Apollo and Daphne

Daphne was an independent-minded, love- and marriage-hating young huntress, a follower of Artemis (Diana). Her father, the river god Peneus, wished her to marry and have children, but all Daphne that wanted was to hunt alone in the deep woods, rejoicing in her freedom.

One day Apollo saw her. She was hunting, her dress short to the knee, her arms bare, her hair in disarray. She was enchantingly beautiful and Apollo thought, "She is lovely now, but what would she look like properly dressed with her hair nicely arranged." The idea inflamed him, and he started running after the nymph. Daphne fled, and she was an excellent runner. Apollo was hard put to overtake her, although he grew steadily closer. He cried out, "Do not fear, stop and find out who I am. I am no rude rustic or shepherd but the Lord of Delphi, and I love you!" But Daphne flew on, even more frightened than before. She knew she could never outrun Apollo, but she was determined to resist to the end. She could almost feel Apollo's breath on the back of her neck when she saw her father's river ahead of her. She screamed to him, "Help me father, help me." At these words a dragging numbness came over her, and her feet seemed rooted in the earth. Bark was enclosing her body, and leaves were sprouting from her arms. She had been changed into a laurel tree.

Apollo sadly watched the transformation as he held her in his arms. "Oh, lovely tree," he mourned, "you will always be mine. I will give you the gift of eternal life. Your leaves will always be green and victors will wear your leaves as wreathes upon their brows." Poets also write that Apollo took a limb from one of her branches and made a musical instrument, the guitar.

Another version of Apollo's instant love for Daphne was the cause of a trick played by Cupid who struck Apollo with one of his golden arrows when he first saw the nymph, and her with a lead arrow when she noticed his advancement.