Page last updated on: March 25th, 2021
Apollo's Fight with the monstrous Python
The Python (Πύθων) of Delphi was a creature with the body of a serpent. The Python dwelt at Mount Parnassus, in central Greece. Wherever Python appeared, it emitted a vile odor and spread mischief and death.
Python was once sent by Hera, Zeus' wife, to hunt down the pregnant Leto, a lover of Zeus, so that she would have nowhere to settle down to give birth. Zeus took pity on Leto and turned her into a quail (ortyx) to give birth to her twin children, Apollo and Artemis.
When Apollo, Leto's son, was only four days old, he was already a strong boy. A silver bow with golden arrows, given to him by the blacksmith Hephaestus, led the young god to find Python and seek revenge. Soon after, Apollo went to the creature's cave to seek Python. When the creature came face to face with Apollo, it began to boil with rage and lunged at Apollo to devour him. But Apollo was faster and managed to throw an arrow at Python, piercing him right in the forehead. Python screamed in terror and his scream could be heard throughout the canyons of Mount Parnassus. He fought hard to survive... but in the end he surrendered to death.
Python's death filled Apollo with joy, so he happily took his lyre and began to play a victory song that brought joy to people all around.
This was the moment when Apollo became the god of music!
Immediately after finishing his song, Apollo took the creature and buried it under the slopes of Mount Parnassus. On its surface he built the Oracle of Delphi, the most famous oracle of ancient Greece.
Apollo, however, had committed a crime and needed to be purged according to the laws of Mount Olympus. Therefore, Zeus ordered Apollo to set up the Pythian Games at Delphi so that athletic and musical contests could be held there. Apollo obeyed the order and even participated in the games himself. From then on, the Pythian Games were held every four years in Apollo's honor.