Study Guide

Apollo and Daphne Apollo

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Doomed in Love

Apollo has no luck with the ladies.  Even though he is a major god with lots of power, he's got no game. Though the story of his love of the nymph, Daphne, is probably the most famous, there are many other tales of Apollo's doomed love affairs. When he fell in love with Castalia, another nymph and daughter of a river god, she ran away and dove into a fountain. He also fell in love with Cassandra, a mortal woman of Troy. Apollo promised her the power of prophecy (the ability to tell the future) if she gave into him. She rejected him after he gave her the gift of prophecy, though, so he cursed her so that no one would ever believe what she predicted.

Apollo also had male lovers just like the female ones, but still had back luck. He fell in love with the Spartan prince, Hyacinthus, but Zephyr (the god of the west wind) got jealous. One day when Apollo and Hyacinthus were practicing throwing the discus, Zephyr caused Apollo's disc to hit Hyacinthus in the head, killing the young man. Apollo made a flower, a hyacinth, grow where the boy's blood stained the ground. Apollo also fell in love with a young man named Cyparisuss. When the guy accidentally killed the pet deer that Apollo gave him, Cyparisuss was so sad that he wanted to cry forever. So Apollo changed him into a cypress tree, from which sap drips like tears.

These are just a few of the examples of Apollo's doomed love affairs. There are lots of common motifs here – nymphs running away from Apollo, Apollo's loves being transformed into some kind of plant life … We wonder if somewhere along the way one of these myths inspired or informed the others, or if they somehow mixed together over time.

We also wonder why the Greeks and Romans thought of Apollo as doomed in love. Could it be because he represented reason and intellect? Is love such an irrational thing that Apollo could just never get a handle on it? What do you think?

Interested in reading more about Apollo? Here at Shmoop, we keep a file on him. Check out our Apollo Files here.

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