He it was who brought health and prosperity to men, and who caused the flowers to bloom and the grains to ripen, until the fields lay smiling in warmth and gladness, and the shepherds upon the hillsides broke forth into songs of joy. A beautiful goddess, Themis, gave Apollo a bow, and a quiver full of shining arrows, and better than these, a lyre. Then she gave the little Apollo some of the nectar and ambrosia which is the food of the gods. No sooner had ho eaten it than he began to grow taller and taller, until he had become a handsome youth. How strong, and noble, and brave he was!
Taking his bow and his lyre, he said, "These shall be my friends. I will teach the will of my father Zeus to men. I will teach them the songs of nature, and they shall sing more sweetly than the birds. I will teach them to see new beauty in the hills and fields. I will foretell to them the future, and they shall become wise like the gods."
So Apollo started forth to do this noble work for men. They began to grow wiser and better. The people honored him by making beautiful temples, and by growing skilful in the arts of poetry and music. Apollo was well loved by the gods; but he once offended Zeus, and the anger of the greatest of the gods was intense. Apollo's dear friend, Aesculapius, the god of medicine, had been killed bv the thunder bolts of the giant Cyclops. Apollo killed the giant, and Zeus had no one to forge his thunderbolts. For this offence, Zeus sent Apollo to Thessaly, and, taking away his power, made him a servant to Admetus, the king of that country.
So Apollo became a simple shepherd. But even on the hills, dressed in rough skins, the god lost none of his beauty. He played on his lyre so skilfully that the king called him to his palace, to play for his beautiful wife, Alcestis. Apollo and Admetus became firm friends. Apollo loved the king so dearly that he could not bear to think of the time when Admetus should grow old and die. He begged the Fates to make him immortal, so that he would never die. " He shall be like thee, immortal Apollo, but some one must die in his stead," they said.
One day Admetus grew ill; and Alcestis, bending over him, said, " Thou shalt not die, Admetus, I will die for thee. ' Life is sweet and thou shalt live to enjoy its sweetness." So the noble Alcestis died, and the home of Admetus was full of mourning. When Heracles, the strong, came to visit Admetus, he found a sad state of affairs. In spite of his grief, Admetus tried to make his guest feel welcome. After hearing the sad story, Heracles went away. He soon returned, bringing a lady whose face Admetus could not see. "Wilt thou care for this noble lady, Admetus? " said Heracles. At first Admetus thought that it was a stranger; but when he found that it was his own dear wife, his joy was as great as his grief had been. Heracles had brought Alcestis back after he had fought with and c conquered the messenger of Aides. While Apollo was caring for the flocks of Admetus, his lyre was seldom silent; and so well did he play that the tall reeds and grasses trembled with pleasure, and softly echoed the sweet strains.
The Legend and Myth about Apollo
The Myth of Apollo
The story of Apollo is featured in the book entitled Stories of Old Greece by Emma M. Firth first published 1895.