APOLLON was the great Olympian god of prophecy, oracles, healing, and the aversion of plague and general harm. He was also the protector of youths and the patron god of music and poetry. Apollon was one of the most popular gods with innumerable shrines and sanctuaries scattered throughout the Greek world. The most important of these was the great oracle at Delphoi, which not only provided prophesies of the future, but also ruled on matters of religion.
In classical sculpture Apollon was portrayed as a handsome youth, or adoscelent boy, with long unshorn locks of hair, often tied back above his head. His usual attributes were an arrow, lyre, lizard or snake (the latter symbolizing the Python serpent of Delphoi).
ORACLES OF APOLLON
The most famous of the sanctuaries of the god Apollon were his oracular shrines. First and foremost of these was the great Oracle of Delphoi, but others were found scattered throughout Magna Graeca, including:--
(i) The Oracle of Apollon Ismenios in Thebes, Boiotia (Greece);
(ii) The Oracle of Apollon Ptoios on Mt Ptoos, Boiotia (Greece);
(iii) The Oracle of Apollon at Abai, Phokis (Greece);
(iv) The Oracle of Apollon Didymios at Didyma (or Brankhidai), near Miletos, Karia (Asia Minor);
(v) The Oracle of Apollon Klarios at Klaros, near Kolophon (Asia Minor);
(vi) The Oracle of Apollon at Pergamon, Teuthrania (Asia Minor);
(vii) As well as a few other minor oracles in smaller towns.
Herodotus, Histories 1. 46 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"[The historical Lydian king Kroisos, fearing the Persian advance] made inquiries of the Greek and Libyan oracles, sending messengers separately to Delphoi [oracle of Apollon], to Abai in Phokia [oracle of Apollon], and to Dodona [oracle of Zeus], while others were despatched to Amphiaraus and Trophonius, and others to Brankhidai in the Milesian country [oracle of Apollon]. These are the Greek oracles to which Kroisos sent for divination: and he told others to go inquire of Ammon in Libya. His intent in sending was to test the knowledge of the oracles, so that, if they were found to know the truth, he might send again and ask if he should undertake an expedition against the Persians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 32. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Thebans say that when the [historical] battle of Leuktra was imminent, they sent to other oracles and to enquire of [Trophonios] the god of Lebadeia. The replies of [the oracles Apollon] Ismenios and Apollon Ptoios are recorded, also the responses given [by the oracle of Apollon] at Abai and at Delphoi."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 5. 4 :
"The land of the Ionians has the finest possible climate, and sanctuaries such as are to be found nowhere else. First because of its size and wealth is that of the goddess Ephesia [Artemis], and then come two unfinished sanctuaries of Apollon, the one in Brankhidai, in Milesian territory, and the one at Klaros in the land of the Kolophonians."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 1 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"Reports were also current about him [Apollonios of Tyana] which originated from the various Oracles; thus from the Oracle at Kolophon it was announced that he shared its peculiar wisdom and was absolutely wise, and so forth; from that of Didyma similar rumours emanated, as also from the shrine at Pergamon; for the God urged not a few of those who were in need of health to betake themselves to Apollonios, for this was what he himself approved and was pleasing to the Moirai (Fates)."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 14 :
"He also visited in passing the shrine of Orpheus when he had put in at Lesbos. And they tell that it was here that Orpheus once on a time loved to prophesy, before Apollon had turned his attention to him. For when the latter found that men no longer flocked to Gryneion for the sake of oracles nor to Klaros nor to Delphoi where is the tripod of Apollon, and that Orpheus was the only oracle, his head having lately come from Thrake, he presented himself before the giver of oracles and said : `Cease to meddle with my affairs, for I have already put up long enough with your vaticinations.'"
See also The Oracle of Delphoi (page still under construction).
