Mythical epic “Metamorphoses” is a work by a Roman writer Ovid. It belongs to the middle phase of his literary work in which he wrote mythological poems, even though the influence of his first phase, in which he wrote love poetry, is felt.
“Metamorphoses” is consisted out of 246 stories of mythological thematic. The stories are about love troubles, have a lot of dramatic turns, betrayal, doubts and everything unrolls amongst gods. One of their special powers is the power of metamorphosis which allows them to transform into something else in order to get their revenge, get something they want or to transform other people and gods so they could punish them or ease someone’s tragic ending.
In “Metamorphoses” the gods’ lives, their rises and falls are being shown in a grotesque way. The relationships between them are dramatic and seldom have a happy ending because gods are by nature passionate, ruthless, prone to revenge and egoistic.
“Metamorphoses” have a clear, moral lesson because in them every flaw is being punished in some way, especially if that flaw is thoughtlessness. Every form of weakness, for example lack of own opinion, are shown in a negative way while the virtues like courage are always shown in the opposite way despite the fact that they are motivate with selfish intentions like revenge.
The mythological story about Apollo and Daphne is interpreted as the first erotic metamorphosis. In Delphi the Pythian games came to life every fourth year, starting with the Olympics in 586 B.C. They were named after the dragon Python that was the son of the Earth and guarded the sanctuary in Delphi. Apollo killed him.
Ovid uses this story to introduce the erotic motive into the Daphne’s metamorphosis. He also emphasized that the games started so the winners could be rewarded with a crown of oak leaves. The story is a part of the first book which clarifies how the crown originated as the symbol of triumph. Ovid leaves the motivational line of this story to Cupid who is the god of love. A boy with wings shots his arrows to the hearts of gods and peoples.
Apollo and Daphne (Metamorphoses, Book 1)
Apollo falls in love with Peneus’ daughter Daphne. He fell in love with her not by accident, but by the fury of Cupid. Apollo was very proud about killing a dragon when he noticed Cupid with his bow. He asked Cupid about his heroic weapon that would look good on his chest. Apollo praised how he could kill an enemy or a beast with that weapon because he had already killed a dragon. Cupid warned him that he only causes love with his weapon and that his arrow will shot exactly Apollo. Cupid found himself on the top of Parnassus and from there he shot Apollo. He arranged arrows of different strength that cause love. The first arrow was golden and her blade was shining. The other one carried lead in it. The other arrow went to Daphne and the first one to Apollo.
Apollo fell in love immediately while Daphne started running away from it. She ran through the forests, caught beasts and did all she could to run away from love. Many asked for her hand in marriage but she turned down each and every one of them. Her father asked her often to bring him a son in law, but she thought weddings were crimes. Shame would make her blush. She asked her father to allow her to stay in her innocence forever and as an example she mentioned Diana, whose father allowed her to do it. The father told Daphne he would be more than happy to grant her wish but that her beauty will deny her from the fulfillment of her wish.
Apollo still loved Daphne. The love flame spread through his chest and the hope grew. He observed Daphne’s hair falling down her neck, her star-like eyes, mouth, fingers and fists. She ran away from him as fast as she could. Apollo called for her and asked her to stop so that she wouldn’t fall and hurt her face or legs while she was running. He didn’t want to cause her any type of pain. Apollo told her that she didn’t even know the one she was running away from and how that was the reason for her runaway. He told her all of his admirers and that his father was Jupiter. He lauded himself as the connoisseur of the past, the present and the future. He told her that his love can’t be cured with any herb.
The scared Daphne still ran away from him and he still tried to catch up with her. He was fast because of his hope and Daphne because of her fear. Apollo was faster than her because he had the wings of love. The powerless Daphne asked her father to open the Earth or change her appearance so she would disappear. By saying that prayer she became immobile. Her hair turned into leaves, her hands were branches and her legs were roots. Even though she was a tree, Daphne was still beautiful. Apollo loved her even in her new appearance. He hugged the tree and felt her breasts still shaking under the surface. The tree defended itself from his kisses. Apollo realized she can’t be his wife anymore and he told her that and mentions he can still keep the tree. She, the laurel, will forever be a decoration on the triumphs of the leaders, she will stand besides Augustus’ palace and guard the door and her leaves will be an eternal decoration.
Apollo – Jupiter’s son. He felt proud about his ancestry and he saw himself as the connoisseur of the past, the present and the future. He pointed out his knowledge and skills with weapons before Cupid so he punished him by shooting a golden arrow at him which made him fall in love with Daphne. Without caring about her feelings he tried to come close to her and win her love over. He wanted Daphne’s love more than anything but he doesn’t have it in the end. When Daphne is turned into a tree he gives his final proof of love by not abandoning her. He gives her eternal glory by making her the symbol of triumph.
Daphne – Peneus’ daughter that gets punished due to Apollo’s thoughtlessness. Cupid shoots an arrow at her and he turns her away from love. She is extremely beautiful, shy in front of her father, but she is faithful to her moral standards and despite her father beginning her to give him a grandchild she refused. Daphne picked the life of eternal innocence. She is persistent in her runaway from Apollo and when she runs out of strength Daphne asked her father to change her appearance so she would disappear. She became a laurel.