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KRONOS Vol IX, No. 3
APOLLO OF THE WOLF, THE MOUSE, AND THE SERPENT
MICHAEL G. THEODORAKIS
NAME AND EPITHETS
It is generally agreed that Apollo did not always represent the Sun.(1) When he gained ascendency in Greece, he did so as an intruder, displacing gods which had been established there before him. Even at Delphi, which was sacred to Apollo, he is seen to replace a series of gods which had formerly been worshipped at the site.(2) These facts, along with material presented below, strongly suggest an astral identity for Apollo other than the Sun.
According to Immanuel Velikovsky, the planet Mars first became prominent in the eighth century before the present era; and, following the scenario presented in Worlds in Collision, that planet's series of near collisions with Earth were instrumental in settling the Solar System into its present order. Significantly, it was not until the fifth century B.C. that Apollo acquired an identity linking him to the Sun.(3)
Like most prominent gods, Apollo was honored with various epithets. An examination of them seems to indicate a lack of previous affinity with the Sun. Some of these names even link the god with the planet Mars. He was known as "far-shooter" (or "far-darter") for his skill in archery. He was also known as the "wolf" and the "mouse".
Velikovsky claimed that the atmosphere of Mars, distended by its near approach to Earth, took the appearance of various animals, most prominent of which was the wolf.(4) Martin Nilsson was surprised that Apollo was called Lykeios. This "surely describes him not as the light god but as the wolf god", he stated.(5) Nilsson tried to explain this by suggesting that the name "wolf" implies that Apollo was an "averter of evil" - a suggestion which he, however, ended with a question mark.(6)
In Rome, a city traditionally founded in the eighth century B.C., the wolf was a symbol of paramount importance. The planetary god Mars was affiliated with the wolf, (7) and the very foundation of the city was associated with the same animal. Romulus, the founder of Rome, and Remus, his brother - both children of Mars(8) - were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf.(9) As the war god of Rome, Mars was so important that the first day of the Roman new year was made to fall on his date of birth.(10)
In Greece, it was Apollo who was known as the wolf. Apollodorus relates that the citizens of Argos, having been asked whether they wished to be ruled by the incumbent or by Danaos, who had a legitimate claim to the throne, opted for Danaos after interpreting a sign said to have been sent from the gods. A wolf had attacked and defeated the chief bull of the Argive herd. Danaos gave thanks by constructing a temple to Apollo Lykeios - i.e., Apollo the Wolf.(11)
Early in Homer's Iliad, Apollo is referred to as Smintheus,(12) a name which means "mouse". According to Velikovsky, the figure of the mouse played an important role in Mars' last approach to Earth in 687 B.C. As described in Worlds in Collision,(13) this occurred on the occasion of Sennacherib's defeat outside the walls of Jerusalem, a defeat that was ascribed to a "blast" from heaven which Velikovsky connected to Mars.*
More than two hundred years later, the Greek historian Herodotus was given the Egyptian version of the same incident by the priests of that country. According to this version, the Assyrian army had been defeated when their camp was overrun by a ravaging horde of field-mice. The mice devoured the soft parts of the Assyrian weaponry, rendering them useless. Herodotus was even taken to the temple of Hephaestus where he was shown a statue commemorating the defeat of Sennacherib. The statue depicted pharaoh with a mouse in his hand.(14)
This curious story of Herodotus reappeared over four hundred years later as a myth recounting the foundation of Troy. The settlers, having left Crete because of famine, were advised by Apollo to establish a colony at that place where they would be beset by enemies attacking at night. That very night, their encampment was invaded by a horde of field-mice who fed upon the vulnerable parts of their weapons and armor. The settlers went on to build a colony on the spot, naming it Smintheum. They also erected a temple dedicated to Apollo Smintheus - i.e., Apollo the Mouse.(15)
The origin of the above tale is not known but, although it appears rather late, it may yet contain a valuable clue. If it was derived from Herodotus, it would indirectly connect Apollo with the defeat of Sennacherib in which "mice" were believed to have played such an important role.
