Apollo was the god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, and more.

Symbols: Lyre, laurel wreath, python, raven, swan, bow, arrows
Parents: Jupiter and Latona
Siblings: Diana
Greek equivalent: Apollo
Other Names: Phoebus

Head of the Apollo Belvedere, c. 120-140 AD. (c) Marie-Lan Nguyen

The Roman worship of Apollo was adopted from the Greeks. As a quintessentially Greek god, Apollo had no direct Roman equivalent.

There was a tradition that the Delphic oracle was consulted as early as the period of the kings of Rome during the reign of Tarquinius Superbus. On the occasion of a pestilence in the 430s BC, Apollo’s first temple at Rome was established in the Flaminian fields, replacing an older cult site there known as the “Apollinare”. During the Second Punic War in 212 BC, the Ludi Apollinares were instituted in his honour, on the instructions of a prophecy attributed to one Marcius. 

Apollo seated with lyre. Porphyry and marble, 2nd c. AD. Farnese collection, Naples, Italy.

In the time of Augustus, who considered himself under the special protection of Apollo and was even said to be his son, his worship developed and he became one of the chief gods of Rome. After the Battle of Actium, which was fought near a sanctuary of Apollo, Augustus enlarged Apollo’s temple, dedicated a portion of the spoils to him, and instituted quinquennial games in his honour. He also erected a new temple to the god on the Palatine Hill. Sacrifices and prayers on the Palatine to Apollo and Diana formed the culmination of the Secular Games, held in 17 BC to celebrate the dawn of a new era.

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese. (c) Architas
Apollo Citharoedus. Capitoline Museum, Rome. (c) Ricardo Andre Franz
The Louvre Apollo Sauroctonos, Roman copy after Praxiteles.

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