LLT 121 CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY: Myths of the Olympian Gods II
Copyright  2001, Joseph J. Hughes
Last reviewed: 13 August 2001

I.   APOLLO (Apollo)
     A.	Main functions and attributes
        1. prophecy: oracle at Delphi
        2. rational thought; order
        3. knows Zeus' will: spokesperson for Zeus
        4. healing and disease (especially plague)
        5. god of medicine and healing
           a. son is Asclepius, hard-hitting physician
           b. also heals through moral purification
        6. "Far-Darter": his arrows inflict disease and plague
           a. god of archery
           b. his arrows inflict disease, as in Iliad I
        7. originally a patron of shepherds (?) from Asia Minor; 
        8. sun divinity: epithet Phoebus = "Shiner"; light = enlightenment
     B.	Birth of Apollo: mythical origins
        1. son of Zeus and Leto
        2. Leto, a Titaness, persecuted by Hera
           a. no land permitted to accept her while pregnant
           b. "floating" Delos (and Ortygia) exempt
        3. Delos becomes one main center of worship for Apollo
           a. island secured in place
           b. island made rich through Apollo's worship
           c. Apollo's epithet: Delian Apollo
        4. perhaps delivered by Artemis, his sister
     C.	Apollo at Delphi
        1. music and poetry
           a. Musagetes, "Leader of the Muses"
           b. gets the lyre from Hermes
           c. defeats Marsyas in a music contest
           d. inspires oral poets
        2. establishes his precinct at Delphi
           a. must kill guardian dragon/snake, Python
              1) must be cleansed of blood pollution (miasma)
              2) thereafter able to cleanse others of blood pollution
           b.appears to them as a dolphin: cf. "Delphinian" Apollo
              1) sailors must leave their homes and families to serve Apollo
              2) aetiology of Mt. Delphi
     D.	The Delphic Oracle
        1. a Pan-Hellenic religious and cultural center
        2. functioned for over 1000 years (800 B.C.E.-394 C.E.)
        3. "center" of the world
        4. site of regular athletic and theatrical competitions
        5. Apollo communicates through a prophetess called the Pythia
           a. female possessed by prophetic frenzy
           b. Pythia, while seated on the tripod goes into a trance
           c. Apollo's priests record the message in verse
           d. oracles are notoriously ambiguous
           e. consulted by foreigners: e.g., Croesus
           f. became a clearinghouse of information
     E.	Love affairs
        1. with the mortal woman, Cassandra
           a. given prophetic powers in exchange for sex
           b. refuses sex; keeps powers, but never believed
        2. with the nymph, Daphne
           a. Cupid shows his power as an archer
           b. Daphne turned into a laurel tree to escape Apollo
           c. laurel sacred to Apollo; wreath given to Olympic victors
        3. with the mortal male, Hyacinth
           a. accidently killed by Apollo's discus
           b. immortalized through the flower from his blood
        4. with Coronis, mother of Asclepius
           a. Coronis destroyed for infidelity
           b. Asclepius becomes Greek god of medicine
           c. taught by the centaur, Chiron
           d. raised Hippolytus from the dead
II.  ARTEMIS (Diana)
     A.	Origins
        1. like her mother Leto, originally non-Greek
        2. originally an earth-mother goddess
        3. protectress of the young, both animal and human,
        4. all-nourishing: cf. the many breasted statue at Ephesus
        5. associated with the near-Eastern Cybele, the "Beast-Mistress"
        6. mythical birth to Zeus and Leto either on Delos or Ortygia
     B.	Main attributes and functions
        1. eternally virgin
        2. feminine physical ideal for young woman
        3. pure both in body and spirit
           a. cf. Hippolytus' "inviolate meadow"
           b. concerned with preserving nature
     C.	deadly huntress
        1. archer, like her brother
        2. represents the killing force in nature
           a. Niobe's daughters
           b. deaths at childbirth
           c. associations with human sacrifice
     D.	goddess of women's concerns
        1. childbirth; the young of animals and humans
        2. purity and pre-marriage ideals 
        3. later association with moon (menstrual cycle)
        4. Hecate, the sorceress
     E. Close associations (non-physical love affairs?)
	1. Orion
