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date: 17 October 2019


  • Warren Anderson
  • , revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen


Ancient Greek god. The origins of Apollo remain uncertain. In myth he is the child of Leto and Zeus. His worship may have come into Greece from Macedonia; or possibly it travelled westward from Asia Minor. Often he was termed ‘Lykeios’: if the epithet means ‘wolf-god’, he may originally have been a god of shepherds. This hypothesis would explain an active concern with music. It leaves unexplained the fact that he is constantly shown in art and literature with the kithara or lyra rather than the shepherd’s panpipes (syrinx) or the aulos, although several Greek writers did associate him with reed-blown instruments (e.g. Euripides, Alcestis, 576–7).

The Homeric evidence indicates that Apollo's nature was complex. In the early passages of Iliad, book i, as the avenging archer-god, he angrily sends shafts of pestilence upon the Greek host, while at its close (603–4) he appears as the lyre-god accompanying the Muses' song; and in the ...

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