based one of the principal features in the character of the god, which was also recog-nised in annual festivals in his honour, and made more •explicit by the myth, in which after his birth, amid the splendid summer light of Delos, he is carried off in a car drawn by swans to the fabulous region of the Hyperboreans, where the sun was be-iifved to tarry during the winter. The other class of solar phenomena, being variable in their occurrence, appeared to be directed by a precarious will, and Apollo. From silyer coln

from this was evolved for Apollo the of Clazomense. Brit. Mas.

double character of a god possessed of power over the sun, «nd a the same time guided in the exercise of it by the con-duct of mankind. Hence the prominence of expiatory offer-ings in the worship of a god whom no act of wrong escaped. By his knowledge of what transpired on earth and in the councils of Olympus, he was prepared to be the god of oracles, which threw light on the future and banished the monsters begotten of terror at its obscurity. From observing the jubilant voice of nature greeting the sunshine, it was an easy step to regard Apollo as the god of music; while again the function of a god of medicine was peculiarly appropriate to a deity who, if he destroyed life, also saved it. In many ways the sun gladdened the herdsman and favoured his flock. Hence both Apollo and Helios (Sol) had sacred herds of cattle of their own, while the former when in exile on earth himself acted as a herdsman.

The honour of having been the birth-place of Apollo was claimed by many districts, but chiefly by Xanthus in Lycia, and the island of Delos, the latter being at last generally agreed upon. In Lycia his worship was «f high antiquity, and its extent is vouched for by the identity of the name of that country with one of the favourite epithets of the god, AVKCIOS, from root XVK, as in AVKO(£<«S, Lat. luc-s = lux. There also his mother Leto (Latona) appears to have been widely worshipped, and thither the solar hero Bellerophon goes to accomplish his labours, showing a community of religious belief between Lycia and Argoks, the home of Bellerophon, for which there is also other evidence. But when the myths concerning Apollo came to be shaped by the poets, his worship had acquired an independent standing in Delos, and had estab-lished for that island a claim to the honour of being hi» birth-place. The belief was that Leto, pursued by the j ealous Hera (Juno), after long wandering, found shelter in Delos, and there bore to Zeus (Jupiter) a son, Apollo. To this it was added, after the time of Pindar, that Delos had before been a barren rock floating about in the sea, but had been for this purpose and for ever after fastened down by pillars, as also happened to the island of Rhodes, the centre of the worship of Helios. The labour of Latona lasted nine days and nine nights. Then she seized hold of a palm tree, and when the boy was born all the island was dazzled with a flood of golden light. Sacred swans flew in a circle round the island seven times. The day was the 7th of the month Thargelion (May). The 7th of every month was sacred to him. He was styled 'E/JSo/xayev^s, and otherwise the num-ber seven played a part in his worship. His first step was to seize a bow and to announce his will to found an oracle. To this end his father Jupiter gave him, besides a lyre, and a mitra to bind his hair, a car drawn by swans, with which to proceed to Delphi. But the swans carried him off to theii home among the Hyperboreans. Returning with the summei to Delphi, he slew with an arrow the Python, a monstei dragon, which was then laying waste the district, established his oracle, and took the title of Pythios. G<ea (Terra) first, and next Themis had previously given oracles there. But this, though the current belief, is at variance with the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, which describes him as selecting Delphi for its site alone, and then relating how, after & temple was built, the difficulty of finding priests was over-come. Seeing a trading ship from Cnossus in Crete, undei way for Pylus, the god threw himself on board in the form of a dolphin and guided it to Crissa, the harbour of Delphi, where, like the flash of a star, he resumed his divine form, appointed the traders his priesthood, and with his lyre led the first psean there. Hence his title of Delphinios. But here a confusion has been effected; for, while in one senst Apollo Delphinios was god of the sunny voyages, in anothei sense he may have derived that epithet from having slain the dragon, the proper name of which was Delphine. Except on the latter theory, there seems to be no explanation of this, among other facts, that his sanctuary at Athens, the Delphinion, was a court for the trial of bloodshed. Ii may then be supposed that the Dorians from Crete, who had in early times established themselves on the coasts ot the Peloponnesus and at Crissa, having an