This charming myth talks about the platonic love of god Apollo for the beautiful nymph Daphne. It is said that Daphne was the first love of Apollo but unfortunately the girl never responded his love. It was not usual or possible for a nymph or a mortal woman in the Greek mythology to resist to the love of a god, but Daphne did so and in fact, she lost her life trying to escape this love.
Discover the myth of Apollo and Daphne
Trying to win her love
The myth says that once Apollo, the god of light and poetry, found Eros, who is nowadays known as Cupid, dealing with his bows and arrows. Eros was using bows to struck people into love. Apollo had just won Python, a horrible earth-dragon that was living in the area of Delphi, and had got so arrogant from his victory that he abruptly told Eros to leave war-like weapons to mighty gods like him and stick to his own pastimes, devaluing his duty to inflate love and passion to others.
This infuriated the headstrong Eros who decided to take his revenge on the audacious Apollo. Eros climbed on a rock of Mt Parnassus and unleashed two arrows: one sharp and gold-tipped and another blunt and lead-tipped. The sharp, gold-tipped arrow pierced the heart of Apollo inflaming his love for Daphne, a beautiful nymph, daughter of the river god Peneus, while the blunt, lead-tipped arrow struck the nymph creating an intense aversion for love in the her heart.
She was constantly rejecting the love of the glorious Apollo, despite his repeated pleadings and cajoleries. She similarly detested all the other men who were trying to get her. It is said that Leucippus, a handsome man, had been so desperate to win Daphne that he disguised himself into a girl and mixed her company. However, the nymphs understood his trickery and killed him.
In the meanwhile, Apollo was persistently pursuing Daphne. The poor girl, in order to escape from him and to protect his virginity, pleaded for help from her father, Peneus (or from Mother Earth, according to another version), who drew back to Daphne’s prayers and transformed the nymph into a nice short plant with excellent smell.
This plant was the laurel, which is called ‘daphne’ is Greek, after the nymph’s name. Apollo was heart-broken at the loss of Daphne and to remember her for ever, he made the laurel the symbol of tribute to poets. The laurel became therefore the symbol of the god. Note that Pythia, the priestess in the oracle of Delphi, was chewing leaves of laurel to communicate with Apollo and give her prophesies to people.