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Profile of the Greek God


Apollo Denarius

Apollo Denarius

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The God Apollo


Lycian Apollo at the Louvre

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Apollo is a many-talented Greek god of prophecy, music, intellectual pursuits, healing, plague, and sometimes, the sun. Writers often contrast the cerebral, beardless young Apollo with his half-brother, the hedonistic Dionysus, god of wine.

Leto (Latona) and Zeus (Jupiter) are the parents of the versatile god and his twin sister, the goddess Artemis (Diana), virgin hunter.

There were 2 main sites to honor him:

   1. Delphi site of the famous oracle and

   2. Delos, his birthplace.




Roman Equivalent:

Unlike most of the Olympian gods, there was no special Latin variant of his name, so the Romans also called him Apollo.

Phoebus Apollo
Sometimes the Romans referred to him as Phoebus, either alone or combined, as in Phoebus Apollo.

As sun god, he was also called by the Latin word for sun, Sol.

Attributes, Animals, and Powers:

Apollo is depicted as a beardless young man (ephebe). His attributes are the tripod, omphalos, lyre, bow and arrows, laurel, hawk, raven or crow, swan, fawn, roe, snake, mouse, grasshopper, and griffin.

Although often associated with the sun, Apollo was not originally a sun god. In Homer, he is god of prophecy and plagues. He is also a warrior in the Trojan War. [Gods in the Iliad shows which side the gods favored.] Elsewhere Apollo is also a god of healing and the arts -- especially music (Apollo taught Orpheus to play the lyre) -- archery, agriculture . His arrows could send plague, as happens in the Iliad Book I.

Apollo's Mates:

Apollo mated with many women and a few men. It wasn't safe to resist his advances. When the seer Cassandra rejected him, he punished her by making it impossible for people to believe her prophecies. When Daphne sought to reject Apollo, her father "helped" her by turning her into a laurel tree.

Apollo sired mostly males, including Asclepius.

Apollo never married.

Apollo Becomes a Laborer:

He is a healing god, a power he transmitted to his son Asclepius. Asclepius exploited his ability to heal by raising men from the dead. Zeus punished him by striking him with a fatal thunderbolt. Apollo retaliated by killing the Cyclops, who had created the thunderbolt.

Zeus punished his son Apollo by sentencing him to a year of servitude, which he spent as herdsman for the mortal king Admetus. Euripides' Alcestis tragedy tells the story of the reward Apollo paid Admetus.

In the Trojan War:

The Trojan War was a pivotal event for the Greeks. In the Iliad (attributed to Homer), the god Zeus attempts to maintain neutrality during the war, but other gods and goddesses choose sides.

Apollo and his sister Artemis side with the Trojans in the Trojan War. In the first book of the Iliad, he is angry with the Greeks for refusing to return the daughter of his priest Chryses. To punish them, the god showers the Greeks with arrows of plague, possibly bubonic, since the plague-sending Apollo is a special aspect connected with mice, sort of an "Apollo the Mousey God."

  • Pride of Agamemnon and Achilles
    Provides more details on how Agamemnon's behavior provoked Apollo. As the title suggests, it also explains the relationship between the two excessively proud warriors.

Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo:

There is a hymn called the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo (Homeric because it was attributed to Homer), that was written to honor the Apollo who slew the python. There is another Homeric hymn, to Delian Apollo, honoring Delos, his birthplace.

Apollo and the Laurel Wreath of Victory:

Apollo slew the python, competed musically with another god, Pan, and insulted still another god, the god of love (Eros/Amor/Cupid). As a result of the last, Cupid shot him with one of his special arrows: Apollo was fated to a disastrous and unrequited love. Daphne, the object of his love, metamorphosed into a laurel tree to avoid him. Leaves from the laurel tree were thereafter used to crown victors at the Pythian games.

  • The Victory Laurel
  • Apollo at Delphi
    Apollo's expiation for the crime of the murder of the Python is connected with laurel, as well.

    The Pythian games featured musical competitions.

Apollo in 20th Century Culture:

Apollo Mission:

The U.S. used the name of the Greek god for NASA's Apollo Program (1963 - 1972), whose purpose was to take people to the moon.

Who Mourns for Adonais? (1967):

Apollo also made a memorable appearance in the second season of the original Star Trek television series where he was vainly trying to find worshipers.

Apollo in Bulfinch's Greek Mythology:

Apollo and the Sun:

Apollo has many attributes, but he wasn't originally the chariot-riding sun god Helios. He was god of prophecy, healing, music, archery, light, and truth, the twin brother of Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Rome) who became associated with the moon.

Perhaps the earliest reference to Apollo as the sun god Helios occurs in the surviving fragments of Euripides' Phaethon. Phaethon was one of the chariot horses of the Homeric goddess of the dawn, Eos. It was also the name of the son of the sun god who foolishly drove his father's sun-chariot and died for the privilege.

By the Hellenistic period and in Latin literature, Apollo is associated with the sun. The firm connection with the sun may be traceable to the Metamorphoses of the popular Latin poet Ovid (43 B.C. - A.D. 17).

See "Apollo and the Sun-God in Ovid," by Joseph E. Fontenrose. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 61, No. 4. (1940), pp. 429-444. 


Ancient sources for Apollo include:

  • Aeschylus,
  • Apollodorus,
  • Apollonius Rhodius,
  • Callimachus,
  • Cicero,
  • Diodorus Siculus,
  • Euripides,
  • Hesiod,
  • Homer,
  • Hyginus,
  • Ovid,
  • Pausanias,
  • Pindar,
  • Statius,
  • Strabo, and
  • Virgil.

See Picture Gallery.

The 12 Olympian Gods and Goddesses


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