Apollo: Greek Archetype of Favorite Son and Archer
The Second Generation on Mount Olympus
Apollo is from the second generation of gods who ruled from the lofty heights of Mount Olympus. Apollo was the god of the sun, of music, prophecy, and archery. He was also a lawgiver and the favorite son of Zeus. Twins Apollo and Artemis lived in the realm of the intellect, will, and mind, so Zeus understood and favored them. He gave Apollo golden arrows, and Artemis silver ones to practice their archery skills.
Apollo With His Twin, Artemis
Apollo and His Twin Sister, Artemis
Apollo was always “the Golden Boy”, portrayed as a virile youth with flowing golden hair. His bow and love of music played on his lyre were special to him, but Apollo did have a darker side. Apollo and his sister were capable of acting out with cruelty and vindictiveness. Artemis fell in love with a hunter named Orion. Apollo challenged her to an archery match to shoot at what looked like a mere speck in the distance. Artemis was very competitive, so rose to the bait, aiming straight at the target, only to find out too late that she had killed Orion.
Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, conceived during Zeus’s marriage to Hera. Leto searched for a place to give birth while pregnant with Apollo and Artemis, but no place would welcome her because they feared Hera’s wrath. She suffered a nine day labor on a barren island named Delos, because jealous Hera prevented a midwife from going to help Leto. Apollo and his twin Artemis were both honored for purity, for their remote attitudes towards others, and for inclinations to disappear from sight for long periods of time, she into the forest, he into the realm of the Hyperboreans.
Constellation of Orion
Apollo's Unhappy Love Life
Apollo was not lucky in love. His first love was Daphne, and Eros caused problems with this relationship. Apollo mocked Eros’s archery abilities, so Eros shot a golden love arrow into Apollo’s heart, and an anti-love one into Daphne’s. Now Apollo passionately pursued Daphne. This scared Daphne so much she prayed to her father, Peneus, the river god, for help. He turned her into a laurel tree. Apollo still loved her, thus made the laurel a sacred tree, and often wore wreaths of laurel in his hair.
Cassandra rejected Apollo’s advances and paid a price. He taught her the gift of prophecy, on the condition she would become his lover. Cassandra agreed, but then she did not keep her word. Apollo could not take back the prophetic gift, but decreed that nobody would believe her. So although Cassandra had numerous frightful visions about what would occur during the Trojan War, people believed she was a madwoman.
Apollo fell in love with Coronis, a beautiful young woman who became pregnant with his child. He assigned a white raven to spy on Coronis, and the raven reported back that she was cheating on him. Apollo changed the raven’s feathers from white to black, and asked it to kill Coronis. He later regretted this act, but could not bring her back to life. He snatched the unborn child from her while she lay on her funeral pyre, and gave the son to be raised by Chiron, the Centaur. This son was Asclepius, who later became the god of healing and medicine.
Apollo also suffered when he fell in love with a man, Hyacinth, son of the King of Sparta. Greek men of this time period had open gay relationships, particularly with their teachers and mentors. Apollo left Delphi to spend more time with his lover. One day they had a discus throwing match, and Apollo’s disc ricocheted off a stone, struck Hyacinth in the head, and killed him. In his anguish over this tragedy, Apollo named the Hyacinth flower after him, so he would always be remembered.
Hyacinths of Remembrance for a Lover
Apollo, God of Prophecy and Lawgiver
Apollo was the god of prophecy because he took over the oracle of Delphi, the site with a history of prophetic divination. Apollo killed the snake goddess Python to take possession of Delphi. His mediums were all women under his control, and their psychic divination attributed to their communion with Apollo. Normally a Priestess went into a trance, followed by a Priest who asked questions of her, and wrote down her words.
These words were given to another Priest, who interpreted the words into an understandable form. The meanings were usually obscure and used for political purposes. Zeus marked the Omphalos at the center of the world, or womb of the Earth, to make this area sound more scientific. Apollo’s temple also contained the grave of Dionysus, and he lent Dionysus his temple for the three winter months, when he traveled to the north to spend time with the Hyperboreans.
There were two reasons why people came to Apollo’s temple, to consult with his oracle, and to be purified after committing a crime. Apollo was both the giver and interpreter of the law, and Greek states attributed their constitutions to him. Apollo was the divine authority for law and order. Apollo’s power in Greece was only second to Zeus’s—not only did cities send emissaries to Delphi for legal advice, ministers of Apollo were sent to cities of Greece from Delphi as interpreters of civil and religious law.
