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In classical Greece he was the god of light and of music, but in popular religion he had a strong function to keep away evil.
Later the Greeks knew the original meaning of the relevant song "paean" () to the Achaeans.perhaps related to Hurrian (and certainly the Etruscan) Aplu, a god of plague, in turn likely from Akkadian Aplu Enlil meaning simply "the son of Enlil", a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun.The role of Apollo as god of plague is evident in the invocation of Apollo Smintheus ("mouse Apollo") by Chryses, the Trojan priest of Apollo, with the purpose of sending a plague against the Greeks (the reasoning behind a god of the plague becoming a god of healing is of course apotropaic, meaning that the god responsible for bringing the plague must be appeased in order to remove the plague).It was in this way that Apollo had become recognised as the god of music.Apollo's role as the slayer of the Python led to his association with battle and victory; hence it became the Roman custom for a paean to be sung by an army on the march and before entering into battle, when a fleet left the harbour, and also after a victory had been won.Such songs were originally addressed to Apollo, and afterwards to other gods: to Dionysus, to Apollo Helios, to Apollo's son Asclepius the healer.
About the 4th century BCE, the paean became merely a formula of adulation; its object was either to implore protection against disease and misfortune, or to offer thanks after such protection had been rendered.
Apollo and his sister Artemis can bring death with their arrows.
The conception that diseases and death come from invisible shots sent by supernatural beings, or magicians is common in Germanic and Norse mythology.
Apollo Victorious over the Python by the Florentine Pietro Francavilla (dated 1591) depicting Apollo's first triumph, when he slew with his bow and arrows the serpent Python, which lies dead at his feet However it can explain only the Doric type of the name, which is connected with the Ancient Macedonian word "pella" (Pella), stone.
Stones played an important part in the cult of the god, especially in the oracular shrine of Delphi (Omphalos).
Amongst the god's custodial charges, Apollo became associated with dominion over colonists, and as the patron defender of herds and flocks.