Apollon’s MDT – Day 07: Names & Epithets (2)

Χαίρετε ἀναγνώστες!

Today comes the second part of the seventh topic of this Month of Devotional Thought, the epithets and cult titles of Apollon. I split this topic from the first post since the discussion of the etymology of Apollon’s name already took up so much space, that I felt it necessary to make a separate post to deal with His many epithets. Now, since He has so many epithets, this will hardly be an exhaustive list. However, the study of epithets is a very important and useful tool to truly understand how a Deity was honoured in Antiquity, what Their functions are, Their domains, what places They are connected to, etc. This may be even more useful than the study of Their mythology, as it relates to the actual worship rather than just the stories told about Them.

One of the main functions of Apollon is God of Oracles, so let’s start out with the epithets relating to this. The main one is, of course, Πύθιος or “Pythios” (Pythian, of Python), referring to the guardian drakon of Delphoi whom Apollon slew to claim the Sanctuary as His own. The name is derived from the verb πύθειν or “pythein”, which means “to rot”, which refers to the decaying, rotting body of the drakon. It is said the fumes that rose from the corpse were what allowed the Pythia to be entranced and reveal the oracles of Apollon, at least in some account. It also connects Apollon with rotting, which is also part of purification, which we will come back to later. Other epithets of oracular nature are: Λοξίας or “Loxias” (Speaker), Λεσχηνόριος “Leskhenorios” (Converser), Κλάριος “Klarios” (Distributing by Lots), Ἰατρομάντις “Iatromatis” (Healer-Diviner), Θεάριος “Thearios” (of the Oracle), Μαντικός “Mantikos” (Oracular), Κλάριος “Klarios” (of Lots) and Προόψιος “Proöpsios” (Foreseeing). He is also sometimes named Μοιραγέτης “Moiragetes” or “Leader of the Moirai” given His intimate knowledge of the dictates of the Fates.

Another main function of Apollon is that He is a God of Music, Poetry, and Art. He leads the Mousai in Their dances and is thus named Μουσηγέτης “Mousagetes”, the “Leader of the Mousai”. His main instrument is the kithara or lyre and He is also called Κιθαρῳδός (Kitharoidos) for this, “of the Kithara”.

Apollon is also a major God of Healing, a domain which He shares with His son Asklepios and His family. The main epithet of Apollon referring to this occurs on a few variations: Παιάν (Paian), Παιήων (Paieon), Παιών (Paion). This epithet is also shared with Asklepios, and occurs in Homeros’ epics as a separate God Who is the Physician of the Gods. The name even occurs in Mykenaean Linear B texts as pa-ja-wo-ne (likely a dative). The meaning is uncertain, but likely refers to Healing in some way. Other healing epithets are: Ἀκέσιος “Akesios” (Healer) and Akestor “Akestor” (Healer), Ἰατρομάντις (see above) and Ἰατρός “Iatros” (Physician), and Οὔλιος (Oulios) “of Good Health”.

Besides healing and disease, he is also a God of other kinds of plagues. As Λοίμιος “Loimios” He is a God of Plagues, as Παρνόπιος “Parnopios” and Παρνοπίων (Parnopion) a God of Locusts, and as Σμινθεύς “Smintheus” he is a God of Mice. And as Ἐρεθίμιος “Erethimios” he averts rust. Connected to this is Apollon’s domain as a God Who averts evil and Who purifies: Ἀλεξίκακος “Alexikakos” (Averter of Evil) and Ἀποτρόπαιος “Apotropaios” (Who Turns Away (Evil)). He also has protective functions and comes to people’s aid as: Βοηδρόμιος “Boedromios” (Helping), Ἐπικούριος “Epikourios” (Protector), and Προστατήριος “Prostaterios” (Who Stands Before).

Apollon is also a protector of travellers, especially at sea, it seems. These epithets are: Ἄκτιος “Aktios” (of the Coast) and Ἐπάκτιος “Epaktios” (Upon the Coast), Ἀποβατήριος “Apobaterios” (of the Landing), Ἐπιβατήριος “Epibaterios” (of Disembarking), Εὐρύαλος “Euryalos” (of the Wide Sea), Νησιώτης “Nesiotes” (Inhabiter of Islands), and also Θεοξένιος “Theoxenios” (of the Guest Friendship/Hospitality).

Related to the protection of travellers is Apollon’s role as a God of new settlements and colonies: Ἀρχηγέτης “Arkhegetes” is the Founder of cities and colonies. Tying in with this is His role as  God of the Household, Families, Society, and other things: Οἰκέτης “Oiketas” (of the House), Ἀγυιεύς “Agyieus” (of the Streets), Θυραῖος “Thyraios” (of the Door), Γενέτωρ “Genetor” (Ancestor, mainly worshipped by families tracing their lineage to Apollon), Πατρῷος “Patroios” (Ancestral), and Φράτριος “Phratrios” (of the Phratry). Apollon also is God of the Agora as Ἀγοραῖος “Agoraios” and a Leader or Ἀγήτωρ “Agetor”, and as Ὄριος (Orios) he is a God of Boundaries.

Another main domain of Apollon, which He shares with His sister Artemis, is hunting. As such he bears the following epithets, many common to Him and His sister: Ἀγραῖος “Agraios” or Ἀγρεύς “Agreus” (Hunter), Ἀργυρότοξος “Argyrotoxos” (of the Silver Bow), Ἀφήτωρ “Aphetor” and Ἀφητόρος “Aphetoros” (Loosener (of Arrows)), Ἑκατηβόλος “Hekatebolos” (Far-Shooting), and Τοξοβέλεμνος “Toxobelemnos” (Arrow-shooter).

Apollon is also connected with various animals and plants, as well as animal husbandry: Δαφναῖος “Daphnaios” (of the Laurel Tree), Δελφίνιος “Delphinios” (of Dolphins), Θέρμιος “Thermios” (of Lupines), Κορυδός “Korydos” (of Larks), Λύκειος “Lykeios” (of Wolves), Λυκοκτόνος “Lykoktonos” (Wolf-slayer), Μελιαῖος “Meliaios” (of Ash Trees), Νόμιος “Nomios” (Shepherd), Νυμφηγέτης “Nymphegetes” (Leader of the Nymphs), and Πλατάνιστιος “Platanistios” (of Plane Trees).

Finally, the last main subject of epithets I want to discuss is Apollon as God of Light and His connections with the Sun. While He is not the Sun Himself, He is a God of Light and thus has solar associations. He is even sometimes called Ἥλιος “Helios” (Sun), although Helios is also most definitely a separate Deity. Other epithets related to Light are Αἰγλήτης “Aigletes” (Light of the Sun), Λύκειος (which can also mean “of Light”), Φαναῖος “Phanaios” (Shining), and, most famously, Φοίβος “Phoibos” (Shining).

In closing, I also want to note Apollon’s epithets derived from His mother, Divine Leto, after Whom He is named Λατῷος “Latoios” and Λητωΐδης “Letoïdes”. Both of these mean “[Son] of Leto” and are shared with Artemis.

I have definitely not included all the epithets I am aware of, but I have listed the main ones connected with each major domain of Apollon’s. As I said in the beginning, the study of epithets can be highly rewarding and very valuable in learning about the actual worship of a Deity. I greatly recommend you to pursue it.



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