The laurel wreath, often used as a crown is one of the most quintessential symbols of ancient Greece. It was so popular that the Romans stole it (of course) to crown Caesar and is used as a standard symbol today for awards. But where did it come from?
Apollo the lover
Apollo (twin of the goddess Artemis) is the god of Music, Light (not to be confused with Helios, God of the Sun), Reason and Healing. He was a serial lover just like his father Zeus, sleeping with humans, nymphs and immortals alike. To be loved by a god was highly sought after in ancient Greece, even though most of the time, it ended disastrously.
Not so fast
Daphne a river nymph, was minding her own business as young maidens usually do, when she unfortunately caught the lustful eye of Apollo. He ran to her, swearing that he would make her his bride. Daphne had no intention of being Apollo's bride whatsoever and made haste to get away from him. Apollo on the other hand wasn't taking no for an answer (again, pretty standard).
Cut to the chase
Apollo ran after Daphne but just couldn't catch up to her. Screaming and running for her life, she realised she wasn't going to be able to outrun the God. Instead, she ran to the riverbed where her father Peneus was attending. Peneus was not going to be able to fight off Apollo and was not able to save his daughter, so when she finally got to the riverbed and Daphne dipped her feet into the water, she instantly turned into a laurel tree. Apollo had arrived too late.
A crown fit for a king
Heartbroken, Apollo accepted that he wouldn't be able to take Daphne for a wife. Since Apollo's love wouldn't die for Daphne (even thought she was now a tree), he whispered to her:
"You wouldn't be my bride, Daphne, but if it please you, please consent to be my tree"
Ever after, the laurel became the sacred tree of Apollo. The oracle of Delphi would chew laurel leaves in order to receive wisdom, advice and visions that she would translate for Gods and mortals alike. The laurel also became the prize of the Pythian Games, the second most important Games in antiquity after the Olympics.
Head to the Mythology page to learn more about each character in Greek Mythology - it'll help a great deal as we continue to add more stories to the list! There are some incredible stories and lessons we can learn from the ancient Greeks, so stay tuned and subscribe for more!
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