Python was the land dragon of Delphi in Greek mythology, and presided over the oracle of the area. At that time, the oracle honored the goddess Gaia of Titan.
According to one source, when Zeus slept with the goddess Leto, he impregnated her with the twin gods Artemis and Apollo. However, Hera was so angry with her husband’s infidelity that she told Python to hunt Leto, so that she would not give birth anywhere where the sun shone.
Leto was finally accepted on the newly formed island of Delos, where she gave birth to her twins. When Apollo grew up, he wanted to take revenge and thus pursue the dragon. Python, pursued by Apollo, left Mount Parnassus where he lived and went to the Oracle of Gaia at Delphi. There, Apollo killed the dragon; however, Zeus told him that he needed to redeem himself since he had committed such a sacrilegious act. Thus, Apollo became the founder of the Pythian Games, in order to purify himself.
Who was Python?
Python was one of the most fearsome creatures in Greek mythology. It was a snake that lived in the center of the earth near Delphi. In some depictions, he was thought to be a large and frightening serpent. In others, it was depicted as a dragon. The reason Python was usually associated with Delphi is that the ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the center of the earth. Therefore, Python was associated with both.
One of the most memorable stories of Python was the epic battle he fought with the god Apollo. This battle proved fatal for the serpent. Here are more details about the fight between Apollo and Python.
The role of this creature in Greek mythology.
The python is probably not the most famous monster in Greek mythology, although it gives its name to a family of snakes, but the python played an important role in the story of the Greek god Apollo.
Ancient sources wrote that the python was the giant serpent daughter of Gaia, the goddess of the Earth. The python was born of Gaia, having been created from the mud left over after one of the floods of prehistoric times.
Gaia protected by Python at Delphi
Both Apollo and Python are part of the world at Delphi. Gaia is said to have lived at Delphi and Python was dedicated to protecting her. Gaia is considered to be the mother of all gods and long before Apollo and the Oracle himself came to Delphi, Gaia was said to have lived here. However, despite the dragon’s ancient purpose of offering protection to Gaia, Apollo was unhappy with this creature presence at Delphi and decided to do something about it.
The battle between Apollo and Python
As mentioned above, Homer spent a few verses talking about this creature and his battle with Apollo. However, he did not go into much detail. In Hyginus’ version, we learn a little more of the story. In his version, it all begins when Zeus and Leto are expecting twins, the goddess Artemis and the god Apollo.
Hera, Zeus’ wife, was known to be jealous when her husband took a mistress. So, out of revenge, she sent Python to chase Leto through the lands. This prevented Leto from bearing her children because she could not give birth while the creature was chasing her. Leto was allowed to give birth, but when Apollo learned of this story once she grew up, he vowed revenge.
He went to Mount Parnassus to fight the Python and eventually succeeded. This act of revenge eventually brought Apollo to Delphi and he was associated with the ancient religious site ever since.
It is true that the Greeks determined that Delphi was at the center of the earth. Many Greek mythological figures were associated with Delphi and Python was one of them. However, after the battle between Apollo and Python, the creature met its end. Thus, this creature was no longer present at Delphi to protect Gaia, and Apollo would forever be associated with Delphi.
Where is the story of the battle found in literature?
The battle between Apollo and Python has a few versions. The most famous of these accounts is told in the Homeric Hymn of Apollo. The poem is believed to have been composed around 520 BC and highlighted stories about Apollo, including his battle with the serpent at Delphi.
In it, however, Homer did not refer to the creature as this, but called it Drakaini. Another version told of the battle is that told by Hyginus and many believe that this version was the original and predated that of Homer.