Dioniysus or Narcissus? The myth of the loss of identity in Plotinus


  • Sonja Weiss




mythology, Dionysus, Narcissus, soul


Plotinus' allegorical interpretation linking the Orphic myth of Dionysus with the myth of Narcissus is based on the motif of contemplating one's own image in the mirror or water, which  is common to both.  This motif, an important aspect of Plotinus' contemplation metaphor, is enriched by the additional element of (attempted) union with one's reflection. The latter is not to be found in the previous versions of either myth, but is present in the hermetic cosmogony. The creative aspect of this union is adopted by Plotinus and applied to his theory of the soul's descent and embodiment, for which the metaphor of the mirror of Dionysus is used.  The longing of Narcissus, on the other hand, symbolises the gaze or contemplation gone astray, ·with all the fatal consequences. The soul contemplating itself in "the mirror of Dionysus" never loses sight of its principle and origin, thus remaining true to its nature, while "Narcissus" loses his self, drowning in the pool of superficial appearances.


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6. 12. 2004



Scholarly Articles

How to Cite

Weiss, Sonja. 2004. “Dioniysus or Narcissus? The Myth of the Loss of Identity in Plotinus”. Keria: Studia Latina Et Graeca 6 (2): 33-52. https://doi.org/10.4312/keria.6.2.33-52.