Learn More About the Greek God Apollo

If you visit Delphi in Greece, you'd better know who Apollo was

Dephi, Greece
••• Zarnell / Getty Images

Delphi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Greece to visit. This ancient sanctuary was highly influential in the ancient world, considered the center of the Greek world, and also home to the temple of Apollo.The ruins of this temple of Apollo are still visible today.

There were many different temples of Apollo over the years made of different materials. As the legend goes, they were made of Daphne, bees wax, and feathers, bronze and more.

It’s actually the sixth temple (rebuilt after both fires and then another fire or earthquake) whose ruins travelers can see today.

Another temple of Apollo popular to visit while in Greece is in ancient Corinth. You'll get a great view of the whole city of Corinth from the peak on which the temple was built. You can even visit it after dark, as these ruins are illuminated. 

Who Was Apollo?

Here's a quick guide to the basic facts about the Greek god of the sun, Apollo.

Apollo's Appearance: A young man with curly golden hair or sometimes rays of the sun emanating from his head.

Symbol or attribute of Apollo: The sun itself, the lyre (a type of musical instrument), the bow and the chariot he drives across the sky daily, borrowed from an earlier pre-Greek sun god, Helios.

Apollo's strengths: Creative, handsome, supportive of all the arts of civilization.

Apollo's weaknesses: Like his father Zeus, Apollo is all too happy to enjoy the charms of nymphs, as well as the occasional youth, and his conquests number in the dozens.

Birthplace of Apollo: On the sunny Greek island of Delos, where he was born along with his twin sister, Artemis. A palm tree on the island is pointed out as the actual site of the birth. Another tradition points to the islands of Lato, the Letoides, now called Paximadia, which lies off of the southern coast of Crete.

Spouse: Apollo had many encounters but no formal marriages. Flings included Cassandra, to whom he gave the gift of prophecy; Daphne, who fled from his embrace and turned into a laurel tree; Acacallis, a maiden from the Samaria Gorge on the island of Crete who was spurned by her proud family for choosing a "foreign" Greek God; and Calliope, with whom he had a child, Orpheus.

Apollo's children: Information varies, but the enchanting semi-divine singer Orpheus and the god of healing, Asklepios (also spelled Asclepius, Aesculapius and other variants), are the most famous of Apollo's offspring.

Some major temple sites of Apollo: The mountain town of Delphi, where a few columns from an early temple of Apollo still stand. The island of Delos was also sacred to him, but there is no temple to Apollo remaining there today.

Apollo, in some places, replaced an earlier solar god, Helios. High mountain tops were sacred to Helios, and today, churches dedicated to Saint Elias are often found in these same spots.

Basic story: Apollo was the son of the supreme Greek god Zeus and Leto, a nymph. Zeus's wife Hera was outraged and convinced the earth to refuse to allow Leto to give birth anywhere on its surface.

But the island of Delos allowed Leto to take refuge there and give birth to Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the hunt and wild things. The goddess Themis assisted in raising him by feeding him ambrosia, the sacred nectar of the gods.

Interesting fact: Apollo Delphinus or Delphinius was the dolphin-form of the god and was revered at Delphi, despite its location high in the mountains. He supposedly commandeered a Cretan ship in his dolphin form, jumping out of the water and landing on its deck, and then forced it to the coastline at Delphi; the sailors on the ship supposedly became his first priests at Delphi. He was also believed to have destroyed an evil serpent at Delphi and took over as the patron god of the famous Oracle there. Some ancient coins show the head of Apollo with dolphins swimming in the background.

Some images of Apollo in profile on coins are beautiful and often can be mistaken for an image of a goddess instead. The inscription may read Ἀπόλλων (Apollon) or Ἀπέλλων (Apollon), among other variants. If you see the first two letters, the alpha, and pi of the Greek alphabet, it's almost certainly Apollo.

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses