Apollon Ammon

Though Zeus regularly gets associated with Ammun/Ammon, and had an oracular cult center where he was hailed under this epithet, it seems less known that Apollon is also strongly associated with Ammon in Libya too. This is something I attempted to talk briefly of in my book, and in hindsight I don’t think I pulled it off very elequently, so I wanted to take a moment to speak of it more again.

First, I don’t dispute that Zeus is associated with Ammon, but rather to say that when I think of Ammon I typically think foremost of Apollon. Reality says it can go either way as both are gods represented as ram-horned deities. However, for me it makes a stronger impression linked with Apollon, which we know from the Libyan city Kyrene who, according to Pausanias, dedicated an image of Ammon driving a chariot to the temple of Apollon. Charioteer images of Apollon are not uncommon, so this comes to not surprise, nor should it also that Apollon be associated with this god when Libya seems to be referred to as a garden of Apollon, as a far land to which he took his bride Kyrene and inspired the Therans to create a colony therein. In Kyrene, Zeus was specifically worshiped in his guize as the god of Mt Lykaion, and therefore a mountainous wolfish personality, and again one shared with his son, which again supports a certain overlap that would naturally develope.

Diodorus Siculus makes no definite statement on this matter. Rather he speaks of the cosmology of Libya in very different terms that what we tend to be familiar with…familiar gods in a less familiar order. Athena as the daughter of Poseidon. Ammon as the first husband of Rhea, and alternately the father of Dionysos as well as the god who raises the infant Zeus and ceeded his throne in Asia Minor to him when overthrown by Cronus (again not unusual association for Apollon who is attributed as the father of the Corybantes who were said to have reared the infant Zeus in Asia Minor). Zeus was born of Cronus and Rhea when the goddess left Ammon for his brother due to the insult of his siring Dionysos with Almathea in Nysia. As Zeus is credited as the heir of Ammon, it is natural that Zeus would engage the name of the god as his epithet. So then the question rises that whereas it would be natural for Zeus to assume it why does Apollon have it if not because he was recognized as a later form of Ammon (who went into exile after being overthrown by his brother…again not an uncommon theme for Apollon who himself in myth has been exiled and enslaved). And as Apollon is linked to Libya as he is, it would be natural that he would have some mythic place in Libya where he is not mentioned at all by Diodoros Siculus in any direct myth. Meanwhile the Egyptian god Amun was directly linked with Zeus by Greek travelers to Egypt, though even he bears some characteristic similar to Apollon such as his association with the sun, and the moon (though as the father of the moon), and the winds, especially those on stormy seas (which I have spoken before on many occassions when speaking of Apollon Telchinus). That the name of Amon supposedly means “educator, and builder” certainly contains associations that can be seen with Apollon who is a god intimately connected, with Athena, to the educational institution…the Lykeum likely derived from his name, and Apollon as a god who is associated with building foundations, as he did for his own temple even as he built the altar at Delos.

Therefore, while I recognize the association of Zeus with Ammon, perhaps due to the supremisy that Amon gained in Egypt that caused an equation of one king god with another (nevermind that the Hellenes also called Apollon king, which we can see in the Iliad and in other poetic works). It is somethig that is really open to many interesting interpretations and lines of speculation and inquiry in which we can see a manifestation of the closeness in domains of Apollon and Zeus, something which is alluded to very indirectly in the Orphic hymns where an a goodly overlap is observal when comparing a handful of poems together…particular that of Apollon, that of Helios, that of Zeus, and that of Pan. It is all quite fascinating 🙂


6 thoughts on “Apollon Ammon

  1. The discussion from Diodorus Siculus confirms me in the opinion that the Libyan Ammon, to whom the oracle at Siwa belongs, is quite distinct from the Egyptian Amun. At most, the Libyan Ammon might be an archaic, divergent form of Amun. The language of the Berber people who live at Siwa today, and presumably did in antiquity, is linguistically related to Egyptian; but that doesn’t mean that the identification of their Ammon with Amun wasn’t a later syncretism, and Egyptians definitely perceived Libyans as a distinct nation, despite some cultural overlap. Morphologically speaking, one wonders if that extra “m” doesn’t point to a contraction of a longer name at some stage. One doesn’t see anything like that in the name of Amun (imn, where the “mn” is a single biliteral sign), which also has a straightforward etymology in Egyptian: it means “hidden”.

    • Definently a very interesting point to keep in mind Edward! I am not very versed on Egyptian gods, but there does seem to me some slight association here as Diodoros does call Ammon ram-horned (via a helmet with ram horns according to his narrative) whereas the Egyptian god is distinctly a ram from what I recall. It is quite likely though that there are some significant differences, though an archaic root of commonality as you suggest.

      • Diodorus may include the ram-horned helmet as an acknowledgement of the identification between Libyan Ammon and Egyptian Amun which was already a fact of the cult, but his Libyan theogony sounds like nothing Egyptian I can think of, and suits Amun especially poorly, inasmuch as Amun is quite lacking in myth beyond the initial moments of the emergence of the cosmos.

  2. wait…how can Apollo have fathered the Korybantes which cared for Zeus?

    Also I think Zeus was associated with Ammon for more reasons than supremacy…but then you knew I’d say that.

    • LOL yes of course I knew you would say that 😉 I just think that the close relationship both gods have is interesting.
      As for Apollon as the father of Corybantes, well this is something mentioned by Apollodorus in The Library (I was thinking at first it was Pausanias but it is Apollodorus). There are of course many Olympians who have alternative parentages assigned to them and roles…such as Aphrodite who is regarded alternatively as the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and as the daughter born of Ouranos via his casteration. Likewise Artemis is the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon alternatively. And then there is Athena who, by the Libyans and Cretans was believed to be the daughter of Poseidon originally and was adopted by Zeus. The geneaology of the gods tends to be very flexible for whatever reason 🙂 Therefore it is unsurpising to me to see them show up in various roles, much less Apollon being cited as the father of the Corybantes in some traditions…I believe one particular to Asia Minor if memory serves.

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