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July 7, 2016 at 2:54 am #1249
Today, we begin the games to Apollo, or the Ludi Apollinares. Apollo was son of Jupiter and Latona, and brother of Diana, and of all the divinities in the pagan world, the chief cherisher and protecter of the polite arts, and the most conspicuous character in heathen theology; nor unjustly, from the glorious attributes ascribed to him, for he was the god of light, medicine, eloquence, music, poetry and prophecy.
Amongst the most remarkable adventures of this god, was his quarrel with Jupiter, on account of the death of his son Aesculapius, killed by that deity on the complaint of Pluto, that he decreased the number of the dead by his cures. Apollo, to revenge this injury, killed the Cyclops who forged the thunder-bolts. For this he was banished heaven, and endured great sufferings on earth, being forced to hire himself as a shepherd to Admetus, king of Thessaly. During his pastoral servitude, he is said to have invented the lyre to sooth his troubles. He was so skilled in the bow, that his arrows were always fatal. Python and the Cyclops experienced their force.
He became enamored of Daphne, daughter of the river Peneus of Thessaly. The god pursued her, but she flying to preserve her chastity, was changed into a laurel, whose leaves Apollo immediately consecrated to bind his temples, and become the reward of poetry.
His temple at Delphi became so frequented, that it was called the oracle of the earth; all nations and princes vieing in their munificence to it. The Romans erected to him many temples.
The animals sacred to him were the wolf, from his acuteness of sight, and because he spared his flocks when the god was a shepherd; the crow and the raven, because these birds were supposed to have, by instinct, the faculty of prediction; the swan, from its divining its own death; the hawk, from its boldness in flight; and the cock, because he announces the rising of the sun.
As to the signification of this fabulous divinity, all are agreed that, by Apollo, the sun is understood in general, though several poetical fictions have relation only to the sun, and not to Apollo. The great attributes of this deity were divination, healing, music, and archery, all which manifestly refer to the sun. Light dispelling darkness, is a strong emblem of truth dissipating ignorance; the warmth of the sun conduces greatly to health; and there can be no juster symbol of the planetary harmony, than Apollo’s lyre, the seven strings of which are said to represent the seven planets. As his darts are reported to have destroyed the monster Python, so his rays dry up the noxious moisture which is pernicious to vegetation and fertility.
Apollo was very differently represented in different countries and times, according to the character he assumed. In general he is described as a beardless youth, with long flowing hair floating as it were in the wind, comely and graceful, crowned with laurel, his garments and sandals shining with gold. In one hand he holds a bow and arrows, in the other a lyre; sometimes a shield and the graces. At other times he is invested in a long robe, and carries a lyre and a cup of nectar, the symbol of his divinity.
He has a threefold authority: in heaven, he is the Sun; and by the lyre intimates, that he is the source of harmony: upon earth he is called Liber Pater, and carries a shield to show he is the protector of mankind, and their preserver in health and safety. In the infernal regions he is styled Apollo, and his arrows show his authority; whosoever is stricken with them being immediately sent thither. As the Sun, Apollo was represented in a chariot, drawn by the four horses, Eous, Aethon, Phlegon, and Pyroeis.
Considered in his poetical character, he is called indifferently either Vates or Lyristes; music and poetry, in the earliest ages of the world, having made but one and the same profession.
The Ludi Apollinares
From 208 BC, the Ludi Apollinares were held annually in Rome between the 6th and 13th July. The ludi were not merely games, but rather a festival of chariot races, plays and sacrifices in honor of the Greek god Apollo.
Roman legend states that the Romans instigated the ludi following oracular advice to secure victory against the forces of Hannibal. But they are also a perfect example of how the Roman establishment controlled and integrated foreign religious practices.
Roman religion was relatively inclusive, welcoming foreign gods and cults– but only if they fit in with traditional Roman religion and did not threaten it. By 213 BC, the forces of Hannibal had massively destabilized the Italy of Rome and her allies.
The battles of Trasimene and Cannae resulted in 15,000 and 75,000 Italian casualties, respectively, and refugees from the countryside and other Italian towns flooded into Rome.
Desperate times led to desperate measures. As it seems that their ancestral gods had failed them, the fearful people began to look elsewhere for supernatural help.
