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Episodes Four and Five: Knowing Me, Knowing You

This week is a biggun’ – in length and, from our perspective, joy. It’s a two-parter because, quite frankly, we can’t shut up about this myth and you’re lucky there wasn’t more of it. It is finally time for Abi and Sarah to tell you all about their undying love for Narcissus, the boy who fell in love with his own reflection.

Now we admit, Narcissus probably has enough love going on in his life without ours as well, but this myth is just so jam-packed with self-reflection (yes that’s a mirror joke), fun facts, and art-historical goodies that we really can’t help ourselves.

First, we’ll tell you a bit more about some of the main ancient versions of this myth. Yes, there’s some Ovid fan-girling here (as per usual), but you’ll also hear about some obscure authors like Konon and (get ready) Parthenius of Nicaea (bit of a mouthful), as well as the firm Classicist favourite, Pausanias. Get ready for love, death, curses, revenge, suicide, twins, and flowers.

Part two is where the real nerding begins, as we get into the nitty-gritty of ‘what does Narcissus really see in that pool?’ This is not a myth about narcissism (as Freud and an English sexologist called Havelock Ellis would have you believe) but it’s a myth about *drum roll please* ... ART. And if you’ve got to know us at all over the last few episodes, you’ll know how into that we’ll be.

So, settle in at Narcissus’ poolside and stare into the mirror of self-knowledge with us (mysterious hey?) for some proper probing of one of our favourite stories. We hope, by the end of this, that you will love Narcissus as much as we do.

But maybe not as much as he did.

The featured passage in this episode comes from the poem that Dalí wrote to accompany his Metamorphosis of Narcissus.


Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’(3.339-510)

Parthenius of Nicaea, poem discovered by Dr Benjamin Henry amongst the Oxyrynchus Papyri

Konon, Narrations (24)

Pausanias, Description of Greece (9.31.7-8)

Vinge, L. (1967) The Narcissus Theme in Wester European Literature up to the Early 19th Century, Lund.

Orlowsky, U. (1992) Narziß und Narzißmus im Spiegel von Literatur, Bildender Kunst und Psychoanalyse vom Mythos zur leeren Selbstinszenierung, Munich.


Narcissus from the Casa dell’Ara Massima, Pompeii (6.16,15), first century CE

Narcissus from the Casa di Octavius Quartio, Pompeii (2.2,2-5), first century CE

Salvador Dalí, The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937

Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1597-1599

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