Olympos: Apollo, handsome and cruel

296px-Roman_Statue_of_ApolloStudio Tablinum: He was the most handsome god of the Olympus. Amongst the Olympian deities, Apollo had harmony and grace, he knew how to play music and the Muses, goddesses of song and poetry, belonged to him. He could also be violent and his vengeances were very cruel.

Son of Zeus and Leto, he was born when his mother, tired of escaping from Hera, jealous of her husband’s umpteenth fling, sought refuge in Ortygia. As a gesture of gratitude, Apollo placed the island at the centre of the Ancient Greek world and renamed it Delos. He and his sister Artemis, goddess of hunt, were brought forth under a palm and the father Zeus received them with splendid gifts.

The Sun itself was his symbol and other animals such as the swan, the raven, the cicada, the snake and the wolf were also sacred to him. He also had an incredible talent for archery.

Apollo was worshipped in different parts of Ancient Greece, particularly in Delphi. Another epithet was Phoebus which literally means “bright”.        

 

pizia delfiSince he was young, Apollo had a combative and intense life, one of his most heroic adventures was the killing of the dragon Piton who had tried to rape Leto, while she was already pregnant. Apollo found the dragon in his cave, near Delphi, where the god was worshipped and it is no coincidence that the priestess of his cult, Pythia, was also called Pythoness.      

 

manfredi_bartolomeo_511_apollo_e_marsiaSatyr Marsyas was the victim of one of the most cruel among Apollo’s revenges. Marsyas boasted about his musical skill on the aulos, claiming that his ability was far superior to that of Apollo on his lyre. He challenged the god to a musical contest: the Muses were the judges and the terms stated that the winner had the right to treat the losing rival any way he pleased. The contest started and then ended in a tie. Apollo could not accept such a result and invited the Satyr to play his instrument upside down, Apollo’s lyre was perfect to be played but Marsyas was not able to blow into his flute and lost the competition. Apollo’s punishment did not take a long time to happen: Marsyas was pinned to a tree and flung alive.    

 

niobeAnother terrible action involved the queen of Thebes, Niobe, who bragging about her seven daughters and seven sons dared to mock the mother of the sun-god, claiming that she had only a son and a daughter.

The divine children were skilful archers and used the arch that Zeus had given to Apollo to slaughter Niobe’s offspring; only two were spared and Leto’s honour was saved.

 

criseide

During the ten-year battle under the walls of Ilium, Apollo was always on the Trojan side. An episode risked to compromise the Greek conquest of Ilium: as they first landed on Trojan shores, the Greek imprisoned the beautiful Chryseis, daughter of the soothsayer Chryses. When the father  attempted to ransom her, king Agamemnon refused, mocking and chasing him away. The heart-broken priest prayed to Apollo in order to make the Greek king change his mind. The angered god accepted Chryses’ prayer and fling a rain of darts on the Achaeans’ camp. Only when Chryseis was returned to his father, the darted rain ceased.

 

morte di achilleTo be honest, it was not the only time that the god interfered in the warriors’ adventures: Achilles himself died as Apollo diverted the arrow that the Trojan prince Paris had thrown against the hero’s only point of weakness, his heel.

 

Apollo undoubtedly was a violent god, but his nature urged him to compensate such brutality with gestures of great magnanimity: it was not rare to see him forgiving men who had committed murders; he acquitted even Orestes who had killed his own mother Clytemnestra.

He was a deity who could cause the most terrible plagues and halted them at once.

 

asclepioOne of his most eminent sons was Asclepius, the god of medicine, he was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman, Coronis. He was a peerless healer in the Classical world, but unfortunately, his knowledge originated from a tragic event: when Apollo became aware of Coronis’ unfaithfulness, he killed her cutting the baby she was carrying from her womb and gave him to the wise centaur Chiron. It was Chiron who instructed Asclepius in the art of medicine. Throughout his life, the god became so proficient to the point that not only could he heal people, but he could also bring them back to life, breaking the laws of Fate and Cosmos.

Zeus resorted thus to kill Asclepius with one of his thunderbolts. He was remembered as a healer as well as a benefactor, and at Epidaurus a sanctuary in his memory was erected.

 

driopeTaking after his father Zeus, never were Apollo’s loves trivial. He turned himself into a turtle in order to seduce the nymph Dryope, and he chased her into the wood where she was accustomed to play with her friends. The curious Dryope put the animal on her lap which turned again into the god and raped her.

 

apollo e dafneNymph Daphne was luckier, whilst escaping from Apollo, she prayed the gods for being transformed into something less attractive to the sun-god’s eyes. The gods granted her wish turning her into a plant that we still admire for its beauty, the laurel.