Apollo whoss symbol was a dolphin, and finding at Delphi an Apollo styled Delphinios for another reason, combined the two in the new myth which is found in the Homeric Hymn. Besides at Delphi, which .however retained the first place, Apollo gave oracles also at Colophon, and at Didymi near Miletus; in the latter place through the priestly family of the Branchidae. To certain mortals he communicated the prophetic gift, as to Cassandra, the Cumsean sibyl, and ths seer Epimenides. With his oracular power was associated his function as god of music (Citharoedus), and leader of the Muses (Musagetes), in which capacity he caused Marey&a to be flayed alive because he had boasted superior skill in playing the flute, or again, caused the ears of Midas to grow long because he had decided in favour of Pan, who contended that the flute was a better instrument than the lyre. Bat that which brought Apollo most closely home to the hearts of the people was his character of a destroying but yet an appeasable god. Pestilence and death by an unseen cause, or in the beauty of youth, were traced to him, and to prevent doubt as to his having a good reason in each case, there were the myths which told how, for example, he sent a pestilence on the Greeks before Troy, because Chryseis, the daughter of his priest, was retained in captivity by Agamemnon; or again, how with the aid of his sister Artemis (Diana) he slew the children of Niobe, because she had boasted of their beauty. A typical instance of his causing death undesignedly is that of his favourite, the beautiful young Hyacinthus, who was killed by the disc (a symbol of the sun) which Apollo had thrown m play. Besides accepting atonement in such cases, he was the god of the penitent generally, but especially of those, like Orestes, guilty of a crime which required years of expiation. For such he was himself the prototype, having been twice banished from Olympus, and compelled first to act for a period as herdsman to Admetus, the king of Pherae, and next to assist Poseidon (Neptune) in building the walls of Troy for Laomedon. While thus the power of the sun god was recognised with varying feelings according to occasion, it was, on the other hand, always kept in view as an active principle in nature by the regular system of festivals. Of these the most remarkable was that called Carneia, which was annually held at Sparta in August, the whole population withdrawing from the town for several days, and living in tents to avoid the effect of intense heat. In July, also, the Spartans held a festival of nine days in his honour, called Hyacinthia, the burden of the ceremony being the transi- toriness of life mingled with trust in its return. In Athens the festival of Thargelia was held in his honour in May, to celebrate the ripening of the fruits of the field; while in the Metageitnia, in August, he was regarded as the god of plenty, and as the source of neighbourly feeling. At Delphi, among a constant round of ceremonies, two festivals were conspicuous: at the beginning of winter, when the god was supposed to go away to the Hyperborean region, and at the beginning of summer, when he was believed to return ; the latter event being hailed with every expression of delight in music and song. At Thebes was held every eighth year a peculiar ceremony, Daphnephoria, in honour of Apollo Ismenios, consisting of a procession in which was carried a branch of olive, hung with wreaths and repre- sentations of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, the number of wreaths being 365. This object was called the Kopo. In May the ancient national festival at Delos was celebrated. It remains to notice the very prevalent association of Apollo as sun-god with Artemis (Diana) as moon-goddess, the aspect of these two luminaries having readily suggested that their presiding deities were twins. But Apollo and Diana resembled each other also in many attributes of their character as well as in appearance. Just as he was god of the influence of the sun on nature, with a subordinate deity Helios (Sol) to guide the orb, so she personified the power of the moon, delegating its course to the goddess Selene (Luna). In Borne the worship of Apollo was not intro- duced until 320 B.C., in which year the city had been visited with a pestilence. The most frequent symbols of Apollo are the bow and the lyre ; the tripod, suggesting his oracular power ; the laurel, which was carried by penitents as well as worn by victors, and into which Daphne was changed for not yielding to his love; the palm, the wolf, the deer, and the raven. In the ripe period of art Apollo appears in a form which seeks to combine manhood and eternal youth. His long hair is usually tied, bke that of his sister Diana, in a large knot above his forehead. As leader of the Muses, he wears long ample drapery girt at the waist, his tresses falling on his shoulders (A. B. M.)

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