From the Apollo entry in Wikipedia:

Apollo is one of the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman religion and Greek and Roman mythology. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo has been recognized as a god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, and more. One of the most important and complex of the Greek gods, he is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Seen as the most beautiful god and the ideal of the kouros (ephebe, or a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo is considered to be the most Greek of all the gods.

As the patron deity of Delphi (Apollo Pythios), Apollo is an oracular god—the prophetic deity of the Delphic Oracle. Apollo is the god who affords help and wards off evil; various epithets call him the "averter of evil". Delphic Apollo is the patron of seafarers, foreigners and the protector of fugitives and refugees.

Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius. Apollo delivered people from epidemics, yet he is also a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague with his arrows. The invention of archery itself is credited to Apollo and his sister Artemis. Apollo is usually described as carrying a silver or golden bow and a quiver of silver or golden arrows. Apollo's capacity to make youths grow is one of the best attested facets of his panhellenic cult persona. As a protector of the young (kourotrophos), Apollo is concerned with the health and education of children. He presided over their passage into adulthood. Long hair, which was the prerogative of boys, was cut at the coming of age (ephebeia) and dedicated to Apollo.

Apollo is an important pastoral deity, and was the patron of herdsmen and shepherds. Protection of herds, flocks and crops from diseases, pests and predators were his primary duties. On the other hand, Apollo also encouraged founding new towns and establishment of civil constitution. He is associated with dominion over colonists. He was the giver of laws, and his oracles were consulted before setting laws in a city.

As the god of mousike, Apollo presides over all music, songs, dance and poetry. He is the inventor of string-music, and the frequent companion of the Muses, functioning as their chorus leader in celebrations. The lyre is a common attribute of Apollo. In Hellenistic times, especially during the 5th century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, the personification of the Sun. In Latin texts, however, there was no conflation of Apollo with Sol among the classical Latin poets until 1st century CE. Apollo and Helios/Sol remained separate beings in literary and mythological texts until the 5th century CE.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Apollo Mythology

God of oracles, healing, archery, music and arts, sunlight, knowledge, herds and flocks, and protection of the young.
He is a member of the Twelve Olympians.


Apollo was the son of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Leto, his previous wife or one of his mistresses. Growing up, Apollo was nursed by the nymphs Korythalia and Aletheia, the personification of truth.

When Zeus' wife Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant, she banned Leto from giving birth on terra firma. Leto sought shelter in many lands, only to be rejected by them. Finally, the voice of unborn Apollo informed his mother about a floating island named Delos that had once been Asteria, Leto's own sister. Since it was neither a mainland nor an island, Leto was readily welcomed there and gave birth to her children under a palm tree. All the goddesses except Hera were present to witness the event. It is also stated that Hera kidnapped Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The other gods tricked Hera into letting her go by offering her a necklace of amber.

When Apollo was born, clutching a golden sword, everything on Delos turned into gold and the island was filled with ambrosial fragrance. Swans circled the island seven times and the nymphs sang in delight. He was washed clean by the goddesses who then covered him in white garment and fastened golden bands around him. Since Leto was unable to feed him, Themis, the goddess of divine law, fed him with nectar, or ambrosia. Upon tasting the divine food, Apollo broke free of the bands fastened onto him and declared that he would be the master of lyre and archery, and interpret the will of Zeus to humankind. Zeus, who had calmed Hera by then, came and adorned his son with a golden headband.

Apollo's birth fixed the floating Delos to the earth. Leto promised that her son would be always favorable towards the Delians. According to some, Apollo secured Delos to the bottom of the ocean after some time. This island became sacred to Apollo and was one of the major cult centers of the god.

Childhood and youth

As a child, Apollo is said to have built a foundation and an altar on Delos using the horns of the goats that his sister Artemis hunted. Since he learned the art of building when young, he later came to be known as Archegetes, the founder (of towns) and god who guided men to build new cities. From his father Zeus, Apollo had also received a golden chariot drawn by swans.