           a. son of Poseidon, hunter, devotee of Artemis
           b. commits rape or attempted rape: loses his innocence and purity
           c. scorpion and Orion made into constellations
           d. alternate: Artemis tricked into killing Orion Orion by Apollo
        2. Actaeon
           a. devoted and accomplished hunter
           b. Actaeon sees the unseeable: loses his innocence and purity
           c. turned into an animal; hunter becomes the hunted: 
        3. Callisto
           a. close follower of Artemis
           b. raped by Zeus: loses her innocence and purity
           c. turned into a bear
           d. shot and killed either by Artemis or Callisto's son, Arcas 
     A.	Aegean (or Eastern) in origin
        1. story of Hephaestus tossed from Olympus to Lemnos
        2. active volcano on Lemnos
        3. Lemnos is Hephaestus' favorite city
     B.	god of artisans, especially metalworking
        1. personification of the fire of the forge
        2. volcano as forge; Cyclopes as helpers
        3. manufacturing in general
        4. secondary associations with civilization
     C. ambiguous status
        1. technology of prime importance, but artisans are lower class
        2. child of Zeus and Hera *or* of Hera herself
        3. ugly, but married to Aphrodite, but cheated upon
IV.  ARES (Mars)
     A.	embodies war and battle
        1. bloodlust; mindless slaughter
        2. offensive war; aggressive rather than defensive battle
        3. amoral, merciless, fearless, indifferent to pain
        4. Thrace is favorite land
     B.	unpopular god
        1. takes after Hera with his quarrelsome nature
        2. follows pure emotions rather than reason
        3. tolerated but disliked by Zeus
     C.	positive side
        1. courage and prowess, necessary for a warrior culture
        2. some overlap with Athena, goddess of defensive war
     D. Hephaestus bests Ares (Odyssey 8.266ff.)
        1. Ares and Aphrodite caught in flagrante delicto
        2. Poseidon says he will stand surety      
V.   ATHENA (Minerva)
     A.	non-Greek in origin, but established by Mycenaean times
        1. protector of the king's house
        2. housed on the Acropolis (high-city); cf. the Parthenon
     B.	head-born from Zeus
        1. virgin-goddess; ever loyal to her father
        2. mental facilities; wisdom
        3. concerned with civic functions; public affairs
    C.	main functions
        1. goddess of defensive warfare
           a. born fully armed and shouting a war cry
           b. almost always depicted armed and with aegis
           c. protectress of heads of households: e.g., Odysseus
        2. crafts, esp. women's crafts
           a. weaving - cf. Arachne story
           b. carpentry - helped in building the Argo
           c. pottery, one of Athens' main exports
        3. androgynous (male-female) nature
           a. represents control over elemental forces
           b. strategy and tactics in battle
           c. law and justice instead of vengeance
        4. female, but essentially motherless (father-born)
           a. represents civilization, the taming of raw nature
           b. childless, but mentor of many heroes, 
           c. foster-mother of Erichthonius
           d. cultivation of the olive tree for produce
     D.	epithets and associations
        1. Pallas; etymology unknown; cf. story of Pallas
        2. glaukopis: "owl-eyed," "bright-eyed," or "grey-eyed"
        3. official birds =owl; snake
	4. olive tree

VI.  HERMES (Mercury)
     A.	Origins			
        1. Hermes from herma, "stone pile"				
        2. road and boundary markers in the country			
        3. later herms were stone pillars placed outside houses 
	   a. to ward off intruders (apotropaic)
           b. anatomically correct	
        4. mythically, the son of Zeus and the nymph, Maia
     B.	Functions			
        1. protects travellers in general		
        2. protects shepherds and their flocks			
        3. patron of thieves; trickster; luck			
        4. patron of merchants				
        5. messenger god and patron of heralds		
        6. "soul guide" (psychopompos): escorts the dead to Hades	
     C.	Associations	
        1. slayer of the 100-eyed Argus; Argeiphontes			
        2. inventor of the lyre			
        3. close association with Apollo:			
        4. shepherding, music (pan-pipe)				
        5. minor prophetic skill				
        6. patron of athletes			 
        7. father of Hermaphroditus by Aphrodite

Return to LLT 121 Notes Table of Contents