Apollo gave cities their legal institutions, interpreted law, was a great advocate of order and moderation, and provided structure necessary for communities to work together, and to work out disputes. His roles as a musician and a lawmaker both express the Apollo archetypes, instinctual love for order and form. Apollo’s ordinances decreed what was allowed and what was not. An Apollo lawyer likes to argue constitutional law to apply principles and precedents, instead of making pleas for motivation or special circumstances.
Apollo could easily view life’s details from afar and get an overview perspective. He could aim for a target from far and always hit it with his arrows. An Apollo archetype wants clear definitions, easily masters skills, values order and harmony, and does not want to be bothered with subjects that do not interest him. He skims the surface to learn the bare facts, not delving into what bores him in any kind of depth. He much prefers thinking over feeling, distance rather than closeness.
He prefers scientific assessment rather than relying on intuition. A person who conforms to this archetype will find himself held in high regard in the world. Apollo’s mind is logical, and the laws of cause and effect are something that he always knew from the start. A person needs to plan ahead to be able to hit a target, he needs to have goals. Apollo knows where he wants to go, what he wants to accomplish, and he wants to win. He sets realistic goals that he knows he can easily achieve, but he wants recognition for his achievements.
Apollo was Zeus’s favorite son, and next to Zeus, the most important Greek god. The favorite son archetype seems as if he never struggles with anything. He can mentally distance himself from suffering of others and is often out of touch with his own feelings. But once he is viewed as an “Apollo”, traits are projected onto him, and people have trouble seeing him for who he really is anymore.
Apollo, Gifted Archer and Player of the Lyre
Apollo is associated with two stringed instruments, the archer’s bow and the lyre. Apollo’s musical skills were looked upon as bringing clarity and purity. This is different than music associated with Dionysus, whose works brought about chaos, passion, emotional conflicts, turbulence, and ecstasy. Apollo expressed valued music of clear notes, and purity like higher mathematics, which brings harmony to the listener and a lifting to the spirit. Moderation and beauty were the essence and effect of Apollo’s music, also compared to the way young David the shepherd played the lute for the tormented King Saul to sooth his nervousness in the Christian Bible.
The ability to view things calmly and rationally, distancing them from his own emotional response, is a big part of Apollo’s archetype. He does not have to respond to his own emotional pain, because he can distance himself by intellectual understanding, mindful spiritual practices, or repeating words that help re-direct his thoughts. An example of his remoteness was his connection to the mysterious Hyperboreans.
When Apollo was born, Zeus gave him a chariot with swans on it which he used not to visit Delphi, but the Hyperboreans, and he stayed there for one year. He visited what he called “this blessed land of light” for a portion of each year. Today, this realm is placed in the Pleiades constellation of the stars. This Hyperborean aspect of Apollo is similar to the Hades need to be by himself in the Netherworld, and has the same effect; it leads to feelings of isolation from others and a need to disappear from this world into another at times.
Apollo’s brotherly role within the family reflects both sibling rivalry and sibling friendship. Many incidents link Apollo and Artemis, the first born twin, who helped Leto in her long period of labor with her brother. Apollo’s jealousy of Artemis’s love for Orion led him to challenge her with the bow, which resulted in Orion’s death.
Competition arose between Apollo and his younger brother Hermes, whose first act was to steal Apollo’s cattle, but then Hermes gave Apollo the lyre to make it up to him. As a sibling archetype and favorite son, Apollo predisposes men to be part of team efforts. He fits well into a corporate male role, without feeling he needs to be manager or boss.
He also works well with women who are competent and can compete with him on his level. Apollo types play politics well and treat it as a game, because they are able to use that emotional distance. He does not seem to care if he has the top position, but caution is his disguise, so others do not realize that he may have aspirations to arrive at the top.
Apollo was antagonistic to heroes, and felt it beneath himself to be drawn into a fight for mere mortals. He values prudence, avoids danger, is not emotionally attached to whatever the fight is about, and likes to be an observer. In our times, an Apollo man would be the armchair general, since weapons are unleashed from long distances; Apollo enjoys working with statistics rather than seeing troops as people, and enjoys working out war games in his mind rather than on a battlefield.
Laurel Wreath of Success
Apollo of Greek Mythology's Youth
An Apollo child is sunny and outgoing in nature. He wants to learn information, so is not dreamy, doesn’t like fantasy, has no imaginary playmates, and is not afraid monsters are lurking under the bed. In elementary school, he fits in well and is one of the gang. Others gravitate towards him, but he does not pick a best friend. He will try sports or music, and go wherever his natural talents lie, where he can do something easily. Leto was so exhausted after giving birth to Apollo, she was unable to nurse him. Themis, the pre-Olympian goddess, fed Apollo ambrosia and nectar from her divine hands.
