Phoebus Apollo, Helios, or Sol
From the sun comes our physical light, but that light is at the same time an emblem of all mental illumination, of knowledge, truth, and right, of all moral purity; and in this respect a distinction was made between it as a mental and a physical phenomenon a distinction which placed Phoebus Apollo on one side and Helios on the other. Accordingly Phoebus Apollo is the oracular god who throws light on the dark ways of the future, who slays the Python, that monster of darkness which made the oracle at Delphi inaccessible. He is the god Helios, or Sol. of music and song, which are only heard where light and security reign and the possession of herds is free from danger. Helios, on the other hand, is the physical phenomenon of light, the orb of the sun, which, summer and winter, rises and sets in the sky. His power of bringing secrets to light has been already seen in the story of Vulcan and Venus.
The myth of Apollo is, like that of Aphrodite, one of the oldest in the Greek system, but, unlike the latter, which is at least partly traceable to oriental influence, is a pure growth of the Greek mind. No doubt certain oriental nations had deities of the sun and of light similar in some points to Apollo, but this only proves the simple fact that they viewed the movements of the sun and the operations of light in a general way similarly to the Greeks. We have seen in the preceding chapters how the sky, earth, sea, and lower world were personified by divine beings of a high order, while in the same way other forces and powers in nature were imagined as beings. In the myth of Apollo we shall find represented the various operations of the eternal light of the sun.
It is the sun’s rays, or the arrows of Apollo, that everywhere, as the fields and gardens teach us, quicken life, and foster it toward ripeness; through them a new life springs all around, and in the warmth of their soft, kindly light the jubilant voice of nature is heard and awakens an echo in the human soul. At the same time these arrows destroy the life of plants and animals; even man falls under them in southern climates, such as Greece.
Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897
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