In Greek mythology, Daphnis was the very first shepherd. Inspired by the mythical figures of previous shepherds from the ancient world, according to Greek mythology Daphnis was the son of the god Hermes and the nymph Daphne. He was abandoned by his mother at birth in a forest of laurel trees which surrounded a great mountain. The child was soon adopted by the local shepherds, believed to be the gods of the woods, who gave him his name.
Daphnis was much beloved by the god Apollo, who took him hunting with the goddess Artemis, and by the god Pan who taught him to play the flageolet.
The young shepherd was handsome and featured in numerous legends.
In one such legend, the nymph Echenais falls in love with him and while he returns her love, the love story ends in tragedy following an involuntary betrayal. The tale goes that Clymene, wife of the King Zeno, organized a party and invited Daphnis to play. She poured him wine continually to make him drunk, then used his drunkenness to take advantage of him. To punish him for his infidelity, Juno, mother of the nymph Echenais, blinded him and so Daphnis wandered into the unknown, tripping continually until he fell from a cliff edge, only to be saved by Hermes and taken to Olympus.
According to another legend, Daphnis’ beloved, in this tale called Pimplea or Talia, was abducted. Daphnis never stopped searching for her, and at last found her among the slave-girls belonging to Lityerses, King of Phrygia. It was the King’s custom to challenge all those who appeared in his court to a test of strength, and so he challenged Daphnis to a reaping contest, proclaiming that whoever lost would be killed. Heracles, who was in the area, suggested that he take Daphnis’ place in the contest. Heracles won and killed the King, winning for Daphnis Pimplea’s freedom and, as a dowry, the kingdom of Phrygia.
Roman mythology also features a mythological shepherd, Faustulus, husband of Acca Larentina, who rescued the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus from death. He welcomed them to his home and asked his wife to bring them up as her own children.