Apollo Family Tree: The Lineage of the Greek God of Light

Apollo is a central figure in Greek mythology, often associated with many vital aspects of life and culture. As the god of music, poetry, and prophecy, Apollo holds a revered place among the Olympian gods.

So naturally, you would expect him to have one flashy family.

He is not only a symbol of the sun but also represents healing, archery, and the arts. His influence spans the ancient Greek world, where temples like the famous Temple of Apollo were common and sites of major cultural significance.

Parents and Birth of Apollo

Apollo’s story begins with his parents, Zeus and Leto. Zeus, the king of the gods, fell in love with Leto, a Titaness. However, their union sparked Hera’s jealousy, Zeus’s wife. Determined to prevent Leto from finding a place to give birth to Apollo, Hera cursed her to wander the earth without finding a safe refuge.

READ MORE: Zeus Family Tree: The Family Tree of the King of the Gods

Despite Hera’s curse, the island of Delos offered sanctuary to Leto, allowing her a place to give birth to Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis. This island later became one of the most important sacred sites in the Greek world, widely known for its magnificent Temple of Apollo. Delos’s willingness to help Leto was due to Apollo’s promise to bless the island as a central religious hub, a promise that saw the island flourish as a major cultural and spiritual center.

The birth itself was remarkable. Leto clung to a palm tree and gave birth to Apollo under extraordinary circumstances—Artemis, just born, is said to have helped her mother deliver her brother, which must’ve surely been one of the reasons behind the close bond between Apollo and Artemis.

Apollo’s birth was accompanied by divine signs, including swans circling Delos seven times, which was seen as an omen of his greatness and his connection to the number seven.

As soon as Apollo was born, he declared his intentions and his roles—declaring that he would carry a golden lyre and a bow, symbols of his authority over music and truth. This declaration is celebrated in the Hymn to Apollo, which also mentions his ability to bring disease and healing.

Divine Relatives of Apollo

As a member of a divine pantheon in the Olympians, Apollo shares connections with several key deities.

Artemis

Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister and also a son of Zeus and Leto was born just before him on the island of Delos. As the Greek goddess of hunting, Artemis is often portrayed with a bow and arrows. Her birth story is deeply connected to Apollo’s—she helped her mother, Leto, during Apollo’s birth, demonstrating her capability and strength from the very beginning. Artemis and Apollo share many adventures, including punishing those who wronged their mother. In one notable myth, they killed the children of Niobe, who boasted that she was better than Leto because she had more children.

READ MORE: The 12 Greek Titans: The Original Gods of Ancient Greece

Hera

Although Hera was not Apollo’s mother, her actions greatly influenced his legend. As Zeus’s wife, Hera is furious about her husband’s infidelity with Leto and bans the earth from offering Leto a place to rest, forcing her to wander in search of a safe haven to give birth. Despite Hera’s antagonism, which set a challenging start for Apollo, the goddess’s interactions with Apollo after his birth were less directly hostile compared to other myths.

Hermes

Hermes, the messenger god and another son of Zeus, shares a dynamic and sometimes contentious brotherhood with Apollo. In one famous myth, shortly after his birth, Hermes stole Apollo’s sacred cattle. Apollo, enraged, confronted Hermes, but the conflict was resolved when Hermes charmingly created the lyre from a tortoise shell (in some myths, he made the tortoise itself sing) and played it. Apollo was so pleased with the music and the instrument that he allowed Hermes to keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre.

Apollo and Poseidon

Apollo’s involvement with Poseidon, the god of the sea, is highlighted during their collaboration in the building of Troy’s walls. According to myth, after the Trojan king Laomedon promised rewards for their assistance, both gods agreed to help. Apollo, wielding his talents beyond just the worship of Apollo and music, played a crucial role in this task. He used his divine powers to erect massive fortifications around the city. However, the story takes a turn when Laomedon deceives the gods and refuses to pay them their due reward. This betrayal leads Apollo and Poseidon to send a sea monster to ravage Troy.

READ MORE: Water Gods and Sea Gods From Around the World

Apollo and Ares

In contrast to his cooperative venture with Poseidon, Apollo’s interactions with Ares, the god of war, often reflected their starkly different dispositions. Apollo was typically associated with order, healing, and the arts, embodying a controlled and harmonious approach to his divine duties. In contrast, Ares represented the brutal and chaotic aspects of warfare. Despite these differences, the Trojan War as described in Homer’s “Iliad,” depicts Apollo and Ares fighting on the same side, supporting the Trojans against the Greek forces.

Apollo also defended the Trojan hero Hector, aiding him until his fate was ultimately sealed by the gods. Similarly, Apollo played a direct role in the conflict by engaging in combat with other gods, including a notable confrontation where he challenged Hercules, another son of Zeus.

