The myth of Narcissus

The myth of Narcissus is one of the most known Greek Myths, due to its uniqueness and moral tale; Narcissus, was the son of River God Cephisus and nymph Lyriope. He was known for his beauty and he was loved by God Apollo due to his extraordinary physique.

The myth of Narcissus comes in two different versions, the Greek and the Greco-Roman version, as both Conon the Greek and Ovid, the Roman poet, wrote the story of Narcissus, enhancing it with different elements.

The Greek Version of the myth of Narcissus

According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus who gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow.

According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

The Roman Version of the Myth – Ovid

The myth presented by Ovid the poet is slightly altered. According to this myth, Narcissus’ parents were worried because of the extraordinary beauty of the child and asked prophet Teiresias what to do, regarding their son’s future.

Teiresias told them that the boy would grow old only if “he didn’t get to know himself”. When Narcissus was sixteen he was walking in the woods and Nymph Echo saw him and felt madly in love with him. She started following him and Narcissus asked “who’s there”, feeling someone after him.

Narcissus and Echo

Narcissus and Echo

Echo responded “who’s there” and that went on for some time until Echo decided to show herself. She tried to embrace the boy who stepped away from Echo, telling her to leave him alone. Echo was left heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in glens; until nothing but an echo sound remained of her.

Nemesis, though, the Goddess of Revenge, heard the story and decided to punish Narcissus. From this point the stories are similar; Narcissus sees himself in the pond and he is amazed by the beauty of the reflection. Once he figured out that his love could not be addressed, he killed himself.

The myth of Narcissus in modern life and Art

narcissus-caravaggioThe myth of Narcissus is known also for one additional reason; the flower Narcissus that is found usually at the banks of rivers and lakes, took its name after the mythical hero. It is a graceful flower featuring 40 different species, mostly grown in Europe. It blooms in early spring and is considered fragile and very beautiful, with white, yellow and pink blossoms.

The Myth of Narcissus has inspired several artists as well; the most known is Caravaggio who painted a young man admiring his reflection in the water.

The painters Turner and Dali were also inspired by the myth, while poets, such as Keats and Housman, used his example in many of their works.

The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky created several characters with the mentality and loneliness of Narcissus, such as Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin.

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9 comments on “The myth of Narcissus

  1. Helen on said:

    This myth is very fantastic…. i made similarities and differences between Echo and Narcissus to differintiate between them… and was succecssful to do this job ! :D

  2. i liked this myth to im currentky studying greek mythology in school and i have chosen this myth to do a report and presentation on

  3. the myth of Narcissus is amazing but sets a bad example

  4. Alex S on said:

    how does it set a bad example? it shows that if you are to egotistic about yourself or care more about yourself than others, it can lead to bad things therefore driving people away from being self- centered

  5. marilena on said:

    this is my faverit one:)

  6. Lou LouFav on said:

    It’s very enjoyable!!!!!!!!!!! Narcissus is beautiful Like Brad Pitt!

  7. Lilian on said:

    Its an exceptional myth ! Narcissus is a good guy ! ah ah !

  8. Nina on said:

    I think this myth is often misinterpreted. I’ve just been reading an interpretation of this myth that’s less obvious and far more interesting than the main stream interpretation of Narcissus. I understand narcissism to be a stage that we all (should) go through as young adults or adults. We are all a little self obsessed as children and teenagers, thinking the world revolves us or that we’re always right. This doesn’t mean we’re ‘in love with ourselves’ – it could almost be the opposite: that we’re not sure about ourselves and therefore trying to push ourselves as individuals: our ideas and establish ourselves. Hopefully, in time, our love for ourselves will develop and we will be able to have faith in ourselves and be comfortable with who we are. For some people this stage might not come (for whatever reason) and they never get past the ‘self obsessed’ stage. This is sad but not necessarily bad. If we can allow ourselves to be true to ourselves, we can settle, find our way in life and become more at ease who we are; love ourselves and who we truly are. This is when we go to the next stage, and I understand that Narcissus, moved to this next stage: he blossomed into a flower, the narcissus… maybe by looking in at who he was he was just able to be true to his soul, true to who he was and love himself.

  9. This is really is a very different version from what i have read and it also helps show how ignorant Narcissus really was. The funny thing about it is that i know someone who acts like Narcissus and she believes she’s Gods gift to the world.(not)

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