There once was a temple to Apollon in Larisa. There once was. It’s such a sad statement, but it seems that while there are some temple remains in Larisa, it is unclear if they are from the temple to Apollon Kerdoios or not.
Sometimes researching epithets is easy, and sometimes it is frustrating and sad. Sometimes we have immediate visceral connections, and sometimes we have slow epiphanies. Sometimes nothing ever becomes clear.
This epithet, according to a paper presented in 2008 that was written by Maria Mili, was only used in Thessaly, of which Larisa is its largest and capital city and notable for being the birthplace of Achilles. Larisa has always had close and strong connections to Delphi (even today, if you are in Delphi and trying to head north, Larisa will need to be your next stop) and the only place that there is any evidence at all of this epithet being used outside of Thessaly (though perhaps by Thessalians) is in reference to Apollon at Delphi in Lykophron’s Alexandra.
Κερδος, the root word of this epithet, means “profit.” Now, while related, “profit” and “gift” are not synonyms. According to Mili, they weren’t in ancient Greek either, so why “the gift giver?”
Other epithets with the κερδ- root generally belong to Hermes, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that κερδεα were skills of both warriors and traders that “allowed them to gain at the expense of others” and κερδος was personal profit acquired through guile and trickery. (Mili) Artemis was also once called Kerdoia, but this was in Larisa, and as we know, Apollon and Artemis often share epithets.
It seems that some believe that while Hermes as quite well known as a god of trade, Apollon has his hand in this field as well, and that’s why he has this epithet. In myth, Apollon did trade with Hermes (see the Homeric Hymn to Hermes), and this is how he came to forgive Hermes for the theft of his cattle as well as become the player of the lyre.
Mili, however, disagrees with this interpretation. She suggests that this epithet could be connected to an initiatory cult for young men, perhaps for boys who had served as laurel bearers during the Daphnephoria. This, however, did not leave her convinced. She returns to the Alexandra and suggests that this epithet is related to Apollon’s oracular functions (which would again connect it to Delphi, the only area outside of Thessaly where it was used) as meaning the god who brings gains to those who consult him.
All of the suggestions so far have seemed tenuous at best, and Mili waits until her conclusion to bring up what she’s been waiting to say all along. In Thessalian society, trade was not a noble profession. It was a land of landed aristocracy, and when rich families use their wealth for the betterment of society, everyone profits. To her, it seems to be this that is connected to Apollon, the gift giver.
What do you think? Please explore this epithet through poetry, prose, prayer, and academic exploration and submit to the still open Call for Submissions to He Who Rules with Honey.