Apollo (Attic, Ionic, and Homeric Greek: Ἀπόλλων, Apollōn (GEN Ἀπόλλωνος); Doric: Ἀπέλλων, Apellōn; Arcadocypriot: Ἀπείλων, Apeilōn; Aeolic: Ἄπλουν, Aploun; Latin: Apollō) is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognised as a god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Apollo is known in Greek-influenced Etruscan mythology as Apulu.

As the patron of Delphi (Pythian Apollo), Apollo was an oracular god—the prophetic deity of the Delphic Oracle. Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius, yet Apollo was additionally seen as a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague. Amongst the god's custodial charges, Apollo became associated with dominion over colonists, and as the patron defender of herds and flocks. As the leader of the Muses (Apollon Musegetes) and director of their choir, Apollo functioned as the patron god of music and poetry. Hermes created the lyre for him, and the instrument became a common attribute of Apollo. Hymns sung to Apollo were called paeans.

In Hellenistic times, especially throughout the third century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon. In Latin texts, on the additional hand, Joseph Fontenrose declared himself unable to find any conflation of Apollo with Sol among the Augustan poets of the first century, not even in the conjurations of Aeneas and Latinus in Aeneid XII (161–215). Apollo and Helios/Sol remained separate beings in literary and mythological texts until the third century CE.


The name of Apollo itself—though not Paean, a possible name of a precursor god to or epithet of him—is generally considered to be absent from the Linear B (Mycenean Greek) texts although it is possible that the name is in fact attested in the lacunose form ]pe-rjo-[ (Linear B: ]??-[) on the KN E 842 tablet.

The etymology of the name is uncertain. The spelling Ἀπόλλων (pronounced [a.pól.lɔːn] in Classical Attic) had almost superseded all additional forms by the beginning of the common era, but the Doric form Apellon (Ἀπέλλων), is more archaic, derived from an earlier *Ἀπέλjων. It probably is a cognate to the Doric month Apellaios (Ἀπελλαῖος), and the offerings apellaia (ἀπελλαῖα) at the initiation of the young men throughout the family-festival apellai (ἀπέλλαι). According to a few scholars the words are derived from the Doric word apella (ἀπέλλα), which originally meant "wall," "fence for animals" and later "assembly within the limits of the square." Apella (Ἀπέλλα) is the name of the popular assembly in Sparta, corresponding to the ecclesia (ἐκκλησία). R. S. P. Beekes rejected the connexion of the theonym with the noun apellai and suggested a Pre-Greek proto-form *Apalyun.

Several instances of popular etymology are attested from ancient authors. Thus, the Greeks most often associated Apollo's name with the Greek verb ἀπόλλυμι (apollymi), "to destroy". Plato in Cratylus connects the name with ἀπόλυσις (apolysis), "redemption", with ἀπόλουσις (apolousis), "purification", and with ἁπλοῦν ([h]aploun), "simple", in particular in reference to the Thessalian form of the name, Ἄπλουν, and finally with Ἀειβάλλων (aeiballon), "ever-shooting". Hesychius connects the name Apollo with the Doric ἀπέλλα (apella), which means "assembly", so that Apollo would be the god of political life, and he additionally gives the explanation σηκός (sekos), "fold", in which case Apollo would be the god of flocks and herds. In the Ancient Macedonian language πέλλα (pella) means "stone," and a few toponyms might be derived from this word: Πέλλα (Pella, the capital of Ancient Macedonia) and Πελλήνη (Pellēnē/Pallene).

A number of non-Greek etymologies have been suggested for the name, The Hittite form Apaliunas (dx-ap-pa-li-u-na-aš) is attested in the Manapa-Tarhunta letter, perhaps related to Hurrian (and certainly the Etruscan) Aplu, a god of plague, in turn likely from Akkadian Aplu Enlil meaning simply "the son of Enlil", a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun. The role of Apollo as god of plague is evident in the invocation of Apollo Smintheus ("mouse Apollo") by Chryses, the Trojan priest of Apollo, with the purpose of sending a plague against the Greeks (the reasoning behind a god of the plague fitting a god of healing is of course apotropaic, meaning that the god responsible for bringing the plague must be appeased in order to remove the plague).

The Hittite testimony reflects an early form *Apeljōn, which might additionally be surmised from comparison of Cypriot Ἀπείλων with Doric Ἀπέλλων.

A Luwian etymology suggested for Apaliunas makes Apollo "The One of Entrapment", perhaps in the sense of "Hunter".

Greco-Roman epithets

Apollo, like additional Greek deities, had a number of epithets applied to him, reflecting the variety of roles, duties, and aspects ascribed to the god. Notwithstanding while Apollo has a great number of appellations in Greek myth, only a few occur in Latin literature, chief among them Phoebus (/ˈfbəs/ FEE-bəs; Φοῖβος, Phoibos, literally "bright"), which was quite commonly used by both the Greeks and Romans in Apollo's role as the god of light.

As sun-god and god of light, Apollo was additionally known by the epithets Aegletes (/əˈɡltz/ ə-GLEE-teez; Αἰγλήτης, Aiglētēs, from αἴγλη, "light of the sun"), Helius (/ˈhliəs/ HEE-lee-əs; Ἥλιος, Helios, literally "sun"), Phanaeus (/fəˈnəs/ fə-NEE-əs; Φαναῖος, Phanaios, literally "giving or bringing light"), and Lyceus (/lˈsəs/ ly-SEE-əs; Λύκειος, Lykeios, from Proto-Greek *λύκη, "light"). The meaning of the epithet "Lyceus" later became associated with Apollo's mother Leto, who was the patron goddess of Lycia (Λυκία) and who was identified with the wolf (λύκος), earning him the epithets Lycegenes (/lˈsɛənz/ ly-SEJ-ə-neez; Λυκηγενής, Lukēgenēs, literally "born of a wolf" or "born of Lycia") and Lycoctonus (/lˈkɒktənəs/ ly-KOK-tə-nəs; Λυκοκτόνος, Lykoktonos, from λύκος, "wolf", and κτείνειν, "to kill"). As god of the sun, Apollo was called Sol (/ˈsɒl/ SOL, literally "sun" in Latin) by the Romans.

In association with his birthplace, Mount Cynthus on the island of Delos, Apollo was called Cynthius (/ˈsɪnθiəs/ SIN-thee-əs; Κύνθιος, Kunthios, literally "Cynthian"), Cynthogenes (/sɪnˈθɒnz/ sin-THOJ-i-neez; Κυνθογενής, Kynthogenēs, literally "born of Cynthus"), and Delius (/ˈdliəs/ DEE-lee-əs; Δήλιος, Delios, literally "Delian"). As Artemis's twin, Apollo had the epithet Didymaeus (/dɪdˈməs/ did-i-MEE-əs; Διδυμαῖος, Didymaios, from δίδυμος, "twin").

Partial view of the temple of Apollo Epikurios (healer) at Bassae in southern Greece

Apollo was worshipped as Actiacus (/ækˈt.əkəs/ ak-TY-ə-kəs; Ἄκτιακός, Aktiakos, literally "Actian"), Delphinius (/dɛlˈfɪniəs/ del-FIN-ee-əs; Δελφίνιος, Delphinios, literally "Delphic"), and Pythius (/ˈpɪθiəs/ PITH-ee-əs; Πύθιος, Puthios, from Πυθώ, Pythō, the area around Delphi), after Actium (Ἄκτιον) and Delphi (Δελφοί) respectively, two of his principal places of worship. An etiology in the Homeric hymns associated the epithet "Delphinius" with dolphins. He was worshipped as Acraephius (/əˈkrfiəs/ ə-KREE-fee-əs; Ἀκραιφιος, Akraiphios, literally "Acraephian") or Acraephiaeus (/əˌkrfiˈəs/ ə-KREE-fee-EE-əs; Ἀκραιφιαίος, Akraiphiaios, literally "Acraephian") in the Boeotian town of Acraephia (Ἀκραιφία), reputedly founded by his son Acraepheus; and as Smintheus (/ˈsmɪnθjs/ SMIN-thews; Σμινθεύς, Smintheus, "Sminthian"—that is, "of the town of Sminthos or Sminthe") near the Troad town of Hamaxitus. The epithet "Smintheus" has historically been confused with σμίνθος, "mouse", in association with Apollo's role as a god of disease. For this he was additionally known as Parnopius (/pɑːrˈnpiəs/ par-NOH-pee-əs; Παρνόπιος, Parnopios, from πάρνοψ, "locust") and to the Romans as Culicarius (/ˌkjuːlˈkæriəs/ KEW-li-KARR-ee-əs; from Latin culicārius, "of midges").