 

Princess Marpessa loved the brave Idas and was loved in return, but Apollo himself was intrigued by the girl’s beauty. After a long and merciless duel, the two rivals were still even. Zeus intervened giving Marpessa the possibility of choosing between her mortal lover and the god. Marpessa chose Idas, reasoning that the god would not have stayed by her side for rest of her life, and would have vanished as soon as the first wrinkles had appeared on her face.

 

???????? ??????????? ????????? ? ????????-????? Gallerix.ruOne of the most passionate loves of Apollo ended tragically. Hyacinth and the god were inseparable, both handsome and athletic, they loved throwing the discus. During a challenge, the sun-god threw the discus and accidentally hit his lover on the neck. Hyacinth fell to the ground and died. The god never forgave himself and from the youth’s blood, a bright crimson flower bloomed, the hyacinth.

 

Guido Reni, L'aurora, Casino dell'Aurora, Palazzo Rospigliosi, RomaGreek loved and feared Apollo, particularly for his ambiguity, handsome and cruel as he was, capable of great gestures as well as despicableness. However, on his chariot of fiery horses, he carries the sun giving light to the world every single dawn.

 

Next month we will be dealing with the adventures of the goddess of hunt, Apollo’s sister, Artemis.                    

 

 

Alessandro Cerioli 

Traduzione di Elisa Campana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olympos: Apollo, il Dio del Sole

296px-Roman_Statue_of_ApolloStudio Tablinum: sicuramente il più bel Dio dell’Olimpo, fra tutti gli Olimpi Apollo aveva armonia e grazia, conosceva la musica e le Muse, signore del canto e della poesia, gli appartenevano, ma a contraddistinguerlo era anche la violenza, le sue vendette erano fra le più cruente. Figlio di Zeus e Latona nacque dopo che la madre, stanca di scappare da Hera, ebbe trovato rifugio sull’isola di Ortigia, un’isola che fu poi posta da Apollo, in segno di riconoscenza, al centro del mondo greco, dandole un nuovo nome, Delo.

Vide i natali sotto una palma, con la sorella Artemide, Dea della Caccia, e subito vennero accolti dal padre Zeus che portò loro splendidi doni. Il simbolo di Apollo era il Sole ed era venerato in diverse parti delle Grecia, soprattutto a Delfi, i suoi animali sacri erano il cigno, il corvo, la cicala, il serpente ed il lupo. Si cimentava anche con il tiro con l’arco, regalo fattogli dal Padre degli Dei alla sua nascita.

Altro epiteto di Apollo era Febo, letteralmente “lucente”, “splendente”.

pizia delfiSin dall’infanzia Apollo ebbe una vita combattiva ed intensa, la vicenda che lo vide uccidere il drago Pitone è fra le più eroiche. Pitone cerco abusare della madre Latona, già incinta del Dio. Il Dio Apollo lo scovò all’interno del suo antro, nei pressi di Delfi, località dove sarebbe stato venerato, e lo uccise.

Non a caso la sacerdotessa del suo culto, la Pizia, era definita la Pitonessa.

manfredi_bartolomeo_511_apollo_e_marsiaUna delle azioni più crudeli del Dio Apollo ebbe come vittima il povero Satiro Marsia.

Marsia, deciso a competere in abilità con il Dio, indisse una sorta di gara musicale, e chiamate come giudici le Muse, al vincitore sarebbe stato concesso il diritto di fare ciò che più aggradava allo sconfitto. La gara iniziò e si concluse con una sorta di pareggio, ad Apollo naturalmente il pareggio non soddisfaceva e allora invitò il Satiro a rovesciare il proprio strumento e a suonarlo: la meccanica dello strumento portò Apollo ad essere il vincitore della sfida, essendo la cetra uno strumento versatile, riuscì a suonarla perfettamente anche al rovescio, mentre  il povero Marsia non riuscì a fare lo stesso con il flauto. La punizione che Apollo aveva in serbo per Marsia non si fece attendere: legò il Satiro ad un albero e lo scuoiò vivo.

niobeUn’altra azione terribile vide come protagonista la regina di Tebe, Niobe, che ebbe l’ardire di deridere la madre del Dio del Sole, vantandosi di aver avuto quattordici figli, mentre Latona solo due.

