Classical Mythology, Day 6

In this class we continue are examination of the establishment of a Panhellenic pantheon from the ‘microcosmic’ (or dramatic) perspective afforded by the Homeric Hymns. Unlike the previous investigations of Aphrodite, Hermes, and Demeter, the cases of Apollo and Athena present interpretive challenges and important opportunities for thinking about the diverse and sometimes conflicting roles gods can play in the narrative of myth and the ritual lives of ancient Greek audiences.

For both deities, we will consider how the narratives we have relate to cultic sites and certain rituals. In addition, we will consider popular narratives that are not integrated as well into the Panhellenic tales. Apollo, marked out in the Homeric Hymn as a mysterious god who establishes cult presences at Delphi and Delos, follows a heroic pattern in his narrative. Outside of the Hymn, he is a god of rage and punishment: we will consider his rapes and the children he fathers as different visions of Apollo’s character and important reflections on patriarchy and misogyny.

When it comes to Athena, her importance to her patron city is paramount. This deity does not have a narrative Homeric Hymn, but she is critical in the ritual life of the city and in Panhellenic narratives like the Homeric Odyssey.

Ancient Authors Discussed

Homer, Archaic Age

Hesiod, Archaic Age

Stesichorus, Poet, Poet, 6th Century BCE

Pherecydes, Mythographer, 5th Century BCE

Pindar,  5th Century BCE

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Porphyry, Philosopher, 3rd Century CE

Apollodorus, Roman Imperial Period?


Some Suggested Course Texts

Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Homeric Hymn to Athena

Homer, Iliad 24.1-120

Homer, Odyssey 1.1-80

Links to Blogposts

Asclepius’ Two Mothers

No Consent: The Death of Koronis

Athena and Erikhthonios

All About Athena: Names, Hymns, Prayers

Another Version of the Birth of Athena

Apollo’s Esteem for Human Beings

Apollo and Kassandra


Modern Authors Mentioned



Other Articles for Additional Reading

The Leda Fresco–Rape or Romp? How to talk about Consent and Art

Eva Johanne Haland. 2012.“The Ritual Year of Athena….” Journal of Religious History 36: 256-284.

Sheila Murnaghan. 1995. “The Plan of Athena.”  In Beth Cohen (Ed.), The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer’s Odyssey (pp. 61-80). New York: Oxford University Press.

Mike Chappell. 2006. “Delphi and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo.” The Classical Quarterly 56, no. 2 (2006): 331-48.


Similar Myths



Student Links



The Delphi Museum is amazing.

So is the Acropolis Museum.