Myths about the Roman God Apollo
Apollo was son of Jupiter and Latona, and brother of Diana, and of all the divinities in the pagan world, the chief cherisher and protecter of the polite arts, and the most conspicuous character in heathen theology; nor unjustly, from the glorious attributes ascribed to him, for he was the god of light, medicine, eloquence, music, poetry and prophecy.
Amongst the most remarkable adventures of this god, was his quarrel with Jupiter, on account of the death of his son Aesculapius, killed by that deity on the complaint of Pluto, that he decreased the number of the dead by his cures. Apollo, to revenge this injury, killed the Cyclops who forged the thunder-bolts. For this he was banished heaven, and endured great sufferings on earth, being forced to hire himself as a shepherd to Admetus, king of Thessaly. During his pastoral servitude, he is said to have invented the lyre to sooth his troubles. He was so skilled in the bow, that his arrows were always fatal. Python and the Cyclops experienced their force.
He became enamored of Daphne, daughter of the river Peneus of Thessaly. The god pursued her, but she flying to preserve her chastity, was changed into a laurel, whose leaves Apollo immediately consecrated to bind his temples, and become the reward of poetry.
His temple at Delphi became so frequented, that it was called the oracle of the earth; all nations and princes vieing in their munificence to it. The Romans erected to him many temples.
The animals sacred to him were the wolf, from his acuteness of sight, and because he spared his flocks when the god was a shepherd; the crow and the raven, because these birds were supposed to have, by instinct, the faculty of prediction; the swan, from its divining its own death; the hawk, from its boldness in flight; and the cock, because he announces the rising of the sun.
As to the signification of this fabulous divinity, all are agreed that, by Apollo, the sun is understood in general, though several poetical fictions have relation only to the sun, and not to Apollo. The great attributes of this deity were divination, healing, music, and archery, all which manifestly refer to the sun. Light dispelling darkness, is a strong emblem of truth dissipating ignorance; the warmth of the sun conduces greatly to health; and there can be no juster symbol of the planetary harmony, than Apollo's lyre, the seven strings of which are said to represent the seven planets. As his darts are reported to have destroyed the monster Python, so his rays dry up the noxious moisture which is pernicious to vegetation and fertility.
Apollo was very differently represented in different countries and times, according to the character he assumed. In general he is described as a beardless youth, with long flowing hair floating as it were in the wind, comely and graceful, crowned with laurel, his garments and sandals shining with gold. In one hand he holds a bow and arrows, in the other a lyre; sometimes a shield and the graces. At other times he is invested in a long robe, and carries a lyre and a cup of nectar, the symbol of his divinity.
He has a threefold authority: in heaven, he is the Sun; and by the lyre intimates, that he is the source of harmony: upon earth he is called Liber Pater, and carries a shield to show he is the protector of mankind, and their preserver in health and safety. In the infernal regions he is styled Apollo, and his arrows show his authority; whosoever is stricken with them being immediately sent thither. As the Sun, Apollo was represented in a chariot, drawn by the four horses, Eous, Aethon, Phlegon, and Pyroeis.
Considered in his poetical character, he is called indifferently either Vates or Lyristes; music and poetry, in the earliest ages of the world, having made but one and the same profession.