References to Apollo as Smintheus are not obscure. Coins found at Alexandria Troas (a city twenty miles south of Troy) show Apollo with bow in hand, accompanied by a mouse.(16) Further, white mice were kept in the temples of Apollo.(17)
According to Gilbert Murray, Apollo "is the most splendid and awful of Homer's Olympians" and "when the great archer draws near to Olympus all the gods tremble and start from their seats''.(18) Murray makes an interesting comparison between the gods of Homer and those of the Athenians at the time of Socrates. In both cases he finds that Apollo, Zeus, and Athene comprised a triad of deities with Apollo being the most important of the three.(19)
The Greek Ares has long been identified as a personification of the planet Mars. Yet, Ares never attained the prominence that Apollo, Zeus, and Athene achieved. On the other hand, there seems to be some evidence which suggests that Ares was but an aspect of Apollo. In the Iliad, after Athene defeats Ares in battle, it is Apollo who urges him back into action,(20) only to be defeated by her again. In one myth, Apollo is the father of Cygnus;(21) in another, it is Ares who is his progenitor.(22) In the myth that tells of the death of Adonis, it is Ares, in the form of a boar, that gored him to death. But, another version of the story holds that it was Apollo who transformed himself into a boar and killed Adonis.(23)*
Velikovsky also described the planet Mars, with its atmosphere stretched out, as taking the appearance of a sword.(24) It was, according to him, one of the characteristics of the planet that gave Mars the title of "War God". In the Iliad Apollo is repeatedly referred to as "he who strikes from afar" and "he of the silver bow". The former is consistent with the latter as the bow and arrow were his primary weapons. In the first book of the Iliad, Apollo's arrows devastate the Greeks for nine days. At least twice, however, Apollo is called "he of the golden sword".(25)
We have thus far discussed epithets of Apollo; but what does his name mean? A minority opinion holds that "Apollo" means "destroyer",(26) an incongruous appellation for the god who evolved into a solar deity and patron of the arts. The more popular opinion, however, is that "Apollo" means "meeting" (as in "a gathering"). Due to this definition, Apollo has been interpreted as a god of flocks, particularly of sheep, especially since he also bore the epithet Carneius (which means "ram").(27) In his discussion of the Greek word "synodos", Velikovsky argued that the term means a collision which requires "a meeting in space of planets".(28) When we view "meeting" in the light of "synodos", the word becomes compatible with "destruction", and thus "destroyer". The two renderings of the name "Apollo" become somewhat mutual. Apollo Carneius may therefore be promoted from the god of sheep to the god of destruction and even tentatively identified as a "colliding" planet. In any case, it should be remembered that, in astrology, Aries is the ram and represents the planet Mars.(29)
SHAFTS AND THUNDERBOLTS
The first four days of Apollo's existence, as told in myth, not only betray evidence of cataclysmic events, they also deny any relationship to the Sun. Leto, having been impregnated by Zeus, incurred the wrath af Hera who sent Python in pursuit of her. The beleaguered Leto could find no sanctuary on Earth. Finally, Poseidon raised up Delos, often referred to as a "floating island", from the depths of the sea where Leto gave birth to twins - Artemis and Apollo. But Python still pursued her. It had been decreed that Leto should not find salvation wherever the Sun was in evidence. At the tender age of four days, Apollo came to his mother's rescue by slaying Python with a shower of arrows.(30)
Herodotus narrates another story told to him in Egypt in which we recognize a duplication of the one concerning the birth of Apollo. Herodotus was even shown a "floating island" where it was said Leto nursed the babe Apollo. There is some variation in this version, for here it is Apollo - rather than Leto - who is pursued; and not by Python, but by Typhon.(31) Robert Graves states that Typhon and Python were often mistaken for one another since they both had similar careers.* Python, according to Graves, simply means "serpent", while Typhon is "stupefying smoke".(32) But did not Velikovsky present Typhon as the cometary Venus? (33)
What is the significance of Apollo's skill at archery? If Apollo represented Mars, then his arrows must also have represented a planetary phenomenon. In Jane Harrison's Themis, there is a discussion of "shafts" or arrows. She states that when the word "shafts" appears in Greek literature or art, it always occurs in the plural and refers to the weapons of a deity. "Shafts" seems to represent lightning and its accompanying thunder and the thunderbolt. Harrison adds that the thunderbolt is the manifestation of "shafts" most often depicted in art.(34)
In Greek, the words for "shafts" and "thunderbolts" are practically the same, both stemming from a root meaning "to smash".(35) According to Harrison -
In "destroyer(s)" we find the very meaning of the name "Apollo". Was Apollo a shaft or a thunderbolt?