So Apollo had a physically undemonstrative mother, who didn’t hold him or bond with him in any way. Even from youth Apollo stated his mission as “revealing to mankind the exact will of Zeus.” A young man such as this is a success in the making, a positive expression of his parents, an achiever who values accomplishments, a person used to being in the limelight. So any first born son who is willing to carry on family traditions is looked upon with favor, and will be a winner.
The question is this, how much do the parents need him to do well for them? Do they love Apollo for himself, or is their love dependent on his continuing achievement? Does his sense of worth come from always acing the next test? If so, he will still wear a sunny smile, and hide his sense of doubt or growing hostility under a mask? If an Apollo boy has narcissistic parents, he carries a heavy burden, because it is hard to have conditions tied to parental love. When strong will and exceptional abilities are present, Apollo will learn to win to satisfy himself. He can thrive with the right parents and teachers, because he loves mastering games, and gets his greatest sense of satisfaction and love from winning whatever he is doing.
The teenage Apollo will excel in school, win awards and scholarships, be a class officer, and enjoy all the privilege that comes with honors. If he has a learning disability or health issue, he will work hard to overcome it, and will likely achieve his goals anyway. If he does not have a Zeus-like father, he will seek one out in the form of a teacher or mentor.
Apollo men love to set long term goals, so often seek out careers that take years of education, such as medicine or law. When Orestes killed his mother, Apollo was the articulate defense lawyer for her side. Apollo men adapt to working in institutions and corporations. They develop competitive brotherly types of relationships with peers, and assume leadership roles in their peer group. They need the approval of the men in authority, but flawlessly carry out their orders. Apollo men also work well with women, perhaps because he loved and respected his sister Artemis, but also viewed her as his equal, she being goal-oriented and competitive too.
Apollo is most comfortable as the first among peers, or as the favored older brother. He wants to be a star on the team, but will make room for others, and accepts men as friends who are less perfect than he is. Apollo men do not always make it to the top though. He lacks the drive to acquire money, and he does not have the decisiveness or ruthlessness to fight his way to the top, even though his path seems to be leading there.
So Apollo either doesn’t make it to the pinnacle of success, or fails to consolidate power when he does rise in power, something Zeus would never have done. When Apollo gets as far as he can, and finds it is not what he aimed for, this becomes a problem. Now he is no longer the star, the achiever, and Apollo does not know how to fail. He has put all his energy into his work, sacrificed time for interests, and has spent less time with his family than he wanted as he built his career. Now Apollo needs alternatives to fall back on to give his life meaning.
Life Needs Emotional Meaning
Apollo of Greek Myth as a Husband and Father
Apollo is attracted to a competent, independent, attractive woman, and to a relationship with her that has a mild competitive edge to it. They will enjoy playing sports together, or share interests in art and music. They could also own a business together and run it well, as they both will challenge and support each other to excel. Apollo lives in his head, not in his body, so does lack passion and intimacy in his relationships with women. He lacks emotional depth, so they may either stay together in what is more of a brother/sister kind of relationship, or the woman may leave Apollo in search of more romance and passion.
Marriage to an Apollo man is still considered a “good catch.” He usually succeeds in getting the wife of his choice. It’s just that passion and love are not his criteria; Apollo makes this decision by weighing the pros and cons. He wants to have a good match, and a well functioning, stable marriage. This can work if the woman is looking for an enduring marriage and the promise of children, and a Demeter woman fits the bill nicely. It can be hard for a woman who fell in love with an Apollo man for the appearance and aura surrounding him, only to find that the appearance of a relationship with her is more important to him than the reality of it.
Apollo considers women in two categories, ones who would make suitable wives, those who would not. Unfortunately, he may be attracted to women who do not fit into the suitable wife category. He must learn to value the emotional and nurturing part of being with someone, and may not be able to see that he is missing out on it. When he chooses a wife, he pictures how they will look together as a couple, instead of making a heart centered choice. Marriage is just an institution for Apollo men, important for social life, status and children,
Apollo men are consistent and fair in dealing with their children, qualities learned from distant Zeus like fathers. Since Apollo men care about appearances, they will make attempts to attend their children’s school conferences, plays, or any sports or music recitals. He recalls his own upbringing, and wishes to be more of a presence in his children’s lives. At first this may be for appearance's sake. But as time passes, and Apollo sees himself and his wife in the children, he may enjoy their company. This is especially true as they get older, and may have interests in common. He will enjoy their accomplishments and conversations.