In his early years when Apollo spent his time herding cows, he was reared by Thriae, the bee nymphs, who trained him and enhanced his prophetic skills. Apollo is also said to have invented the lyre, and along with Artemis, the art of archery. He then taught to the humans the art of healing and archery. Phoebe, his grandmother, gave the oracular shrine of Delphi to Apollo as a birthday gift. Themis inspired him to be the oracular voice of Delphi thereon.


Python, a chthonic serpent-dragon, was a child of Gaia and the guardian of the Delphic Oracle, whose death was foretold by Apollo when he was still in Leto's womb. Python was the nurse of the giant Typhon. In most of the traditions, Apollo was still a child when he killed Python.

Python was sent by Hera to hunt the pregnant Leto to death, and had assaulted her. To avenge the trouble given to his mother, Apollo went in search of Python and killed it in the sacred cave at Delphi with the bow and arrows that he had received from Hephaestus. The Delphian nymphs who were present encouraged Apollo during the battle with the cry "Hie Paean". After Apollo was victorious, they also brought him gifts and gave the Corycian cave to him. According to Homer, Apollo had encountered and killed the Python when he was looking for a place to establish his shrine.

Apollo had committed a blood murder and had to be purified. Because Python was a child of Gaia, Gaia wanted Apollo to be banished to Tartarus as a punishment. Zeus didn't agree and instead exiled his son from Olympus, and instructed him to get purified. Apollo had to serve as a slave for nine years. After the servitude was over, as per his father's order, he traveled to the Vale of Tempe to bath in waters of Peneus. There Zeus himself performed purification rites on Apollo. Purified, Apollo was escorted by his half sister Athena to Delphi where the oracular shrine was finally handed over to him by Gaia. According to a variation, Apollo had also traveled to Crete, where Carmanor purified him. Apollo later established the Pythian games to appropriate Gaia. Henceforth, Apollo became the god who cleansed himself from the sin of murder and, made men aware of their guilt and purified them.

Soon after, Zeus instructed Apollo to go to Delphi and establish his law. But Apollo, disobeying his father, went to the land of Hyperborea and stayed there for a year. He returned only after the Delphians sang hymns to him and pleaded him to come back. Zeus, pleased with his son's integrity, gave Apollo the seat next to him on his right side. He also gave to Apollo various gifts, like a golden tripod, a golden bow and arrows, a golden chariot and the city of Delphi.


Hera once again sent another giant, Tityos to rape Leto. This time Apollo shot him with his arrows and attacked him with his golden sword. According to other version, Artemis also aided him in protecting their mother by attacking Tityos with her arrows. After 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 3.6 ha (8.9 acres), where a pair of vultures feasted daily on his liver.


Admetus was the king of Pherae, who was known for his hospitality. When Apollo was exiled from Olympus for killing Python, he served as a herdsman under Admetus, who was then young and unmarried. Apollo is said to have shared a romantic relationship with Admetus during his stay. After completing his years of servitude, Apollo went back to Olympus as a god.

Because Admetus had treated Apollo well, the god conferred great benefits on him in return. Apollo's mere presence is said to have made the cattle give birth to twins. Apollo helped Admetus win the hand of Alcestis, the daughter of King Pelias, by taming a lion and a boar to draw Admetus' chariot. He was present during their wedding to give his blessings. When Admetus angered the goddess Artemis by forgetting to give her the due offerings, Apollo came to the rescue and calmed his sister. When Apollo learned of Admetus' untimely death, he convinced or tricked the Fates into letting Admetus live past his time.

According to another version, or perhaps some years later, when Zeus struck down Apollo's son Asclepius with a lightning bolt for resurrecting the dead, Apollo in revenge killed the Cyclopes, who had fashioned the bolt for Zeus. Apollo would have been banished to Tartarus for this, but his mother Leto intervened, and reminding Zeus of their old love, pleaded him not to kill their son. Zeus obliged and sentenced Apollo to one year of hard labor once again under Admetus.

The love between Apollo and Admetus was a favored topic of Roman poets like Ovid and Servius.


The fate of Niobe was prophesied by Apollo while he was still in Leto's womb. Niobe was the queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion. She displayed hubris when she boasted that she was superior to Leto because she had fourteen children (Niobids), seven male and seven female, while Leto had only two. She further mocked Apollo's effeminate appearance and Artemis' manly appearance. Leto, insulted by this, told her children to punish Niobe. Accordingly, Apollo killed Niobe's sons, and Artemis her daughters. According to some versions of the myth, among the Niobids, Chloris and her brother Amyclas were not killed because they prayed to Leto. 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.