I due figli divini, essendo due abilissimi arcieri, utilizzarono il terribile arco regalato dal padre Zeus, per colpire i figli di Niobe che caddero uno dopo l’altro, solo due rimasero in vita, pareggiando il conto e salvando l’onore della madre Latona.

criseideDurante le decennale battaglia sotto le mura di Ilio, Apollo parteggiò sempre per i troiani. Ci fu un episodio che rischiò di far cessare la conquista di Ilio da parte dei Greci, sul nascere. Durante il loro approdo sulle spiagge troiane i Greci preso come prigioniera la bella Crisedie, figlia dell’indovino Crise; il padre a quel punto andò dal re dei re Agamennone a chiederne la restituzione, il re dei re lo derise e lo scacciò in malo modo, costui ritirandosi con il dolore nel cuore per la perdita della figlia si fermò dinnanzi al mare e prego il Dio Apollo affinché facesse cambiare idea al re Agamennone.

Apollo accolse le sue preghiere e sceso dalla vetta dell’Olimpo con il cuore gonfio d’ira si mise a scagliare contro gli Achei una pioggia di dardi con il suo infallibile arco. Soltanto quando il re Agamennone acconsentì alla restituzione di Criseide la pioggia di dardi cessò.

morte di achilleIn verità non fu l’unica volta che il Dio si intromise nelle vicende dei combattenti, lo stesso Achille morì perché il Dio deviò la freccia scagliata dal principe troiano Paride contro il suo unico punto vulnerabile, il tallone.

Apollo era sì un Dio violento ma la sua natura lo portava a compensare questa violenza con gesti di assoluta magnanimità, non era raro che assolvesse uomini rei di aver compiuto omicidi, assolse anche Oreste dopo aver ucciso la madre Clitennestra.

Era una divinità che poteva scatenare le più terribili pestilenze e anche farle cessare.

asclepioUno dei suoi illustri figli fu infatti il Dio della Medicina, Asclepio.

Asclepio figlio di una mortale, Coronide e di Apollo, fu un guaritore che non ebbe eguali nel mondo classico.

Questa sua conoscenza fu frutto di un episodio tragico nella vita del Dio della Medicina: Apollo, accortosi del tradimento di Coronide con un uomo mortale, uccise la madre strappandole il bimbo che aveva in grembo e consegnandolo alle cure del saggio Centauro Chirone, Asclepio apprese così l’arte medica dal Centauro e nel corso della sua vita compi importanti prodigi, sino a quando non si mise non solo a guarire le persone ma anche a resuscitarle, entrando così in contrasto con le leggi del Fato e del Cosmo, Intervenne a quel punto Zeus che, adirato, folgorò Asclepio con una delle sue folgori.

Rimase tuttavia nel ricordo degli uomini come guaritore e benefattore, a Epidauro fu edificato un santuario in sua memoria.

driopeAnche gli amori di Apollo non furono mai banali e in questo era molto simile al padre Zeus: per sedurre la Ninfa Driope si tramutò in una tartaruga e si avvicinò al bosco nella quale la Ninfa stava giocando con le sue amiche, incuriosita Driope prese in braccio l’animale che subito riprese le sembianze del Dio del Sole e le usò violenza.

Più fortunata ebbe la Ninfa Dafne che inseguita dal Dio pregò gli Dei perché la tramutassero in qualcosa di non così attrattivo per il Dio del Sole, fu accontentata e tramutata in una pianta che ancora oggi ammiriamo per la sua bellezza, l’alloro.

apollo e dafneDecisamente meglio andò alla principessa Marpessa che grazie all’amore del suo spasimante, il coraggioso Ida, fu libera di scegliere fra quest’ultimo ed Apollo, una scelta per una donna nel mondo classico non era affatto trascurabile; scelse il mortale Ida, dopo un duello fra i due contendenti che non vedeva il prevalere di nessuno. Lo stesso Zeus intervenne dando alla principessa la libertà di scelta, in verità fu la sua motivazione che lasciò di stucco Apollo, convinto che la scelta ricadesse su di lui, essendo immortale; Marpessa voleva invecchiare con il suo compagno e non essere lasciata ai primi cenni di vecchiaia sul suo volto.

???????? ??????????? ????????? ? ????????-????? Gallerix.ruTragicamente finì anche uno degli amori più intensi di Apollo, quello per il giovane Giacinto. I due era inseparabili, ambedue belli ed atletici e fu quest’ultima disciplina sportiva a  essere fatale a Giacinto. Durante una sfida di lancio del disco il Dio del Sole, lancio e colpì l’amato al collo, uccidendolo all’istante. Grande fu la disperazione del Dio che non si dette mai pace. Dal sangue del poveretto, Apollo fece sbocciare un fiore di un cremisi acceso, che prese il nome di Giacinto.

Guido Reni, L'aurora, Casino dell'Aurora, Palazzo Rospigliosi, RomaI greci adoravano e temevano Apollo, soprattutto per la sua ambiguità, bellissimo e crudele era capace di grandi slanci e nel contempo di grandi bassezze. Ma se il sole sorge tutti i giorni lo dobbiamo a lui e al suo carro che porta con sé il nostro astro.

