NARCISSUS, in Greek mythology, son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Leiriope, distinguished for his beauty. The seer Teiresias told his mother that he would have a long life, provided he never looked upon his own features. His rejection of the love of the nymph Echo drew upon him the vengeance of the gods. Having fallen in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring, he pined away (or killed himself) and the flower that bears his name sprang up on the spot where he died. According to Pausanias, Narcissus, to console himself for the death of a favourite twin-sister, his exact counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall her features by his own. Narcissus, representing the early spring-flower, which for a brief space beholds itself mirrored in the water and then fades, is one of the many youths whose premature death is recorded in Greek mythology (cf. Adonis, Linus, Hyacinthus); the flower itself was regarded as a symbol of such death. It was the last flower gathered by Persephone before she was carried off by Hades, and was sacred to Demeter and Core (the cult name of Persephone), the great goddesses of the underworld. From its associations Wieseler takes Narcissus himself to be a spirit of the underworld, of death and rest. It is possible that the story may have originated in the superstition (alluded to by Artemidorus, Oneirocritica, ii. 7) that it was an omen of death to dream of seeing one's reflection in water.
See Ovid, Metam. iii. 341-510; Pausanias ix. 31; Conon, Narrationes, 24; F. Wieseler, Narkissos (1856); Greve in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie; J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (1900), i. 293.
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