APOLLON was the great Olympian god of prophecy, oracles, music, poetry, youth, healing, and protection from harm. His cult in the central-western regions of Greece and the Aegean are described on this page. His most important shrines in this region were the White Rock of Leukatas, with its curious cult traditions, and the great sanctuary at Delos, reputed birth place of the god and his second most important shrine after Delphoi.
CULT IN AITOLIA (CENTRAL GREECE)
I) KALYDON Chief City of Aitolia
Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 21 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Kalydon is the temple of Apollon Laphrios."
CULT IN AKARNANIA (CENTRAL GREECE)
I) AKTION (Actium) Town in Akarnania
Strabo, Geography 7. 7 . 6 :
"Next comes the mouth of the Gulf of Ambrakia . . . That part of the country which is on the right as one sails in is inhabited by the Greek Akarnanians. Here too, near the mouth, is the sacred precinct of Apollon Aktios--a hill on which the temple stands; and at the foot of the hill is a plain which contains a sacred grove and a naval station, the naval station where Caesar dedicated as first fruits of his victory [against Marc Antony] the squadron of ten ships . . .
Nikopolis is populous . . . [and] in its suburbs, the thoroughly equipped sacred precinct--one part of it being in a sacred grove that contains a gymnasium and a stadium for the celebration of the quinquennial games, the other part being on the hill that is sacred to Apollon and lies above the grove. These games - the Aktia, sacred to Apollon Aktios-- have been designated as Olympian, and they are superintended by the Lakedaemonians . . . In earlier times also the Aktia (Games) were wont to be celebrated in honor of the god by the inhabitants of the surrounding country--games in which the prize was a wreath--but at the present time they have been set in greater honor by Caesar."
Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 1 :
"The Akarnanians hold the western side of the river [Akhelous] as far as that part of the Gulf of Ambrakian which is near Amphilokhoi and the temple of Apollon Aktios."
Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 7 :
"At the mouth of the Gulf of Ambrakia the first place which belongs to the Akarnanians is Aktion. The temple of Apollon Aktios bears the same name, as also the cape which forms the mouth of the Gulf and has a harbor on the outer side."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 8. 12 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[The Roman Emperor] Augustus fought the naval engagement [with Marc Antonius] off the cape of Apollon Aktios (of the Shore) [or of Actium]."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 4. 5 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"The colony founded by Augustus, Actium [in Akarnania], with the famous temple of Apollo."
CULT IN LEUKAS (CENTRAL GREECE)
I) LEUKATAS Promontory of Leukas Island
Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Leukatas is a rock of white color jutting out from Leukas into the sea and towards Kephallenia and therefore it took its name from its color. It contains the temple of Apollo Leukatas, and also the Leap, which was believed to put an end to the longings of love. `Where Sappho is said to have been the first,' as Menandros says, `when through frantic longing she was chasing the haughty Phaon, to fling herself with a leap from the far-seen rock, calling upon thee in prayer, O lord and master.'
Now although Menandros says that Sappho was the first to take the leap, yet those who are better versed than he in antiquities say that it was [the mythical hero] Kephalos, who was in love with Pterelas the son of Deïoneus. It was an ancestral custom among the Leukadians, every year at the sacrifice performed in honor of Apollon, for some criminal to be flung from this rocky look-out for the sake of averting evil, wings and birds of all kinds being fastened to him, since by their fluttering they could lighten the leap, and also for a number of men, stationed all round below the rock in small fishing-boats, to take the victim in, and, when he had been taken on board, to do all in their power to get him safely outside their borders."
Strabo, Geography 10. 2. 24 :
"They say that the people who were called both Taphians and Teleboans lived in Akarnania in earlier times, and that their leader Kephalos, who had been set up by Amphitryon [step-father of Herakles] as master over the islands about Taphos, gained the mastery over this country too. And from this fact they go on to add the myth that Kephalos was the first to take the leap from Leukatas which became the custom, as I have said before."
Aelian, On Animals 11. 8 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"In the island of Leukas there is a high promontory on which a temple of Apollon has been built, and worshippers style him Apollon of Aktion. Now when the festival is about to be held there in which they make the Leap in honour of the god, men sacrifice an ox to the flies, and when the latter have sated themselves with the blood they disappear. Yes, but they are bribed to depart."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 7 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"The rock of Leukade received its name from Leukos, the companion of Odysseus, who was originally from Zakynthos and who was, says the Poet, killed by Antiphos; this is the person, it is said, who raised the temple of Apollon Leukates. Thus those who dive from the top of the rock were, it is said, freed from their love and for this reason : after the death of Adonis, Aphrodite, it is said, wandered around searching for this. She found it in Argos, a town of Kypros, in the sanctuary of Apollon Erithios and l'emporta after having told Apollon in confidence the secret of her love for Adonis. And Apollon brought her to the rock of Leukade and ordered her to throw herself from the top of the rock; she did so and was freed from her love. When she sought the reason of this, Apollon told her, it is said, in his capacity as a soothsayer, he knew that Zeus, always enamoured of Hera, had sat on this rock and been delivered from his love.
