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Laomedon, however, refused to pay his divine servants, instead he threatened them and chased them away. This still rankles with Poseidon and is the reason why he hates the Trojans (Il. 452). If anything, the story makes Apollo’s strong and unique predilection for Troy even less understandable. No surprise, then, that scholars tried to look for a reason outside the story of the Iliad, a reason that related to Apollo’s role in Greek cult. The answer they usually came up with was a historical one: Apollo originally was not Greek but Anatolian, and his origins in Asia Minor were still remembered when the Troy myth was formed: the god champions a city of his homeland.
The oracle, however, could not begin to work immediately; Apollo was distracted and threatened. Telphusa was more devious than the young god could ever have suspected; she sent him into great danger. Delphi was not deserted: a monster was living next to the spring that we know as Castalia, a huge female snake. Easily and swiftly, the archer god killed her: the poet is not interested in a fight whose outcome is clear to him and his audience, but in the snake’s story that follows in a long digression.
The poet’s following invocation focuses on Leto, “blessed, since you gave birth to two radiant children, to Lord Apollo and to Artemis Archeress, to her in Ortygia, to him on Delus” Apolla in homer 23 (14–16) (figure 1). Later in the text, we will hear that Apollo reveals to humans the will of his father: none knows it better than Zeus’ favorite son. The invocation prepares the way for the first long mythical narration: it is Apollo’s birth on Delus that the poet is going to narrate. Once he has announced this topic, he is again carried away.