A Sicilian hero, to whom the invention of bucolic poetry is ascribed. He is called a son of Hermes by a nymph,1 or merely the beloved of Hermes.2 Ovid3 calls him an Idaean shepherd; but it does not follow from this, that Ovid connected him with either the Phrygian or the Cretan Ida, since Ida signifies any woody mountain.4
His story runs as follows: The nymph, his mother, exposed him when an infant in a charming valley in a laurel grove, from which he received his name of Daphnis, and for which he is also called the favorite of Apollo.5 He was brought up by nymphs or shepherds, and he himself became a shepherd, avoiding the bustling crowds of men, and tending his flocks on Mount Etna winter and summer. A naiad6 fell in love with him, and made him promise never to form a connexion with any other maiden, adding the threat that he should become blind if he violated his vow. For a time the handsome Daphnis resisted all the numerous temptations to which he was exposed, but at last he forgot himself, having been made intoxicated by a princess. The naiad accordingly punished him with blindness, or, as others relate, changed him into a stone. Previous to this time he had composed bucolic poetry, and with it delighted Artemis during the chase. According to others, Stesichorus made the fate of Daphnis the theme of his bucolic poetry, which was the earliest of its kind.
After having become blind, he invoked his father to help him. The god accordingly raised him up to heaven, and caused a well to gush forth on the spot where this happened. The well bore the name of Daphnis, and at it the Sicilians offered an annual sacrifice.7 Phylargyrius, on the same passage, states, that Daphnis tried to console himself in his blindness by songs and playing on the flute, but that he did not live long after; and the Scholiast on Theocritus8 relates, that Daphnis, while wandering about in his blindness, fell from a steep rock. Somewhat different accounts are contained in Servius9 and in various parts of the Idylls of Theocritus.
In the pastoral romance of Longos (fourth century) he was the lover of Chloe. Allan Ramsey modeled his Gentle Shepherd on this, and the tale is the basis of Paul and Virginia by St. Pierre.
- Diodorus Siculus, iv, 84.
- Aelian. Varia Historia x, 18.
- Metamorphoses iv, 275.
- Etymologicum Magnum, s.v.
- Servius on Virgil's Eclogues x, 26.
- Her name is different in different writers, Echenais, Xenea, Nomia, or Lyce, -- Parthenius. Erotica Pathemata, 29; Scholiast on Theocritus, i, 65; vii, 73; Servius on Virgil's Eclogues viii, 68; Phylargius on Virgil's Eclogues v, 20.
- Servius on Virgil's Eclogues v, 20.
- viii, 93.
- on Virgil's Eclogues viii, 68.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.