Music and poetry

Apollo is portrayed on this terracotta oil lamp in a seated position with a cloak covering his legs, playing a lyre which is placed on his knees. According to legend, Apollo obtained this lyre from Mercury, who had made it himself. This image evokes one of the god’s highly specific functions: the protection he provided for poets and musicians. When Apollo was represented like this, we can imagine him on Mount Parnassus (to the north of Delphi), where he stayed with the Muses. He was supposed to inspire soothsayers and poets alike, and his oracles were usually expressed in verse, which explains their popularity.
Apollo is also associated here with an animal which is seated at his feet: the griffon. This was an imaginary creature with the head, wings and talons of an eagle and the body of a lion. It was sometimes associated with Apollo, because it was supposed to live in Hyperborea - a mythical region to the north of Greece, where the god went to purify himself after killing the snake Python in Delphi.