Suidas s.v. Agyiai (after Photius, Lexicon & Harpocration 7. 7) (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Agyiai (highways) : Streets, alleys, or long roads . . . Agyieus, a pillar set up in front of the door . . . . Some say these pillars belong to Apollon, some to Dionysos, some to both . . . There would be some Attic speakers saying aguieis for the altars in front of the house, as Sophokles [tragedian C5th .C.] says when transferring Athenian customs to Troy : `the altar by the door gleams, smoky with fire and drops of myrrh and barbarian perfumes.'
Also Agyieus, the pointed pillar by courtyard doors, sacred to Apollon, or the god himself. Pherekrates in Krapataloi [writes] : `Oh master Agyieus, remember me in these matters.'"
CULT IN ATTIKA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) ATHENAI Chief City of Attika
Plato, Phaedo 58a ff (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"It happened that the stern of the ship which the Athenians send to Delos was crowned on the day before the trial [of Sokrates] . . . This is the ship, as the Athenians say, in which Theseus once went to Krete with the fourteen youths and maidens, and saved them and himself. Now the Athenians made a vow to Apollon, as the story goes, that if they were saved they would send a mission every year to Delos. And from that time even to the present day they send it annually in honor of the god. Now it is their law that after the mission begins the city must be pure and no one may be publicly executed until the ship has gone to Delos and back; and sometimes, when contrary winds detain it, this takes a long time. The beginning of the mission is when the priest of Apollon crowns the stern of the ship; and this took place, as I say, on the day before the trial. For that reason Sokrates passed a long time in prison between his trial and his death.
[To Sokrates :] Several others have asked about the poems you have composed, the metrical versions of Aesop's fables and the hymn to Apollo . . .
[Sokrates :] But now, after the trial and while the festival of the god delayed my execution . . . I composed a hymn to the god whose festival it was."
Callimachus, Fragment 141 (from Scholiast on Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus 919) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"I met him beside the field of Apollon Lykeios [the gymnasium of Athens] that always shines fair with oil."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 2. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"One of the porticoes [of the Keramaikos of Athens] contains shrines of gods ... they call Apollon Mousegetes (Leader of the Mousai). Here there are images of Athena Paionia (Healer), of Zeus, of Mnemosyne (Memory) and of the Mousai, an Apollon, the votive offering and work of Eubulides, and Akratos, a Daimon attendant upon Apollon; it is only a face of him worked into the wall. After the precinct of Apollon is a building that contains earthen ware images."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 3. 4 :
"Euphranor also wrought the Apollon surnamed Patroios (Paternal) in the temple hard by [the Painted Portico oin the marketplace of Athens]. And in front of the temple is one Apollon made by Leokhares; the other Apollo, called Alexikakos (Averter of evil), was made by Kalamis. They say that the god received this name because by an oracle from Delphoi he stayed the pestilence which afflicted the Athenians at the time of the Peloponnesian War."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 3. 5 :
"Hard by [the marketplace of Athens] is the council chamber of those called the Five Hundred, who are the Athenian councillors for a year. In it are a wooden figure of Zeus Boulaios (Of the Counsel) and an Apollon, the work of Peisias, and a Demos (God of the People) by Lyson."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 8. 4 :
"About the temple [of Ares in Athens] stand images of Herakles, Theseus, Apollon binding his hair with a fillet [worn by seers]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 19. 1 :
"Close to the temple of Zeus Olympios [in Athens] is a statue of the Apollon Pythios. There is further a sanctuary of Apollon surnamed Delphinios (Of the Dolphins). The story has it that when the temple was finished with the exception of the roof Theseus arrived in the city, a stranger as yet to everybody. When he came to the temple of the Delphinian, wearing a tunic that reached to his feet and with his hair neatly plaited, those who were building the roof mockingly inquired what a marriageable virgin was doing wandering about by herself. The only answer that Theseus made was to loose, it is said, the oxen from the cart hard by, and to throw them higher than the roof of the temple they were building."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 19. 3 :
"The Lykeion [temple of Apollon Lykeios in Athens] has its name from Lykos, the son of Pandion, but it was considered sacred to Apollon from the be ginning down to my time, and here was the god first named Lykeios (of Lykos or of the Wovles)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 21. 3 :
"At the top of the theater [of Athens] is a cave in the rocks under the Akropolis. This also has a tripod over it, wherein are [statues of] Apollon and Artemis slaying the children of Niobe."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 24. 8 :
"Opposite the temple [the Parthenon on the Akropolis of Athens] is a bronze Apollon, said to be the work of Pheidias. They call it Parnopion (the Locust God), because once when locusts were devastating the land the god said that he would drive them from Attika. That he did drive them away they know, but they do not say how."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 28. 4 :
"On descending [from the Akropolis of Athens], not to the lower city, but to just beneath the Gateway, you see a fountain and near it a sanctuary of Apollon in a cave. It is here that Apollon is believed to have met Kreusa, daughter of Erekhtheus."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 24. 6 :
"Apollon Akesios (Healer): The meaning of the name would appear to be exactly the same as that of Alexikakos (Averter of Evil), the name current among the Athenians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 41. 8 :
"The Athenians gave him [Apollon] the name of Alexikakos (Averter of Evil) for turning the plague away from them."
