Apollo and Daphne

(Ovid, Metamorphoses I, 452 ff.)

Cupid, the god of love, is angry with Apollo for mocking his archery skills. Seeking revenge, Cupid shoots him with one of his love arrows causing Apollo to fall madly in love with the nymph Daphne. But Daphne, shot with another of Cupid’s arrows, is immune to this love. She flees in horror, faster than the wind, leaving Apollo to chase after her desperately.

Apollo tirelessly pursues Daphne for hours. He has no choice; he is possessed by love and lust. Apollo, whose symbols are the bow and arrow and the lyre that lies at his feet, is rapidly approaching the fleeing girl. Desperate and exhausted, Daphne calls to her father, the river god Peneus, to free her from her beautiful body.

Her pleas are answered. Just as Apollo seizes Daphne in his clutches, Peneus transforms her into a laurel tree. Her grace is all that remains, yet Apollo’s love is no less diminished. Although he may never claim her as his wife, he can tend to her as his tree. Her image will forever decorate his hair and adorn his lyre and quiver, and the laurel wreath will come to signify victory and the victorious.

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