When Chloris married and had children, Apollo granted her son Nestor the years he had taken away from the Niobids. Hence, Nestor was able to live for 3 generations.

Building the walls of Troy

Once Apollo and Poseidon served under the Trojan king Laomedon in accordance to Zeus' words. Apollodorus states that the gods willingly went to the king disguised as humans in order to check his hubris. Apollo guarded the cattle of Laomedon in the valleys of mount Ida, while Poseidon built the walls of Troy. Other versions make both Apollo and Poseidon the builders of the wall. In Ovid's account, Apollo completes his task by playing his tunes on his lyre.

In Pindar's odes, the gods took a mortal named Aeacus as their assistant. When the work was completed, three snakes rushed against the wall, and though the two that attacked the sections of the wall built by the gods fell down dead, the third forced its way into the city through the portion of the wall built by Aeacus. Apollo immediately prophesied that Troy would fall at the hands of Aeacus's descendants, the Aeacidae (i.e. his son Telamon joined Heracles when he sieged the city during Laomedon's rule. Later, his great-grandson Neoptolemus was present in the wooden horse that lead to the downfall of Troy).

However, the king not only refused to give the gods the wages he had promised, but also threatened to bind their feet and hands, and sell them as slaves. Angered by the unpaid labor and the insults, Apollo infected the city with a pestilence and Poseidon sent the sea monster Cetus. To deliver the city from it, Laomedon had to sacrifice his daughter Hesione (who would later be saved by Heracles).

During his stay in Troy, Apollo had a lover named Ourea, who was a nymph and daughter of Poseidon. Together they had a son named Ileus, whom Apollo loved dearly.

Trojan War

Apollo sided with the Trojans during the Trojan War waged by the Greeks against the Trojans.

During the war, the Greek king Agamemnon captured Chryseis, the daughter of Apollo's priest Chryses, and refused to return her. Angered by this, Apollo shot arrows infected with the plague into the Greek encampment. He demanded that they return the girl, and the Achaeans (Greeks) complied, indirectly causing the anger of Achilles, which is the theme of the Iliad.

Receiving the aegis from Zeus, Apollo entered the battlefield as per his father's command, causing great terror to the enemy with his war cry. He pushed the Greeks back and destroyed many of the soldiers. He is described as "the rouser of armies" because he rallied the Trojan army when they were falling apart.

When Zeus allowed the other gods to get involved in the war, Apollo was provoked by Poseidon to a duel. However, Apollo declined to fight him, saying that he wouldn't fight his uncle for the sake of mortals.

When the Greek hero Diomedes injured the Trojan hero Aeneas, Aphrodite tried to rescue him, but Diomedes injured her as well. Apollo then enveloped Aeneas in a cloud to protect him. He repelled the attacks Diomedes made on him and gave the hero a stern warning to abstain himself from attacking a god. Aeneas was then taken to Pergamos, a sacred spot in Troy, where he was healed.

After the death of Sarpedon, a son of Zeus, Apollo rescued the corpse from the battlefield as per his father's wish and cleaned it. He then gave it to Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos). Apollo had also once convinced Athena to stop the war for that day, so that the warriors can relieve themselves for a while.

The Trojan hero Hector (who, according to some, was the god's own son by Hecuba) was favored by Apollo. When he got severely injured, Apollo healed him and encouraged him to take up his arms. During a duel with Achilles, when Hector was about to lose, Apollo hid Hector in a cloud of mist to save him. When the Greek warrior Patroclus tried to get into the fort of Troy, he was stopped by Apollo. Encouraging Hector to attack Patroclus, Apollo stripped the armor of the Greek warrior and broke his weapons. Patroclus was eventually killed by Hector. At last, after Hector's fated death, Apollo protected his corpse from Achilles' attempt to mutilate it by creating a magical cloud over the corpse, shielding it from the rays of the sun.

