Apollo Epithets: Greco-Roman, Celtic & Cult

Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

This lesson will focus on the many epithets and titles associated with the Greek/Roman god, Apollo. Some of these titles reflect certain cults associated to him, and these will be explored as well.

Apollo at a Glance

God of music, prophecy, logic, philosophy, healing, and later the sun, Apollo holds a very special place in Classical mythology. Apollo, in art and description was often considered to be the ''perfect man.'' He was young, handsome, and powerful. He had it all. However, he did struggle when it came to relationships. Very few women he fell in love with loved him back. But that did not deter his popularity. Even the Romans when they began to adapt their own religion to fit Greek mythology, found him so intriguing, that they did not try to make him match up with one of their own gods. Instead they adopted him into their own pantheon, keeping his name. Like most Greek gods, there were many epithets and titles given to Apollo. An epithet is usually a word, but sometimes a phrase, which describes a particular person or thing. Below are just some of the many descriptive epithets used for Apollo.

The youthful and handsome face of Apollo.
Apollo

Epithets of Apollo

Phoebus: Meaning ''bright'' or ''shiny,'' Phoebus is perhaps the most well-known of the epithets of Apollo. With this title, Apollo is associated with the sun, and is recognized as the god who pulls the chariot taking the sun across the sky. Originally, the Greek sun-god, Helios had this responsibility, but with this epithet, the title was given to Apollo. The name may also have something to do with his grandmother, Phoebe.

Pythius: Another well-known name associated with Apollo, Pythius is a very special name tied to Apollo's sacred city of Delphi. It was in Delphi that Apollo finally tracked down the python which had tormented his mother for so long before his birth. Afterwards, he laid claim to the city and later established his oracle there. The name Pythius refers to the python which he slayed to accomplish all of this. It was also the common name used for his popular cult located primarily at Delphi.

Acesius: Also known as ''Akesios,'' literally meaning ''averter of evil,'' this name was associated with Apollo's capacity for healing. The name does also share some similarities in spelling with the minor Greek god, Asclepius, the god of healing and son of Apollo. This name was also used for Apollo's cult in the city of Elis, which was known for having a great temple devoted to him.

Lyceius: A derivative of the Greek word for ''wolf,'' this name's meaning is a bit uncertain, but it may have several possibilities. It may have some associations with various cults to Apollo, the major one being in the city of Lycia. These cults did have some rituals and myths involving wolves, making this meaning a distinct possibility for this epithet. Wolves were also a sacred animal to Apollo, and they hark back to myths of Apollo in which he wasn't so benevolent. Apollo may have been the god of healing, but he was also the god of disease, and would strike down young men with disease, should he ever be displeased, which was frequent. Wolves, known as hunters and scourges that attacked livestock, were an animal tied to this darker version of his image.

Belenus: Apollo's fame spread pretty far, and even the Celts, after they had contact with the Romans came to know the god. In the Romans' attempts to integrate the religions of others into their own, they associated Apollo with the Celtic sun god, Belenus. Belenus was the god of the sun, specifically the healing powers of the sun. One of the most important Celtic festivals, celebrating the beginning of summer, was in his honor. The similarities with the sun and healing helped give Apollo this new name.

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