Students will learn about Greek mythology and the pantheon of gods by creating a class book of Great Greek Myths.
Great Greek Myths
Time Alloted2 - 3 Hours
State Content Standards
6.4.4 Explain the significance of Greek Mythology to everyday life of people in the region and how Greek literature continues to permeate our literature and language today, drawing from Greek mythology and epics, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and from Aesop’s Fables.
Image of Apollo and Daphne from Digital Crocker (crockerartmuseum.org), compilation of Greek myths and legends, pens, paper, crayons and any other art materials.
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D'Aulaire and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum
The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki
Top Ten Greek Legends by Terry Deary
- Show the picture Apollo and Daphne. Ask students to describe what they see.
- Using About Apollo and Daphne, tell students about the myth of Apollo and Daphne. Reinforce any student predictions.
- Tell the story.
- Explain the symbolism of the laurel leaf representing Daphne
- Using the Crocker Art Museum image, Apollo and Daphne, show how the artist represented the climax of the Apollo and Daphne myth. You may also chose to show how other artists represented the same myth.
- Explain that the myth of Apollo and Daphne was passed down in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a book of myths that incorporate the theme of change.
- Ask how the myth of Apollo and Daphne incorporates the theme of change. Daphne is saved from Apollo by turning into a tree.
- As a whole class, group or independently, have students read various Greek myths.
- Each student will select one Greek myth to read, summarize and illustrate. Minimize duplicates. You may want to have students focus on myths in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and have each illustrate the point of change.
- Each student will record the genealogy of the main characters in their myth (at least include parents and children).
- As a class, create a family tree that incorporates the individuals in each student’s chosen myth.
- Combine the family tree and all the myths to create a class book of Greek mythology. Make a photocopy for each student and have each design his or her own cover. Make a book for your classroom library with the originals.
About the Artist
Born in Zurich , Switzerland in 1558, Christoph Murer initially studied art with his father. In about 1574, at age 16, he traveled to Strasbourg where he learned the art of woodcutting from Tobias Stimmer, an artist with whom he collaborated on a number of projects. In 1586, Murer returned to Zurich. As his career advanced, he gained recognition as a painter of stained glass, printmaker, portraitist and playwright. He is known for the exquisite stained glass panels in the Ruchner Mansion in Nuremberg , among other commissions. Later, he was employed by Emperor Rudolf II in Prague and the Bishop of Bamberg in southern Germany . He is also known for producing the illustrations for Jacob Micyllus' edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses , published in 1582, which may be the time period in which this work was produced.
About Apollo and Daphne
This drawing is one of three related drawings in the Crocker Art Museum collection, and originally, one of four in a set produced by Christoph Murer, based on Ovid's Metamorphoses . The other two in the Crocker collection are Rape of Europa and Pyramus and Thisbe ; the fourth work was Orpheus and the Animals .
Apollo and Daphne is characteristic of Murer's style with its and sculptural modeling the artist used pen and ink to produce crisp outlines and details, and he created washes with the same ink to pool shadows and soften edges. Typically, Renaissance and Baroque artists portrayed myths and stories from historical sources in contemporary settings or costumes. According to some art historians, the artist has incorporated an alpine scene – typical of Murer's Swiss environment – as background in this example. However, this seems to be more of an artistic device to provide a background than a specific location. The contour and the outlined buildings are generalized. Instead, the artist uses rich wash to draw attention to the action in the foreground.
Murer depicts the dramatic moment from this myth and Daphne's fearful flight from Apollo. He portrays Apollo as an older warrior – a Roman Legionnaire – terrifying and muscular as he chases the young innocent Daphne. His hair streams into the air and his cape billows to indicate the speed of the chase. At the moment portrayed here, Apollo grasps his bow in one hand while his filled quiver rests on his back, and he reaches out to Daphne – as she is transforming – with his right hand. His face registers disbelief. Daphne's face indicates a mixture of relief and amusement at her escape.
Murer uses contrasts in lighting and style to portray the moment when Daphne begins to transform – metamorphose – into a laurel tree. Her feet have taken root, her legs and mid-section have already begun to turn into the tree trunk, and her fingers and hair are turning into leafy branches. Her simple figure is portrayed in smooth curving lines, while Apollo's figure and costume are more detailed. Cupid hovers overhead with his arms outstretched, observing the outcome of his scheme. Daphne and Apollo are the center of the drama, while Cupid merely looks on.
About Apollo and Daphne in Greek Mythology
Apollo, one of the Greek gods, was the son of Zeus and Leto, as well as the twin brother of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. He was the god of light, music and medicine. Daphne was a water nymph, daughter of the river god Peneus. Cupid, the Roman name for Eros, the god of love, was the son of Aphrodite (her Roman name was Venus).
Apollo angered Cupid by teasing him for using bows and arrows as weapons; Apollo told Cupid that he should leave archery to the “men.” As revenge, Cupid shot Apollo with one of his gold- tipped arrows, which were known to make the target fall in love. Cupid then shot Daphne – the object of Apollo's affections – with a lead-tipped arrow, known to make the target reject love.
Daphne, a follower of Artemis, loved sport and cherished her independence. She had no interest in falling in love. After being shot with Cupid's arrow, Apollo immediately began to pursue the beautiful Daphne, chasing her until she was absolutely exhausted and unable to escape. In Ovid's version of the story, Apollo shows concern for his prey. He is afraid that she will fall and injure herself; he asks her to slow down, and promises that he will then pursue more slowly. Daphne continues to resist, and at the last moment, she calls on her father to save her.
In response, Peneus changes Daphne into a laurel tree. By the time Apollo reaches Daphne, her feet have changed into roots, her legs into a bark-covered tree trunk, and her arms are turning into branches and her hair into leaves. The lovesick god reaches for a sprig of laurel leaves, and puts them on his head. He decides that she will enjoy eternity: Her leaves will always remain green and all champions will wear a crown of laurel leaves. The laurel is an evergreen, and the laurel wreath or crown is the symbol of victory.
The story of Apollo and Daphne, as represented in this drawing, is the first story told in the most important literary source for classical mythology: Ovid's Metamorphoses Book 1: verses 452-567. The writer Publius Ovidus Naso lived from 43 BC to 18 AD. Among those who considered Ovid a significant influence in their work were Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton. Ovid was so popular in his own time that “Ovidian graffiti” can be found on the walls of the ancient city of Pompeii . Although Ovid considered his writings one continuous epic, most scholars consider this significant work to be an anthology of myths. There are some core themes to this work. All of Ovid's stories incorporate the idea of metamorphosis (a complete or marked change in physical form or appearance; a transformation caused by supernatural powers, etc.). To Ovid, metamorphosis was a universal theme that underlies the nature of life; things change, one thing leads to another, nothing stays the same. The reluctant Daphne is saved by changing into another form: a tree. This tale, as with many others, has meaning on many levels.
This story has been represented by many artists over the centuries – in drawings, paintings and sculpture – and usually depicts Daphne in flight, just at the moment she begins to transform into the laurel tree. Apollo is always shown in pursuit, with his bow and filled quiver. Cupid/Eros is usually present in some way, as a symbol of love.
James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. New York , NY : Harper and Row,
Publishers, 1979 revised edition.
Seymour Howard, Editor. Classical Narratives in Master Drawings, Selected from the Collections of the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery . Sacramento, CA: Crocker Art Museum, 1972.
Jeffrey Ruda, The Art of Drawing: Old Masters from The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento,
California. Flint, Michigan: Flint Institute of Arts, 1992.
www.online-mythology.com/apollo_daphne (May 12, 2005)