Apollo held a grudge against Achilles throughout the war because Achilles had murdered his son Tenes before the war began and brutally assassinated his son Troilus in his own temple. Not only did Apollo save Hector from Achilles, he also tricked Achilles by disguising himself as a Trojan warrior and driving him away from the gates. He foiled Achilles' attempt to mutilate Hector's dead body.

Finally, Apollo caused Achilles' death by guiding an arrow shot by Paris into Achilles' heel. In some versions, Apollo himself killed Achilles by taking the disguise of Paris.

Apollo helped many Trojan warriors, including Agenor, Polydamas, Glaucus in the battlefield. Though he greatly favored the Trojans, Apollo was bound to follow the orders of Zeus and served his father loyally during the war.


After Heracles (then named Alcides) was struck with madness and killed his family, he sought to purify himself and consulted the oracle of Apollo. Apollo, through the Pythia, commanded him to serve king Eurystheus for twelve years and complete the ten tasks the king would give him. Only then would Alcides be absolved of his sin. Apollo also renamed him as Heracles.

To complete his third task, Heracles had to capture the Ceryneian Hind, a hind sacred to Artemis, and bring back it alive. After chasing the hind for one year, the animal eventually got tired, and when it tried crossing the river Ladon, Heracles captured it. While he was taking it back, he was confronted by Apollo and Artemis, who were angered at Heracles for this act. However, Heracles soothed the goddess and explained his situation to her. After much pleading, Artemis permitted him to take the hind and told him to return it later.

After he was freed from his servitude to Eurystheus, Heracles fell in conflict with Iphytus, a prince of Oechalia, and murdered him. Soon after, he contracted a terrible disease. He consulted the oracle of Apollo once again, in hope of ridding himself of the disease. The Pythia, however, denied to give any prophesy. In anger, Heracles snatched the sacred tripod and started walking away, intending to start his own oracle. However, Apollo did not tolerate this and stopped Heracles; a duel ensued between them. Artemis rushed to support Apollo, while Athena supported Heracles. Soon, Zeus threw his thunderbolt between the fighting brothers and separated them. He reprimanded Heracles for this act of violation and asked Apollo to give a solution to Heracles. Apollo then ordered the hero to serve under Omphale, queen of Lydia for one year in order to purify himself.

Apollo Pictures

Temple Oracle Apollo Delphi
Temple and Oracle of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. (1389k)
Temple Apollo Hylates Kourion
Temple of Apollo Hylates in Kourion, Cyprus (from 8th century BCE). (699k)
Temple Apollo Smintheion Gülpinar
Temple of Apollo Smintheion in Gülpinar, Turkey (from 2nd century BCE). (821k)
Temple Oracle Apollo Didyma
Temple and Oracle of Apollo in Didyma, Turkey (from 8th century BCE). (751k)
Torso Chryselephantine Sculpture Apollo
Torso of the chryselephantine sculpture of Apollo with gold leaf decorations found in an pit on the Sacred Way in Delphi, Greece. (679k)
Statue Apollo Medicus Sofia
Statue of Apollo Medicus in Sofia, Bulgaria. (884k)
Apollo Statue Museum Kobarid
Apollo statue in a museum in Kobarid, Slovenia. (489k)
Head Apollo Mount Nemrut
Head of Apollo on Mount Nemrut, Turkey (from 62 BCE). (904k)
Apollo Imposing Peace Order
Apollo, imposing peace and order, in the center of the west pediment on the Temple of Zeus, from Olympia, Greece. (595k)
Semicircular Marble Base Depictions
Semicircular marble base with depictions of ten Gods and Heroes of the Greek Pantheon, from Nikopolis, Greece. Apollo is right-most figure. (1056k)
Closer View Apollo Right
Closer view of Apollo (right), from Nikopolis, Greece. (777k)
Plate Showing Apollo Delphi
Plate showing Apollo in Delphi, Greece (from 470 BCE). (573k)
Marble Statue Apollo Lyre
Marble statue of Apollo, the lyre player, Corinth, Greece (3rd century CE). (863k)
Marble Statue Apollo Lyre
Marble statue of Apollo, the lyre player, Corinth, Greece (Roman period). (919k)

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