Suidas s.v. Delphinion (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Delphinion : It is of course a place in Khios; but there is also a shrine of Apollon in Athens so called, where the Delphinion (of the Dolphin) lawcourt used to be."
Suidas s.v. Apollon :
"Enthrypton : Made of pastry; a flat-scone, that is. Alternatively, cake crumbs. Some associate it with initiation-rites. And Apollon is called Enthryptos amongst the Athenians."
II) ZOSTER Village in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"At Zoster (Girdle) [in Attika] on the coast is an altar to Athena, as well as to Apollon, to Artemis and to Leto. The story is that Leto did not give birth to her children here, but loosened her girdle with a view to her delivery, and the place received its name from this incident."
III) PRASIAI Village in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 3 :
"At Prasiai [in Attika] is a temple of Apollon. Hither they say are sent the first-fruits of the Hyperboreaoi, and the Hyperboreoi are said to hand them over to the Arimaspoi, the Arimaspoi to the Issedones, from these the Skythians bring them to Sinope, thence they are carried by Greeks to Prasiai, and the Athenians take them to Delos. The first-fruits are hidden in wheat straw, and they are known of none. There is at Prasiai a monument to [the mythical king] Erysikhthon, who died on the voyage home from Delos, after the sacred mission thither."
IV) PHYLA & MYRRHINOS Villages in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 4 :
"Phlya and Myrrhinos [in Attika] have altars of Apollo Dionysodotes (Bestower of Dionysos), Artemis Selasphoros (Light-bearer)."
V) AKHARNAI Village in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 6 :
"There is a parish called Akharnai [in Attika], where they worship Apollon Agyieus (God of Streets)."
VI) HYMETTOS Mountain in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 32. 1 - 2 :
"On Hymettos [in Attika] . . . there are altars both of Zeus Ombrios (Rain-god) and of Apollo Proopsios (Foreseeing)."
VII) OROPOS Village in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 34. 3 :
"The altar [of Amphiaraos, near Oropos, Attika] shows parts. One part is to Herakles, Zeus, and Apollon Paian (Healer)."
VIII) R KEPHISOS River in Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 37. 6 - 7 :
"There is a sanctuary [beyond the river Kephisos on the road from Athens to Eleusis, in Attika] in which are set statues of Demeter, her daughter [Kore], Athena, and Apollon. At the first it was built in honor of Apollon only. For legend says that Kephalos, the son of Deion . . . [was] exiled from Athens because he had killed his wife Prokris. In the tenth generation afterwards [the historical] Khalkinus and Daitos, descendants of Kephalos, sailed to Delphoi and asked the god for permission to return to Athens. He ordered them first to sacrifice to Apollon in that spot in Attika where they should see a man-of-war running on the land. When they reached the mountain called the Many-Colored Mountain a snake was seen hurrying into its hole. In this place they sacrificed to Apollon; afterwards they came to Athens and the Athenians made them citizens."