Temple of the Delians at Delos, dedicated to Apollo (478 BC). 19th-century pen-and-wash restoration.
Temple of Apollo Smintheus at Çanakkale, Turkey

In Apollo's role as a healer, his appellations included Acesius (/əˈsʒəs/ ə-SEE-zhəs; Ἀκέσιος, Akesios, from ἄκεσις, "healing"), Acestor (/əˈsɛstər/ ə-SES-tər; Ἀκέστωρ, Akestōr, literally "healer"), Paean (/ˈpən/ PEE-ən; Παιάν, Paiān, from παίειν, "to touch"), and Iatrus (/ˈætrəs/ eye-AT-rəs; Ἰατρός, Iātros, literally "physician"). Acesius was the epithet of Apollo worshipped in Elis, where he had a temple in the agora. The Romans referred to Apollo as Medicus (/ˈmɛdkəs/ MED-i-kəs; literally "physician" in Latin) in this respect. A temple was dedicated to Apollo Medicus at Rome, probably next to the temple of Bellona.

As a protector and founder, Apollo had the epithets Alexicacus (/əˌlɛksˈkkəs/ ə-LEK-si-KAY-kəs; Ἀλεξίκακος, Alexikakos, literally "warding off evil"), Apotropaeus (/əˌpɒtrəˈpəs/ ə-POT-rə-PEE-əs; Ἀποτρόπαιος, Apotropaios, from ἀποτρέπειν, "to avert"), and Epicurius (/ˌɛpˈkjʊriəs/ EP-i-KEWR-ee-əs; Ἐπικούριος, Epikourios, from ἐπικουρέειν, "to aid"), and Archegetes (/ɑːrˈkɛətz/ ar-KEJ-ə-teez; Ἀρχηγέτης, Arkhēgetēs, literally "founder"), Clarius (/ˈklæriəs/ KLARR-ee-əs; Κλάριος, Klārios, from Doric κλάρος, "allotted lot"), and Genetor (/ˈɛntər/ JEN-i-tər; Γενέτωρ, Genetōr, literally "ancestor"). To the Romans, he was known in this capacity as Averruncus (/ˌævəˈrʌŋkəs/ AV-ər-RUNG-kəs; from Latin āverruncare, "to avert"). He was additionally called Agyieus (/əˈ.juːs/ ə-GWEE-ews; Ἀγυιεύς, Aguīeus, from ἄγυια, "street") for his role in protecting roads and homes; and Nomius (/ˈnmiəs/ NOH-mee-əs; Νόμιος, Nomios, literally "pastoral") and Nymphegetes (/nɪmˈfɛtz/ nim-FEJ-i-teez; Νυμφηγέτης, Numphēgetēs, from Νύμφη, "Nymph", and ἡγέτης, "leader") for his role as a protector of shepherds and pastoral life.

In his role as god of prophecy and truth, Apollo had the epithets Manticus (/ˈmæntkəs/ MAN-ti-kəs; Μαντικός, Mantikos, literally "prophetic"), Leschenorius (/ˌlɛskˈnɔəriəs/ LES-ki-NOHR-ee-əs; Λεσχηνόριος, Leskhēnorios, from λεσχήνωρ, "converser"), and Loxias (/ˈlɒksiəs/ LOK-see-əs; Λοξίας, Loxias, from λέγειν, "to say"). The epithet "Loxias" has historically been associated with λοξός, "ambiguous". In this respect, the Romans called him Coelispex (/ˈsɛlspɛks/ SEL-i-speks; from Latin coelum, "sky", and specere, "to look at"). The epithet Iatromantis (/ˌætrəˈmæntɪs/ eye-AT-rə-MAN-tis; Ἰατρομάντις, Iātromantis, from ἰατρός, "physician", and μάντις, "prophet") refers to both his role as a god of healing and of prophecy. As god of music and arts, Apollo had the epithet Musagetes (/mjuːˈsætz/ mew-SAJ-i-teez; Doric Μουσαγέτας, Mousāgetās) or Musegetes (/mjuːˈsɛtz/ mew-SEJ-i-teez; Μουσηγέτης, Mousēgetēs, from Μούσα, "Muse", and ἡγέτης, "leader").

As a god of archery, Apollo was known as Aphetor (/əˈftər/ ə-FEE-tər; Ἀφήτωρ, Aphētōr, from ἀφίημι, "to let loose") or Aphetorus (/əˈfɛtərəs/ ə-FET-ər-əs; Ἀφητόρος, Aphētoros, of the same origin), Argyrotoxus (/ˌɑːrrəˈtɒksəs/ AR-ji-rə-TOK-səs; Ἀργυρότοξος, Argyrotoxos, literally "with silver bow"), Hecaërgus (/ˌhɛkiˈɜːrɡəs/ HEK-ee-UR-gəs; Ἑκάεργος, Hekaergos, literally "far-shooting"), and Hecebolus (/hˈsɛbələs/ hi-SEB-ə-ləs; Ἑκηβόλος, Hekēbolos, literally "far-shooting"). The Romans referred to Apollo as Arcitenens (/ɑːrˈtɪsnənz/ ar-TISS-i-nənz; "bow-carrying"). Apollo was called Ismenius (/ɪzˈmniəs/ iz-MEE-nee-əs; Ἰσμηνιός, Ismēnios, literally "of Ismenus") after Ismenus, the son of Amphion and Niobe, whom he struck with an arrow.

Celtic epithets and cult titles

Apollo was worshipped throughout the Roman Empire. In the traditionally Celtic lands he was most often seen as a healing and sun god. He was often equated with Celtic gods of similar character.

  • Apollo Atepomarus ("the great horseman" or "possessing a great horse"). Apollo was worshipped at Mauvières (Indre). Horses were, in the Celtic world, closely linked to the sun.
  • Apollo Belenus ('bright' or 'brilliant'). This epithet was given to Apollo in parts of Gaul, Northern Italy and Noricum (part of modern Austria). Apollo Belenus was a healing and sun god.
  • Apollo Cunomaglus ('hound lord'). A title given to Apollo at a shrine at Nettleton Shrub, Wiltshire. May have been a god of healing. Cunomaglus himself might originally have been an independent healing god.
  • Apollo Grannus. Grannus was a healing spring god, later equated with Apollo.
  • Apollo Maponus. A god known from inscriptions in Britain. This might be a local fusion of Apollo and Maponus.
  • Apollo Moritasgus ('masses of sea water'). An epithet for Apollo at Alesia, where he was worshipped as god of healing and, possibly, of physicians.
  • Apollo Vindonnus ('clear light'). Apollo Vindonnus had a temple at Essarois, near Châtillon-sur-Seine in present-day Burgundy. He was a god of healing, especially of the eyes.
  • Apollo Virotutis ('benefactor of mankind?'). Apollo Virotutis was worshipped, among additional places, at Fins d'Annecy (Haute-Savoie) and at Jublains (Maine-et-Loire).


The Omphalos in the Museum of Delphi

The cult centres of Apollo in Greece, Delphi and Delos, date from the eighth century BCE. The Delos sanctuary was primarily dedicated to Artemis, Apollo's twin sister. At Delphi, Apollo was venerated as the slayer of Pytho. For the Greeks, Apollo was all the Gods in one and through the centuries he acquired different functions which could originate from different gods. In archaic Greece he was the prophet, the oracular god who in older times was connected with "healing". In classical Greece he was the god of light and of music, but in popular religion he had a strong function to keep away evil. Walter Burkert discerned three components in the prehistory of Apollo worship, which he termed "a Dorian-northwest Greek component, a Cretan-Minoan component, and a Syro-Hittite component."

From his eastern origin Apollo brought the art of inspection of "symbols and omina" (σημεία και τέρατα : semeia kai terata), and of the observation of the omens of the days. The inspiration oracular-cult was probably introduced from Anatolia. The ritualism belonged to Apollo from the beginning. The Greeks created the legalism, the supervision of the orders of the gods, and the demand for moderation and harmony. Apollo became the god of shining youth, the protector of music, spiritual-life, moderation and perceptible order. The improvement of the old Anatolian god, and his elevation to an intellectual sphere, might be considered an achievement of the Greek people.

Healer and god-protector from evil

The function of Apollo as a "healer" is connected with Paean (Παιών-Παιήων), the physician of the Gods in the Iliad, who seems to come from a more primitive religion. Paeοn is probably connected with the Mycenean pa-ja-wo-ne (Linear B: ????), but this isn't certain. He didn't have a separate cult, but he was the personification of the holy magic-song sung by the magicians that was supposed to cure disease. Later the Greeks knew the original meaning of the relevant song "paean" (παιάν). The magicians were additionally called "seer-doctors" (ἰατρομάντεις), and they used an ecstatic prophetic art which was used exactly by the god Apollo at the oracles.

In the Iliad, Apollo is the healer under the gods, but he's additionally the bringer of disease and death with his arrows, similar to the function of the terrible Vedic god of disease Rudra. He sends a terrible plague (λοιμός) to the Achaeans. The god who sends a disease can additionally prevent from it; therefore, when it stops, they make a purifying ceremony and offer him a hecatomb to ward off evil. When the oath of his priest appeases, they pray and with a song they call their own god, the beautiful Paean.

