Apollo and Coronis; White Raven; Association with Healing


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 As soon as Apollo was born on Delus among the goddesses who helped him into life, he defined his spheres of influence: “Let the lyre and curving bow be possessions to call my own, and for humans let me proclaim the unerring counsel of Zeus” (Homeric Hymn to Apollo, 131f).

Apollo and Coronis

In Greek mythology, there is a tale of  Apollo who fell in love with Coronis, a Thessalian princess of unsurpassed beauty. He commanded his divine messenger, the white  raven, to guard Coronis. Though Coronis was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she strangely did not care for her divine lover, but gave in to the advances of a mere mortal, Prince Ischys. She did not consider that Apollo, The God of Truth, could never be deceived.

When the raven brought news to Apollo of his lover’s infidelity, he became enraged that his faithful messenger had not pecked out the eyes of the prince. Apollo flung a curse so furious, the raven’s pure white feathers were scorched black. Apollo killed Ischys and sent his sister, Artemis, to slay Coronis with her deadly arrows (other accounts indicate Apollo killed Coronis himself).

In spite of his ruthlessness, Apollo felt a pang of grief as he watched Coronis be placed on the pyre and the flames roar up. At the last moment, he removed his son from the womb. Apollo gave his newborn son, Asclepius, to the wise centaur, Chiron, who taught him the art of healing herbs. Thereafter, Apollo became associated with healing through his son, Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing.

Coronis was set among the stars as Corvus, the crow (korônê in Greek).

Mythological Raven

Apollo’s Raven

Rome’s Association of Apollo with Healing

The Romans closely associated Apollo with healing. The Roman historian Livy recounts a plague in 433 BCE when the Roman people vowed to build a temple to Apollo and performed rituals to quell the wrath of the gods so the pestilence would not spread. Two years later, the Romans dedicated a temple to Apollo who they attributed for ending the epidemic. Up to the time of Emperor Augustus, the temple of Apollo Medicus was the only temple of Apollo in Rome. In 212 BCE the Romans instituted games in his honor, Ludi Apollinares. After the Roman conquest of Gaul, archaeological research shows inscriptions at Gallic healing sanctuaries combining “Apollo’ with the native names such as Apollo Belenus or Apollo Grannus.

Apollo

Statue of Apollo in Marseilles France

 

References:

Fritz Graff, Apollo; Printed 2009 by Routledge, New York.

Edith Hamilton, Mythology; Printed 2013 by Back Bay Books, New York.

Refer to website: http://www.theoi.com/Heroine/Koronis.html