I had assumed that Apollo was the sun god in the Augustan era of Rome. I still think this is true. But I read a passage in Wikipedia that made me doubt this.

In Hellenistic times, especially during the 3rd century BCE, as Apollo Helios he became identified among Greeks with Helios, Titan god of the sun, and his sister Artemis similarly equated with Selene, Titan goddess of the moon.2 In Latin texts, on the other hand, Joseph Fontenrose declared himself unable to find any conflation of Apollo with Sol among the Augustan poets of the 1st century, not even in the conjurations of Aeneas and Latinus in Aeneid XII (161–215).[3] Apollo and Helios/Sol remained separate beings in literary and mythological texts until the 3rd century CE. Wikipedia (Apollo)

I am confident that Apollo was the god of the sun, since Charles Martin's translation of the Metamorphoses refers to the sun god by the names Phoebus or Phoebus Apollo.

But the passage seems to say that Apollo was not conflated with Sol. That would leave us with two sun gods. Or maybe an "old" sun god and a "new" sun god.

I'm curious what you guys think of this question. Was there simply an "old" sun god (Sol) and a newer, assimilated sun god (Apolllo)? Or is the Wikipedia passage inaccurate?

This question was originally posted in latin.SE. I think it's on-topic in both forums.

  • Given that Roman Gods are pretty much the Greek Gods with their names translated, the answer about Apollo being the sun of God should be yes.
    – gsamaras
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


Yes, Phoebus Apollo was the sun god during the time of Augustine at Rome.

The worship of Apollo was widespread not only in Greece but also throughout the ancient world. Shrines could be found in places from Egypt to Anatolia (now northwestern Turkey). The Romans built their first temple to Apollo (Phoebus) in 432 B . C ., and he became a favorite Roman god. The Roman emperor Augustus was a devoted worshiper because the battle of Actium, in which he gained political supremacy, was fought near a temple of Apollo. - Myths Encyclopedia.

But how do we reconcile the this with the Roman Cult of Mithras or the Sol Invictus of Rome?

The Roman deity Mithras appears in the historical record in the late 1st century A.D., and disappears from it in the late 4th century A.D. Unlike the major mythological figures of Graeco-Roman religion, such as Jupiter and Hercules, no ancient source preserves the mythology of the god. All of our information is therefore derived from depictions on monuments, and the limited mentions of the cult in literary sources.

The temples of Mithras were always an underground cave, featuring a relief of Mithras killing the bull. This "tauroctony", as it is known today, appears in the same format everywhere, but with minor variations. Other standard themes appear in the iconography. - The Cult of Mithras

The Roman Emporer Aurelian made the Cult of the Invincible Sun official only in 274:

The Roman gens Aurelia was associated with the cult of Sol. After his victories in the East, the emperor Aurelian introduced an official cult of Sol Invictus, making the sun-god the premier divinity of the empire, and wearing his radiated crown himself. He founded a college of pontifices, and dedicated a temple to Sol Invictus in 274. It is possible that he created the festival called dies natalis Solis Invicti, "birthday of the undefeated Sun", which is recorded in 354 (in the Chronography of 354) as celebrated on the 25th December; (7) but no earlier reference to it exists. The cult of Sol Invictius was the leading official cult of the fourth century.

In the legions, where a policy of individual religious freedom is attested by personal inscriptions, on shrines and through votive offerings in every part of the Empire, outside the camps themselves, the only Eastern cult that was officially tolerated, probably from Aurelian's reign, and certainly under Constantine, was that of Sol Invictus. - Sol Invictus

The Cult of Mithras thus came into being after Augustine and became obsolete in or around the 4th century BC.

  • I think there was a predecessor to Sol Invictus, called Sol Indiges, which may have been equated with Helios. britannica.com/topic/Sol-Roman-god. I wonder how this overlapped with the worship of Apollo as the sun god. Do you think Apollo was conflated with Sol Indiges? Or were they preeminent during different eras?
    – ktm5124
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 19:58
  • @ktm5124 It is impossible to determine for sure without historical documents. Augustine's devotion towards Apollo is known. I personally think Apollo was conflated with the Sol Indiges. Here is an interesting read on Roman Solar Mythology.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 1:40
  • @Nathaniel Just did it!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 2:09
  1. Be careful not to rely upon translations which need not be word for word accurate.
  2. I always thought it was a Victorian British error to call Apollo a god of the sun not an original BC era phenomenon. I am unaware of any example where Apollo is the sun god in a Greek text.
  3. Ovid Met. 1 might call the father of Phaeton "Phoebus" which is a nickname often associated with Apollo. CHECK THE LATIN. Not sure if "Phoebus" is also associated with Helios. If yes that settles the matter against associating Apollo with the sun so early as 1 BC. If no it is either a sign that Ovid knows a tradition to associate Apollo with the sun OR it is a modern convention to fit the meter.
  • Apollo is referred to as a sun god in Greek texts but only in the Hellenistic period.
    – Mary
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 22:30

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