Let us travel back to Egypt in our endeavor to answer this question. There was a city there which actually bore the name "Thunderbolt". The name is represented by a double arrow which forms the hieroglyph "thunderbolt". Is it a coincidence that this city held the arrow, the shrewmouse, and the thunderbolt as sacred?
According to G. A. Wainwright, the thunderbolt of the ancients was a physical object - a meteorite.
Thunder and lightning would be characteristic of storms and therefore storm gods. But what kind of storm brings with it the meteorite? When we recall that "shafts", in Greek, always occurs in the plural, we cannot help but wonder. How often do meteorites of perceptible size fall to Earth? How often do they fall in swarms in the same locality?*
The city named Thunderbolt by the Egyptians was called Letopolis by the Greeks. It received that name due to the various connections which this city seemed to have with the children of Leto. The arrow was sacred to both Apollo and Artemis; the mouse solely to Apollo.
Another object common to both these deities was the omphalos, or navel stone. This omphalos was usually of meteoric origin.(38) A fresco found at Pompeii, depicting the death of Python, shows the omphalos with Apollo standing by. The serpent is shown coiled around the base of the navel stone with the quiver and bow of Apollo hanging from it.(39) If the shafts of Apollo were meteorites, Python would have been pelted and not pierced into extinction.
If Mars really approached Earth, as Velikovsky assumed, meteors could conceivably have plummeted from the red planet onto our own.* The Earth would thus have become the target of Apollo's "arrows". It is, therefore, of note that the astronomical symbol for the planet Mars became a globe with an arrow extending from it. It is also interesting that, coincidentally or not, meteors and/or asteroids that cross the Earth's orbit received the modern astronomical term of Apollo Objects. These "objects" are closely watched and their motions calculated. They present potential dangers of a cataclysmic dimension to Earth.
SNAKES AND COMETS
Not much is now known about the Diasia but, in its time, it was the primary Attic ceremony dedicated to Zeus. Concerning this rite, Harrison states:
Snakes, serpents, and dragons have long been associated with comets.(41) Moreover, the Jovian snake is shown to have had a beard. Bearded snakes do not exist in nature; but the term "beard" was an ancient appellation of the planet Venus(42) which was also depicted in the form of a snake.(43) Could Zeus, the bearded serpent, reflect the confusion Velikovsky spoke of as having occurred between the planet Jupiter and cometary Venus? (44)
There is an element in the Diasia that satisfies an important condition of the Apollo-Python myth. It is the same element that denies Apollo a solar identity. In the myth, Leto could not be saved during daylight. Zeus, in snake form, was worshipped in the Diasia which "was characterized by nightly ceremonies, holocausts which the sun might not behold".(45) The Diasia was not a festive occasion. It was, rather, "a dread renunciation to a dreadful power" with an "atmosphere of chilly gloom".(46) Python was apparently dispatched at night.
