Apollo’s history is a confusing one. The Greeks made him the son of Leto, a goddess known as Lat in Southern Palestine, but he was also a god of the Hyperboreans (‘beyond-theNorth-Wind-men’), whom Hecataeus (Diodorus Siculus) clearly identified with the British, though Pindar (Pythian Odes) regarded them as Libyans. Delos was the centre of this Hyperborean cult which, it seems, extended south-eastward to Nabataea and Palestine, northwestward to Britain, and included Athens. Visits were constantly exchanged between the states united in this cult (Diodorus Siculus.).

Apollo, among the Hyperboreans, sacrificed hecatombs of asses (Pindar), which identifies him with the ‘Child Horus’, whose defeat of his enemy Set the Egyptians annually celebrated by driving wild asses over a precipice (Plutarch: On Isis and Osiris). Horus was avenging Set’s murder of his father Osiris—the sacred king, beloved of the Triple Moongoddess Isis, or Lat, whom his tanist sacrificed at midsummer and midwinter, and of whom Horus was himself the reincarnation. The myth of Leto’s pursuit by Python corresponds with the myth of Isis’s pursuit by Set (during the seventy-two hottest days of the year). Moreover, Python is identified with Typhon, the Greek Set, in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, and by the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius. The Hyperborean Apollo is, in fact, a Greek Horus.

But the myth has been given a political turn: Python is said to have been sent against Leto by Hera, who had borne him parthenogenetically, to spite Zeus (Homeric Hymn to Apollo); and Apollo, after killing Python (and presumably also his mate Delphyne), seizes the oracular shrine of Mother Earth at Delphi—for Hera was Mother Earth, or Delphyne, in her prophetic aspect. It seems that certain Northern Hellenes, allied with Thraco-Libyans, invaded Central Greece and the Peloponnese, where they were opposed by the pre-Hellenic worshippers of the Earth-goddess, but captured her chief oracular shrines. At Delphi, they destroyed the sacred oracular serpent—a similar serpent was kept in the Erechtheum at Athens—and took over the oracle in the name of their god Apollo Smintheus. Smintheus (‘mousy’), like Esmun the Canaanite god of healing, had a curative mouse for his emblem. The invaders agreed to identify him with Apollo, the Hyperborean Horus, worshipped by their allies. To placate local opinion at Delphi, regular funeral games were instituted in honour of the dead hero Python and his priestess was retained in office.

The Moon-goddess Brizo (‘soother’) of Delos, indistinguishable from Leto, may be identified with the Hyperborean Triple-goddess Brigit, who became Christianized as St. Brigit, or St. Bride. Brigit was patroness of all the arts, and Apollo followed her example. The attempt on Leto by the giant Tityus suggests an abortive rising by the mountaineers of Phocis against the invaders.

Apollo’s victories over Marsyas and Pan commemorate the Hellenic conquests of Phrygia and Arcadia, and the consequent suppression in those regions of wind instruments by stringed ones, except among the peasantry. Marsyas’s punishment may refer to the ritual flaring of a sacred king—as Athene stripped Pallas of his magical aegis—or the removal of the entire bark from an alder-shoot, to make a shepherd’s pipe, the alder being personified as a god or demi-god. Apollo was claimed as an ancestor of the Dorian Greeks, and of the Milesians, who paid him especial honours. The Corybantes, dancers at the Winter Solstice festival, were called his children by Thalia the Muse, because he was god of Music.

(Robert Graves, The Greek Myths)

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