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Apollo Sauroktonos, (detail)

After Praxiteles
CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The cult of Apollo was imported directly from ancient Greece to Rome, the reason why there is no Roman equivalent of the Greek name. Apollo is identified primarily as the God of the Sun, but also recognized as the God of medicine, music and prophecy. By virtue of this, he is subject to various iconographic representations. He is generally depicted with a laurel wreath on his head (a symbol of victory). We also see him holding a bow and zither or the characteristic sacrificial tripod symbol of his prophetic powers. To the powerful God Apollo, in fact, are sacrificed several animals, from swans (in reference to beauty), wolves and cicadas (which symbolize the song and music) or snakes, ravens, and hawks (in reference to his prophetic powers).

As with most deities, there are several versions regarding the birth and youth of Apollo.

Conceived as a result of the extramarital union of Zeus with Side, who was a victim (along with his mother), of the attempts of revenge of Hera. As the legitimate wife of Zeus, Hera came to prohibit the birth on any land belonging to this world, including islands. But in her wanderings across lands, in the end Side managed to give birth to her creature on an island called Delos, a young island not fully formed and therefore not yet linked to the earth itself.

Other legends tell of the abduction of Ilithyia (Goddess of childbirth) by Hera. This, so that the goddess could not assist the parturient and guarantee the success of the event. Other versions tell of how Lato was helped by Poseidon to give birth in the waters of the sea.

Many of the exploits of the God Apollo were bestowed down to us. Some of them are bloody and terrible, others romantic and joyful. Among the most frightening we find are the story of the musical challenge of the God of the Sun against the satyr Pan. The latter dared to call himself better than the God himself! For this affront, after losing the challenge, was tied to a tree and flayed alive.

To take revenge on Zeus who murdered his son Asclepius, Apollo massacred all the Cyclops who had the task of forging the lightning of Zeus. Among the most important love stories with Apollo as protagonist are those that tie him to Daphne and Hyacinth. These are two tragedies of love that struck like lightning in the life of Apollo. The first story tells of an unrequited love and the result of the revenge of the God of love Eros, tired of the continuous derision by Apollo.


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