Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily
2.2 Cults of indigenous origin: Daphni

Pan and DafniThe legend of Dafni, a Sicilian demigod can be traced back to the Sicilian period. Daphnis can be seen as the personification of the pastoral life of the Sicilian people, although later, the Greek and Latin literature, forcing kinship and ties with the caste of the Olympic gods, caused the legend of Daphnis to lose its indigenous character.

Diodorus Siculus (lib IV.84) narrates that Daphnis was born from a nymph and from the god Hermes on the Erei mountains [1] where there was an abundance of laurel, that is the laurel, which in Greek is called "Daphne" and he was raised by nymphs who taught him the art of shepherding.

Daphni was the inventor of the bucolic poems (poetry that portrays the pastoral life) which he often loved to sing. Thanks to his beauty he was loved by many nymphs but also by mortals and gods, including the god Pan who taught him music. It was the love of a nymph that was the cause of his death. Daphni was united with a nymph named Nomia (according to some versions of the legend the nymph was called Talia) to whom he had promised to always remain faithful. He kept his promise until the daughter of a Sicilian king got him drunk and convinced him to join her. Upon learning of the betrayal, Nomia retaliated and made him go blind. Daphni, then, began to wander blind and pained through the countryside and ended up throwing himself from the top of a rock. According to another version of the legend, Daphni did not die falling from the rocks, since shortly before crashing to the ground he was transformed into a cliff, which, according to tradition, rises near Cefalù (Rupe di Cefalù). The Sicilian Region has entered the Cliff of Cefalù in the register of places and identity of memory (Places of gods and minor divinities) 

Another version, instead, narrates that his father Ermes saved him by taking him to heaven and leaving a spring on earth where the Sicilians annually offered sacrifices [2].

Dafni Peter_Paul_Rubens _-_ Apollon_et_DaphnéApollo and Daphne (c.1636), by Peter Paul Rubens.

[1] With this name we refer to that series of reliefs of central-eastern Sicily that stretch in a north-south direction, from the Nebrodi chain to the Iblei; the highest mountain is Monte Altesina (1193m.) north of Enna. In the past they wanted to place the Erei on the Ragusa mountains, known as the Iblei mountains, and the fact that the highest mountain among these is called Monte Lauro would lead us to think that, indeed, the current name was given to the one between the mountains of Sicily where Lauro grew most, and that therefore the Erei mentioned by Diodorus are to be understood as the current Ragusan mountains.

apollo and daphni by berniniTHEApollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini executed between 1622 and 1625 - Galleria Borghese - Rome.

apollo and veronese daphniApollo and Dfani by Paolo Veronese (XNUMXth century)


[2] Ciaceri Emanuele: Cults and Myths of Ancient Sicily p.16


Ignazio Caloggero


Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero


Pan and Dafni

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