Some common epithets of Apollo as a healer are "paion" (παιών, literally "healer" or "helper") "epikourios" (ἐπικουρώ, "help"), "oulios" (οὐλή, "healed wound", additionally a "scar" ) and "loimios" (λοιμός, "plague"). In classical times, his strong function in popular religion was to keep away evil, and was therefore called "apotropaios" (ἀποτρέπω, "divert", "deter", "avert") and "alexikakos" (from v. ἀλέξω + n. κακόν, "defend from evil"). In later writers, the word, usually spelled "Paean", becomes a mere epithet of Apollo in his capacity as a god of healing.

Homer illustrated Paeon the god, and the song both of apotropaic thanksgiving or triumph. Such songs were originally addressed to Apollo, and afterwards to additional gods: to Dionysus, to Apollo Helios, to Apollo's son Asclepius the healer. About the fourth century BCE, the paean became merely a formula of adulation; its object was either to implore protection against disease and misfortune, or to offer thanks after such protection had been rendered. It was in this way that Apollo had become recognised as the god of music. Apollo's role as the slayer of the Python led to his association with battle and victory; hence it became the Roman custom for a paean to be sung by an army on the march and before entering into battle, when a fleet left the harbour, and additionally after a victory had been won.

Dorian origin

Apollo Victorious over the Python by the Florentine Pietro Francavilla (dated 1591) depicting Apollo's first triumph, when he slew with his bow and arrows the serpent Python, which lies dead at his feet (The Walters Art Museum).

The connexion with Dorians and their initiation festival apellai is reinforced by the month Apellaios in northwest Greek calendars, but it can explain only the Doric type of the name, which is connected with the Ancient Macedonian word "pella" (Pella), stone. Stones played an important part in the cult of the god, especially in the oracular shrine of Delphi (Omphalos). The "Homeric hymn" represents Apollo as a Northern intruder. His arrival must have occurred throughout the "Dark Ages" that followed the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, and his conflict with Gaia (Mother Earth) was represented by the legend of his slaying her daughter the serpent Python.

The earth deity had power over the ghostly world, and it is believed that she was the deity behind the oracle. The older tales mentioned two dragons who were perhaps intentionally conflated. A female dragon named Delphyne (δελφύς, "womb"), who's obviously connected with Delphi and Apollo Delphinios, and a male serpent Typhon (τύφειν, "to smoke"), the adversary of Zeus in the Titanomachy, who the narrators confused with Python. Python was the good daemon (ἀγαθὸς δαίμων) of the temple as it appears in Minoan religion, but she was represented as a dragon, as often happens in Northern European folklore as well as in the East.

Apollo and his sister Artemis can bring death with their arrows. The conception that diseases and death come from invisible shots sent by supernatural beings, or magicians is common in Germanic and Norse mythology. In Greek mythology Artemis was the leader (ἡγεμών, "hegemon") of the nymphs, who had similar functions with the Nordic Elves. The "elf-shot" originally indicated disease or death attributed to the elves, but it was later attested denoting stone arrow-heads which were used by witches to harm people, and additionally for healing rituals.

The Vedic Rudra has a few similar functions with Apollo. The terrible god is called "The Archer", and the bow is additionally an attribute of Shiva. Rudra could bring diseases with his arrows, but he was able to free people of them, and his alternative Shiba is a healer physician god. However the Indo-European component of Apollo doesn't explain his strong relation with omens, exorcisms, and with the oracular cult.

Minoan origin

Ornamented golden Minoan labrys

It seems an oracular cult existed in Delphi from the Mycenaean ages. In historical times, the priests of Delphi were called Labryaden, "the double-axe men", which indicates Minoan origin. The double-axe, labrys, was the holy symbol of the Cretan labyrinth. The Homeric hymn adds that Apollo appeared as a dolphin and carried Cretan priests to Delphi, where they evidently transferred their religious practices. Apollo Delphinios was a sea-god especially worshipped in Crete and in the islands, and his name indicates his connexion with Delphi and the holy serpent Delphyne ("womb"). Apollo's sister Artemis, who was the Greek goddess of hunting, is identified with Britomartis (Diktynna), the Minoan "Mistress of the animals". In her earliest depictions she's accompanied by the "Mister of the animals", a male god of hunting who had the bow as his attribute. His original name is unknown, but it seems that he was absorbed by the more popular Apollo, who stood by the virgin "Mistress of the Animals", fitting her brother.

The old oracles in Delphi seem to be connected with a local tradition of the priesthood, and there isn't clear evidence that a kind of inspiration-prophecy existed in the temple. This led a few scholars to the conclusion that Pythia carried on the rituals in a consistent procedure through a large number of centuries, according to the local tradition. In that regard, the mythical seeress Sibyl of Anatolian origin, with her ecstatic art, looks unrelated to the oracle itself. Notwithstanding the Greek tradition is referring to the existence of vapours and chewing of laurel-leaves, which seem to be confirmed by recent studies.

Plato describes the priestesses of Delphi and Dodona as frenzied women, obsessed by "mania" (μανία, "frenzy"), a Greek word he connected with mantis (μάντις, "prophet"). Frenzied women like Sibyls from whose lips the god speaks are recorded in the Near East as Mari in the second millennium BC. Although Crete had contacts with Mari from 2000 BC, there's no evidence that the ecstatic prophetic art existed throughout the Minoan and Mycenean ages. It is more probable that this art was introduced later from Anatolia and regenerated an existing oracular cult that was local to Delphi and dormant in several areas of Greece.

Anatolian origin

Illustration of a coin of Apollo Agyieus from Ambracia

A non-Greek origin of Apollo has long been assumed in scholarship. The name of Apollo's mother Leto has Lydian origin, and she was worshipped on the coasts of Asia Minor. The inspiration oracular cult was probably introduced into Greece from Anatolia, which is the origin of Sibyl, and where existed a few of the oldest oracular shrines. Omens, symbols, purifications, and exorcisms appear in old Assyro-Babylonian texts, and these rituals were spread into the empire of the Hittites. In a Hittite text is mentioned that the king invited a Babylonian priestess for a certain "purification".

A similar storey is mentioned by Plutarch. He writes that the Cretan seer Epimenides purified Athens after the pollution brought by the Alcmeonidae, and that the seer's expertise in sacrifices and reform of funeral practises were of great help to Solon in his reform of the Athenian state. The storey indicates that Epimenides was probably heir to the shamanic religions of Asia, and proves, together with the Homeric hymn, that Crete had a resisting religion up to historical times. It seems that these rituals were dormant in Greece, and they were reinforced when the Greeks migrated to Anatolia.

Homer pictures Apollo on the side of the Trojans, fighting against the Achaeans, throughout the Trojan War. He is pictured as a terrible god, less trusted by the Greeks than additional gods. The god seems to be related to Appaliunas, a tutelary god of Wilusa (Troy) in Asia Minor, but the word isn't complete. The stones found in front of the gates of Homeric Troy were the symbols of Apollo. The Greeks gave to him the name ἀγυιεύς agyieus as the protector god of public places and houses who wards off evil, and his symbol was a tapered stone or column. Notwithstanding while usually Greek festivals were celebrated at the full moon, all the feasts of Apollo were celebrated at the seventh day of the month, and the emphasis given to that day (sibutu) indicates a Babylonian origin.

The Late Bronze Age (from 1700 to 1200 BCE) Hittite and Hurrian Aplu was a god of plague, invoked throughout plague years. Here we have an apotropaic situation, where a god originally bringing the plague was invoked to end it. Aplu, meaning the son of, was a title given to the god Nergal, who was linked to the Babylonian god of the sun Shamash. Homer interprets Apollo as a terrible god (δεινὸς θεός) who brings death and disease with his arrows, but who can additionally heal, possessing a magic art that separates him from the additional Greek gods. In Iliad, his priest prays to Apollo Smintheus, the mouse god who retains an older agricultural function as the protector from field rats. All these functions, including the function of the healer-god Paean, who seems to have Mycenean origin, are fused in the cult of Apollo.

Oracular cult

Columns of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece

Unusually among the Olympic deities, Apollo had two cult sites that had widespread influence: Delos and Delphi. In cult practice, Delian Apollo and Pythian Apollo (the Apollo of Delphi) were so distinct that they might both have shrines in the same locality. Apollo's cult was already fully established when written sources commenced, about 650 BCE. Apollo became extremely important to the Greek world as an oracular deity in the archaic period, and the frequency of theophoric names such as Apollodorus or Apollonios and cities named Apollonia testify to his popularity. Oracular sanctuaries to Apollo were established in additional sites. In the second and third century CE, those at Didyma and Clarus pronounced the so-called "theological oracles", in which Apollo confirms that all deities are aspects or servants of an all-encompassing, highest deity. "In the third century, Apollo fell silent. Julian the Apostate (359 - 61) tried to revive the Delphic oracle, but failed."

