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Five fascinating facts about the Greek god Apollo


Since I was ten, I have been fascinated by mythology – in particular Greek mythology, with its array of gods, monsters and heroes. Though each god is remarkable in their own way, I found Apollo to be particularly interesting.

1. Apollo appears to be, what we might call today, bisexual.

Apollo was not hung up about whether his lovers were male or female. The most famous, however, were Daphne, a nymph Apollo fell in love with after being struck with Cupid’s arrow (but Daphne didn’t like him, having been shot with a leaden arrow that caused her to be repulsed by Apollo, so her father, the river god Peneus, turned her into a laurel tree to save her from the god’s advances); and Hyacinthus, a Spartan prince who was loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus (which caused such jealously between them that in the end Zephyrus killed Hyacinthus with a discus to the head).

2. He was the god of so many things that even the Ancient Greeks got confused.

Apollo was the god of practically everything – including but not limited to music, poetry, art, prophecy, truth, archery, plague, healing, sun and light (although the god is always associated with the sun, the original sun god was the titan Helios, but everyone forgot about him). Music is among his most well-known gifts, and he is known to have participated in many musical contests – though, being a god, he could never stand to lose a competition. King Midas had his ears transformed into donkey ears for not choosing Apollo as the winner of a contest against Pan and Apollo also cheated in a contest with the satyr Marsyas – then, for being his equal in talent, flayed the unfortunate soul alive.

3. Apollo wasted no time in avenging his mother, Leto.

Hera, angry at Zeus’ affair with Leto, tried to kill her in plenty of different ways. While Leto was pregnant, Hera sent Python, a giant snake, to attack her; and later sent Tityos, a giant, in an attempt to get her long-awaited revenge. Apollo wasn’t too pleased and killed both Python and Tityos. Some stories say it only took a single arrow each time to bring the two monsters down. Impressively, Apollo defeated the mighty Python at just four days old.

4. Apollo liked cows…but he liked music more.

Although his sacred animals were the wolf, the raven and the dolphin, Apollo was also known as the god of cowherds and kept (bright red) sacred cows, the finest cattle in the world. Hermes, however, once stole fifty of these cows as a joke; when Apollo found out, the only thing keeping him from killing the god of thieves on the spot was Hermes’ invention – a lyre. Apollo was so entranced that he exchanged his entire herd for the instrument.

5. Apollo was temporarily stripped of his immortal power by Zeus – twice.

The first time occured when Zeus killed Apollo’s son Asclepius, a great healer, who defied fate by bringing the Greek hero Hippolytus back from the dead. In revenge, Apollo killed the Cyclopes who had created Zeus’ weapons, which upset Zeus so much that he sent the god to earth as a mortal to serve the King of Pherae in Thessaly. The second time was when he and Poseidon foolishly attempted to overthrow Zeus – Zeus didn’t like that and sentenced them both to years of hard labour as humans, where they built the great walls of Troy that practically made the city invincible.

By Maya Williams

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