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Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.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
Pausanias locates the spring of Narcissus at Donacon ‘Reed-bed’ in the territory of the Thespians. Pausanias finds it incredible that someone could not distinguish a reflection from a real person, and cites a less known variant in which Narcissus had a twin sister. Both dressed similarly and hunted together. Narcissus fell in love with her. When she died, Narcissus pined after her and pretended that the reflection he saw in the water was his sister. Some Greek tales suggest that he was sexually attracted towards his sister, and when she was alive made love to her.
As Pausanias also notes, yet another tale is that the Narcissus flower was created to entice Demeter’s daughter Persephone away from her companions to enable Hades to abduct her.
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