JOHN F. MILLER: ALTERNATING APOLLO'S BOW AND LYRE
According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, the precocious deity's first words were to claim his two main attributes: "May the lyre and the curved bow be mine." The hymnist treats the god's two stringed instruments as a unit, as do some other poets. In his Hymn to Apollo Callimachus talks of singers honoring either the cithara or the bow, which he cleverly terms the entea of Lycoreian Apollo, a word which can mean both 'weapons' and 'musical instruments.' However, as Callimachus' phrasing "either . . . or" makes clear, an occasion would call for either bow or lyre, not both simultaneously. In narrative art one or the other attribute will typically be highlighted to express one of two totally different sides of his mythical personality.
The contrast can be drawn in sharper terms than a simple 'either . . . or.' This paper explores instances in Latin literature where Apollo's lyre pointedly alternates with his bow or vice versa. Particular attention will be devoted to the political and generic considerations of such a pattern.
Horace in Odes 2.10.18–20 illustrates the vagaries of fortune for one Licinius by pointing to the god's alternating implements: "Apollo is not always stretching his bow; sometimes he rouses the silent Muse with his cithara." If the addressee is the Licinius Murena stripped of his consulship for insulting Augustus, the proverbial-sounding exemplum takes on contemporary political significance. By noting the god's occasional switch to his kindlier aspect, Horace seems to hint at—or even to ask for—mercy from the Princeps who takes Apollo as a patron deity.
The gesture of Apollo setting aside his bow to pick up his lyre is a frequent image for celebrating military victory. Thus the chorus in Sen.Ag. 322–27 pray for victor . . . Phoebe to loosen his bow and put down his quiver but to strike up the lyre instead (cf. esp. arcus . . . relaxa . . . resonet . . . chelys). In Propertius 4.6 immediately after the epicizing narrative which culminates with the divine bowman winning the battle of Actium for Octavian, the elegist has Apollo disarm and play on his lyre songs of peace—a reversal which complicatingly recalls an allegedly bygone poetics. In the first of the anonymous Elegies for Maecenas (51–56) the poet reverses the logic of Propertius' sequence to contextualize the valor of his notoriously sybaritic honorandus: Apollo played his lyre after the Actian conflict but he also fought mightily in that conflict, just like Maecenas (who really didn't). Another permutation to this latter constellation of ideas appears in an anti-Neronian lampoon contrasting the notorious lyre-playing emperor with the persistent menace of Parthian bowmen (Suet. N. 39.2: Paean vs. Hecatebeletes).
Finally, I consider some examples of the topos which operate more subtly: Prop. 3.1.7 'begone, whoever detains Phoebus in (epic) arms' (when I would rather have him playing songs of elegiac peace); Hor. CS 33 'Apollo, be kind and put down your bow; listen to the suppliant boys' (who are singing this lyric song of mine in your honor); in alluding to Enn. Scaen. 31 V2 = 28 J. intendit crinitus Apollo / arcum auratum at Aen. 1.740 cithara crinitus Iopas / personat aurata, Virgil pointedly replaces the god's gilded bow in outfitting the Apolline figure of the singer with a gilded cithara.
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