Oracular shrines

Delos lions

Apollo had a famous oracle in Delphi, and additional notable ones in Clarus and Branchidae. His oracular shrine in Abae in Phocis, where he bore the toponymic epithet Abaeus (Ἀπόλλων Ἀβαῖος, Apollon Abaios), was important enough to be consulted by Croesus. His oracular shrines include:

  • Abae in Phocis.
  • Bassae in the Peloponnese.
  • At Clarus, on the west coast of Asia Minor; as at Delphi a holy spring which gave off a pneuma, from which the priests drank.
  • In Corinth, the Oracle of Corinth came from the town of Tenea, from prisoners supposedly taken in the Trojan War.
  • At Khyrse, in Troad, the temple was built for Apollo Smintheus.
  • In Delos, there was an oracle to the Delian Apollo, throughout summer. The Hieron (Sanctuary) of Apollo adjacent to the Sacred Lake, was the place where the god was said to have been born.
  • In Delphi, the Pythia became filled with the pneuma of Apollo, said to come from a spring inside the Adyton.
  • In Didyma, an oracle on the coast of Anatolia, south west of Lydian (Luwian) Sardis, in which priests from the lineage of the Branchidae received inspiration by drinking from a healing spring located in the temple. Was believed to have been founded by Branchus, son or lover of Apollo.
  • In Hierapolis Bambyce, Syria (modern Manbij), according to the treatise De Dea Syria, the sanctuary of the Syrian Goddess contained a robed and bearded image of Apollo. Divination was based on spontaneous movements of this image.
  • At Patara, in Lycia, there was a seasonal winter oracle of Apollo, said to have been the place where the god went from Delos. As at Delphi the oracle at Patara was a woman.
  • In Segesta in Sicily.

Oracles were additionally given by sons of Apollo.

  • In Oropus, north of Athens, the oracle Amphiaraus, was said to be the son of Apollo; Oropus additionally had a sacred spring.
  • in Labadea, 20 miles (32 km) east of Delphi, Trophonius, another son of Apollo, killed his brother and fled to the cave where he was additionally afterwards consulted as an oracle.

Temples of Apollo

A lot of temples dedicated to Apollo were built in Greece and in the Greek colonies, and they show the spread of the cult of Apollo, and the evolution of the Greek architecture, which was mostly based on the rightness of form, and on mathematical relations. Some of the earliest temples, especially in Crete, don't belong to any Greek order. It seems that the first peripteral temples were rectangle wooden structures. The different wooden elements were considered divine, and their forms were preserved in the marble or stone elements of the temples of Doric order. The Greeks used standard types, because they believed that the world of objects was a series of typical forms which can be represented in several instances. The temples should be canonic, and the architects were trying to achieve the aesthetic perfection. From the earliest times there were certain rules strictly observed in rectangular peripteral and prostyle buildings. The first buildings were narrow to hold the roof, and when the dimensions changed, a few mathematical relations became necessary, in order to keep the original forms. This probably influenced the theory of numbers of Pythagoras, who believed that behind the appearance of things, there was the permanent principle of mathematics.

The Doric order dominated throughout the sixth and the fifth century B.C, but there was a mathematical problem regarding the position of the triglyphs, which couldn’t be solved without changing the original forms. The order was almost abandoned for the Ionic order, but the Ionic capital additionally posed an insoluble problem at the corner of a temple. Both orders were abandoned for the Corinthian order gradually throughout the Hellenistic age, and under Rome.

The most important temples are:

Greek temples

  • Thebes, Greece: The oldest temple probably dedicated to Apollo Ismenius was built in the ninth century B.C It seems that it was a curvilinear building. The Doric temple was built in the early seventh century B.C, but only a few small parts have been found A festival called Daphnephoria was celebrated every ninth year in honour of Apollo Ismenius (or Galaxius). The people held laurel branches ( daphnai), and at the head of the procession, walked a youth (chosen priest of Apollo), who was called "daphnephoros".
  • Eretria: According to the Homeric hymn to Apollo, the god arrived to the plain, seeking for a location to establish its oracle. The first temple of Apollo Daphnephoros, "Apollo, laurel-bearer", or "carrying off Daphne", is dated to 800 BC. The temple was curvilinear hecatombedon (a hundred feet). In a smaller building were kept the bases of the laurer branches which were used for the first building. An Additional temple probably peripteral was built in the seventh century B.C, with an inner row of wooden columns over its Geometric predecessor. It was rebuilt peripteral around 510 BC, with the stylobate measuring 21,00 X 43,00 m. The number of pteron column was 6 x 14.
  • Dreros (Crete). The temple of Apollo Delphinios dates from the seventh century B.C, or probably from the middle of the eighth century BC. According to the legend, Apollo appeared as a dolphin, and carried Cretan priests to the port of Delphi. `The dimensions of the plan are 10,70 X 24,00 m, and the building wasn't peripteral. It contains column-bases of the Minoan type, which might be considered as the predecessors of the Doric columns.
  • Gortyn (Crete). A temple of Pythian Apollo, was built in the seventh century BC. The plan measured 19,00 X 16,70 m, and it wasn't peripteral. The walls were solid, made from limestone, and there was single door on the east side.
  • Thermon (West Greece): The Doric temple of Apollo Thermios, was built in the middle of the seventh century BC. It was built on an older curvilinear building dating perhaps from the tenth century B.C, on which a peristyle was added. The temple was narrow, and the number of pteron columns (probably wooden) was 5 X 15. There was a single row of inner columns. It measures 12.13 X 38.23 m at the stylobate, which was made from stones.
  • Napes (Lesbos): An Aeolic temple probably of Apollo Napaios was built in the seventh century BC. Some special capitals with floral ornament have been found, which are called Aeolic, and it seems that they were borrowed from the East.
  • Cyrene, Libya: The oldest Doric temple of Apollo was built in c. 600 BC. The number of pteron columns was 6 x 11, and it measures 16.75 X 30.05 m at the stylobate. There was a double row of sixteen inner columns on stylobates. The capitals were made from stone.
  • Naukratis: An Ionic temple was a built in the early sixth century BC. Only a few fragments have been found, and the earlier made from limestone, are identified among the oldest of the Ionic order.
Floor plan of the temple of Apollo, Corinth
  • Corinth: A Doric temple was built in the sixth century BC. The temple's stylobate measures 21.36 x 53.30 m, and the number of pteron columns was 6 x 15. There was a double row of inner columns. The style is similar with the Temple of Alcmeonidae at Delphi. The Corinthians were considered to be the inventors of the Doric order
Floor plan of the temple of Apollo, Syracuse
  • Syracuse, Sicily: A Doric temple was built at the beginning of the sixth century BC. The temple's stylobate measures 21.47 X 55.36 m and the number of pteron columns was 6 x 17. It was the first temple in Greek west built completely out of stone. A second row of columns were added, obtaining the effect of an inner porch.
  • Selinus (Sicily):The Doric Temple C dates from 550 BC, and it was probably dedicated to Apollo. The temple's stylobate measures 10.48 X 41.63 m and the number of pteron columns was 6 x 17. There was portico with a second row of columns, which is additionally attested for the temple at Syracuse.
  • Delphi: The first temple dedicated to Apollo, was built in the seventh century BC. According to the legend, it was wooden made of laurel branches. The "Temple of Alcmeonidae" was built in c. 513 BC. and it is the oldest Doric temple with significant marble elements. The temple's stylobate measures 21.65 X 58.00 m, and the number of pteron columns as 6 x 15. A fest similar with Apollo's fest at Thebes, Greece was celebrated every nine years. A boy was sent to the temple, who walked on the sacred road and returned carrying a laurel branch (dopnephoros). The maidens participated with joyful songs.
  • Chios: An Ionic temple of Apollo Phanaios was built at the end of the sixth century BC. Only a few small parts have been found, but the capitals had floral ornament.
  • Abae (Phocis). The temple was destroyed by the Persians in the invasion of Xerxes in 480 BCE, and later by the Boeotians. It was rebuilt by Hadrian. The oracle was in use from early Mycenaean times to the Roman period, and shows the continuity of Mycenaean and Classical Greek religion.
  • Delos: A temple probably dedicated to Apollo and not peripteral, was built in the late seventh century B.C, with a plan measuring 10,00 X 15,60 m. The Doric Great temple of Apollo, was built in c. 475 BC. The temple's stylobate measures 13.72 X 29.78 m, and the number of pteron columns as 6 x 13. Marble was extensively used.
  • Ambracia: A Doric peripteral temple dedicated to Apollo Pythios Sotir was built in 500 B.C, and It is lying at the centre of the Greek city Arta. Only a few parts have been found, and it seems that the temple was built on earlier sanctuaries dedicated to Apollo. The temple measures 20,75 X 44,00 m at the stylobate. The foundation which supported the statue of the god, still exists.
Floor plan of the Temple of Apollo at Bassae
  • Bassae (Peloponnesus):A temple dedicated to Apollo Epikourios ("Apollo the helper"), was built in 430 B.C and it was designed by Iktinos.It combined Doric and Ionic elements, and the earliest use of column with a Corinthian capital in the middle. The temple is of a relatively modest size, with the stylobate measuring 14.5 X 38.3 metres containing a Doric peristyle of 6 x 15 columns. The roof left a central space open to admit light and air.
Temple of Apollo, Didyma
  • Didyma (near Miletus): The gigantic Ionic temple of Apollo Didymaios started around 540 BC. The construction ceased and then it was restarted in 330 BC. The temple is dipteral, with an outer row of 10 X 21 columns, and it measures 28.90 x 80.75 m at the stylobate.
  • Clarus (near ancient Colophon): According to the legend, the famous seer Calchas, on his return from Troy, came to Clarus. He challenged the seer Mopsus, and died when he lost. The Doric temple of Apollo Clarius was probably built in the third century B.C, and it was peripteral with 6 x 11 columns. It was reconstructed at the end of the Hellenistic period, and later from the emperor Hadrian but Pausanias claims that it was still incomplete in the second century B.C.
  • Hamaxitus (Troad): In Iliad, Chryses the priest of Apollo, addresses the god with the epithet Smintheus (Lord of Mice), related with the god’s ancient role as bringer of the disease (plague). Recent excavations indicate that the Hellenistic temple of Apollo Smintheus was constructed at 150–125 BC, but the symbol of the mouse god was used on coinage probably from the fourth century B.C. The temple measures 40,00 X23,00 m at the stylobate, and the number of pteron columns was 8 X 14.

