Daphne (mythology)

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Daphne turning into a laurel tree. Painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Daphne (Greek: Δάφνη, meaning "laurel") was a dryad in Greek mythology, daughter of the river god Peneus.

Once the god Apollo made fun of Eros, equivalent to cupid the god of love. Eros was angry, and shot a golden arrow at Apollo, making him fall in love with the nymph Daphne the virgin. But Eros shot Daphne with a leaden arrow so she could never love Apollo back. So Apollo followed her while she ran away, until she came to the river of her father Peneus. Apollo is jealous and puts it into the girl's mind to stop to bathe in the river Ladon; there, as all strip naked, the ruse is revealed, as in the myth of Callisto. There she wanted help from Peneus, who turned her into a laurel tree so she would be safe from Apollo. Apollo was sad, and made himself a laurel wreath (a circle made of laurel that you put on your head) from the tree, and the laurel tree became sacred to Apollo and is used by emperors within the culture. After the crown was used for all the winners at his games and great heroes in the years to come would be crowned with laurel leaves. He also vowed that she, like him, would have eternal youth where her leaves would never turn brown or fall but would always stay lush and green. Apollo loved that laurel with all his heart.

See Ovid. Metamorphoses. Book I: 452-567.