Echo (mythology)

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The nymph Echo (painting by Alexandre Cabanel, 1887)

In Greek mythology, Ekho (Greek: Ἠχώ, Ēkhō, "echo",[1] from ἦχος (ēchos), "sound"[2]) was an Oread (a mountain nymph) who loved her own voice. Zeus loved consorting with beautiful nymphs and visited them on Earth often. Eventually, Zeus's wife, Hera, became suspicious, and came from Mt. Olympus in an attempt to catch Zeus with the nymphs.


Sometimes the young and beautiful nymph Echo would distract and amuse Zeus' wife, Hera, with long and entertaining stories while Zeus took advantage of the moment to ravish the other mountain nymphs. When Hera discovered the trickery, she was so annoyed she punished the talkative Echo by taking away her voice, except in foolish repetition of another's shouted words. Thus, all Echo could do was repeat the voice of another.[3]

Echo fell in love with a vain youth named Narcissus, who was the son of the Nymph Liriope of Thespiae. The river god Cephisus had once encircled Liriope with the windings of his streams, trapping her, and seduced the nymph. Concerned about her infant son's future, Liriope consulted the seer Teiresias. The nymph asked the seer if her son would live to see the old age of senescence, to which Teiresias replied "if he does not know himself."[3]

One day when Narcissus was out hunting stags, Echo stealthily followed the handsome youth through the woods longing to address him but unable to speak first. When Narcissus finally heard footsteps and shouted "Who's there?", Echo answered "Who's there?" Confused, Narcissus looked around and upon seeing no one around, asked "Why do you run from me?" which Echo in turn repeats to the young hunter. Finally he says "Let us meet together." [3] Echo, never being more eager to reply to anyone, repeats "Let's meet." To emphasize her words, she exits the woods in order to wrap her hands around Narcissus in longing. He runs away from her embrace and says, whilst running "May I die before what’s mine is yours." She repeats only "what's mine is yours."[3] Heartbroken by Narcissus, Echo spent the rest of her life in lonely glens pining away for the love she never knew, crying until all that was left was her voice. However, in other versions Echo cries until only her voice and her bones remain, then turned into stone, roaming forever to haunt the earth.[3]

Echo and Narcissus (John William Waterhouse, 1903, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)

The most popular version of the Echo/Narcissus story depicts that Narcissus later came to a still pool, and caught sight of his own reflection. He became enamored of his own beauty, and didn't realize that he was looking at himself, because any words of love he would mutter to his reflection, Echo would repeat around him. From then, he either withered until he became a narcissus, still bending over to look at himself, or he realized that he loved his own image and killed himself with his hunting knife out of despair. From the drops of his blood were spawned the first narcissi.

Echo was a beautiful and musical nymph who could sing and play many instruments.[4] She lived in the woods and denied the love of any man or god.[4] Pan, a lecherous god, fell in love with Echo, but she ran away from him. He became so angry when she refused him, he created such a "panic" causing a group of shepherds to kill her. Echo was torn to pieces and spread all over the Earth.[5] The goddess of the earth, Gaia, received the pieces of Echo, whose voice remains repeating the last words of others.[4] In some versions, Echo and Pan had two children: Iambe[6] and Iynx[7]


  1. ^ ἠχώ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  2. ^ ἦχος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  3. ^ a b c d e Ovid, 'Metamorphoses'. New york: Oxford University Press Inc., 1998. Print. Trans. Melville, A.D. (pages 61-66)
  4. ^ a b c Echo & Narcisus. See (Short Greek version)
  5. ^ Dionysus, Pan, Echo, and Narcissus. Chapter 13 of Classical Mythology, Eighth Edition, by Mark P. O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon. Oxford University Press. (See Pan and Echo)
  6. ^ Iambe
  7. ^ Google books Gods, goddesses, and mythology, Volume 1, By C. Scott Littleton, Marshall Cavendish Corporation

External links

Media related to Echo at Wikimedia Commons