Apollo and Daphne

This Greek myth involves Apollo, the eternally beautiful, youthful and athletic god of song, the lyre, and medicine. It also involves the nymph (lesser but still a goddess) Daphne, the daughter of the river god, Peneus. It tells the story of love sought, love denied and ultimately the strange accommodation reached.

It begins with young Cupid, son of the goddess Venus, playing around with his bow and arrows. Apollo sees him and says that a young boy should not have a man’s weapon. He recommends instead for him to “light some fires” instead of shooting arrows. Cupid talks back to Apollo and, in short, says, “Apollo your arrows may hit many but mine will hit you”. Cupid takes two arrows, one gold that incites love, and one lead that repels love. The gold one hits Apollo and the lead one hits Daphne. Accordingly, Apollo loves Daphne but Daphne wants nothing to do with love or Apollo, who has begun to pursue her.

Daphne evades Apollo but eventually he catches up to her. Her beauty further inspires his love for her. Upon catching up to her, Apollo tells her not to be scared, that he is the son of Jupiter (Zeus), and that he is the god of song and medicine and that he wants her to be his wife. Daphne cries to her father Peneus to change her into something other than a human so to avoid Apollo’s love. She immediately begins to take the shape of a tree. Soon she is a tree, entirely. Apollo is taken aback by this fast transformation but seeing that’s how it is, he says, “Well, if you can’t be my wife, you will be my tree”.

He tells Daphne, now a tree, that she will have eternal youth, a power within the range of Apollo to achieve for others, and that he will decorate her with his harp and quiver, and he will wear her for his crown. Also, Apollo adds, when the strong Roman rulers come through, she will be their crowns also. Daphne lowers her head (a tree) and branches to show her grateful acknowledgement.