The greek myth of Narcissus, the shepherd who fell in love with his own reflection

Greg Stevens

This is how Narcissus was depicted in greek mythology and how it relates to the beautiful flower that carries its name.

In recent times we hear more and more the term “narcissism” from people who have an excessive degree of self-esteem which can be considered a form of emotional immaturity. In a current context, narcissists are often a danger to the mental health of those around them, due to their peculiar way of maintaining affectionate relationships.

The curious thing is that this concept studied by psychologists comes from a very interesting Greek myth and nowadays a beautiful flower is named after it.


Narcissus was extremely important and popular in Roman art, psychiatry, and Freudian psychoanalysis. Moreover, there are several versions of the myth of Narcissus, most of them have survived from ancient sources and here we will tell you about them.

The Greek myth of Narcissus

Ovid’s version

In Greek mythology and the classical version of the myth, Narcissus, the son of the river god Cepheus and the nymph Liriope, was distinguished by his beauty and according to the vision of Tiresias, as long as Narcissus did not recognize himself, he would have a long life.


One day, while Narcissus was walking through the forest he was followed by Echo, a mountain nymph who saw him and fell in love with him; when Narcissus realized this, he shouted “Who is there” and Echo repeated the question, revealing her identity she ran to embrace him, he pulled away and demanded that she leave him alone. His heart broke and he spent the rest of his life in lonely glens until only an echo remained.

Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, realized this and after knowing the story, decided to punish Narcissus. One day while Narcissus was walking after a day of hunting, the goddess lured him to a pond, where he leaned over the water and saw himself in the flower of youth.


Narcissus did not realize that he was his own reflection and fell deeply in love as if he were someone else. Unable to let go of the charm of his image, he realized that this love was not reciprocated and melted from the fire of passion that burned within him, turning into a golden flower with white.

The version of Parthenius of Nicaea

This version composed around 50 BC by the poet Parthenius Nicea, says that Narcissus lost the will to live and took his life. This version was discovered in 2004 by Dr. Benjamin Henry in the Oxyrhynchus papyri in Oxford.


Conon’s version

Conon, was a contemporary of Ovid, in this narrative, a young man named Ameinias fell in love with Narcissus, who used to despise his male suitors. Ameinias took his own life at the door of Narcissus’ house, however, before this event he had begged the gods to teach Narcissus a lesson for all that he made him suffer.

One day, Narcissus was walking near a pool of water, as he was thirsty he approached to drink some water, however, he saw his reflection with which he was fascinated and ended up taking his own life for not being able to obtain his love.


The version of Pausanias

In this version, Narcissus falls in love with his twin sister and when he dies, he turns into a white flower. In all versions, his body disappears and only a white flower remains in its place, the narcissus flower.

The meaning of the Narcissus flower

These trumpet-shaped flowers grow in wooded meadows and rocky terrain in Western Europe. They are usually bright yellow, white, or salmon-colored. You can find them with or without leaves, with elongated trumpets, with or without fragrance, and are responsible for announcing the arrival of spring.


The daffodil flower is related to new beginnings and eternal life. It symbolizes unrequited love, just like the one told in the myth of Echo and Narcissus. On the other hand, it is said to carry a message of desire, and expectation, and giving it to someone means a declaration of love that expects a quick response.

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