And many others, men and women, suffering from the evil of love, were delivered from their passion in jumping from the top of the rock, such as Artemesa, daughter of Lygdamis, who made war with Persia; enamoured of Dardarnos of Abydos and scorned, she scratched out his eyes while he slept but as her love increased under the inflence of divine anger, she came to Leukade at the instruction of an oracle, threw herself from the top of the rock, killed herself and was buried.
Hippomedon of Epidamnos, says the author, was enamoured of a young boy of his land and, unable to obtain any success as the boy had a penchant for another, he killed him, then went to Leukade, jumped and killed himself.
And the comic poet Nikostratus, in love with Tetigidaia of Mirina, jumped and was cured of his love.
Makes of Buthroton was, it is said, surnamed White Rock because he had been cured of the evils of love after he jumped from the rock four times.
A crowd of other people pass to be relieved in this way. Boulagoras the Phanagorite, enamoured of the flutist Diodoros, threw himself from the rock and was killed at an advanced age.
Rhodope of Amisene killed herself also in jumping for the love of two twin lads who belonged to the guards of king Antiokhos and were called Antiphon and Kyros.
And Kharinos, a iambic poet, was in love with the eunuch Eros, Eupator's butler; trusting the legend of the rock he jumped, broke his leg, and died of pain while making these iambics: 'To the devil with you, deceptive and murderous rock of Leukos! Kharinos, alas! alas! this iambic muse, you have turned to cinders by your vain words of hope. Can Eupator suffer so much for Eros.
And Nireus of Katana, in love with Athena of Athens [the cult statue?], came to the rock and jumped and was delivered of his pain. In jumping he fell into the net of a fishman in which when he was pulled out was also found a box filled with gold. He went to law with the fisherman for the gold, but Apollon appeared to him in the night in a dream and told him to desist since he should give thanks for his safety and he threatened him; it was not right in addition to try to appropriate gold which belonged to others."
CULT IN EPEIROS (NORTHERN GREECE)
Aelian, On Animals 11. 2 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"The people of Epeiros and all strangers sojourning there, beside any other sacrifice to Apollon, on one day in the year hold their chief festival in his honour with solemnity and great pomp. There is a grove dedicated to the god, and round about it a precinct, and in the enclosure are Drakones (Serpents), and these self-same Serpents are the pets of the god. Now the priestess, who is a virgin, enters unaccompanied, bringing food for the Serpents. And the people of Epeiros maintain that the Drakones are sprung from the Python at Delphoi. If, as the priestess approaches, they look graciously upon her and take the food with eagerness, it is agreed that they are indicating a year of prosperity and of freedom from sickness. If however they scare her and refuse the pleasant food she offers, then the Serpents are foretelling the reverse of the above, and that is what the people of Epeiros expect."
CULT IN ILLYRIA (NORTH OF GREECE)
I) APOLLONIA Town in Illyria (Greek colony)
Strabo, Geography 7. 6. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Apollonia [in Illyria, modern-day Albania], a colony of the Milesians. The greater part of Apollonia was founded on a certain isle, where there is a temple of Apollon, from which [the Roman] Marcus Lucullus carried off the colossal statue of Apollon, a work of Kalamis, which he set up in the Capitolion [of Rome]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 22. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Apollonia [in Illyria] on the Ionian sea . . . which on the Ionian sea Phoibos [Apollon] founded, he of the unshorn locks."
CULT IN THESSALIA (NORTHERN GREECE)
I) PHYLLOS Village in Phthiotis, Thessalia
Strabo, Geography 9. 5. 15 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Phyllos [in Phthiotis, Thessalia], where is the temple of Apollo Phyllios."
II) DEIPNIAS Village near Larissa, Lapithai, Thessalia
Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 4. 2 (from Stephanus Byzantium s.v. Deipnias) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Deipnias, a village of Thessalia near Larissa, where Apollon is said to have dined first on his return from Tempe after purification [i.e. after slaying Python]. And it was the custom for the boy who brought the laurel to dine when he arrived at this village. Kallimakhos Aitia 4 `Whence Deipnias receives him.'"
[Translater's ommentary : The purification of Apollon was commemorated in a solemn pilgrimage to Tempe, valley of the River Peneios beneath Mt Olympos, every night year when a brand of laurel was carried home by a boy called Daphnephoros.]
