‘Phoebus Apollo’ by Briton Riviera via Wikimedia Commons
Come and meet the handsome overachiever of the Greek pantheon
There are few Greek gods more well-known and prolific than Apollo. We know him primarily as the Greek god of music and poetry, but he is also the god of the sun, light, healing, plagues, prophecy, knowledge, archery, agriculture, order, beauty, and so much more. Talk about a jack of all trades!
With all his attributes, it’s no surprise that he’s a major deity of the ancient Greek religion. Because of this, Apollo has a rich history and countless myths dedicated to and featuring him. There’s no shortage of fun facts when it comes to this guy, so let’s dive into the life of Apollo: The Greek god of music, poetry, and so much more.
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto and the twin of Artemis. He was born on the island Delos after his mother was forbidden from giving birth on solid earth by an enraged Hera, Zeus’ wife.
In the first miraculous myth of Apollo, it is said he transitioned from infant to man just days from his birth thanks to a diet existing exclusively of nectar and ambrosia (food and drink that brought immortality and health to those that drank it). In fact, not four days after his birth, he slew a dragon. Not bad for a newborn.
Not only did Apollo skip the awkward puberty years by speeding up the aging process, but he also hit the beauty jackpot. Regarded as the most beautiful god, Apollo is often depicted in Greek sculpture because of his physical perfection.
“He’s immortal, the embodiment of physical perfection, he skipped the awful puberty years, and is insanely talented in a wealth of areas… Try not to be too jealous.”
Becoming the Greek god of music
Being the Greek god of music, it’s no surprise that Apollo was the master of many instruments. While he was skilled with many instruments, it is his mastery of the lyre that he is known for.
Depending on the myth in question, the invention of the lyre is attributed to either Apollo or Hermes. In both stories, however, Apollo ends up with the lyre and, because he has fallen in love with the sound, masters it above any other instrument. It is because of this that Apollo is most well known as the Greek god of music.
Because of his mastery, Apollo is often depicted in the company of the Muses – the inspirational goddesses of the arts, literature, and science – as well as a frequent performer at the weddings of the gods.
Additionally, as his music was so bewitching, he would play his lyre and sing to deliver people from their pain and suffering. This, combined with his devotion to the art of medicine, is why he is also the Greek god of healing.
As well as being the much-loved Greek god of music, Apollo was a busy man. He was a key player in the Trojan war, infecting the Greek camps with a deadly plague and helping Paris (the man, not the city) kill Achilles.
On a more charitable note, he was known for his protection and the education of the youth. Apollo, along with the Muses, oversaw the education of children, especially boys, and their passage into adulthood. Additionally, he was known for teaching medicine, archery, prophecy, music, and more to both the gods and the mortals.
He was a key player in the Trojan war
If we were to go into all of Apollo’s antics and attributes, this article would soon become an encyclopedic volume, so it’s best that we keep it short. However, it’s clear even from this brief overview that Apollo is an interesting character that showcases the complex life and ideals of ancient Greece.
He’s immortal, the embodiment of physical perfection, he skipped the awful puberty years, and is insanely talented in a wealth of areas… Try not to be too jealous.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
- Why Greek and Roman gods are so similar | History 101
Apollo is the same (name and all) in Greek and Roman religion. Why?
- Greek mythology gods and their stories | History 101
Meet all the gods of the Greek pantheon