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In the ancient Greek tongue, bay was named daphne after the nymph Daphne, who was turned to a laurel shrub to escape Apollon's persecution. The god Apollo, then, developed the habit to wear bay twigs in memory of his unreturned love (it may seem noteworthy that the ancients considered this incident a tragedy – for Apollo, who lost the girl he was after). The hapless nymph is still remembered in some languages of Eastern Europe and West Asia: Bay leaves are called dafin in Romanian, dáfni in Modern Greek, defne in Turkish and dafinë in Albanian; the Hebrew name aley daphna means leaves of Daphne.
Bay leaves were considered holy and associate with Apollo in the classic Greek era (see poppy about preclassic Greece). Although the winners of the famous Olympic games, held every four years beginning in 776 in Olympia in honour of Zeus, were originally decorated with a wreath of olive twigs, the later use of laurel wreaths is more known today. The change from olive to laurel was due to the influence of the Pythian Games, which were conducted in honour of Apollo in Delphi (Southern Greece), starting 582. Within a decade after opening the Pythian Games to all Greeks, two more festivals arose which were, in contrast, held every second year (see celery).
Much later, the Roman Emperors made use of the laurel wreath as a symbol of the god Apollo;
furthermore, bay leaves were a popular spice in Roman cookery (see silphion for details).