Etruscan and Roman temples

  • Veii (Etruria): The temple of Apollo was built in the late sixth century B.C., and indicates the spread of Apollo’s culture (Aplu) in Etruria. There was a prostyle porch, which is called Tuscan , and a triple cella 18,50 m wide.
  • Falerii Veteres (Etruria): A temple of Apollo was built probably in the 4th-3rd century B.C. Parts of a teraccotta capital, and a teraccotta base have been found. It seems that the Etruscan columns were derived from the archaic Doric. A cult of Apollo Soranus is attested by one inscription found near Falerii.
  • Pompeii, (Italy): The cult of Apollo, was widespread in the region of Campania, after the sixth century B.C. The temple was built in 120 B.V, but its beginnings lie in the sixth century BC. It was reconstructed after an earthquake in A.D 63. It demonstrates a mixing of styles, which formed the basis of Roman architecture. The columns in front of the cella formed a Tuscan prostyle porch, and the cella is situated unusually far back. The peripteral colonnade of 48 Ionic columns was placed in such a way, that the emphasis was given to the front side.
  • Rome: The temple of Apollo Sosianus and the temple of Apollo Medicus . The first temple building dates to 431 BC, and was dedicated to Apollo Medicus (the doctor), after a plague of 433 BC. It was rebuilt by Gaius Sosius, probably in 34 B.C. Only three columns with Corinthian capitals exist today. It seems that the cult of Apollo had existed in this area after at least to the mid-5th century BC.
  • Rome:The temple of Apollo Palatinus was located on the Palatine hill within the sacred boundary of the city. It was dedicated by Augustus on 28 B.C. The façade of the original temple was Ionic, and it was constructed from solid blocks of marble. Many famous statues by Greek masters were on display in and around the temple, including a marble statue of the god at the entrance, and a statue of Apollo in the cella.
  • Melite (modern Mdina, Malta): A Temple of Apollo was built in the city in the second century AD. Its remains were discovered in the eighteenth century, and a large number of of its architectural fragments were dispersed among private collections or reworked into new sculptures. Parts of the temple's podium were rediscovered in 2002.



Apollo (left) and Artemis. Brygos (potter signed), tondo of an Attic red-figure cup c. 470 BC, Musée du Louvre.

When Zeus' wife Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Zeus was the father, she banned Leto from giving birth on "terra firma". In her wanderings, Leto found the newly created floating island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island. She gave birth there and was accepted by the people, offering them her promise that her son would be always favourable toward the city. Afterwards, Zeus secured Delos to the bottom of the ocean. This island later became sacred to Apollo.

It is additionally stated that Hera kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The additional gods tricked Hera into letting her go by offering her a necklace, nine yards (8 m) long, of amber. Mythographers agree that Artemis was born first and then assisted with the birth of Apollo, or that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, on the island of Ortygia and that she helped Leto cross the sea to Delos the next day to give birth to Apollo. Apollo was born on the seventh day (ἑβδομαγενής, hebdomagenes) of the month Thargelion —according to Delian tradition—or of the month Bysios—according to Delphian tradition. The seventh and twentieth, the days of the new and full moon, were ever afterwards held sacred to him.


Four days after his birth, Apollo killed the chthonic dragon Python, which lived in Delphi beside the Castalian Spring. This was the spring which emitted vapours that caused the oracle at Delphi to give her prophecies. Hera sent the serpent to hunt Leto to her death across the world. To protect his mother, Apollo begged Hephaestus for a bow and arrows. After receiving them, Apollo cornered Python in the sacred cave at Delphi. Apollo killed Python but had to be punished for it, after Python was a child of Gaia.

Hera then sent the giant Tityos to rape Leto. This time Apollo was aided by his sister Artemis in protecting their mother. During the battle Zeus finally relented his aid and hurled Tityos down to Tartarus. There, he was pegged to the rock floor, covering an area of 9 acres (36,000 m2), where a pair of vultures feasted daily on his liver.

Trojan War

Apollo shot arrows infected with the plague into the Greek encampment throughout the Trojan War in retribution for Agamemnon's insult to Chryses, a priest of Apollo whose daughter Chryseis had been captured. He demanded her return, and the Achaeans complied, indirectly causing the anger of Achilles, which is the theme of the Iliad.

In the Iliad, when Diomedes injured Aeneas, Apollo rescued him. First, Aphrodite tried to rescue Aeneas but Diomedes injured her as well. Aeneas was then enveloped in a cloud by Apollo, who took him to Pergamos, a sacred spot in Troy.

Apollo aided Paris in the killing of Achilles by guiding the arrow of his bow into Achilles' heel. One interpretation of his motive is that it was in revenge for Achilles' sacrilege in murdering Troilus, the god's own son by Hecuba, on the quite altar of the god's own temple.


When Zeus struck down Apollo's son Asclepius with a lightning bolt for resurrecting Hippolytus from the dead (transgressing Themis by stealing Hades's subjects), Apollo in revenge killed the Cyclopes, who had fashioned the bolt for Zeus. Apollo would have been banished to Tartarus forever for this, but was instead sentenced to one year of hard labor, due to the intercession of his mother, Leto. During this time he served as shepherd for King Admetus of Pherae in Thessaly. Admetus treated Apollo well, and, in return, the god conferred great benefits on Admetus.

Apollo helped Admetus win Alcestis, the daughter of King Pelias and later convinced the Fates to let Admetus live past his time, if another took his place. But when it came time for Admetus to die, his parents, whom he had assumed would gladly die for him, refused to cooperate. Instead, Alcestis took his place, but Heracles managed to "persuade" Thanatos, the god of death, to return her to the world of the living.

Artemis and Apollo Piercing Niobe's Children with their Arrows by Jacques-Louis David, Dallas Museum of Art


Niobe, the queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion, boasted of her superiority to Leto because she had fourteen children (Niobids), seven male and seven female, while Leto had only two. Apollo killed her sons, and Artemis her daughters. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to a few versions of the myth, a number of the Niobids were spared (Chloris, usually). Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Apollo after swearing revenge.

A devastated Niobe fled to Mount Sipylos in Asia Minor and turned into stone as she wept. Her tears formed the river Achelous. Zeus had turned all the people of Thebes to stone and so no one buried the Niobids until the ninth day after their death, when the gods themselves entombed them.

Consorts and children

Love affairs ascribed to Apollo are a late development in Greek mythology. Their vivid anecdotal qualities have made a few of them favourites of painters after the Renaissance, the result being that they stand out more prominently in the modern imagination.

Female lovers

Daphne was a nymph, daughter of the river god Peneus, who had scorned Apollo. The myth explains the connexion of Apollo with δάφνη (daphnē), the laurel whose leaves his priestess employed at Delphi. In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Phoebus Apollo chaffs Cupid for toying with a weapon more suited to a man, whereupon Cupid wounds him with a golden dart; simultaneously, however, Cupid shoots a leaden arrow into Daphne, causing her to be repulsed by Apollo. Following a spirited chase by Apollo, Daphne prays to her father, Peneus, for help, and he changes her into the laurel tree, sacred to Apollo.

Artemis Daphnaia, who had her temple among the Lacedemonians, at a place called Hypsoi in Antiquity, on the slopes of Mount Cnacadion near the Spartan frontier, had her own sacred laurel trees. At Eretria the identity of an excavated 7th- and 6th-century temple to Apollo Daphnephoros, "Apollo, laurel-bearer", or "carrying off Daphne", a "place where the citizens are to take the oath", is identified in inscriptions.

