Hyperborean Apollo

Map of the Arctic by Gerardus Mercator.

Yesterday I wrote a bit about Doggerland, and that led to mentioning Hyperborean Apollo, and that led to a bit more research because Apollo is one of my enduring interests.

I have a bit about Hyperborean Apollo at Greco-Roman Lore. primarily taken from Robert Graves, Greek Myths § 161.4.

I think it might be worth quoting Diodorus Siculus’ passage about Hyperborea.

“Now for our part, since we have seen fit to make mention of the regions of Asia which lie to the north, we feel that it will not be foreign to our purpose to discuss the legendary accounts of the Hyperboreans. Of those who have written about the ancient myths, Hecateus and certain others say that in the regions beyond the land of the Celts there lies in the ocean an island no smaller than Sicily. This island, the account continues, is situated in the north and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans, who are called by that name because their home is beyond the point whence the north wind (Boreas) blows; and the island is both fertile and productive of every crop, and since it has an unusually temperate climate it produces two harvests each year. Moreover, the following legend is told concerning it: Leto was born on this island, and for that reason Apollo is honoured among them above all other gods; and the inhabitants are looked upon as priests of Apollo, after a manner, since daily they praise this god continuously in song and honour him exceedingly. And there is also on the island both a magnificent sacred precinct of Apollo and a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is spherical in shape. Furthermore, a city is there which is sacred to this god, and the majority of its inhabitants are players on the cithara; and these continually play on this instrument in the temple and sing hymns of praise to the god, glorifying his deeds. The Hyperboreans also have a language, we are informed, which is particular to them, and are most friendly disposed towards the Greeks, and especially towards the Athenians and the Delians, who have inherited this good-will from most ancient times. The myth also relates that certain Greeks visited the Hyperboreans and left behind them there costly votive offerings bearing inscriptions in Greek letters. And in the same way Abaris, a Hyperborean, came to Greece in ancient times and renewed the goodwill and kinship of his people to the Delians. They say also that the moon, as viewed from this island, appears to be but a little distance from the earth and to have upon it prominences, like those of the earth, which are visible to the naked eye. The account is also given that the god visits the island every nineteen years, the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen-year period is called by the Greeks the ‘year of Meton’. At the time of this appearance of the god he both plays on the cithara and dances continuously the night through from the vernal equinox until the rising of the Pleiades, expressing in this manner his delight in his successes. And the kings of this city and the supervisors of the sacred precinct are called Boreades, since they are descendants of Boreas, and the succession to these positions is always kept in their family.”

Diodorus Siculus, Histories II.47 (C. H. Oldfather transl. (1935))

For the mythologically inclined this is quite an interesting story. Hyperborea, an island behind the north wind, is the home of Apollo’s mother, and its inhabitants are connected to the Athenians. Apollo himself visits the island every 19 years. Other sources say the Hyperboreans sent gifts to Apollo’s temple at Delos. These gifts seem to have been amber; its yellow color made it sacred to the sun god Apollo.

I don’t want to leave the impression I have a particular belief that Hyperborea was Britain, or Doggerland, or the remnants of Doggerland. The trade that brought amber to Delos could have come from anywhere in the north, whether Britain, the North Sea, or the Baltic, although if I’m not mistaken, current thinking favors an eastern route south from from the Baltic.

Update Feb. 11, 2019

I came across this interesting piece from Tom Rowsell at Survive the Jive on YouTube: Real Hyperboreans – Ancient North Eurasians.

This channel is usually too racialist for my taste but I do listen from time to time because he’s well-educated.

Here, he sees some reasons from modern research to possibly rehabilitate the Arctic polar origin myth of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. I wouldn’t rush to judgment on this one, but it’s an interesting possibility.

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