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Cupid’s Arrows

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Lead, Gold, Magic and Medicine in Ovid, Met. 1.452-567

image of Mnemosyne

Ovid’s narrative of Apollo and Daphne introduces elements not apparent in earlier extant versions of the myth, such as the involvement of Cupid and his deployment of two distinct arrows, one golden that sets Apollo’s passions aflame, and the other lead that makes Daphne averse to all male advances. The passion-averting arrow in particular is a curious addition to Cupid’s arsenal. This paper will argue that the lead arrow can be better understood when viewed alongside the practices and discourses of ancient magic and medicine, especially the widespread use of lead for erotic defixiones, antaphrodisiacs, and even contraceptives.

Affiliations: 1: Wabash College, Dept. of Classics


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