Leucothea was daughter of Orchamus and sister of Clytia. She fell in love with Apollo who disguised himself as Leucothea's mother to gain entrance to her chambers. Clytia, jealous of her sister because she wanted Apollo for herself, told Orchamus the truth, betraying her sister's trust and confidence in her. Enraged, Orchamus ordered Leucothea to be buried alive. Apollo refused to forgive Clytia for betraying his beloved, and a grieving Clytia wilted and slowly died. Apollo changed her into an incense plant, either heliotrope or sunflower, which follows the sun every day.

Marpessa was kidnapped by Idas but was loved by Apollo as well. Zeus made her choose between them, and she chose Idas on the grounds that Apollo, being immortal, would tyre of her when she grew old.

Castalia was a nymph whom Apollo loved. She fled from him and dove into the spring at Delphi, at the base of Mt. Parnassos, which was then named after her. Water from this spring was sacred; it was used to clean the Delphian temples and inspire the priestesses. In the last oracle is mentioned that the "water which could speak", has been lost for ever.

By Cyrene, Apollo had a son named Aristaeus, who became the patron god of cattle, fruit trees, hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping. He was additionally a culture-hero and taught humanity dairy skills, the use of nets and traps in hunting, and how to cultivate olives.

Hecuba was the wife of King Priam of Troy, and Apollo had a son with her named Troilus. An oracle prophesied that Troy wouldn't be defeated as long as Troilus reached the age of twenty alive. He was ambushed and killed by Achilleus.

Cassandra, was daughter of Hecuba and Priam, and Troilus' half-sister. Apollo fell in love with Cassandra and promised her the gift of prophecy to seduce her, but she rejected him afterwards. Enraged, Apollo indeed gave her the ability to know the future, with a curse that she could only see the future tragedies and that no one would ever believe her.

Coronis, was daughter of Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths. Pregnant with Asclepius, Coronis fell in love with Ischys, son of Elatus. A crow informed Apollo of the affair. When first informed he disbelieved the crow and turned all crows black (where they were previously white) as a punishment for spreading untruths. When he found out the truth he sent his sister, Artemis, to kill Coronis (in additional stories, Apollo himself had killed Coronis). As a result, he additionally made the crow sacred and gave them the task of announcing important deaths. Apollo rescued the baby and gave it to the centaur Chiron to raise. Phlegyas was irate after the death of his daughter and burned the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Apollo then killed him for what he did.

In Euripides' play Ion, Apollo fathered Ion by Creusa, wife of Xuthus. Creusa left Ion to die in the wild, but Apollo asked Hermes to save the child and bring him to the oracle at Delphi, where he was raised by a priestess.

Acantha, was the spirit of the acanthus tree, and Apollo had one of his additional liaisons with her. Upon her death, Apollo transformed her into a sun-loving herb.

According to the Biblioteca, the "library" of mythology mis-attributed to Apollodorus, he fathered the Corybantes on the Muse Thalia.

Consorts and children: extended list

  1. Acacallis
    1. Amphithemis (Garamas)
    2. Naxos, eponym of the island Naxos
    3. Phylacides
    4. Phylander
  2. Acantha
  3. Aethusa
    1. Eleuther
  4. Aganippe
    1. Chios
  5. Alciope
    1. Linus (possibly)
  6. Amphissa / Isse, daughter of Macareus
  7. Anchiale / Acacallis
    1. Oaxes
  8. Areia, daughter of Cleochus / Acacallis / Deione
    1. Miletus
  9. Astycome, nymph
    1. Eumolpus (possibly)
  10. Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus
    1. Asclepius (possibly)
    2. Eriopis
  11. Babylo
    1. Arabus
  12. Bolina
  13. Calliope, Muse
    1. Orpheus (possibly)
    2. Linus (possibly)
    3. Ialemus
  14. Cassandra
  15. Castalia
  16. Celaeno, daughter of Hyamus / Melaina / Thyia
    1. Delphus
  17. Chione / Philonis / Leuconoe
    1. Philammon
  18. Chrysorthe
    1. Coronus
  19. Chrysothemis
    1. Parthenos
  20. Coronis
    1. Asclepius
  21. Coryceia
    1. Lycorus (Lycoreus)
  22. Creusa
    1. Ion
  23. Cyrene
    1. Aristaeus
    2. Idmon (possibly)
    3. Autuchus
  24. Danais, Cretan nymph
    1. The Curetes
  25. Daphne
  26. Dia, daughter of Lycaon
    1. Dryops
  27. Dryope
    1. Amphissus
  28. Euboea (daughter of Macareus of Locris)
    1. Agreus
  29. Evadne, daughter of Poseidon
    1. Iamus
  30. Gryne
  31. Hecate
    1. Scylla (possibly)
  32. Hecuba
    1. Troilus
    2. Hector (possibly)
  33. Hestia (wooed her unsuccessfully)
  34. Hypermnestra, wife of Oicles
    1. Amphiaraus (possibly)
  35. Hypsipyle
  36. Hyria (Thyria)
    1. Cycnus
  37. Lycia, nymph or daughter of Xanthus
    1. Eicadius
    2. Patarus
  38. Manto
    1. Mopsus
  39. Marpessa
  40. Melia
    1. Ismenus
    2. Tenerus
  41. Ocyrhoe
  42. Othreis
    1. Phager
  43. Parnethia, nymph
    1. Cynnes
  44. Parthenope
    1. Lycomedes
  45. Phthia
    1. Dorus
    2. Laodocus
    3. Polypoetes
  46. Prothoe
  47. Procleia
    1. Tenes (possibly)
  48. Psamathe
    1. Linus
  49. Rhoeo
    1. Anius
  50. Rhodoessa, nymph
    1. Ceos, eponym of the island Ceos
  51. Rhodope
    1. Cicon, eponym of the tribe Cicones
  52. Sinope
    1. Syrus
  53. Stilbe
    1. Centaurus
    2. Lapithes
    3. Aineus
  54. Syllis / Hyllis
    1. Zeuxippus
  55. Thaleia, Muse / Rhetia, nymph
    1. The Corybantes
  56. Themisto, daughter of Zabius of Hyperborea
    1. Galeotes
    2. Telmessus (?)
  57. Thero
    1. Chaeron
  58. Urania, Muse
    1. Linus (possibly)
  59. Urea, daughter of Poseidon
    1. Ileus (Oileus?)
  60. Wife of Erginus
    1. Trophonius (possibly)
  61. Unknown consorts
    1. Acraepheus, eponym of the city Acraephia
    2. Chariclo (possibly)
    3. Erymanthus
    4. Marathus, eponym of Marathon
    5. Megarus
    6. Melaneus
    7. Oncius
    8. Phemonoe
    9. Pisus, founder of Pisa in Etruria
    10. Younger Muses
      1. Cephisso
      2. Apollonis
      3. Borysthenis

Male lovers

Apollo and Hyacinthus, 16th-century Italian engraving by Jacopo Caraglio

Hyacinth or Hyacinthus was one of Apollo's male lovers. He was a Spartan prince, beautiful and athletic. The pair was practising throwing the discus when a discus thrown by Apollo was blown off course by the jealous Zephyrus and struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him instantly. Apollo is said to be filled with grief: out of Hyacinthus' blood, Apollo created a flower named after him as a memorial to his death, and his tears stained the flower petals with the interjection αἰαῖ, meaning alas. The Festival of Hyacinthus was a celebration of Sparta.

Another male lover was Cyparissus, a descendant of Heracles. Apollo gave him a tame deer as a companion but Cyparissus accidentally killed it with a javelin as it lay asleep in the undergrowth. Cyparissus asked Apollo to let his tears fall forever. Apollo granted the request by turning him into the Cypress named after him, which was said to be a sad tree because the sap forms droplets like tears on the trunk.

Other male lovers of Apollo include:

Apollo's lyre

Apollo with his lyre. Statue from Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. The storey is told in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. His mother, Maia, had been secretly impregnated by Zeus. Maia wrapped the infant in blankets but Hermes escaped while she was asleep.

Hermes ran to Thessaly, where Apollo was grazing his cattle. The infant Hermes stole a number of his cows and took them to a cave in the woods near Pylos, covering their tracks. In the cave, he found a tortoise and killed it, then removed the insides. He used one of the cow's intestines and the tortoise shell and made the first lyre.

Apollo complained to Maia that her son had stolen his cattle, but Hermes had already replaced himself in the blankets she had wrapped him in, so Maia refused to believe Apollo's claim. Zeus intervened and, claiming to have seen the events, sided with Apollo. Hermes then began to play music on the lyre he had invented. Apollo, a god of music, fell in love with the instrument and offered to allow exchange of the cattle for the lyre. Hence, Apollo then became a master of the lyre.

