Apollo Stinks

Alinari/Art Resource, New York

Alinari/Art Resource, New York

Maia Groudas

Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto, twin brother to Artemis, Greek god of Light, was awful. Over 90% of Greek gods were guilty of sexual harrassment and assualt, and Apollo was no exception. He also had a tendency towards murder and revenge, typically as a result of a blow to his pride. 

Apollo terrorized many women, two in particular being Cassandra and Daphne. The story of Apollo’s transgressions against Cassandra, simplified, is that Apollo saw her beauty, tried to buy her affection by “gifting” her the power of prophecy, which she didn’t ask for or want, and then cursed her so that no one would ever believe her prophecies when she did not return his affections, instead of just taking back his “gift” that she never wanted. And the tale of Apollo’s harassment of Daphne is that Apollo would not take no for an answer and chased Daphne until she had her river-god father turn her into a tree permanently because it was the only way to stop Apollo’s advancese. Once she did, Apollo just made her leaves and branches into a laurel crown, which became a part of his symbol, so she still couldn’t get away in the end. Apollo has proven time and time again that he is a predator. 

Apollo’s most mentionable acts of revenge were against King Midas and Marsyas. Apollo’s revenge against King Midas comes from the story of when Apollo and Pan had a music contest with Midas as the judge, when King Midas said he preferred Pan, Apollo turned his ears into those of a donkey. The story of Marsyas receiving Apollo’s wrath is that Marsyas was a satyr who once challenged Apollo to a music contest with the Muses as judges. They agreed that the winner could do anything they wanted to the loser. Apollo won (possibly cheating a bit) and had Marsyas flayed alive. Any blow to Apollo’s pride led to consequences for those he felt had slighted him. 

Apollo’s best known murders are the cyclops, Niobe’s children, and tricking Artemis into killing Orion (her lover). The murder of the cyclops at the hands of Apollo is due to Apollo’s son, Asclepius. The physician was so gifted he could bring people back from the underworld, he was struck by the lightning bolt and killed, because Zeus couldn’t allow this power. Apollo, in retaliation, killed the cyclops, the primordial deities who had manufactured his father’s lighting bolt, with his arrows. 

The story of the death of Niobe’s children is that she married the king of Thebes and had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls.  Greeka.com states, “At a ceremony held to honor Leto, mother to the godly twins Apollo and Artemis, who were living in Thebes, Niobe bragged about how she had birthed fourteen children,” instead of only two, and how she was superior to Leto. The twins were enraged by this insult, and came down to Earth to kill her children, with Apollo killing the seven boys and Artemis killing the seven girls. From the sound of this story, it seems Artemis and Apollo were very close and fair to each other. This was not the case. Apollo once tricked Artemis into killing her greatest (male) love, Orion, due to his own jealousy of Orion’s great hunting skill and Artemis’ love for him. He bet she couldn’t make a shot at this tiny little dot far away, which she did, but the target turned out to be Orion. He purposefully caused his sister great tragedy due to his own selfishness. 

Apollo was a terrible being. He simply sucked. Too many people forget the wrong doings of the gods, simply acknowledging the transgressions of Zeus and Poseidon as if it was acceptable for men of their stature to act this way. Apollo’s sins are nearly completely erased from his reputation due to unearned hero worship. These may be just stories, but most tell a familiar tale for women everywhere, and forgetting the harm done to these fictional women and worshiping their abuser, is betraying the very real women who go through similar pain.