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Chapter 11: Apollo


Read the Commentary for Chapter 11, and consider in how many different ways the story of Apollo and Daphne may be interpreted.


Familiarize yourself with the map of Attica.


Investigate the images of Apollo from the Vase Catalog of the Perseus Project.

Within the Perseus Project, search for material relating to Delphi and Delos. Familiarize yourself with these two famous sanctuaries of Apollo.

View the sculptural pieces from the west pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Why may we say Apollo is the most classically Greek of the Olympian gods and goddesses?

One of the most important associations Apollo has is with the god Asclepius. Consult the link on Temple Medicine and the cult of Asclepius to find out more.


Read Apollodorus’ account of the birth of Apollo and his exploits.

Explore the descriptions of Delphi by Pausanias and Strabo.

Read Keats’ “Ode to Apollo.” Compare Keats’s vision of the god with the ancient sources.

One of Rilke’s most famous poems is entitled “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” Why does the poet choose as his immediate subject a disfigured statue of Apollo, and what is the poet’s meaning behind its power to affect the viewer?

You may wish to explore further the prophetic nature of Apollo and the importance of his worship at Delphi. A good place to start is Joseph Fontenrose, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins.


Review the meaning of Apollonian in its antithesis to Dionysian. What does it mean to have Midas’ ass’s ears, and a golden touch, or to sing a paean? What is a python?

Compact Discs and Videos

The entire opera Daphne, by Richard Strauss, is powerful but especially brilliant in the final scene, depicting Daphne’s transformation into a laurel tree. Listen to the magical final transformation. Her broken words (which gradually become sounds like rustling leaves from her branches) reveal her triumphant union with the purity of the nature that she adores: “I come to join you, my brothers. Sweetly through me rises the sap of the earth!… Mortals, friends, take me as a symbol of everlasting love.”

You may wish to become familiar with these two operas:

Gluck’s opera Alceste is a noble and beautiful work.

Mozart’s first opera Apollo et Hyacinthus, with a libretto in Latin, has Zephyrus (West Wind) and Apollo vie for the love of Hyacinthus’ sister!

Unfortunately, only an excerpt of George Balanchine’s ballet, Apollo, with music by Igor Stravinsky, is available on video. Nevertheless, watch it and go to see the complete ballet if an opportunity presents itself.

What do you think of the treatment of Apollo Star Trek, Episode 33: “Who Mourns for Adonais”?

Essay Questions

  1. Explain how the cult of Asclepius became linked with Apollo.

  2. Discuss the nature of the god Apollo. Why is he often seen as “the most characteristically Greek god in the whole pantheon”?

  3. Relate three stories that depict the god Apollo in love and explain how they color his character.

  4. Give a description of Delphi, the sanctuary, the oracle, and the competitions.

  5. Compare and contrast Apollo’s contests with Marsyas and with Pan.

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