The Many Faces of the Destroyer

I really didn’t know what to call this post. I want to speak of Apollon as destroyer and what it  means, and how it evolves, but I couldn’t think of a short catchy way of saying it. So we are stuck with “the Many Faces of the Destroyer” which is supposed to more or less sum up that idea.

It was remarked to me in an argument not too long ago by a Mythology scholar that Apollon’s primary and most ancient function, as to what he was named for, has to do specifically with Apollon as being the god of the destructive force of nature. I do not dispute that this is a significant part of Apollon’s nature and that this carries through his domain in many ways. Not only for bringing plague/disease and famine as was pointed out to me (something which is common knowledge really, particularly via his epithets as mouse god and locust god)., but can also be applicable to the passage of time that removes life via nature the most common way in death from old age…and thus links him with both the sun and also the moon in his domestic cult (his function as a destroyer in nature should not be limited to most extreme cases of death and destruction, for the ravages of time  inflict just as an aggressive face of nature far more commonly which impacts all; although, admittedly, when most people think of him as destroyer, plagues is likely the first thing that comes to mind).

Of course when it comes to destroying as a god acting as part of a particular force within nature, as such was insisted quite strongly, well that would also make sense with other attributes that we can discover from the inverse of what benefits he brings and particular honors.This makes sense if you think about because every harsh destructive part of his nature is countered by the blessings he gives in reverse. Therefore the god of safe harbors and guide of ships is also the god associated with treacherous sea currents. The god who takes the form of wild beasts to slay hunters (ie in a version of the myth of Adonis, told by Apollodoros, Apollon takes the form of a boar to kill the youth) and is a protective god of hunters at the same time who bore an epithet naming him hunter and to whom was dedicated lightweight hunting shields. The plague bringer is also the god who heals, and often with herbal poultices as we seem him do as Paean, and averts evil. The god who brings the golden harvest, is also the god who rots and destroys by harnessing the sun (the purest form of fire according to Hellenic thought, from which all public altars were kindled and the Olympic flame lit at the altar of Hera). Fires are of course potentially pretty horrific as a destructive force, we find Apollon using the purest form of material fire (the sun) to effectively destroy the serpent Delphinia, we can find him present too then it any form of fire outbreak that consumes forests and even cities. And the god who destroys life, is also the nurturer of life to its maturity and was praised by households for the survival of young that easily could have been taken in those few tender days after birth.

Although it *may* have originally started out with a presiding over natural destroying forces, that Apollon also came to rule over other civilization-focused and human-focused forms of destruction as a beneficial destruction there is no doubt. Apollon as a purifying god is viewed quite solidly as a term of destruction and ancient philosophers noted that it was by destruction/death that Apollon most primarily purified. Likewise we could consider with this the conjoined functions of Apollon as harmonizer and a god who destroys corruption (by which he was often considered a healer by destroying that which brought the spiritual imbalance that cause the affect to the body); and that a god of harmonic movement would also be significantly involved in warfare (usually by again turning away evil that would arise from the actions of engaging in warfare away from the soldiers who prayed to him, by fear in two accounts…that of Homer in the Iliad,and in Plutarchs account of Theseus and the battle with the Amazons).

In this fashion we have to recognize that his function as a destroyer is not seperate and distinct from the goodness and blessings that come from his act as a destroyer. This reminds me of Shiva, who himself is a destroyer (and in the Vedas as Rudra seems to be as fearsome as Apollon has been portrayed and even viewed if we take Socrates statement that people fear the name of Apollon at face value) but also a gracious and compassionate god, bringer of blessings. Likewise Apollon is one of the gods who has a track record of being the most kind and sympathetic towards humanity.

The “Faces”, or revelations, of the Destroyer are many.


2 thoughts on “The Many Faces of the Destroyer

  1. Very interesting.
    Do you perhaps know more about Apollon’s connection with time? This association has been a personal, elusive feeling I’ve had for a while, but I couldn’t exactly find references (beside the obvious connection with the Sun) in order to explain it.

    • Mostly because he is the god of the new month. Hellenic calendar is lunar, with the first of the month being when the first sliver of light. this is the Noumenia and he is honored as Apollon Noumenios. The progression of these lunar months allude, to me, the idea of time to conjunction with solar symbolism associated with him. And as one friend pointed out to me, the arrow itself being linear movement can also refer to time in a philosophical symbolic context.

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