CULT IN MEGARIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) MEGARA Chief City of Megaris
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 41. 3 :
"Not far from the tomb of Hyllos [in Megara] is a temple of . . . Apollon and of Artemis. They say that Alkathous made it after killing the lion called Kithaironian. By this lion they say many were slain, including Euippos, the son of Megareus their king . . . Megareus they say promised that he who killed the Kithaironian lion should marry his daughter and succeed him in the kingdom. Alkathous therefore, son of Pelops, attacked the beast and overcame it, and when he came to the throne he built this sanctuary, surnaming Artemis Agrotera (Huntress) and Apollon Agraios (Hunter). Such is the account of the Megarians . . . Let so much suffice for Alkathous and for the lion, whether it was on [Mount] Kithairon or elsewhere that the killing took place that caused him to make a temple to Artemis Agrotera and Apollo Agraios."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 42. 2 :
"The Megarians have another citadel, which is named after Alkathous . . . There is also shown a hearth of the gods called Prodomeis (Builders before) [probably the Kyklopes]. They say that Alkathous was the first to sacrifice to them, at the time when he was about to begin the building of the wall. Near this hearth is a stone, on which they say Apollon laid his lyre when he was helping Alkathous in the building ... On the occasion of his building the wall, the Megarians say, Apollon helped him and placed his lyre on the stone; and if you happen to hit it with a pebble it sounds just as a lyre does when struck."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 42. 5 :
"The ancient temple of Apollon [in Megara] was of brick, but the emperor Hadrian afterwards built it of white marble. The Apollon called Pythios and the one called Dekatephoros (Bringer of Tithes) are very like the Aigyption (Egyptian) wooden images, but the one surnamed Arkhegetes (Founder) resembles Aiginetan works. They are all alike made of ebony. I have heard a man of Kypros . . . say that the [tree of the black wood] ebony does not grow leaves or bear fruit, or even appear in the sunlight at all, but consists of underground roots which are dug up by the Aithiopians, who have men skilled at finding ebony."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 44. 2 :
"As you go down from the market-place [of Megara] you see on the right of the street called Straight a sanctuary of Apollo Prostaterios (Protecting). You must turn a little aside from the road to discover it. In it is a noteworthy Apollon, Artemis also, and Leto, and other statues, made by Praxiteles. In the old gymnasium near the gate called the Gate of the Nymphai is a stone of the shape of a small pyramid. This they name Apollo Karinos, and here there is a sanctuary of the Eileithyiae."
II) MOLOURION ROCK Mountain in Megaris
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 44. 9 :
"On the top of the mountain [the Molourion Rock of Megara] is a temple of Zeus . . . Here there are also images of Aphrodite, Apollon, and Pan."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 44. 10 :
"When you have gone down from this road [over the Molourion Rock in Megara] you see a sanctuary of Apollon Latoios (son of Leto), after which is the boundary between Megara and Korinthos."
CULT IN AIGINA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) AIGINA Chief Town of Aigina
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 30. 1 :
"There are three temples close together [in the main town of the island of Aigina], one of Apollon, one of Artemis, and a third of Dionysos. Apollon has a naked wooden image of native workmanship."
CULT IN KORINTHIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) KORINTHOS Chief City of Korinthia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 3. 3 :
"Near [the fountain of] Peirene [in Korinthos] are an image and a sacred enclosure of Apollon; in the latter is a painting of the exploit of Odysseus against the suitors."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 3. 6 :
"As you go along another road from the market-place [of Korinthos], which leads to Sikyon, you can see on the right of the road a temple and bronze image of Apollon, and a little farther on a well called the Well of Glauke . . . Above this well has been built what is called the Odeion (Music Hall)."
