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26.92% Greek Myths / Chapter 7: The Tale of Artemis and Apollo

Chapter 7: The Tale of Artemis and Apollo

The Tale of Artemis

Artemis is the Olympian goddess of the hunt, the moon, and chastity; in time, she also became associated with childbirth and nature. No more than a few days old, she helped her mother Leto give birth to her twin brother Apollo.

Artemis is almost universally depicted as a young, beautiful, and vigorous huntress carrying a quiver with arrows and holding a bow, typically wearing a short knee-high tunic and often accompanied by some animal (stag, doe, or hunting dogs). As a moon goddess, she is sometimes represented wearing a long robe and a crescent moon crown.

Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Angered by her husband's infidelity, Hera hunted Leto over the whole planet and forbade her to give birth anywhere on solid earth. However, Leto got to the island of Delos and gave birth to Artemis while balancing herself on an olive branch. When Hera heard this, she prohibited her daughter Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, of further helping Leto. This postponed the birth of Apollo for nine days. And who knows how much more time it would have passed if the baby Artemis hadn't miraculously learned the art of midwifery and helped Leto finally deliver her brother.

Artemis and Apollo were very protective of their mother. When Niobe – a mother of six boys and as many girls – boasted that while Leto gave birth to two gods, she delivered a whole Olympus, Apollo and Artemis killed all her children. Apollo took care of the male offspring and Artemis of Niobe's daughters.

The Tale of Apollo

Apollo is the Olympian god of the sun and light, music and poetry, healing and plagues, prophecy and knowledge, order and beauty, archery, and agriculture. He is harmony, reason and moderation personified, a perfect blend of physical superiority and moral virtue. A complex deity who turns up in art and literature possibly as often as Zeus himself, Apollo is the only major god who appears with the same name in both Greek and Roman mythology.

Apollo was in charge of so many things that, naturally, even his more famous epithets are numerous. As a sun god, he was called "Phoebus," or "bright." As a prophet, the Greeks called him "Loxias," or "The One Who Speaks Crookedly." As the god of music, he was known as the "Leader of the Muses." Finally, the places of Apollo's birth and worship adorned him with three other appellations: "Delian," "Delphic," and "Pythian."

Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto. As one of the numerous Zeus's lovers, his mother incurred the wrath of Hera, who sent the dragon Python to pursue Leto throughout all lands and forbade her to give birth anywhere on solid earth. Nobody would accept the pregnant Titaness, except for the island of Delos, where Leto first delivered Artemis while balancing her body on an olive branch. Afterward, Artemis helped her mother deliver Apollo as well.

Fed exclusively with nectar and ambrosia, in merely four days Apollo grew strong and hungry for revenge. So, he went straight away to Parnassus where Python lived and wounded the monster with his arrows. Python managed to escape and shelter itself at Gaea's ancient sanctuary in Delphi. Apollo was so enraged that he dared to violate the sanctity of the site by staining it with Python's blood. Zeus ordered Apollo to cleanse himself, after which he returned to Delphi and claimed the shrine to his name.

After these events, Delos and Delphi became sacred sites for the worship of Zeus, Leto, Artemis, and, especially, Apollo. The high priestess Pythia presided over the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, serving as its enigmatic oracle.

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