The house of Dionysus. Late 2nd century CE. Paphos, Archaeological Park


The house of Dionysus. Late 2nd century CE.

Paphos, Archaeological Park.

The first mosaic belonging to the House of Dionysos which the visitor sees, represents Narcissus looking at his reflection in a pool of water. The sad fates of Narcissus and Echo form the subject of one of Ovid’s most evocative and touching stories (Book III). When Narcissus, son of the river-god Cephisos and the nymph Liriope, reached the age of sixteen he was so beautiful that many girls and boys fell in love with him. However, his pride and his refusal to return anyone’s affections caused endless suffering to those around him. One day when out hunting he was seen by Echo, “that talkative nymph who cannot stay silent when one speaks, but yet has not learned to speak first herself”, who fell madly in love with him. Rejected by Narcissus, Echo hid in the woods and mountains never to be seen by anybody again. Tormented by love she became thinner and thinner until all the freshness of her body withered into the air. Finally, only her voice was left, heard by everybody but seen by none.
The cause of so much unhappiness could not remain unpunished, and Narcissus was made to suffer what he himself had caused others to suffer. One day he saw his reflection in a clear pool and immediately fell in love with it. He stayed there admiring himself “at once seeking and sought, himself kindling the flame with which he burned”. Gradually, “as golden wax melts with gentle heat, as morning frosts are thawed by the warmth of the sun, so he was worn and wasted away with love, and slowly consumed by its hidden fire”. The gods, however, had pity on Narcissus and turned him into a flower that still bears his name and grows near water so that he can always look at his reflection. It is said that his passion continued even after his death, because, when he was received into the underworld, he could not resist admiring his reflection in the waters of the Styx. Both the words narcissism and echo, still in current use, find an explanation of their meaning in this myth.
The mosaic was severely damaged by the levelling operations and has been put together from a large number of fragments. A great part of the geometric decoration is modern.
© 1998 Photo, text: W. A. Daszewski, D. Michaelidis. “Guide to the Paphos Mosaics”. Bank of Cyprus cultural foundation, 1998. P. 18—20.
Keywords: μωσαϊκό mosaic mosaics mosaica mosaici mosaik mosaïque greek greca greco greche griechische griechisches grecque grecquesё paphos archaeological park the house of dionysus mosaico narcissus narkissos narciso narziss pool headdress hat headgear gear cap