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Narcissus

Νάρκισσος).


1.

The beautiful son of the river-god Cephissus. He rejected the love of the nymph Echo (q.v.), and Nemesis punished

Narcissus. (Naples Museum.)

him for this by inspiring him with a passion for the reflection of himself which he saw in the water of a fountain (Ovid, Met. iii. 341-510; Pausan. ix. 10). He pined away in the desire for it; and to see one's reflection in the water was hence considered as a presage of death. The flower of the same name, into which he was changed, was held to be a symbol of fragility and death, and was sacred to Hades, the divinity of the world below. Persephoné had just gathered a narcissus, when she was carried off by Hades (Hymn. Ad Cer. 15; see Persephoné).


2.

A freedman of the emperor Claudius. He afterwards became his private secretary, and in the exercise of this office acquired immense riches by the most odious means. Messalina, jealous of his power, endeavoured to remove him, but her own vices made her fall an easy victim to this unprincipled man, who betrayed to Claudius her intrigue with C. Silius. (See Messalina.) Agrippina, however, was more successful. She was irritated at his having endeavoured to prevent her ascending the imperial throne; while Narcissus, on his side, espoused the interests of the young Britannicus, and urged Claudius to name him as his successor. Apprised of these plans, Agrippina drove Narcissus into a kind of temporary exile by compelling him to go to the baths of Campania for his health; and, having taken advantage of his absence from Rome to poison the emperor, she next compelled Narcissus to put himself to death. He is said to have amassed a fortune of 400,000,000 sesterces or $16,000,000 (Tac. Ann. xi. 30-35Tac. Ann. xii. 57Tac. Ann. xiii. 1; Claud.).


3.

An athlete who strangled the emperor Commodus (A.D. 192), and was exposed to the lions by Severus (Dio Cass. lxxii. 22; lxxiii. 16).

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