“Daphne pursued by Apollo changes into a tree” by Wonderlane via Flickr

In Greek mythology Apollo (also called Phoebus) is the twin brother of Artemis, born of Zeus and the Titaness Leto.

He is associated with strength, order, youthfulness, light, beauty and reason, as opposed to the emotional and sometimes drug-induced frenzies relating to Dionysius.

Apollo’s chief temple and oracle was at Delphi, over which the expression, “Know Thyself” was inscribed. He obtained the rights to this temple by first killing Pytho, a serpent guarding it. There he allegedly spoke through a priestess known as the Pythia. Some believe the Pythia’s prophecies were induced by gasses (possibly methane) that naturally emerged at the site, causing her to go into a trance and speak fantasies or wisdom, depending on how you look at it.

Recent geological investigations have shown that gas emissions from a geologic chasm in the earth could have inspired the Delphic Oracle to “connect with the divine.” Some researchers suggest the possibility that ethylene gas caused the Pythia’s state of inspiration. However, Lehoux argues[6] that ethylene is “impossible” and benzene is “crucially underdetermined.” Others argue instead that methane might have been the gas emitted from the chasm, or CO2 and H2S, arguing that the chasm itself might have been a seismic ground rupture,[7][8] The idea that the Pythia spoke gibberish which was interpreted by the priests and turned into poetic iambic pentameter has been challenged by scholars such as Joseph Fontenrose and Lisa Maurizio, who argue that the ancient sources uniformly represent the Pythia speaking intelligibly, and giving prophecies in her own voice.¹

Said to create and stop plagues, Apollo was also worshipped by the Etruscans, as indicated by his statue at Veii. At Rome he was venerated as a god of healing.

The Apollo 11 crew portrait. Left to right are...
The Apollo 11 crew portrait. Left to right are Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fittingly enough, NASA named one of its most successful space programs after him. From 1969 to the 1970s, Apollo, like the rational and powerful god he was once believed to be, took mankind to the moon and back—not once but several times. The lunar landing of July 20th 1969 saw Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin take the first historic steps. Some have tried to refute this achievement, saying the moon landings were a cleverly orchestrated hoax. But these claims seem spurious.

Apollo is also the name of small asteroids crossing the Earth’s orbit. In 1991 an Apollo asteroid came within 170,000 km of Earth, the nearest observed asteroid known to mankind.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythia


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