CULT IN DELOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
Herodotus, Histories 6. 118 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Datis [a Persian general] journeyed with his army to Asia, and when he arrived at Mykonos he saw a vision in his sleep. What that vision was is not told, but as soon as day broke Datis made a search of his ships. He found in a Phoinikian ship a gilded image of Apollon, and asked where this plunder had been taken. Learning from what temple it had come, he sailed in his own ship to Delos. The Delians had now returned to their island, and Datis set the image in the temple, instructing the Delians to carry it away to Theban Delion [temple of Apollon Delios], on the coast opposite Khalkis. Datis gave this order and sailed away, but the Delians never carried that statue away; twenty years later the Thebans brought it to Delion by command of an oracle."
Callimachus, Aetia Fragment 7 (from Scholiast on Ovid’s Ibis 475) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Anios was [mythical] priest of Apollon at Delos. Thasos [his son], visiting him at night, was torn by dogs; hence no dog has access to Delos, according to Kallimakhos."
Callimachus, Fragment 215 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 4. 284) :
"They [the Hyperboreoi] send [offerings to Apollon at Delos] from the Rhipaion Mountains."
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Now the city which belongs to Delos, as also the temple of Apollon, and the Letoion (Temple of Leto), are situated in a plain; and above the city lies Kynthos, a bare and rugged mountain; and a river named Inopos flows through the island - not a large river, for the island itself is small. From olden times, beginning with the times of the heroes, Delos has been revered because of its gods, for the myth is told that there Leto was delivered of her travail by the birth of Apollon and Artemis : `for aforetime,' says Pindaros, `it was tossed by the billows, by the blasts of all manner of winds, but when [Leto] the daughter of Koios in the frenzied pangs of childbirth set foot upon it, then did four pillars, resting on adamant, rise perpendicular from the roots of the earth, and on their capitals sustain the rock. And there she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring.'
The neighboring islands, called the Kyklades, made it famous, since in its honor they would send at public expense sacred envoys, sacrifices, and choruses composed of virgins, and would celebrate great general festivals there [in honour of Apollon, Artemis and Leto]."
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 4 :
"Now although Delos had become so famous, yet the razing of Korinthos to the ground by the Romans increased its fame still more; for the importers changed their business to Delos because they were attracted both by the immunity which the temple enjoyed and by the convenient situation of the harbor; for it is happily situated for those who are sailing from Italy and Greece to Asia. The general festival [of Apollon] is a kind of commercial affair, and it was frequented by Romans more than by any other people, even when Korinthos was still in existence. And when the Athenians took the island they at the same time took good care of the importers as well as of the religious rites. But when the generals of [the Persian] Mithridates, and the tyrant who caused it to revolt, visited Delos, they completely ruined it, and when the Romans again got the island, alter the king withdrew to his homeland, it was desolate; and it has remained in an impoverished condition until the present time. It is now held by the Athenians.
Rheneia is a desert isle within four stadia from Delos, and there the Delians bury their dead; for it is unlawful to bury, or even burn, a corpse in Delos itself, and it is unlawful even to keep a dog there. In earlier times it was called Ortygia."
Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 6 :
"Both Milesians [at Didyma] and Delians invoke an Apollo Oulios, that is, as god of 'health and healing,' for the verb oulein means 'to be healthy'; whence the noun 'oule' and the salutation, 'Both health and great joy to thee'; for Apollon is the god of healing. And Artemis has her name from the fact that she makes people artemeas (Safe and Sound). And both Helios (Sun) and Selene (Moon) are closely associated with these, since they are the causes of the temperature of the air. And both pestilential diseases and sudden deaths are imputed to these gods."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"At Prasiai [in Attika] is a temple of Apollon. Hither they say are sent the first-fruits of the [mythical] Hyperboreaoi [on route to Apollon's shrine at Delos], 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." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1.31.4
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 23. 3 - 5 :
"Boiatai [in Lakedaimonia], is sacred to Apollon and called Epidelion. For the wooden image which is now here, once stood in Delos. Delos was then a Greek market, and seemed to offer security to traders on account of the god; but as the place was unfortified and the inhabitants unarmed, [the historical Persian] Menophanes, an officer of Mithridates, attacked it with a fleet, to show his contempt for the god, or acting on the orders of Mithridates; for to a man whose object is gain what is sacred is of less account than what is profitable. This Menophanes put to death the foreigners residing there and the Delians themselves, and after plundering much property belonging to the traders and all the offerings, and also carrying women and children away as slaves, he razed Delos itself to the ground. As it was being sacked and pillaged, one of the barbarians wantonly flung this image into the sea; but the wave took it and brought it to land here in the country of the Boiatai. For this reason they call the place Epidelion. But neither Menophanes nor Mithridates himself escaped the wrath of the god. Menophanes, as he was putting to sea after the sack of Delos was sunk at once by those of the merchants who had escaped; for they lay in wait for him in ships. The god caused Mithridates at a later date to lay hands upon himself, when his empire had been destroyed and he himself was being hunted on all sides by the Romans. There are some who say that he obtained a violent death as a favour at the hands of one of his mercenaries. This was the reward of their impiety."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 4. 1 :
