Monday, March 23, 2009

Roman Apollo

The worship of Apollo never occupied the all-important position in Rome which it held in Greece, nor was it introduced till a comparatively late period. There was no sanctuary erected to this divinity until B.C. 430, when the Romans, in order to avert a plague, built a temple in his honour; but we do not find the worship of Apollo becoming in any way prominent until the time of Augustus, who, having called upon this god for aid before the famous battle of Actium, ascribed the victory which he gained, to his influence, and accordingly erected a temple there, which he enriched with a portion of the spoil.

Augustus afterwards built another temple in honour of Apollo, on the Palatine Hill, in which at the foot of his statue, were deposited two gilt chests, containing the Sibylline oracles. These oracles were collected to replace the Sibylline books originally preserved in the temple of Jupiter, which were destroyed when that edifice was burned.
Sibyl

The Sibyls were maidens who had received the gift of prophecy, and the privilege of living to an incredible age. One of these Sibyls (known as the Cum├Žan) appeared to Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, offering for sale nine books, which she informed him had been written by herself. Not knowing who she was, Tarquin refused to buy them, upon which she burned three, and returned with six, demanding the same price as before. Being again driven away as an impostor, she again retired and burned three more, returning with the remaining three, for which she still asked the same price as at first. Tarquin, amazed at her inconsistency, now consulted the Augurs, who blamed him for not having bought the nine books when they were first offered to him, and desired him to secure the remaining three, at whatever price they were to be had. He, accordingly, purchased the volumes, which were found to contain predictions of great importance to the Romans. After the disposal of the books, the Sibyl vanished, and was seen no more.

The most beautiful and renowned of all the statues of Apollo now in existence, is that known as the Apollo Belvedere, which was found in 1503 among the ruins of ancient Antium. It was purchased by Pope Julius II., who removed it to the Belvedere of the Vatican, from whence it takes its name, and where it has been, for more than three hundred years, the admiration of the world. When Rome was taken, and plundered by the French, this celebrated statue was transported to Paris, and placed in the museum there, but in 1815 it was restored to its former place in the Vatican. The attitude of the figure, which is more than seven feet high, is inimitable in its freedom, grace, and majesty. The forehead is noble and intellectual, and the whole countenance so exquisite in its beauty, that one pauses spell-bound to gaze on so perfect a conception. The god has a very youthful appearance, as is usual in all his representations, and with the exception of a short mantle which falls from his shoulders, is unclothed. He stands against the trunk of a tree, up which a serpent is creeping, and his left arm is outstretched, as though about to punish.

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