Like most people of middle age, this time can be a crisis for Apollo. Now he must face his limits. If he has not made it to the top, he is no longer the fair haired boy, but the gray haired man, so depression can set in. If he has neglected his marriage and children, he may find his wife and children have made lives for themselves that do not include him. If Apollo has made an effort to have a decent family life in spite of a heavy workload, then this will be an easier time for him.
Even good marriages can be troubled when parents are experiencing empty nest syndrome. An affair on Apollo’s part will not help this situation either. But Apollo plans well, and knows his wife, and so may be able to weather these years better than most men. He feels pressured to keep his marriage intact, even if he or his wife had affairs, and will make an effort to fix things with her. He will not leave his job or change much even if life reaches a plateau in all areas. He is a creature of habit, and wants to keep up appearances.
Apollo's Sun Chariot
Apollo Grieves for Phaethon's Loss
Apollo usually plans well for his retirement years and has made good investments. Once he no longer works, he will keep active with many projects, and try hard to stay as busy as he was while working. He will avoid too much introspection on life, in keeping with his somewhat superficial nature, because this will make him uncomfortable, though is a necessary part of psychological growth in the later years.
When a man has been the “Golden Boy” all through his success filled life, he can make assumptions that he can take on more than he is able, with terrible results. He may enact in his life the myth of Apollo’s son, Phaethon. Phaethon was told by his mother that he was Apollo’s son, and though he bragged of it, many disbelieved. He confronted Apollo to learn the truth of his paternity. Apollo acknowledged it, and to assure Phaethon, made a promise to grant any favor he wished. The boy asked to drive the sun chariot across the sky for one day. The next day, Phaethon put on his father’s sun crown and got into the chariot. The horses felt an unfamiliar, inexperienced hand on the reins, and left the usual path taken by the sun. Phaethon was not strong enough to control their flight, and the heat of the sun scorched the Earth. Even more damage would have been done to the Earth, except Zeus struck Phaethon down with a lightning bolt! Apollo was distraught over the loss of his son, and allowed the Earth to go one whole day without light, before putting the chariot on its regular course.
The next hurdle for the Apollo man to master is that he has to grow beyond his logical mind, and learn about matters of the heart and body. Apollo made space for Dionysus at Delphi for the three winter months, so was willing to share his sacred place with his brother. It could help an Apollo man to develop some Dionysus traits. Forward thinking, realistic Apollo is an example of left brain functioning, while Dionysus, as the god of soulful merging, mystic and ecstatic vision, is an example of a right brain functioning person.
Apollo is not aware that anything besides thought can give life meaning. He needs to live in the moment, feel sensations, explore his feelings, and have outer experiences like Dionysus. It would be easy to do this through music and dance, as Apollo may have already reached spiritual heights while enjoying classical music. Apollo also needs to draw on Dionysus for advice on lovemaking. He needs to learn it can be a spiritual connection and emotional merger that smooths over many petty pains and hurts, besides a very pleasurable physical experience. This writer used Jim Morrison from The Doors as an example of a Dionysus archetype, and Ray Manzarek, the sensible, thought driven organ player played the archetype of Apollo for Jim in the band's makeup. Jim had the creative energies, but was a drinker and drug addicted womanizer, while Ray had several college degrees, served in the military when many men didn't, and grounded Jim like a true Apollo archetype.
A successful Apollo man takes credit for his accomplishments and thinks they are well deserved. But in hubris or pride, he does not notice the help he has taken from many of the mentors and people who advised him along the way, or remember to thank them. Living the “Golden Boy” life has not given the Apollo man much experience in doing everything on his own, as he has not depended completely on himself. He may have to suffer loss and grief before he realizes how much he has taken for granted from those who loved him.
He may have to make a terrible mistake (like the one with Phaethon) in order to experience humility. Apollo men tend to do whatever is expected of them, whether it is really what they want or not. It is good to conform to some rules, but at some point, as a teen or young adult, one must learn to think for themselves. When he learns to make decisions not only made by logic, he will be headed into unknown territory. He must learn to follow his heart, and move beyond the boundaries of his thinking world. Apollo can apply his considerable energies towards accomplishing his goals to giving up some of that emotional distance that may have made him feel safe, but kept him isolated from the very ones who loved him.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda M.D. 1989 Gods In Everyman A New Psychology Of Men's Lives and Loves Harper Collins, New York Part 3 Chapter 6 Apollo, God of the Sun--Archer, Lawgiver, Favorite Son pgs. 130-161
Campbell, Joseph 1949 The Hero With A Thousand Faces Novato, CA Refusal of the Call pgs. 50-52
Jung Carl G. 1964 Man And His Symbols Dell Publishing New York Symbols of Transcendence pgs. 146-156
© 2011 Jean Bakula