Greek mythology not only includes myths and teachings about the creation of the world in Ancient Greece, the life of gods, goddesses, and heroes but also forms the basis of Ancient Greek religion. The ancient Greeks had certain beliefs that helped them understand themselves and the world around them, and they believed in various gods and goddesses. In the first part of this series of articles, we examined some of the Ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses (Zeus, Hera, Athena). In this content, we will focus on Apollo and Artemis.
Apollo and Artemis twins were born on Delos. Their father was Zeus, and their mother was the titan Leto, who had to escape the wrath of Zeus’ wife Hera and took refuge on the island of Delos. Let’s take a closer look at Apollo and Artemis, who are very different gods despite being twins.
Apollo and Artemis: The Delos Twins
The first thing to say about Apollo is that he is an archetypal Greek god who represents reason, prophecy, and civilization.
Phobos, the God who brings light, was Apollo. It was later identified with the sun god Helios. Apollo had many features and titles as well. One of these titles was the savior Lysias. Apollo was known as a benevolent god in Ancient Greece.
Depictions of Apollo were often made as a noble, handsome beardless young man. The cult of Apollo, so powerful in Sparta, spread throughout the Greek world and far beyond.
Both the Etruscans and the Romans were pleased to accept this versatile deity into their Pantheons*. The Roman Emperor Augustus had a Temple of Apollo built near the palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome.
*Pantheons: A pantheon is the particular set of all gods of any individual polytheistic religion, mythology, or tradition.
According to one legend, Apollo strangled the snake Python, who attacked his mother when he was only four days old and tamed it according to another legend. The name of the place where this attack took place was changed to Delphi and this place became the most sacred place for Apollo.
Delphi’s fame surpassed Delos. The serpent turned into the priests of Pythia who prophesied. Apollo was a god of prophecies, but the prophecies made by the oracle of Apollo were notorious for their ambiguity. Apollo’s motto is ‘know thyself’, to which Socrates is devoted. Another notable phrase that most Greeks ignored was ‘do not overdo it in anything’.
It was possible to feel the influence of Apollo in Italy as well. The seer living in Cyme in Italy promised Sibyl immortality as long as he loved her. When Sibyl refused this offer, Apollo granted eternal life but took away her youth. Sibyl has aged horribly over the centuries.
We mentioned that Apollo was worshiped as a versatile god. A few of these different aspects were that he was the god of science, medicine, music, and poetry.
He was usually depicted with his lyre and bow. (Symbols of the Greek God Apollo)
Every winter Apollo would go north to the land of the Hyperboreans, and when spring came he would return in a golden chariot drawn by swans or griffons.
The Loves of Apollo
Apollo had many loves, some of which he was disappointed. The most well-known of these relationships is his relationship with the nymph Daphne, the daughter of the river god Peneus. Apollo followed Daphne passionately in vain. Just as Apollo was about to catch her, Daphne prayed to her father to turn her into a laurel tree.
Another lover of Apollo is Princess Koronis. When Koronis abandoned Apollo, Apollo killed the princess with an arrow, but later regretted his anger. Rescued by Centaurus Chiron, their son Asklepios became a holy healer.
Apollo also loved the beautiful Spartan prince Hyakinthos. Hyakintos, where Apollon gave lessons on discus throwing, died as a result of a disc hitting him, while his blood flowing to the ground caused the hyacinth flower to sprout from the ground.
Who are the 9 muses?
Apollo is sometimes called the Leader of the Muses.
Apollo was shown with muses on both sides of the Castilian spring on Mount Parnassos above Delphi. The nine poetic gods of inspiration, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were born in nine consecutive nights, according to Hesiod. These were the gods of the following arts, respectively.
- Calliope. Muse of Eloquence and Heroic Poetry.
- Clio. Muse of History.
- Erato. Muse of Lyric or Erotic Poetry.
- Euterpe. Muse of the Music.
- Melpomene. Muse of the Tragedy.
- Polymnia. Muse of Sacred Poetry (hymns).
- Terpsichore. Muse of the Dance.
- Thalia. Muse of the Comedy.
- Urania. Muse of the Astronomy and Astrology.
Artemis (Diana), twin sister of Apollo, is a goddess full of contradictions. She is depicted as an unpretentious hunting goddess in a human body, carrying an arrow in the forest. The goddess is accompanied by forest fairies, who are always young and holy, who have sworn not to marry.
Unable to withstand the pressure of Zeus, the fairy Callisto, who became pregnant, was transformed into a bear by Artemis and then had her dogs torn to pieces.
According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Actaeon accidentally saw Artemis (goddess of wild animals, vegetation, and childbirth) while she was bathing on Mount Cithaeron; for this reason, he was changed by her into a stag and was pursued and killed by his own 50 hounds.
One of the depictions of Artemis was depicted as having many breasts in the great temple in Ephesus and was worshiped as such.
The traditional interpretation of the oval objects covering the upper part of the Ephesian Artemis is that they represent multiple breasts, symbolizing her fertility.
There have been many theories as to what they represent. Some say they are breasts, others that they are bulls testes which were sacrificed to her.
The depiction of Artemis in Ephesus was an older Asian goddess. She was known as the mother goddess and the mistress of animals.
Artemis was a goddess who was asked for help with the changes of women in the classical ages. She especially oversaw the change from virgin to married woman. Artemis was later associated with Selene, the goddess of the moon, and in this way, the crescent was added to the depictions symbolizing Artemis.
The Spartans associate the goddess with their strict education system, the agoge*. In Sparta’s savage initiation ceremonies, large numbers of boys were beaten at the altar of Artemis as part of the ritual.
*Agoge: The agoge was the rigorous education and training program mandated for all male Spartan citizens, with the exception of the firstborn son in the ruling houses, Eurypontid and Agiad.
The content of the Ancient Greek Gods III (Poseidon, Hermes, and Ares), which is the continuation of the Ancient Greek Gods series of articles, can be accessed by clicking on the title.