God of enlightenment, the arts, prophecy, medicine, intellectuality, religious healing, archery, and protector of the shepherds. Son of Zeus and Leto. Twin brother of Artemis. Father of Asclepius, god of healing.He was accompanied by the twelve Muses. His sacred animals were the swan, the raven, the dolphin, the wolf. His sacred tree was the laurel, and his sacred instrument was the lyre. He was also depicted by the bow and arrows and the tripod, which represents his prophetic powers.
Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on a floating island, Delos, because Zeus’ wife Hera blind with jealousy had forbidden her to set even one foot on firm ground. Immediately before the birth of Apollo, a flock of swans surrounded the island hence the swan as one of Apollo’s sacred animals. As a sign of appreciation, the gods secured the floating island of Delos to the seabed.
As a revenge for Apollo’s mocking of his skills, Eros pierced him with his arrow thus making him fall in love with the nymph Daphne. Annoyed with Apollo’s persistence, Daphne asked the river god Peneus for help. As soon as Apollo tried to embrace Daphne, she transformed into a laurel tree. The heartbroken Apollo then named the laurel his sacred tree.
Apollo’s first task was to save Pytho (Delphi) by killing a dragon, Python, who was destroying the village’s sources of food and water. Python, however, was the son of Gaia who punished Apollo by making him a cowherd for nine years. When Apollo returned to Pytho he disguised himself as a dolphin, or delphinios, from which the name of the city arose. Apollo brought with him priests to form an oracle in Delphi. He gave one of the priestesses the power of prophecy and the most important sanctuary to Apollo was situated in Delphi.