Echo was a very talkative nymph. She could chatter on for hours. Zeus decided to use this to his advantage. He used Echo to distract Hera, his jealous wife, so he could steal away with other nymphs. Hera was furious when she discovered that Echo was helping her husband with his infidelity. To punish Echo, Hera made it so that Echo could no longer start a conversation. She could not speak first, but had to be spoken to before she was able to say anything. Even then she could only repeat the words which the other person had said.
One day, while out in the countryside, Echo spied a very handsome young man. His name was Narcissus, son of Cephissus, a river god, and Liriope, a nymph. He was a very conceited young man, who had rejected the advances of many possible mates. Echo watched him from a distance, frustrated that she could not speak to him. After he had lost his hunting party, he called out, “Is anyone here?” Echo repeated back, “Here”.
Narcissus yelled out, “Let us come together”.
Echo replied, “Let us come together,” and rushed at him with open arms.
Narcissus pushed Echo away stating that he would rather die than make love to her.
Echo was so crushed that she withered away, not able to eat or sleep. Eventually, she turned to stone, and only her voice remains today, haunting the mountains.
Narcissus later also died in a similar manor of an unreturned love. One of Narcissus’ rejected suitors prayed to the gods that Narcissus would feel the same pain of unreturned love. One day Narcissus stopped for water at a pool on Mount Helicon. He saw his reflection and fell in love with this beautiful man. Yet every time he reached for the image, it would disappear. He was so infatuated with the beauty of the image he could not pull himself away. He died of starvation staring into the pool.
Today we have the term narcissistic personality, meaning someone who is too wrapped up in themselves to the exclusion of all others.
Echo and Narcissus by Nicolas Poussin, Musee de Louvre, Paris
Major Gods and Goddesses
Introduction | Creation Story | Olympians VS. Titans | Creation of Man | Revolt of Giants
Abduction of Persephone | The Underworld | Visitors to Underworld | Amzon Warriors
Ares vs. Athena | Daedalus and Icarus | Echo and Narcissus | Judgement of Paris
Perseus and Andromeda | Trojan War
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