The Divine Example
Music, Poetry, Oracles, Medicine, Light, Knowledge
Lyre, Laurel wreath, Python, Raven, Bow and arrow
"Of you, even the swan sings with clear voice to the beating of his wings."
Homer, epic poet and historian
Apollo and his twin sister Artemis resulted from Zeus' love affair with the Titan Leto. Angered by the affair, Zeus' wife Hera cursed Leto so she could not give birth on solid ground. The heavily pregnant Leto wandered until Poseidon took pity on her and showed her to the floating island of Delos. She first gave birth to Artemis and then, after a night-long struggle, Apollo was born at dawn. The children were strong and beautiful to behold and in celebration Hephaestus made silver bows for both of them.
The young Apollo travelled across the world. When he reached Delphi he found the town burnt and ruined by the dragon Python. The creature had been summoned by the Titan Phoebe to silence the Oracle. Apollo fought the dragon, shooting it dead on the steps of the Oracle’s temple. The overjoyed citizens of Delphi forever pledged allegiance to the young Olympian and sang songs praising his greatness as a ward against evil. A flattered Apollo rebuilt the ruined temple in his name and gave prophetic powers to the streams that ran through it. In doing this he claimed the Oracle of Delphi as his own.
Python was a child of Gaia, the grandmother of the gods, and she demanded Apollo be punished. Knowing the trouble she could cause, Zeus passed judgment on his son but handed down a lenient punishment. Apollo was made mortal for nine years while he guarded the divine cattle in the valley of Ida. Such work was easy and gave the young god much free time which he spent on learning philosophy.
While Apollo was keeping watch, the young Hermes stole some of the divine cattle. Outraged, Apollo hunted down the culprit. To calm his older half-brother’s anger, Hermes played him a song on the lyre, an instrument he had invented. Apollo was struck by the music and he accepted the instrument in exchange for the cattle. The lyre never left his hand during his remaining time as a mortal and Zeus gave to him the realms of music, poetry and knowledge when his punishment was complete.
Passionate to the core of his nature, Apollo is celebrated for his beauty and artistic ability. However, it can become destructive. During the <Apdx ref="open:settings:6d6hellenic:apdx:trojan_war">Trojan war</apdx> the Greeks sacked one of his temples that lay near to the landing site. From then on Apollo supported the Trojan side in the war, firing plague-ridden arrows into the Greek camp to punish them. At the end of the ten-year conflict he took his revenge upon Achilles. As the city fell to Odysseus' trick, Apollo lent Paris, the last Prince of Troy, his silver bow and guided the Prince's hand. The arrow struck Achilles upon his heel, felling the Greek hero.
His passion was the undoing of several would-be lovers who did not return his advances. The Trojan princess Cassandra rejected Apollo in favour of a mortal love. In anger Apollo cursed her with prophecy, bestowing her with the ability to predict tragedy but dooming her to have her warnings ignored. Driven mad by her curse she leapt to her death. The Spartan prince Hyacinthus was another victim of Apollo who became besotted with the beautiful and athletic young man. One day the lovers were practising the discus when Apollo’s throw was blown off course, striking Hyacinthus a mortal blow to the head. Apollo denied Hyacinthus' soul its rightful place in the Underworld and made the flower hyacinth from his blood so the Spartan's beauty might live on.
With his passion comes a fierce pride and a quick anger. He regards the gods, including himself, as the peak of existence and there is no room in his vision of harmony for those that challenge him. He despises hubris, as Marsyas found out. He was a satyr, a semi-divine half-man / half-horse, who had invented the pan pipes and travelled Greece delighting everyone with the music they made. His popularity grew until someone claimed that his music was even sweeter than Apollo's. Insulted, the furious god decided to shame the satyr by challenging him to a contest, his lyre against the pipes. The judges were a panel of nymphs who awarded victory to Marsyas. Infuriated, Apollo challenged him to a contest of music and singing at the same time. Marsyas inevitably lost and Apollo punished his hubris by flaying the satyr alive before the terrified nymphs.
Apollo sees the rise of the Titans as a threat to his harmonic orders. He sees them as inferior, despising them for lacking what he calls the essential divine beauty and grace. Champions of Apollo are always beautiful and athletic mortals who oppose anyone who challenges Olympian power. He also likes his champions to be well-educated and skilled in music so they embody his ideals. The number of Apollonian champions is low since few meet his standards and much of his effort is invested in the Delphi Oracle.
Apollo appears as a handsome young man with long hair, wearing a travelling cloak and sandals. The god is best defined by his passion and his devotion to working towards harmony and order through his realms. He is quick to anger and very proud.
Apollo is worshipped throughout Greece and has significant temples in every city and town. The most prominent sites dedicated to him are the Oracle’s temple at Delphi and his temple on Delos which sits at the centre of the island where he was born. Worship of him has three focuses. Firstly, appealing to him for blessings within his realms. Secondly, celebrating Apollo as the pinnacle to which Greeks should strive towards. Thirdly, avoiding his anger and his plagues or flayings.
The number seven is important in worship of Apollo as his birthday is on the seventh day of the seventh month. Observances and ceremonies to Apollo are held on the seventh of each month and large festivals are held across Greece to celebrate the day of his birthday. Varying slightly between cities, the core of the celebration is a procession led by a youth of beauty and noble bearing whose parents are both still alive. Finishing at the altar of Apollo, a laurel branch wrapped with the first fruits of the season is presented to replace last year's offering. The evening is filled with musical contests between choirs, gymnastic games and dances. The birthday festival on Delos is the largest and it is a honour to be invited to the island's celebrations.