Narcissus (mythology)

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Narcissus or Narkissos (Greek: Νάρκισσος), possibly derived from ναρκη (narke) meaning "sleep, numbness," in Greek mythology was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. As divine punishment he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, not realizing it was merely an image, and he wasted away to death, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection.

Several versions of this myth have survived from ancient sources. The classic version is by Ovid, found in book 3 of his Metamorphoses (completed 8 AD). An earlier version ascribed to the poet Parthenius of Nicaea, composed around 50 BC, was recently rediscovered among the Oxyrhynchus papyri at Oxford.[1] Unlike Ovid's version, this one ends with Narcissus committing suicide. A version by Conon, a contemporary of Ovid, also ends in suicide (Narrations, 24). A century later the travel writer Pausanias recorded a novel variant of the story, in which Narcissus falls in love with his twin sister rather than himself (Guide to Greece, 9.31.7).[2]

Contents

Mythology

As is common in ancient mythology, there are various interpretations and versions of the Narcissus myth, with the canonical version revolving around a youth being made to fall in love with his reflection after spurning a would-be lover.

Roman version

In the most famous version, the tale told by Ovid, thought to have been based on Parthenius' version but altered in order to broaden its appeal,[3] Echo, a nymph, falls in love with a vain youth named Narcissus, who was the son of the blue Nymph Liriope of Thespia. The river god Cephisus had once encircled Liriope with the windings of his streams, and thus trapping her, had seduced the nymph, who gave birth to an exceptionally beautiful boy. Concerned about the welfare of such a beautiful child, Liriope consulted the prophet Tiresias regarding her son's future. Tiresias told the nymph that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age, "if he didn't come to know himself."

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