ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology»
  • Ancient History»
  • Greek & Roman History

The Python in Greek Mythology

Updated on February 3, 2015
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Monsters played a central role in many tales of Greek mythology, and as a result many, like Cerberus and the Sphinx, are famous even today. The monsters of Ancient Greece were important, for as well as offering adversaries for heroes to fight against, they also allowed people to explain the world in which they found themselves.

The Python

Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) PD-art-100
Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) PD-art-100 | Source

The Python in Greek Mythology

The Python is probably not the most famous monster from Greek mythology, although it does give its name to a family of snakes, but the Python did play an important role in the story of the Greek god Apollo.

Ancient sources would write of the Python being the gigantic serpent child of Gaia, the goddess of the Earth. The Python was born of Gaia, having been created from the mud that was left behind after one of prehistory’s floods.

Oracle at Delphi

John Collier (1850–1934) PD-art-100
John Collier (1850–1934) PD-art-100 | Source

The Role of the Python in Greek Mythology

The primary role of the Python was as protector of the naval of the earth; for within the naval was an important prophetic stone. Thus it was said, that the Python could be found within a cave upon Mount Parnassus, near to Delphi. This gave rise to the Python also being called Delphyne.

At the same time the earliest temples and priestesses associated with the Oracle of Delphi were created; these earliest priestesses being devoted to Gaia. Themis and then Phoebe would later be given control of the Delphic Oracle.

The Python was not just the guardian of the prophetic stone, and other deities made use of the serpent for their own ends. The most famous use of the Python was undertaken by Hera, who gave the serpent orders to chase the pregnant Leto all over the earth, so that Leto should not give birth. Leto was pregnant with Artemis and Apollo, the children of Zeus; Zeus being Hera’s husband.

Ultimately, the Python failed to carry out Hera’s command, and the twin children of Zeus were born.

Apollo and the Python

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) PD-art-100
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) PD-art-100 | Source

Apollo's Revenge

When Apollo was only four days old he left his mother’s side, and obtained a bow and set of arrows from Hephaestus. Apollo then set out to gain revenge on the serpent that had caused his mother so much distress.

Apollo discovered the Python in its cave on Mount Parnassus, and then an epic fight broke out between god and beast. Eventually, Apollo would slay the Python, although it would take the god 100 arrows to kill the serpent.

The corpse of the Python was left to rot outside the Delphic temple, and so the place would also become known as Pytho. The priestess associated with the Oracle of Delphi would also be given a new name, Pythia, and control of the temples and oracle would pass into the hands of Apollo.

The slaying of Gaia’s child though could not go unpunished, and in some sources Apollo was required to undertake eight years of servitude for the killing; a period of servitude was a reoccurring theme in the life of Apollo.

Either as an act of penance, or celebration of his victory over the serpent, Apollo was also instructed to establish the Pythian Games. The Pythian Games were to be held every four years, two years after the Olympic Games, and Apollo was to act as the god of the games.

Apollo Victorious

Jan Boeckhorst (1604–1668) PD-art-100
Jan Boeckhorst (1604–1668) PD-art-100 | Source

The Python

The Python of Greek mythology would give its name to a family and genus of snake at the start of the nineteenth century.

Monstrous serpents and dragons were common themes in Greek mythology, and so the Python is occasionally confused with other beasts. Some writers in antiquity would write of the Python being mate to Typhon, but the mate of Typhon is normally said to be another offspring of Gaia, Echidna.

The story of the Python was used to explain the emergence of the new gods of Mount Olympus during the Hellenic period; these gods superseding the previous gods of an earlier time.

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)