Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of December 8th - December 14th,  2000

Here Comes the Sun King

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   Mythology was the symbolic language of the gods.

   The tales that were told long ago were designed to relate and pass on the stories of creation, as envisioned by the various cultures who ringed the Mediterranean, the sea thought to stand at the middle of the world. One of the most obvious objects of veneration for these people was the Sun, whose domain seemed to rule over both the warmth of the day, and the seasons of the year. But this Lord of Light was also thought of as the author of truth and honor, an immortal through whom no darkness could prevail. To the Greeks, he was known as Phoebus Apollo. Phoebus means 'brilliant' or 'shinning', and is an apt description of one of the most obvious attributes of the Sun. This metaphor is reflected in the following lines of Hesoid:

Apollo

Apollo and his flock

O Phoebus,
from your throne of truth
From your dwelling place at
the heart of the world,
You speak to men.
By Zeus's decree
no lie comes there
No shadow
to darken the word of truth
Zeus sealed by an
everlasting right
Apollo's honour,
that all may trust
With unshaken faith
when he speaks.

   Apollo is the Lord of prophecy and divination because he is the Lord of Light. This illumination represents not only the light of day, but also the consciousness of the mind when awake and alert.

   Astrologically, the Sun is depicted as a circle with a dot in the center, just as Apollo's throne at Delphi was thought to sit at the heart of the world. Indeed, the Sun is said to rule the heart, even as it stands at the center of our solar system.

   After Athena's Parthenon, Apollo's shrine at Delphi is probably the most famous site of antiquity. There are numerous stories of the many kings, princes and heroes who journeyed there to learn their fate. Apollo wrestled control over this shrine by defeating the great serpent Python, shooting it with his arrows. As the god of archery, many would offer a special prayer to Apollo so that their arrows might not miss their mark. Together with his sister Artemis, who was also an unerring marksman, their arrows were said to bring down those who had offended them. One example of this occurs at the beginning of the Iliad, when a plague has infected the troops. It is learned that not until a transgression to one of Apollo's priests has been rectified will the God's wrath cease.

Python

Apollo and Python

   Astrologically, the Sun rules both Leo and kings, and this association was not lost on the ancients. Paying homage to Apollo was often linked to worship of a nation's king, a practise which originated in the East, but which was absorbed by the Romans when their territorial conquests expanded to include these people and their religious beliefs. Sacrificing to the Emperor was a kind of ancient "Pledge of Allegiance", wherein their patriotism was openly demonstrated. But this rite got the Jews in trouble because they would not sacrifice to the Emperor, refusing to honor any man as a god, believing that their commandments forbade them to have any gods before Yahweh. Understandably, the Romans saw this defiance as a form or treachery which threatened the very fabric of Empire, and therefore treated them harshly as traitors.

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