The Best of the Olympians: The Character of Apollo in the Homeric Epics and Hymns
Bertany, Edward M.
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This dissertation is primarily a character study of the god Apollo in Homeric poetry. A close analysis of Apollo’s characterization over the course of the Iliad and the Odyssey reveals that this god, who has been the topic of few dedicated Homeric studies, serves a synthesizing function in the overarching narrative of the Homeric Epics. By foregrounding Apollo and enlisting poems where the god is the main focus, such as the Homeric Hymns, I argue that, over the course of the Homeric Epics, Apollo undergoes a type of coming-of-age story that is highly correlated with the depiction of “the Best of the Achaeans,” an epithet that is associated with Achilles in the Iliad and Odysseus in the Odyssey. Whereas the Iliadic relationship between Apollo and Achilles is characterized by antagonism, misrecognition, and fragmentation, the opposite is true in the Odyssey, during which a symbiosis develops between the same god and Odysseus. This complex progression of Apollo’s story, with its ultimate emphasis on unification, tracks closely with the panhellenic dynamics that were dominant in a crucial period in the evolution of Homeric poetry itself.