The “Apollino” (little Apollo) in the Uffizi
Part VI of a series begun here.
Here are some explanations of the places, people and events as we find them in the opening chapters of the book. Where Wolfe has provided explanation in the Glossary this is indicated in red. Text from the novel is indicated in blue.
[No Glossary entry]
Men with many rings came and said I must go to the House of the Sun, and when the black man said we would not, said the Sun is the healer and called upon some soldiers of Hill to help them.
Then we were taken into one of the finest buildings, with columns and many wide steps, where I was made to kneel before the prophetess, who sat upon a bronze tripod.
…my eyes were on a golden man, larger than any man should be, who had stepped silently from an alcove.
…”Here Leto’s son, who strikes the lyre
Makes clear our days with golden fire,
Heals all wounds, gives hope divine,
To those who kneel at his shrine.”
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
Apollo[n] is one of the more major gods, and a twin with Artemis the huntress, born on the island of Delos (hence “the Delian” etc.). God of sun and light, prophecy , Φοῖβος pheobos (light, radiant) λυκηγενής lykegenes (either wolf, light or Lycia-born, according to different authorities), and of healing. Apollo is “the wolf-borngod, famed for his bow” (Homer, Il. 4.101) (light and wolf are very similar words, and could be confused). He is young, always well-formed. His instrument is the lyre. He is “the ideal ephebe” (OCD3, p. 122). In the Homeric Hymn to Apollon, he is “far-shooting,” his bow is “splendid.” Often contrasted as being the rational, compared to Dionysus, the wild. His animal is the dolphin (Gr. delphis, hence Delphi, Homeric Hymn, lines 494-6).
His centers are Delos and Delphi where he ousted the older goddess Gaea, Γῆς (Paus. 10.5.6), or slew the dragon there. GW likes the idea of a matriarchal shrine being replaced by a patriarchal one. Like the sun, he is hard to look at. You sacrificed hecatombs (100 oxen) to him, and there was a month, Hekatombaion, in which his festival took place.
Wolfe’s verse above is likely drawn from many similar lines in the Homeric Hymn to Apollon. Leto was a Titaness, daughter of Phoibe and Koios.