"In the reign of Phintas the son of Sybotas the Messenians for the first time sent an offering and chorus of men to Apollon at Delos. Their processional hymn to the god was composed by Eumelos, this poem being the only one of his that is considered genuine."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 35. 3 :
"Angelion and Tektaos, sons of Dionysiodotos, made the image of Apollon for the Delians, set three Kharites (Graces) in his hand."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 40. 4 :
"Bereft of Ariadne, say the Delians, Theseus dedicated the wooden image of the goddess [Aphrodite] to the Apollon Delios, lest by taking it home he should be dragged into remembering Ariadne, and so find the grief for his love ever renewed."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 4. 66 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Delos, celebrated for its temple of Apollo . . . According to the story, Delos for a long time floated adrift . . . Aristotle [Greek philosopher C4th B.C.] has recorded that it owes its name to its having suddenly appeared emerging from the water [i.e. because delos means 'manifest']; Aglaosthenes, however calls is the isle of Cynthia, and others Ortygia (Quail Island), Asteria (Star Island), Lagia (Hare Island), Chlamydia (Cloak-Island), Cynethus (Dog Island), and Pyripile (Fiery Island) because fire was first discovered there. It measures five miles in circumference. Its only eminence is Mount Cynthius."
Suidas s.v. Deliastai (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Deliastai : The cult-envoys who went out to Delos."
CULT IN KEOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
I) Near KORESSIA Village in Keos
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Koressia, and also near Poiëessa [towns of Keos], is a temple of Apollon Sminthaios; and between the temple and the ruins of Poiëessa is the temple of Athena Nedousia, [both] founded by Nestor when he was on his return from Troy."
CULT IN LESBOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
I) LESBOS Island
Callimachus, Fragment 543 (from Bekk. Anecd. 1187) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The choir of Maloeis came singing [a title of Apollon on Lesbos]."
II) TENEDOS Isle near Lesbos
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 22 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tenea, also, is in Korinthia [southern Greece], 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."
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 46 :
"Tenedos . . . has an Aiolian city and two harbors and a temple of Apollon Smintheus, as the poet [Homer] testifies : `And dost rule mightily over Tenedos, O Smintheus.'"
III) HEKATONNESOI Isles near Lesbos
Strabo, Geography 13. 2. 5 :
"In the strait between Asia and Lesbos there are about twenty small islands ... They are called Hekatonnesoi (Islands of Hekatos) . . . which means Apollonnesoi (Islands of Apollon), for Apollon is called Hekatos; for along the whole of this coast, as far as Tenedos, Apollon is highly honored, being called Smintheus or Killaios or Gryneus or by some other appellation. Near these is Pordoselene [the largest of the islands], which contains a city of the same name, and also, in front of this city, another island, larger and of the same name, which is uninhabited and has a temple sacred to Apollon."
CULT IN KHIOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
I) PHANAI Village in Khios
Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 35 :
"Khios . . . has Phanai, a deep harbor, and to a temple of Apollon and a grove of palm trees."
CULT IN SAMOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 31. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The sanctuary of Apollon Thearios [at Troizenos in the Argolis] . . . is the oldest I know of. Now . . . the Samians also have an old one of Apollon Pythios; it, however, was built much later than the sanctuary at Troizenos."
CULT IN KHALKIA (GREEK AEGEAN)
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 15 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The island of] Khalkia is eighty stadia distant from Telos, four hundred from Karpathos . . . and has also a settlement of the same name and a temple of Apollon and a harbor."
CULT IN RHODOS (GREEK AEGEAN)
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 64 :
"The Rhodians, who call erysibe (mildew) erythibe, have a temple of Apollo Erythibios (of the Mildew) in their country."
CULT IN THERA (GREEK AEGEAN)
I) ANAPHE Isle near Thera
Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 1 :
"Near [the island of] Thera, Anaphe, where is the temple of Apollon Aigletos (the Shining). Kallimakhos speaks in one place as follows, `Anaphe Aigletos, neighbor to Lakonian Thera.'"
N.B. The origin of this cult is described in the story of the Argonauts.
- 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.
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History - Greek Mythographer C1st-2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd-3rd A.D.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Encyclopedia C1st A.D.
- Photius, Myriobiblon - Byzantine Greek Scholar C9th A.D.
- Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.