“The longer the war dragged on,” said Livy in his History of Rome, “and success and failure altered the situation and quite so much so the attitude of men, superstitious fear, in large part foreign…invaded the state to such a degree that either men or else gods suddenly changed.”
The Roman state now faced conflict both inside and outside its walls.
The Senate answered this threat to its sacred institutions from its own people by calling for the voluntary surrender of all oracular books and prophetic writings as of the first of April. In the meantime, they banned all foreign rites.
But then something “peculiar” happened. The praetor in charge of collecting the writings, Marcus Aemilius, happened across a book of oracles, The Carmina Marciana, by a seer called Marcius. He read two of the oracles it contained. One foretold the calamitous events that had occurred at Cannae, but the other offered the Romans hope.
As Livy described the oracle: “Romans, if you wish to drive out the enemy from your land, the plague that came from faraway lands, I bid you vow to Apollo annual games ….If you perform all this rightly, you shall ever rejoice and your power shall be dominant.”
Aemilius delivered the oracles to the Senate. After a day’s deliberation, Marcius’ prophecies were cross-checked against the Sibylline books, the ancient Oracular texts of the Roman state, which King Tarquinius Priscus purchased from the Sibyl of Cumae.
Unsurprisingly, the Sibyl’s prophecies affirmed the instigation of the new ceremonials. She was, after all, an oracle of Apollo.
So, the Senate called for the institution of sacred games held in honor of a Greek god. They paid for these games, celebrated the following year in 212 BC, at public expense. “The people took part in them,” states Livy,” wearing wreaths of flowers. The married women offered prayers. The doors to the houses were opened, meals eaten in the open and the day marked with every observance.
Games or ludi dedicated to Apollo took up most of the festival. This was a quite standard part of the religious observances of any festival; an offering of human effort and endeavor to the gods as much as entertainment laid on for the crowds. The Ludi Apollinares consisted of Ludi Circenses: chariot races in the Circus Maximus and Ludi Scaenici: mimes, dances and plays.
On the final day the formal sacrifice to Apollo rounded off the festival-performed “by Greek rite” rather than Roman. This meant that the officiating priest performed the sacrifice bare-headed, rather than with his head covered by his toga according to Roman tradition.
At this sacrifice, the Romans offered Apollo a gilded ox and two gilded white goats. They also offered a gilded heifer to Latona, the Latin name for Apollo’s mother, Leto.
The Ludi Apollinares were never meant to become an established part of the Roman religious calendar. But four years later in 208 BC, the Romans passed a lex, or law, making this so.
Reasons for this vary. The most favored explanation is a plague prompted the Senate to establish the games as a permanent fixture as Apollo was a god of healing. But Livy states this was not the reason at all, and also suggests they were, in fact, made permanent in 211 BC:
“The Games of Apollo had been exhibited the previous year, and when the question of their repetition the next year was moved by the praetor Calpurnius, the senate passed a decree that they should be observed for all time…. Such is the origin of the Apollinarian Games, which were instituted for the cause of victory and not, as is generally thought, in the interests of the public health.”
But perhaps of greater interest is the reasoning behind the inception of the Ludi Apollinaire. For the tales of oracular coincidence are surely no more than that.
The Roman state faced a crisis within as well as a war outside. Rather than creating more discord by forcefully suppressing the people’s interest in foreign cults at a time of national crisis, the state instead used that same crisis as an excuse for integrating some of those rites into official Roman religion.
Apollo’s games may have added a Greek flavor to part of the Roman religious character, but they were still molded and manipulated to fit within the context of Roman state religion.
In our modern age we return to these games to honor Apollo, so I welcome, on behalf of our Consules and Magistrates, all citizens to the Greek Games of the Romans! May you all participate in these games and may the best one win!
Ceremony to Apollo
This morning, I performed the following ceremony with some modifications. This ceremony I have written, so others may use it in the future on this opening day, as we grow offline and actually perform public ceremonies.quote :
Note: Apollonian Incense was used, as well as Frankincense. Apollonian Incense is 4 parts Frankincense, 2 parts Myrrh, and 2 parts coarsely-ground Bay Laurel.
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