The nature of the Diasia seems to be mournful in commemoration of a distressing event that took place at night. There was a facet of the ceremony that suggests just that. Part of the Diasia dealt with the "fleece of Zeus".(47) There is no explanation as to what this "fleece of Zeus" might have been but, judging by the "chilly gloom" associated with the rite, might it not have been the covering or skin of the snake-god? According to Apollodorus, Athene "slayed Pallas and used his skin" which Velikovsky understood "to refer to the envelope of Venus that previously formed the tail of the comet".(48)
If the loss of Venus' cometary tail was witnessed by man, the event might have been memorialized in some rite. With the loss of its tail, the comet would also have lost most of its potency. If the Venus comet was really confused with Zeus, we should not be surprised at Harrison's statement that "Apollo has superseded Zeus".(49) According to Velikovsky, Mars superseded Venus as the ancient terror in man's skies. Ultimately, Apollo became "Lord of All", concluded Harrison.(50) Even Homer referred to him as "King Apollo".(51)
The identification of Apollo as the Sun owes much to his epithet of Phoebus which means "brilliant" or "bright one".(52) Such a name, however, would not be inconsistent with Mars had this planet come as close to Earth as Velikovsky assumed.
REFERENCES1. W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greeks and Their Gods (Boston, 1969), pp. 73, 74, 84.
2. Ibid., p. 74. [Also see Temples and Sanctuaries of Ancient Greece, ed . by Evi Melas (London, 1973), pp. 59-73. - LMG]
3. G. Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion (N.Y., 1951), p. 49.
4. I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (N.Y., 1950), pp. 264-26s.
5. M. P. Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion (Philadelphia, 1972), p. 10.
7. Livy, XXII. i. 12.
8. Plutarch, Life of Romulus, IV, 2.
9. Livy, I. iv. 6.
10. E. Harrison, Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (London, 1977), p. 196.
11. C. Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks (London, 1959), pp. 41, 42.
12. Homer Iliad, 1:39.
13. I. Velikovsky, op.cit., pp.230-233.
14. Herodotus, The History, II:141.
15. R. Graves, The Greek Myths (Baltimore, 1968), Vol. 2, pp. 259 264.
16. G. A. Wainwright, "Letopolis," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, XVIII (1942), p.161.
17. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 266.
18. G. Murray, op. cit., pp. 49, 50.
19. Ibid., p. 52.
20. Homer,op. cit., v:454-456.
21. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 105.
22. Ibid., p. 145.
23. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 70.
24. I. Velikovsky, op. cit., pp. 261-264.
25. Homer, op. cit., V:509; XV:256.
26. R. Graves, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 381; J. E. Harrison, op. cit, p. 439.
27. W. K. C. Guthrie, op. cit., p. 73; J. E. Harrison, op. cit., pp. 439, 440.
28. I. Velikovsky, op. cit, pp. 269-273 (emphasis added).
29. C. Macleod, Astrology for Skeptics (N.Y.,1972), p. 141.
30. R. Graves, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 55, 56, 76.
31. Herodotus, op. cit., II: 156.
32. R. Graves, op. cit., p. 135.
33. I. Velikovsky, op. cit., pp. 81-85.
34. J. E. Harrison, op. cit., p. 88.
35. Ibid., pp. 88, 89.
36. Ibid., p. 89.
37. G.A.Wainwright, op. cit., pp. 159-161.
38. Ibid., pp. 160, 161.
39. J. E. Harrison, op. cit., p. 424.
40. Idem, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge,1922, 3rd edition), p. 18.
41. See, for instance, D. Cardona, "Tektites and China's Dragon," KRONOS I:2 (Summer 1975), p. 35.
42. I. Velikovsky, op. cit., pp . 163-167.
43. Ibid, p. 157.
44. Ibid., pp. 172-175.
45. J. E. Harrison, op. cit., p. 32.
46. Ibid., p. 16.
47. Ibid., pp. 23, 24.
48. I. Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 171.
49. J. E. Harrison, op. cit., p. 319.
50. Ibid., p. 320.
51. Homer, op. cit, I:36; IX:559; XX:103.
52. J. E. Harrison, Themis, p. 387.