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ROMAN CONTEMPLATIONS (3 of 12)

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Myth of Narcissus and Echo

From the Greeks the Romans gathered up various myths, one of which was used by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE to 17 or 18 CE) in writing about a boy named Narcissus and a talkative nymph named Echo. While chasing a deer, Echo caught sight of Narcissus, whom she thought beautiful. So too did all the girls living in the area.

Echo followed Narcissus through the woods, longing to speak to him but unable to muster the courage. Finally Narcissus heard her footsteps and shouted, "Who's there?" Echo answered his question by repeating the question: "Who's there?

Echo finally approached Narcissus, and he told her to leave him alone. Echo retreated and asked the goddess of love, Venus, to take revenge on Narcissus for having rejected her, and Echo faded away until only her voice remained to be heard by the world.

Venus punished Narcissus. When Narcissus came across a deep pool of water, he took a drink. As he did, he saw his reflection for the first time in his life – believing as people had in his time that reflections were separate spirits. And he fell in love with the good-looking spirit, not realizing that it was himself. Eventually he realized that the image he saw on the water was his reflection. Frustrated at being denied, as Echo had been denied, and out of anger with himself rather than pity for Echo, he tore at his clothes and beat at his body until the life force drained from him.

As Narcissus died, the bodiless Echo came upon him and felt sorrow. A flower that was to be called the narcissus grew where he died, and his soul went to the a darkest part of the world of the dead. And it would be said that there, in his Hell, his soul continued to gaze upon its image on the surface of the water.

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