Il prossimo mese tratteremo le vicende della Dea della Caccia, nonché sorella di Apollo, Artemide.

Alessandro Cerioli

Olympos: Ares was really a brave god?

Ares_villa_HadrianaStudio Tablinum: Last month, I have talk  about the good and generous Hephaestus, this month I will talk about the intemperate, quarrelsome Ares.

There are intresting tales about his birth. Infact Ares and his sister Eris were born thanks to a magic flower, without lying with Zeus the Father of Gods.

Ares is connected with the worship of blood and violence, especially during the battlefield. Greeks distrusted this God due to his bad temper:  Ares was the Patron of barbarian and violent people like Thracians. After his  adultery with Aphrodite, trying to to hide him from a raging  Hephaestus he was just hidden by the Thraces.

erisThe bearswild boar, the dog and the vulture were  consecrated to him. During the battlefield, where the human being performs the worst atrocities, he was accompanied by his sister Eris, Goddess of Discord.

They worked togheter in order to fill the world with barbarity and depredations.

But, as he  was  a famous blabbermouth: a barking dog that never bites. The God of War was a winner only in few fights: usually the reasons of  other Gods or demi-Gods defeated  his brute force and it was not uncommon that he took refuge in Olympus after having touched on the defeat.

We can read one of the most famous example in Omero’s Iliad: during the battle between greeces and troyans under the walls of Troy, he supported Ettore against the greek Diomedes.

Also during the battle within Olympus deities, aimed to supporting one of the human parties, he was  defeated by Athena, Goddess of righteous though.

amazzoniThe worship of the God of War, in the Ancient Greece, wasn’t very popular. We know that in Sparta was invoked before the battle; always in Sparta, in his temple, his statue depicting him in chains as a symbol of the fact that the Spartans, who lived for the war, needed his presence constantly.
In “Argonautiche” of Apollonio Rodio we could read a special story : the birds sacred to Ares, moving in circle around his temple, built, according to legend, by the people of the Amazon, his daughters, on the shores of the Euxine, threw their feathers, pointed as darts, to any person who was trying to enter.

ares e il suo cocchioAccording to his “rowdy” nature,  Ares liked to be surrounded himself with divinity similar to him. His own children, born from Aphrodite, Deimos and Phobos,  were the God of Terror and the God of Fear; the sister of Ares and Enio -worthy companion-, Goddess of Bloodshed and finally the children of Styx and the Titan Pallas Bia, Goddess of Violence and Cratos, God of power.

This group of divinity spread death and destruction on the battlefields around the world. Usually Ares appears on the battlefield in a chariot drawn by four immortal horses with fiery breath; his armor was bronze and was easily distinguishable due to the shine, as weapon had a spear used to pierce his rivals.

Zeus himself tried to come down this so warlike son, but the Father of the Gods could not done something against the violent nature of Ares. He also addressed him with harsh words, such as:

ares e alirozio“Do not come to cry on, treacherous! You are to me the most hateful of the Gods of Olympus. You love only strife, wars and battles. You have the intolerable wrath of Hera, your mother, that I hardly brake with my words. But I do not want to punish you too much , because at the end –unfortunately- you’re my son. And thank you to be so, otherwise I would have sent you in the bowels of the earth, further down than Titans.”

It was even judged by a court overridden by all the Olympians. Due to the murder of the son of Poseidon, Alirozio. At the slopes of the Areopagus -the Court of Athens where are judged the crimes of religious nature- there is a source. Ares saw at this source Alirozio flirting with her daughter Alcippe. Without thinking twice Ares killed him. He was absolved of that crime by the Olympians or more likely, for the umpteenth time was pardoned  by his father Zeus.

When , Cadmus, one of the Theban cicle’s eroes, in order to fulfill the destiny predicted for him by the oracle, slew the dragon that guarded the spring of Ares, he was punished. Infacft, the monster was son of Ares.
Unfortunatly Cadmus was sentenced to remedy his act by serving that god for eight long years.

At the end of that unhappy period, the other gods, especially athena rewarded him with the Throne of Thebes, and with his marriage to Harmony, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
The marriage was celebrated with great festivities by all the Olympians who, descending on earth, brought lavish gifts to the couple.

cadmoAnother bizare legend tells that two Giants captured Ares during one of his lowly firms and imprisoned the god in a bronze jar for thirteen months. The god, with his unmanly whining, attracted the attention of the Olympians until  and finally Hermes decided to release him.

The God of War was all that violence and arrogance, and even men, borrowing from the god this prerogative, embody all that is violent considerto own masculinity.
Next month we will discuss the story of Poseidon, God of the Sea.

Alessandro Cerioli