Sunday, July 13, 2008

God of the Week: Apollo

A sky god, Apollo is often associated with the sun, light, prophecy, clarity of form, and music. He is generally represented as a kouros (beardless youth), and associated with medicine and healing, as well as archery. His attributes include the lyre and the bow and arrow. There is an overlap here between beams of light, clarity, and the arc of an arrow in flight. Apollo could be called the god of linearity and flight. There's a reason it was called the Apollo (Spaceflight) Program.

Several philosophical writers have compared the "Apollonian" with the "Dionysian"- clarity versus darkness, order versus drunkenness, etc. A brief list of Apollonian characteristics would include: order, form, clean lines, self-control, appearances, artistic creativity, the highly-developed persona, perfection, individuality, and clearly defined boundaries. Perhaps one way to think of it is to look at how Nietzsche dealt with the Apollonian and Dionysian in the Birth of Tragedy, and then consider how they would relate to Freud's Id and Super-ego. Of course, that might be a bit weird.

According to Homer, Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto. He was born, along with his twin sister Artemis, on the island of Delos, as Leto was still in flight from the goddess Hera.

Also in Homer: during the Trojan War, Apollo shot plague-poisoned arrows into the Greek encampment and helped Paris to kill Achiles.

He killed the serpent Python who guarded the oracle at Delphoi, and laid claim to the shrine.

He was challenged to a music contest by the satyr Phyrgian, who lost and was flayed alive. A small price to pay for having opened with "Stairway to Heaven".

He loved the youth Hyacinthus, who was killed by the jealous west wind by blowing a discus off course. Apollo had the dying boy transformed into the flower that bears his name.

He also loved the nymph Daphne, who he persued relentlessly, until Gaia saved her by turning her into a laurel tree. This incident is shown here in this staute by Bernini.

Apollo is often associated with the Golden Mean, the Greek ideal of moderation

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