How Echo Lost Her Speech (To An Echo)

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The story of the nymph Echo has helped shaped the modern definition of “echo” which is the copy of another sound. Like with many Greek myths that involve unrequited love, jealousy, and a tragic end, Echo’s story is no different. Here is her tale.

Echo was an Oread, a type of nymph who lived in mountains, valleys, and ravines. She lived on Mount Helicon, which was also the site of two springs sacred to the Muses. As the story goes, Echo was an incredibly chatty nymph whose stories would go on and on. She had the gift of gab and would talk to anyone who would listen. Echo was known among the Greek Gods and Goddesses as she served as an attendant to Hera.

Zeus, Echo, and Deceiving Hera

Zeus was known for his infidelities. He had multiple children with multiple women, and is found through numerous stories engaging in trysts with many different beings. His appetite for nymphs was no different. Noticing Echo’s endless storytelling, he decided to use her to his advantage. Zeus invited Echo and her sisters to Mount Olympus. While Echo was distracting Hera with her endless, ongoing chatter, Zeus would be able to bed the other nymphs. Soon, Zeus set it up so that should he leave Mount Olympus to spend some time with the nymphs, he would send Echo to distract Hera if she should come looking for him.

An “Echo” for a Voice

After a while, Hera learned of how Zeus had employed Echo as a distraction to shield her from yet again another one of her husband’s infidelities. Enraged she took away what was most precious to Echo, her ability to speak naturally, as punishment. Echo was still left with a voice, but could only repeat what others around her were saying. She could never again start a conversation, but could only repeat what others said to her.

Falling in Love with Narcissus

Narcissus was the son of the Nymph Liriope and the river god Cephissus. At only 16, he was lauded over due to his natural beauty. So much in fact that he had continuously fought off the advances of many potential suitors. Echo too became one of the women pining after the extremely handsome and charming Narcissus.

Narcissus was out hunting in the country when his hunting party separated him. Echo, who spent the majority of her time in the woods, was drawn to the hunter’s beauty and soon followed him as he searched for his hunting party. Finally, Narcissus screamed out to see if anyone was around “Is anyone here?” to which Echo replied “Here!” Finally able to speak, Echo became excited. Narcissus responded “Let us come together!” which Echo repeated and she rushed out of the woods to hug Narcissus.

Narcissus being the self-absorbed (hint narcissism) conceited person that he was refused Echo’s advances by telling her he’d never make love to her and then running off. Heartbroken, Echo slowly withered away and it is said that her body turned to stone. The only thing that remained was her voice, which haunted the mountains echoing anything that comes through.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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