An Introduction to Mythology
Apollo in tradition is usually a solar deity, but also a civilizer or culture-hero, and his functions and attributes are manifold. He superintends the measurement of time, protects herds and flocks, and is a patron of music and poetry. He has a very active solar connexion when, for example, he slays with his golden arrows the Python, the serpent of night or winter. His oracle at Delphi was the most famous in Greece, and his[Pg 284] priestesses were famed as prophetesses. He was usually portrayed as a young and handsome man crowned with laurel and holding a lyre in his hand. There is little doubt that many different and perhaps contradictory myths went to the making of the personality and character of Apollo, and he has decidedly totemic connexions, as, for example, the dolphin, the wolf, and the mouse; and perhaps with lizards, hawks, swans, ravens, and crows. Like Zeus, he attracted to himself the legends of a great many lesser divinities of the same type.
Hermes, called by the Romans Mercury, was the son of Zeus and the messenger of the gods. Quick-witted, ready-tongued, and thievish, he is the traditional patron of lightfingered, sharp people, who can charm the senses of others as well as the money out of their pockets.
Hephæstus or Vulcan was the god of fire, and the great artist among the gods. It was he who constructed the shining palaces of Olympus, the marvellous armour of Achilles, and the necklace of Harmonia. He also invented the thunderbolt. As a later type of deity, he is the smith or artificer deified, probably evolved from an older fire-god or thunder-god.