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Apollo and the Python

Tales beyond belief

The Myth of Apollo and the Python
Apollo carried a silver bow and a quiver full of golden arrows, which were not only very beautiful, but also very dangerous. They had been known to slay whole armies, and even to dry up the rivers and lakes into which they had fallen. But you must not suppose that he was an angry and an unjust god; he was as brave as he was beautiful, and as kind as he was brave.

One day he saw that the people down upon the green earth were very unhappy about something. This made him sad, for he wished always to see them happy and cheerful; so lie came down to see what troubled them. He walked through a green valley, where a river ran laughing toward the sea, and stopped near a house in the doorway of which sat a little boy sobbing bitterly. When Apollo asked him the cause of his grief, he pointed to a far-away blue mountain, and said, between his sobs, that a great dragon lived in the mountain caves.

At night, when the people slept, this dragon came silently down, breathed upon them his poisoned breath, and in the morning they did not awaken. He told Apollo that his dear mamma was yet asleep; that he had been calling to her, but she did not answer. Apollo shot a golden arrow into the room, then, patting the boy's shining curls, he said, " Laugh and be happy, little one; the dragon shall never come again." Then the little boy heard his mother's voice calling to him very softly; and clapping his hands with delight, he ran into the house.

Apollo knew that his old enemy, the python, was doing all the mischief, and he determined to kill the monster. This was not an easy task, even for Apollo; for the serpent hid himself in the deep recesses of the mountain caves during the daytime, and he had a sly habit of making himself invisible. Apollo grasped his bow firmly, and chose three of his straightest arrows. He climbed the steep, craggy side of the mountain, and looked carefully into its many caves. At last he found one which was larger than the others. He shot a swift and silent arrow back into the darkness, and not without result; for there, with a sparkling roof of precious stones above him, lay the python, coiled in an ugly heap.

He was just ready to spring at the intruder, but Apollo's arrow pinned the flat head to the earth. The python lashed about in its fury, and filled the cave with its fiery and poisonous breath; but Apollo could not be harmed by it. Again and again his careful aim took effect, and at last the ugly, quivering mass became silent. The python was dead, and Apollo went on his journey again.

How happy the people were! They sang songs in praise of Apollo; and over the cave where he had killed the python, they built a beautiful temple. They played many games in his honor, and these were called the Pythian games. There were chariot and foot races, quoit-throwing, wrestling, and the performing of many feats of strength by the young men. The winner of the games was called a victor, and was crowned with a wreath of laurel leaves, of which he was perhaps more proud than a king is of his golden crown.

Long ago, a great sculptor made a statue to be put in one of Apollo's temples. It proved to be a remarkable work of art, for no one had ever made so beautiful a statue before, and its excellence has never since been equalled. It was found many years after it had been made, not far from the great city of Rome, and was taken to the belvedere of the Vatican in that city. This fine statue is called the Apollo Belvedere, and represents the sun-god after he had shot the golden arrow into the python's cave. He seems proud and happy at the thought of having done a great deed for the people of the earth.

The Legend and Myth about Apollo and the Python

The Myth of Apollo and the Python
The story of Apollo and the Python is featured in the book entitled Stories of Old Greece by Emma M. Firth first published 1895.

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