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date: 22 February 2019

Narcissus(1), figure of Greek mythology

Narcissus (1), in mythology, a beautiful youth, son of Cephissus (the Boeotian river) and Liriope, a nymph. He loved no one till he saw his own reflection in water and fell in love with that; finally he pined away, died, and was turned into the flower of like name. Ovid offers the fullest version, probably recast for a Roman audience, and gives a philosophical sub-text. He claims that Narcissus was punished for his cruelty to Echo: he repulsed her and she so wasted away with grief that there was nothing left of her but her voice (Ov.Met. 3. 342 ff.). Other ancient explanations, Paus. 9. 31. 7–8; Conon (3), 24. The story appealed to Roman taste: it is depicted in nearly 50 paintings from Pompeii alone; it was also the subject of a rhetorical description (ekphrasis) by one of the Philostrati (Philostr. Imag.1.23), along with Ovid a source for the Renaissance and later responses to the myth. As an example of self-love, Narcissus acquired a global dimension with Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical concept of narcissism.


Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (1981– ), ‘Narkissos’.Find this resource:

S. Bartsch, The Mirror of the Self (2006), 84–103.Find this resource:

Z. Newby in E. Bowie and J. Elsner (eds.), Philostratus (2009), ch. 16.Find this resource:

D. Knoepfler, La Patrie de Narcisse (2010).Find this resource:

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