In Greek mythology, Daphnis (//; Ancient Greek: Δάφνις, from δάφνη, daphne, "Bay Laurel") was a Sicilian shepherd who was said to be the inventor of pastoral poetry. According to tradition, he was the son of Hermes and a nymph, despite which Daphnis himself was mortal. Daphnis is also described and shown as an eromenos. His mother was said to have exposed him under a laurel tree, where he was found by shepherds and named after the tree under which he was found. He was also sometimes said to be Hermes' favourite or beloved rather than his son.
A naiad (possibly Echenais or Nomia) was in love with him and promised to be faithful to him. However, he was seduced, with the aid of wine, by the daughter of a king, and, in revenge, this nymph either blinded him or turned him to stone. Pan also fell in love with him and taught him to play the pan pipes.
Daphnis, who endeavoured to console himself by playing the flute and singing shepherds' songs, soon afterwards died. He fell from a cliff, or was changed into a rock, or was taken up to heaven by his father Hermes, who caused a spring of water to gush out from the spot where his son had been carried off. Ever afterwards the Sicilians offered sacrifices at this spring as an expiatory offering for the youth’s early death. There is little doubt that Aelian in his account follows Stesichorus of Himera, who in like manner had been blinded by the vengeance of a woman (Helen) and probably sang of the sufferings of Daphnis in his recantation. Nothing is said of Daphnis's blindness by Theocritus, who dwells on his amour with Nais; his victory over Menalcas in a poetical competition; his love for Xenea brought about by the wrath of Aphrodite; his wanderings through the woods while suffering the torments of unrequited love; his death just at the moment when Aphrodite, moved by compassion, endeavours (but too late) to save him; the deep sorrow, shared by nature and all created things, for his untimely end (Theocritus i. vii. viii.). A later form of the legend identifies Daphnis with a Phrygian hero, and makes him the teacher of Marsyas. The legend of Daphnis and his early death may be compared with those of Narcissus, Linus and Adonis—all beautiful youths cut off in their prime, typical of the luxuriant growth of vegetation in the spring, and its sudden withering away beneath the scorching summer sun.
Daphnis was also the name of a member of the group of Prophetic sisters, known as the Thriae.
- "δάφνη", Henry George Liddel, Robert Scott, A Greek-English lexicon, 9th ed., 1940, Oxford University Press.
- "Daphnis" The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Edited by M. C. Howatson. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. 16 June 2012
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Daphnis". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 826.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Daphnis". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 826.
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