the son of the god of the sun / by Anthony Gibbins

In honour of the templum Apollonis the temple of Apollo (and the heat here in Sydney) I thought I would try something new, and retell a myth of Apollo. It is a story of standing up to bullies, knowing who you are, and being without fear. Warning, it does not end well.

Phaethon was a boy of perhaps fourteen years, living in a small village of Greece. He was an ordinary boy, but he had an extraordinary secret. When he had become old enough to start wondering about the whereabouts of his father, his loving mother had told him that he was the mortal son of an immortal god. His father was Apollo, that burning disk that gazed down upon him daily; the comforting figure that rode the sun chariot across the sky.

But children can be cruel and they would taunt Phaethon for his belief in his mother’s story.  These bullies laughed. And mocked. And shun. Life became difficult for Phaethon. But he had no doubt about who he was, even if the others could not – or would not – accept it. He declared to them that they were wrong. That he was leaving and that he would return having proved it. Their laughter followed him as he departed.

For many days the boy travelled, until he reached the gleaming temple of his father. He entered nervously with head bowed and began to pray. Father, you have never once been here with me. You have never been more than a distant face upon the sky. But now I need something from you father. And I need you to promise that you will grant me what I ask. The statue nodded. A voice boomed. And a vow was made to give whatever it was his son requested.

I wish to drive your burning chariot across the sky. To hold within my hands the reigns of those furious horses. I want every eye upon me as I look down upon my tormenters and know that they know that they are wrong. I want to be respected. I want to be valued. And I want to be believed. No son, the god replied, this cannot be. You do not have the strength, the knowledge, the familiarity with the steeds. It is dangerous. Ask for something else, ask for anything. But a promise had been made.

Apollo of course was right. Phaethon could not do it, and he died trying. He drove too high and the horses were spooked by the giant crabs, lions and bulls that live above the heavens. They fled towards low ground and the heat of the sun began to scorch the land and evaporate the seas. Jupiter, seeing the risk he posed, with a single bolt blew him from the sky. Apollo wept. His mother cried. Even the bullies wondered if they had played a part.

Beside the Forum is the temple of Apollo, the god of the sun. It is smaller than the temple of Jupiter, but – as I see it – a little more beautiful.

The Lego model of Pompeii is housed in the Nicholson Museum of The University of Sydney, Australia. Entry to the museum is entirely free, and you may visit Monday to Friday between 10:00 and 4:30. The Nicholson is Australia’s oldest University museum and contains the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The Pompeii model was commissioned by the Nicholson and constructed by LEGO Professional Builder Ryan McNaught. It is the third such model the museum has exhibited, following the Colosseum and Acropolis.  The Colosseum was returned to McNaught and recently exhibited around Australia. The Acropolis was denoted by the Nicholson to the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The Pompeii model is estimated to include 190 000 bricks and took 420 hours to complete.