II) TENEA Village in Korinthia
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 22 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tenea, also, is in Korinthia, and in it is a temple of the Apollon Teneatos . . . And it seems, also, that there is a kinship between the peoples of Tenedos and Tenea, through Tennes the son of Kyknos, as Aristotle says; and the similarity in the worship of Apollon among the two peoples affords strong indications of such kinship."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 5. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The town called Tenea [in Korinthos] is just about sixty stades distant. The inhabitants say that they are Trojans who were taken prisoners in Tenedos by the Greeks, and were permitted by Agamemnon to dwell in their present home. For this reason they honor Apollon more than any other god."
III) KENKHREAI Town in Korinthia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 2. 8 :
"There is [at Kenkhreai, Korinthos] also a bronze Apollon surnamed Klarios (Distributor by Lot)."
IV) ROAD TO SIKYON in Korinthia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 5. 5 :
"As you go from Korinthos, not into the interior but along the road to Sikyon, there is on the left not far from the city a burnt temple. There have, of course, been many wars carried on in Korinthian territory, and naturally houses and sanctuaries outside the wall have been fired. But this temple, they say, was Apollon's, and Pyrrhos [Neoptolemos] the son of Akhilleus burned it down."
CULT IN SIKYONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) SIKYON Chief City of Sikyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 7. 7 - 9 :
"Within the market-place [of Sikyon] is a sanctuary of Peitho (Persuasion); this too has no image. The worship of Peitho was established among them for the following reason. When Apollon and Artemis had killed Pytho they came to Aigialeia [Sikyonia] to obtain purification. Dread coming upon them at the place now named Fear, they turned aside to Karmanor in Krete, and the people of Aigialeia were smitten by a plague. When the seers bade them propitiate Apollon and Artemis, they sent seven boys and seven maidens as suppliants to the river Sythas. They say that the deities, persuaded by these, came to what was then the citadel, and the place that they reached first is the sanctuary of Peithon. Conformable with this story is the ceremony they perform at the present day; the children go to the Sythas at the feast of Apollon, and having brought, as they pretend, the deities to the sanctuary of Peitho, they say that they take them back again to the temple of Apollon. The temple stands in the modern market-place, and was originally, it is said, made by Proitos [king of Argos], because in this place his daughters recovered from their madness. It is also said that in this temple Meleagros dedicated the spear with which he slew the [Kalydonian] boar. There is also a story that the flutes of Marsyas are dedicated here. When the Silenos met with his disaster, the river Marsyas carried the flutes to the Maiandros; reappearing in the Asopos they were cast ashore in the Sikyonian territory and given to Apollon by the shepherd who found them. I found none of these offerings still in existence, for they were destroyed by fire when the temple was burnt. The temple that I saw, and its image, were dedicated by Pythokles."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 9. 7 :
"Hard by [the market-place of Sikyon] is a sanctuary of Apollo Lykeios (Wolf-god), now fallen into ruins and not worth any attention. For wolves once so preyed upon their flocks that there was no longer any profit therefrom, and the god, mentioning a certain place where lay a dry log, gave an oracle that the bark of this log mixed with meat was to be set out for the beasts to eat. As soon as they tasted it the bark killed them, and that log lay in my time in the sanctuary of Lykeios (the Wolf-god), but not even the guides of the Sikyonians knew what kind of tree it was."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 10. 2 :
"The inner room [of the sanctuary of Asklepios at Sikyon] is given over to the Apollon Karneios; into it none may enter except the priests."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 1 - 2 :
"They say that the sanctuary of Artemis and Apollon [near the Gate of Sikyon] was also made by [the mythical king] Epopeus, and that of Hera after it by Adrastos. I found no images remaining in either. A little farther away from the sanctuary of Hera . . . is a temple of the Apollon Karneios. Only the pillars are standing in it; you will no longer find there walls or roof."
II) PHLIOUS Town in Sikyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 7 :
"Farther on from the Omphalos [in Phlious, Sikyonia] they have an old sanctuary of Dionysos, [and] a sanctuary of Apollon . . . The image of Dionysos is visible to all, and so also is that of Apollon."
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Plato, Phaedo - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.