Apollo in the Oresteia

In Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, Clytemnestra kills her husband, King Agamemnon because he had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia to proceed forward with the Trojan war, and Cassandra, a prophetess of Apollo. Apollo gives an order through the Oracle at Delphi that Agamemnon's son, Orestes, is to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, her lover. Orestes and Pylades carry out the revenge, and consequently Orestes is pursued by the Erinyes (Furies, female personifications of vengeance).

Apollo and the Furies argue about whether the matricide was justified; Apollo holds that the bond of marriage is sacred and Orestes was avenging his father, whereas the Erinyes say that the bond of blood between mother and son is more meaningful than the bond of marriage. They invade his temple, and he says that the matter should be brought before Athena. Apollo promises to protect Orestes, as Orestes has become Apollo's supplicant. Apollo advocates Orestes at the trial, and ultimately Athena rules in favour of Apollo.

Apollo killed the Aloadae when they attempted to storm Mt. Olympus.

Callimachus sang that Apollo rode on the back of a swan to the land of the Hyperboreans throughout the winter months.

Apollo turned Cephissus into a sea monster.

Another contender for the birthplace of Apollo is the Cretan islands of Paximadia.

Musical contests


Once Pan had the audacity to compare his music with that of Apollo, and to challenge Apollo, the god of the kithara, to a trial of skill. Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen to umpire. Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower, Midas, who happened to be present. Then Apollo struck the strings of his lyre. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to Apollo, and all but Midas agreed with the judgment. He dissented and questioned the justice of the award. Apollo wouldn't suffer such a depraved pair of ears any longer, and caused them to become the ears of a donkey.

Marsyas under Apollo's punishment, İstanbul Archaeology Museum

Apollo has ominous aspects aside from his plague-bringing, death-dealing arrows: Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a contest of music. He had found an aulos on the ground, tossed away after being invented by Athena because it made her cheeks puffy. The contest was judged by the Muses.

After they each performed, both were deemed equal until Apollo decreed they play and sing at the same time. As Apollo played the lyre, this was easy to do. Marsyas couldn't do this, as he only knew how to use the flute and couldn't sing at the same time. Apollo was declared the winner because of this. Apollo flayed Marsyas alive in a cave near Celaenae in Phrygia for his hubris to challenge a god. He then nailed Marsyas' shaggy skin to a nearby pine-tree. Marsyas' blood turned into the river Marsyas.

Another variation is that Apollo played his instrument (the lyre) upside down. Marsyas couldn't do this with his instrument (the flute), and so Apollo hung him from a tree and flayed him alive.


Apollo additionally had a lyre-playing contest with Cinyras, his son, who committed suicide when he lost.

Head of Apollo, marble, Roman copy of a Greek original of the fourth century BCE, from the collection of Cardinal Albani

Roman Apollo

The Roman worship of Apollo was adopted from the Greeks. As a quintessentially Greek god, Apollo had no direct Roman equivalent, although later Roman poets often referred to him as Phoebus. There was a tradition that the Delphic oracle was consulted as early as the period of the kings of Rome throughout the reign of Tarquinius Superbus.

On the occasion of a pestilence in the 430s BCE, Apollo's first temple at Rome was established in the Flaminian fields, replacing an older cult site there known as the "Apollinare". During the Second Punic War in 212 BCE, the Ludi Apollinares ("Apollonian Games") were instituted in his honor, on the instructions of a prophecy attributed to one Marcius. In the time of Augustus, who considered himself under the special protection of Apollo and was even said to be his son, his worship developed and he became one of the chief gods of Rome.

After the battle of Actium, which was fought near a sanctuary of Apollo, Augustus enlarged Apollo's temple, dedicated a portion of the spoils to him, and instituted quinquennial games in his honour. He additionally erected a new temple to the god on the Palatine hill. Sacrifices and prayers on the Palatine to Apollo and Diana formed the culmination of the Secular Games, held in 17 BCE to celebrate the dawn of a new era.


The chief Apollonian festivals were the Boedromia, Carneia, Carpiae, Daphnephoria, Delia, Hyacinthia, Metageitnia, Pyanepsia, Pythia and Thargelia.

Attributes and symbols

Gold stater of the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter (reigned 281–261 BCE) showing on the reverse a nude Apollo holding his key attributes: two arrows and a bow

Apollo's most common attributes were the bow and arrow. Other attributes of his included the kithara (an advanced version of the common lyre), the plectrum and the sword. An Additional common emblem was the sacrificial tripod, representing his prophetic powers. The Pythian Games were held in Apollo's honour every four years at Delphi. The bay laurel plant was used in expiatory sacrifices and in making the crown of victory at these games.

The palm tree was additionally sacred to Apollo because he had been born under one in Delos. Animals sacred to Apollo included wolves, dolphins, roe deer, swans, cicadas (symbolizing music and song), hawks, ravens, crows, snakes (referencing Apollo's function as the god of prophecy), mice and griffins, mythical eagle–lion hybrids of Eastern origin.

Apollo Citharoedus ("Apollo with a kithara"), Musei Capitolini, Rome

As god of colonization, Apollo gave oracular guidance on colonies, especially throughout the height of colonization, 750–550 BCE. According to Greek tradition, he helped Cretan or Arcadian colonists found the city of Troy. Notwithstanding this storey might reflect a cultural influence which had the reverse direction: Hittite cuneiform texts mention a Minor Asian god called Appaliunas or Apalunas in connexion with the city of Wilusa attested in Hittite inscriptions, which is now generally regarded as being identical with the Greek Ilion by most scholars. In this interpretation, Apollo's title of Lykegenes can simply be read as "born in Lycia", which effectively severs the god's supposed link with wolves (possibly a folk etymology).

In literary contexts, Apollo represents harmony, order, and reason—characteristics contrasted with those of Dionysus, god of wine, who represents ecstasy and disorder. The contrast between the roles of these gods is reflected in the adjectives Apollonian and Dionysian. Notwithstanding the Greeks thought of the two qualities as complementary: the two gods are brothers, and when Apollo at winter left for Hyperborea, he would leave the Delphic oracle to Dionysus. This contrast appears to be shown on the two sides of the Borghese Vase.

Apollo is often associated with the Golden Mean. This is the Greek ideal of moderation and a virtue that opposes gluttony.

Apollo in the arts

The Louvre Apollo Sauroctonos, Roman copy after Praxiteles (360 BC)

Apollo is a common theme in Greek and Roman art and additionally in the art of the Renaissance. The earliest Greek word for a statue is "delight" (ἄγαλμα, agalma), and the sculptors tried to create forms which would inspire such guiding vision. Greek art puts into Apollo the highest degree of power and beauty that can be imagined. The sculptors derived this from observations on human beings, but they additionally embodied in concrete form, issues beyond the reach of ordinary thought.

The naked bodies of the statues are associated with the cult of the body that was essentially a religious activity. The muscular frames and limbs combined with slim waists indicate the Greek desire for health, and the physical capacity which was necessary in the hard Greek environment. The statues of Apollo embody beauty, balance and inspire awe before the beauty of the world.

The evolution of the Greek sculpture can be observed in his depictions from the almost static formal Kouros type in early archaic period, to the representation of motion in a relative harmonious whole in late archaic period. In classical Greece the emphasis isn't given to the illusive imaginative reality represented by the ideal forms, but to the analogies and the interaction of the members in the whole, a method created by Polykleitos. Finally Praxiteles seems to be released from any art and religious conformities, and his masterpieces are a mixture of naturalism with stylization.

Art and Greek philosophy

The evolution of the Greek art seems to go parallel with the Greek philosophical conceptions, which changed from the natural-philosophy of Thales to the metaphysical theory of Pythagoras. Thales searched for a simple material-form directly perceptible by the senses, behind the appearances of things, and his theory is additionally related to the older animism. This was paralleled in sculpture by the absolute representation of vigorous life, through unnaturally simplified forms.

Pythagoras believed that behind the appearance of things, there was the permanent principle of mathematics, and that the forms were based on a transcendental mathematical relation. The forms on earth, are imperfect imitations (εἰκόνες, eikones, "images") of the celestial world of numbers. His ideas had a great influence on post-Archaic art, and the Greek architects and sculptors were always trying to find the mathematical relation, that would lead to the aesthetic perfection. (canon).

In classical Greece, Anaxagoras asserted that a divine reason (mind) gave order to the seeds of the universe, and Plato extended the Greek belief of ideal forms to his metaphysical theory of forms (ideai, "ideas"). The forms on earth are imperfect duplicates of the intellectual celestial ideas. The Greek words oida (οἶδα, "(I) know") and eidos (εἶδος, "species") have the same root as the word idea (ἰδέα), indicating how the Greek mind moved from the gift of the senses, to the principles beyond the senses. The artists in Plato's time moved away from his theories and art tends to be a mixture of naturalism with stylization. The Greek sculptors considered the senses more important, and the proportions were used to unite the sensible with the intellectual.

