Metamorphoses Project: Tracing Mythology through Time and Place


Group Members:  Jenny Reiser, Lee Tilden, Amber Gronbach

Part 1

Different Greek versions of the myth

Description of Greece- Written by Puasanias

On the high road to Delphi, hidden within the hills misty embrace, lies the Oracle of Apollo. Although in the earliest days of the land, when the chaos still raged through the world the oracle was controlled by earth; as the years passed it was gifted to Themis and finally to Apollo.

Click here, for the big picture! Description of Greece 10.5.6-Pausanias

Eumenides-Written by Aeschylus

Oretes is accused of killing his mother. The gods, form a tribunal and Apollo steps forward to defend his accused companion. Yet, the divine are a hard jury and only time can tell Oretes's fate.

For something really neat, click here! Eumenides 607-Aeschylus

Library 1.3.3- Written by Psuedo- Apollodorus

Psuedo-Apollodorus tells the tale of Apollo and his love of Hyacinth. Yet, the west wind also is enamored with fair Hyacinth and a battle of divine scope occurs. But, in the end the battle turns out a way neither of them expected.

For a good time, click here! Library 1.3.3-Pseudo-Apollodorus

Alcestis 70- Written by Euripides

Apollo argues desperately with Death for the life of a mortal that he has taken a fancy upon. But Death, in his unrelenting ways refuses to hear out the frantic god. Then Apollo uses his presence and godhood to try to bully Death into changing the will of the Fates themselves.

For action, adventure, and fun, click here! Alcestis 70-Euripides

The Iliad - Written by Homer

When one of Apollo's priests is wronged, the angry god sets forth; revenge burning in his heart. Before the book's end he is pitted against an army of mortals, but with the wrath of Olympus behind him there is little doubt of his eventual victory. But, the mortals have their own troubles; appeasing Apollo their greatest.

If ye dare, click here! Iliad 1.3.3-Homer

Analysis Of a Divinity

Above, Plato and Aristotle debate the meaning of humanity and the role of divinity in the lives of all humans. Yet, this question has no definite answer because every human has their own view of not only the existence of a divinity or divinities but what that superior being stands for and what it means to them in their every day lives. The same is true for Apollo. In many of the myth's we have encountered, his behavior and characteristics differ so completely that it often seems that they are totally different characters. In some of the sources we encountered, there were even different definitions of what Apollo stood for as a divinity. The Apollonian for example, would have you believe Apollo is the god of all the good human traits such as peace, leisure, order, calm, intellectual things, and the soul; whereas The Agamemnon Home Page refers to him only as the sun god.

One of the many contradictions between the stories of Apollo is the title "God of Peace". In many of the stories about Apollo he is depicted as destructive. In the Iliad for example, he sends a plague to destroy the Achaeans in the beginning and causes the death of Patroclus near the end. Neither of these actions portrays a desire for peace. Further contradictions are the titles "God of Healing" and "Deadly Archer". Furthermore, this contradiction is drawn out very clearly between Alcestis and the Iliad. In Alcestis Apollo plays the part of a caring friend determined to try to save one mortal life that meant so much to him; but in the Iliad he kills thousands in his quest to sate his vengeance and only by having his pride appeased does he stop.

Yet, perhaps Apollo's greatest contradiction is his simultaneous love of harmony and disorder. As a god, he is known to be the master of earthly and celestial harmony. But, as is illustrated in works such as the Iliad and Library, Apollo has an incredible tendency towards violence and pain; which not only contradicts but goes as far as to belittle his title. Yet within this living contradiction some grain of sense lies, because it seems that only through great love does he ever resort to violence. In the Library for example, Apollo resorts to physical force only after his love of Hyacinthus is threatened. The same holds true in the Iliad when Apollo lays waste to the Acheans because of his abused priest.

Popular conception holds Apollo up as many things including epithets such as Paean(healer), Alexicarus(averter of evil), Embasius(Apollo of embarkations), and Phoebus(bright or pure god). But, through all the myths and titles several undeniable character traits shine through. Harmony and disorder wrapped so tightly together they form a whole that is at the same time both beautiful and terrifying. Like the mighty river that at one moment can be placid and calm, its depth can deepen and rocks can force their way above the surface so before long the water is churning and raging while at the same time far below still calm and serene. In a word, he is unpredictable. The many faces of his contorted nature come to the fore at different moments. So, it becomes possible for him to be the great healer and humanitarian at one moment and the next be a vicious killer bent on vengeance and furthering his own goals.

Apollo could also be considered one of the closest to humans among the gods. When it comes to the humans that he truly cares for he will do anything for them. When his priest was dishonored in the Iliad, he sent a terrible plauge to punish the Acaeans who dishonored him. When Admetus is doomed to die in Alcestus, Apollo tricks the Fates to save him. Then, to save Admetus' wife, he argues with death. This shows his closeness and love for humans.

In conclusion, Apollo is a very complicated personality. He embodies many contradictions, but at the same time he is consistent. Then again, we must also look at the fact that Apollo embodies a little part of every person who has ever told his tale. For it is the curse of humanity to be egotistic, and storytellers are no exception, coloring myths with their own thoughts and perceptions of the truth. When looking at the contradictions between the stories of Apollo, one must remember that all the stories are told by different people with different points of view. They all have different perceptions of the great Apollo.


Go to Part Two

Last Update: 29 July 1999
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