Narcissus was the son of the river God Cephisus and nymph Lyripe. He was desired by both men and women because of his youthful beauty. One admirer was the young man Aminias. He professed his love for Narcissus but was rejected by him. Aminias later killed himself out of grief and anger, begging the gods to teach Narcissus a lesson. They devised the ultimate revenge.
One day soon after, Narcissus is said to have come across a pool in the woods. When he leant down to drink from it, he saw the most beautiful figure in the water’s reflection. He fell instantly in love with the youth, not realising it was his own reflection. Narcissus ultimately dies from sorrow on the banks of the pool, gazing longingly at his own reflection, heartbroken that his love cannot be returned by his reflection.
The story of Narcissus has traditionally been interpreted as a warning against pride and self-love. It is important for LGBT history too. Narcissus’s beauty attracts the attention of both men and women, mortals and gods. The Ancient Greeks were comfortable with the idea that sexuality was fuelled by attraction and desire, not necessarily by gender.