Apollo’s Broader Connections

Beyond these, Apollo’s divine interactions often served as reflections of his abilities and nature. He competed with the god of blacksmiths, Hephaestus, by challenging his craftsmanship against his own musical talents. His association with the Muses, who were often present when hymns to Apollo were sung.

Apollo’s Wife and Other Romantic Relationships

Apollo’s romantic entanglements involved figures from different walks of life—from princesses to nymphs.

Coronis

Coronis, a Thessalian princess and one of Apollo’s mortal loves is a central figure in one of his most tragic love stories. Apollo’s love for Coronis was profound, and she bore him a son, Asclepius, who would later become the god of medicine. Unfortunately, their love story ended in sorrow when Apollo discovered Coronis had been unfaithful to a mortal, Ischys. The discovery was made through a raven, which Apollo had tasked to guard Coronis. In his anger and betrayal, Apollo had his sister, Artemis, kill Coronis. In a tragic twist, as Coronis was laid on her funeral pyre, Apollo saved their unborn child by cutting him out of her womb.

Hecuba

Hecuba, the queen of Troy, is another figure associated romantically with Apollo, though their connection is less detailed compared to Apollo’s other affairs. According to various sources, Hecuba was said to have had a son named Troilus with Apollo. An oracle prophesied that Troy would not fall if Troilus reached the age of 20. However, this was not to be, as Troilus was killed by Achilles before reaching this age, setting the stage for Troy’s downfall.

Mythological Offspring of Apollo

Apollo had many children, both divine and mortal, with estimates ranging widely depending on different sources and interpretations of Greek myths.

READ MORE: Greek Mythology: Stories, Characters, Gods, and Culture 

One of the lesser-known yet fascinating offspring of Apollo is Aristaeus, who played a significant role in ancient Greek culture as a protector of herdsmen, hunters, and the crafting of cheese and beekeeping. According to mythology, Aristaeus was educated by the wise centaur Chiron, learning valuable skills that benefitted mankind. He was also involved in several important mythological events, including the pursuit of Eurydice, which led to her fatal encounter with a viper.

Another notable child of Apollo was Amphissus, born to the nymph Dryope. Amphissus founded the city of Oeta and was revered as a local hero. His mother, Dryope, was transformed into a tree when Apollo seduced her, but Apollo cared for their son.

Linus was a musical prodigy, said to be one of Apollo’s sons, who became a great musician and teacher. Unfortunately, his tale ends in tragedy, as he is killed by his own student, Heracles.

Iamos was another son of Apollo, born to the nymph Evadne. He was abandoned at birth and left to die but survived with the help of two serpents who fed him honey. He later became an important figure associated with the ancient Olympic Games, and it was said that Apollo gave him the gift of prophecy. Iamos is a prime example of Apollo’s influence over oracles and the prophetic tradition in ancient Greece.

Among Apollo’s divine children, Orpheus and Asclepius stand out for their significant contributions to Greek mythology, each embodying unique aspects of Apollo’s domains, such as music, healing, and prophecy.

Orpheus is arguably the most famous son of Apollo, renowned across ancient Greece for his extraordinary musical talents, which he inherited from his father, the Greek god of music. It’s said that Orpheus’s music had the power to charm all living things and even inanimate objects, which could move or weep at the sound of his lyre.

His abilities were so profound that they became central to the numerous myths surrounding his life, including his descent into the Underworld. Orpheus ventured into Hades to retrieve his beloved wife, Eurydice, using his mesmerizing music to soften the hearts of Hades and Persephone and persuade them to allow her to return to the living world.

Asclepius, another of Apollo’s notable sons, became known as the god of medicine, a direct inheritance from Apollo’s associated healing powers. His birth was miraculous—rescued from his mother Coronis’s funeral pyre by Apollo himself. 

Asclepius’s abilities in medicine were unparalleled, and he was credited with countless healings and even the capability to restore the dead to life, which eventually led to his demise at the hands of Zeus. However, he was later deified as a god. His most famous sanctuaries, such as Epidaurus, became centers for healing, where sick people would visit in hopes of miraculous cures.

Wrapping It Up

Apollo isn’t just a one-trick pony; this guy is the Greek god of a whole bunch of stuff—music, prophecy, healing, and light itself.

Hence, becoming familiar with his family tree definitely helps when trying to understand why he’s such a big deal in Greek mythology.

References

Pausanias. Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918.

Apollodorus. Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Includes Frazer’s notes.

Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.

Anonymous. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.

Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part VII: The Ajax. Sir Richard C. Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1907.

THE ILIAD of Homer, translated by Samuel Butler, revised by Timothy Power, Gregory Nagy, and Casey Dué

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