Friday, December 15

How Was Apollo Born?

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But first, in order to understand the myth about Apollo’s birth, we have to know a bit about his mother, Leto. (His father was Zeus, the ruler of all gods, so no problems there.) Leto was a Titan, daughter of Coeus and Phoebe, and she was the goddess of motherhood, a protector of pregnant women and young children.

She is presented as being shy and modest (somehow not the first attributes that come to my mind when I try to picture a Titan), and therefore a perfect role-model for wives and mothers in ancient Greece. Interestingly enough, she was never the wife, just the mistress of Zeus.

How was Apollo Born?

So, our very modest Leto had an affair with Zeus and got pregnant. When Hera, Zeus’ wife, found out about this, she was infuriated, so she cursed Leto that she would not be able to give birth on firm ground. Poor Leto traveled the world to find a place where she could rest and have her babies (she was pregnant with twins, by the way), until she found the island of Delos, which was a floating island, and thus not considered firm ground.

The inhabitants of Delos feared the wrath of Hera, but Leto promised her newborn son would always protect them, so they allowed her to give birth there. She first had a daughter, Artemis, goddess of hunt and moon, and then, the next day, a boy, Apollo, god of arts and sun. Apollo didn’t waste any time, and, four days after he was born, he killed a snake (or, by other accounts, a giant) who was sent by Hera to continue to torture them.

In the end, things turned out well for the people of Delos. The island remained sacred to Apollo, and Zeus also rewarded them by fixing the island to the bottom of the sea with four pillars, so they didn’t have to float about aimlessly anymore.

The legend regarding the birth of Apollo is one of the best established; notice that there is just one version of it, with relatively stable details, unlike the birth stories of other gods, which mix many conflicting accounts.

When was Apollo Born?

For a change, the legend is pretty detailed in this aspect: Apollo was born on the seventh day of the month, and this day was always dedicated to him. As to exactly which month it was – that’s a bit more difficult. Some say it was Thargelion (which started around the 6th of May and ended around the 4th of June in modern terms, more or less), while others swear on the month of Bysios (which would be in January – February). Originally, the 7th day of the month of Bysios was the only day of the year when the Oracle from Delphi answered questions.

Where was Apollo Born?

On the island on Delos, which is part of the chain of islands called Cyclades (thanks to Zeus, we assume, who fixed it there).  

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