Apollo, Helios, and the Solstices in the Athenian, Delphian, and Delian Calendars

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The mythical narrative of Apollo’s northern voyage and the place of his festivals in several Greek calendars, reflected also in local ritual practice, seems to reflect certain elements in his nature best explained through his association with the sun, more precisely, the annual solar movement. The association was noted long ago, but a selective analysis will show that both the narrative and the ritual reflect the model of annual solar motion expressed in terms of a suspended reference, a mythical metaphor, a linear narrative defined both by the very nature of language and the celestial phenomenon it is describing. The analysis of various Greek calendars supports the notion of the solstices as the most important defining moments in the annual solar motion, and their connection with Apollo reflects precisely this fact.


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Cf. Kirk 1972:87–88: Certain complex aetiological myths entail “the expression of individual and collective preoccupations through the language of traditional tales.” The language of traditional tales now uses (largely) fictitious peoples and events “to provide a causation of actual phenomena in the present,” creating “the adaptation of elaborate situational models.”


Cf. Parker 2005:194 on Lys. 26.6 (Skirophoriôn 30 as the last day of the year).


For the festival see Parker 2005:173–177, 480.


Cf. Farnell 1907:104, Fontenrose 1974:460. Yet the term, whenever used, simply refers to the middle of the summer season, rather than the very solstice (Hdt. 8.12.1; Thuc. 5.57.1, 6.30.1; Theoph. HP 7.9.5; Gemin. Elem. astron. 2.17, with the middle summer in Leo; the parapegma of Clodius Tuscus for July 17th (in Lyd. Ost. 65, p. 140 Wachsmut; Lehoux 2007:351); Dio Chrys. Or. 52.1; Plut. Dion 38.1; App. Ib. 11.64; Arrian. Ind. 6.5; Lucian. Quom. Hist. 1, Hes. 7; Cass. Dio 36.4.2, 40.23.4; Ael. NA 2.21; [Alex. Aphrod.] Problem. II.74; Liban. Or. 1.110, 17.28, 18.287; Philostorg. Hist. Eccl. (Phot. Epit.) 12.8; Σ Theocr. Id. 6.4ab, perhaps also Theocr. Id. 6.4; Σ MΔKUAS Arat. 1044; Procop. Bell. 7.30.5, 8.15.21; Suda ß 524 s.v. Βραχµάν; often used by medical writers, e.g. Galen i.613.15, 657.11, vi.682.5, viii.465.12, 14, 466.4, ix.126.13, 14–15, 129.3, 130.13, 473.15, 17, 474.7–8, xii.244.14, xiv.45.5, xv.734.9, xviib.184.8, 806.17 Kühn; Oribasius, Libri ad Eunapium, I.5.6, Collectiones medicae II.59.2, VI.22.2; [Hipparch.] Περὶ διαφορᾶς τροφῶν πρὸς Πτολεµαῖον, ii.496.5 Delatte). Hannah (2009:70), on the other hand, claims that the tropical points originally denoted the seasonal mid-points — thus the summer solstice would lay at the exact middle of the summer, precisely at θέρους τὸ µέσον.


Cf. Parker 2005:203–204, who adds an inscription (SEG 33.115.12–13) mentioning “Helios, Horae and Apollo.” Scholiasts often ascribed the Apollo-Helios identification to Aristophanes (e.g., Σ Pax 409–411b, Pl. 8, Tz. Nu. 595a, Pl. [rec. 2] 8b, 39a, 359), which does not tell us much on Aristophanes’ opinion, naturally. Apollo and Helios were certainly identified in the Boeotian Daphnephoria — a festival resembling the Delphian Stepteria, celebrated at the summer solstice according to Fontenrose 1974:460 (Farnell 1907:294 has early summer) — with its bronze sphere symbolizing the sun (Apollo) and the garlands symbolizing the 365 days of the year, but the source for this identification (Proclus) is late and known for his syncretistic tendencies (Procl. in Phot. Bibl. cod. 239, p. 321b18–23 Bekker; cf. Σ Clem. Alex. Protrep. 10.10, 299.9–13 Stählin and Treu). The festival was associated with the seventh of Thargêliôn in Müller 1844:332–333. The summer solstice month in Apollonia (McCabe 15.2), Dyrrachion (McCabe 25.2–3), and Dodona (SGDI 1338.5), was named Ἁλιοτροπίος (Trümpy 1997:156 with n. 666, 158 with n. 678, 163); Trümpy 1997:163 claims that it corresponded to Athenian Thargêliôn.


See also Kiessling 1914:852.38–854.6, who believes that Avienus (in the Ora Maritima) described the diurnal rather than annual path of the sun.


Cf. Homolle 1892:56; Robert 1886:161–162, but opting for the Hieros, 165–167, corresponding to the Delphian Bysios, cf. Lambert 2002:382; Arnold 1933:453; Robertson 1983:152 n. 22.


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