Archaic sculpture

Sacred Gate Kouros, marble (610–600 BC), Kerameikos Archaeological Museum in Athens

Kouros (male youth) is the modern term given to those representations of standing male youths which first appear in the archaic period in Greece. This type served certain religious needs and was first proposed for what was previously thought to be depictions of Apollo. The first statues are certainly still and formal. The formality of their stance seems to be related with the Egyptian precedent, but it was accepted for a good reason. The sculptors had a clear idea of what a young man is, and embodied the archaic smile of good manners, the firm and springy step, the balance of the body, dignity, and youthful happiness. When they tried to depict the most abiding qualities of men, it was because men had common roots with the unchanging gods. The adoption of a standard recognisable type for a long time, is probably because nature gives preference in survival of a type which has long be adopted by the climatic conditions, and additionally due to the general Greek belief that nature expresses itself in ideal forms that can be imagined and represented. These forms expressed immortality. Apollo was the immortal god of ideal balance and order. His shrine in Delphi, that he shared in winter with Dionysius had the inscriptions: γνῶθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seautón="know thyself") and μηδὲν ἄγαν (mēdén ágan, "nothing in excess"), and ἐγγύα πάρα δ'ἄτη (eggýa pára d'atē, "make a pledge and mischief is nigh").

New York Kouros, Met. Mus. 32.11.1, marble (620–610 BC), Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the first large-scale depictions throughout the early archaic period (640–580 BC), the artists tried to draw one's attention to look into the interior of the face and the body which weren't represented as lifeless masses, but as being full of life. The Greeks maintained, until late in their civilization, an almost animistic idea that the statues are in a few sense alive. This embodies the belief that the image was somehow the god or man himself. A fine example is the statue of the Sacred gate Kouros which was found at the cemetery of Dipylon in Athens (Dipylon Kouros). The statue is the "thing in itself", and his slender face with the deep eyes express an intellectual eternity. According to the Greek tradition the Dipylon master was named Daedalus, and in his statues the limbs were freed from the body, giving the impression that the statues could move. It is considered that he created additionally the New York kouros, which is the oldest fully preserved statue of Kouros type, and seems to be the incarnation of the god himself.

The animistic idea as the representation of the imaginative reality, is sanctified in the Homeric poems and in Greek myths, in storeys of the god Hephaestus (Phaistos) and the mythic Daedalus (the builder of the labyrinth) that made images which moved of their own accord. This kind of art goes back to the Minoan period, when its main theme was the representation of motion in a specific moment. These free-standing statues were usually marble, but additionally the form rendered in limestone, bronze, ivory and terracotta.

The earliest examples of life-sized statues of Apollo, might be two figures from the Ionic sanctuary on the island of Delos. Such statues were found across the Greek speaking world, the preponderance of these were found at the sanctuaries of Apollo with more than one hundred from the sanctuary of Apollo Ptoios, Boeotia alone. The last stage in the development of the Kouros type is the late archaic period (520–485 BC), in which the Greek sculpture attained a full knowledge of human anatomy and used to create a relative harmonious whole. Ranking from the quite few bronzes survived to us is the masterpiece bronze Piraeus Apollo. It was found in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens. The statue originally held the bow in its left hand, and a cup of pouring libation in its right hand. It probably comes from north-eastern Peloponnesus. The emphasis is given in anatomy, and it is one of the first attempts to represent a kind of motion, and beauty relative to proportions, which appear mostly in post-Archaic art. The statue throws a few light on an artistic centre which, with an independently developed harder, simpler, and heavier style, restricts Ionian influence in Athens. Finally, this is the germ from which the art of Polykleitos was to grow two or three generations later.

Classical sculpture

Apollo of the "Mantoua type", marble Roman copy after a 5th-century BCE Greek original attributed to Polykleitos, Musée du Louvre

In the next century which is the beginning of the Classical period, it was considered that beauty in visible things as in everything else, consisted of symmetry and proportions. The artists tried additionally to represent motion in a specific moment (Myron), which might be considered as the reappearance of the dormant Minoan element. Anatomy and geometry are fused in one, and each does something to the other. The Greek sculptors tried to clarify it by looking for mathematical proportions, just as they sought a few reality behind appearances. Polykleitos in his Canon wrote that beauty consists in the proportion not of the elements (materials), but of the parts, that's the interrelation of parts with one another and with the whole. It seems that he was influenced by the theories of Pythagoras. The famous Apollo of Mantua and its variants are early forms of the Apollo Citharoedus statue type, in which the god holds the cithara in his left arm. The type is represented by neo-Attic Imperial Roman copies of the late first or early second century, modelled upon a supposed Greek bronze original made in the second quarter of the fifth century BCE, in a style similar to works of Polykleitos but more archaic. The Apollo held the cythara against his extended left arm, of which in the Louvre example, a fragment of one twisting scrolling horn upright remains against his biceps.

Though the proportions were always important in Greek art, the appeal of the Greek sculptures eludes any explanation by proportion alone. The statues of Apollo were thought to incarnate his living presence, and these representations of illusive imaginative reality had deep roots in the Minoan period, and in the beliefs of the first Greek speaking people who entered the region throughout the bronze-age. Just as the Greeks saw the mountains, forests, sea and rivers as inhabited by concrete beings, so nature in all of its manifestations possesses clear form, and the form of a work of art. Spiritual life is incorporated in matter, when it is given artistic form. Just as in the arts the Greeks sought a few reality behind appearances, so in mathematics they sought permanent principles which can be applied wherever the conditions were the same. Artists and sculptors tried to find this ideal order in relation with mathematics, but they believed that this ideal order revealed itself not so much to the dispassionate intellect, as to the whole sentient self. Things as we see them, and as they really are, are one, that each stresses the nature of the additional in a single unity.

Pediments and friezes

Apollo, West Pediment Olympia. Munich, copy from original, 460 BCE at the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece.

In the archaic pediments and friezes of the temples, the artists had a problem to fit a group of figures into an isosceles triangle with acute angles at the base.

The Siphnian Treasury in Delphi was one of the first Greek buildings utilising the solution to put the dominating form in the middle, and to complete the descending scale of height with additional figures sitting or kneeling. The pediment shows the storey of Heracles stealing Apollo's tripod that was strongly associated with his oracular inspiration. Their two figures hold the centre. In the pediment of the temple of Zeus in Olympia, the single figure of Apollo is dominating the scene.

Part of the Bassae Frieze at the British Museum. Apollo and Artemis in the northeast corner.
Head of the Apollo Belvedere

These representations rely on presenting scenes directly to the eye for their own visible sake. They care for the schematic arrangements of bodies in space, but only as parts in a larger whole. While each scene has its own character and completeness it must fit into the general sequence to which it belongs. In these archaic pediments the sculptors use empty intervals, to suggest a passage to and fro a busy battlefield. The artists seem to have been dominated by geometrical pattern and order, and this was improved when classical art brought a greater freedom and economy.

Hellenistic Greece-Rome

Apollo as a handsome beardless young man, is often depicted with a kithara (as Apollo Citharoedus) or bow in his hand, or reclining on a tree (the Apollo Lykeios and Apollo Sauroctonos types). The Apollo Belvedere is a marble sculpture that was rediscovered in the late fifteenth century; for centuries it epitomised the ideals of Classical Antiquity for Europeans, from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century. The marble is a Hellenistic or Roman copy of a bronze original by the Greek sculptor Leochares, made between 350 and 325 BCE.

The life-size so-called "Adonis" found in 1780 on the site of a villa suburbana near the Via Labicana in the Roman suburb of Centocelle is identified as an Apollo by modern scholars. In the late second century CE floor mosaic from El Djem, Roman Thysdrus, he's identifiable as Apollo Helios by his effulgent halo, though now even a god's divine nakedness is concealed by his cloak, a mark of increasing conventions of modesty in the later Empire.

Another haloed Apollo in mosaic, from Hadrumentum, is in the museum at Sousse. The conventions of this representation, head tilted, lips slightly parted, large-eyed, curling hair cut in locks grazing the neck, were developed in the third century BCE to depict Alexander the Great. Some time after this mosaic was executed, the earliest depictions of Christ would additionally be beardless and haloed.

Modern reception

The Overthrow of Apollo and the Pagan Gods, watercolour from William Blake's illustrations of On the Morning of Christ's Nativity (1809)

Apollo has often featured in postclassical art and literature. Percy Bysshe Shelley composed a "Hymn of Apollo" (1820), and the god's instruction of the Muses formed the subject of Igor Stravinsky's Apollon musagète (1927–1928). In 1978, the Canadian band Rush released an album with songs "Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom"/"Dionysus: Bringer of Love".

In discussion of the arts, a distinction is at times made between the Apollonian and Dionysian impulses where the former is concerned with imposing intellectual order and the latter with chaotic creativity. Friedrich Nietzsche argued that a fusion of the two was most desirable. Carl Jung's Apollo archetype represents what he saw as the disposition in people to over-intellectualise and maintain emotional distance.

In spaceflight, the NASA programme for landing astronauts on the Moon was named Apollo.