A magnificent fresco in a nearly pristine state of conservation depicting the Narcissus myth is the latest find in an excavation of a luxurious Roman villa in Pompeii, according to an announcement on Thursday by the director of this archaeological site.
Pompeii was a Roman city close to today's Naples in southern Italy that perished when it was buried under ash during an eruption of the nearby Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD.
The find took place in the same villa that months ago unearthed a sensual fresco depicting the myth of Leda and the swan, where Jupiter took the form of a swan to impregnate Leda, Queen of Sparta.
The interim director of the Pompeii archaeological site, Alfonsina Russo, announced: "A sensual and refined alcove, reminiscent of the Leda and the swan find, has reappeared in all its splendor during the excavation at Pompeii's Regio V site," adding that "a room located at the back of the villa's atrium, with brightly colored walls, is where we found the fresco of Narcissus looking at himself in a pond."
Narcissus, in Greek mythology, was the son of a river god and a nymph, gifted with striking beauty.
The poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses, Book III, describes that Narcissus' mother was told by a blind clairvoyant, Tiresias, he would enjoy a long life, so long he never recognized himself.
However, when he rejected the love of the nymph Echo, the gods punished him.
He fell in love with his own image reflected in the waters of a spring, and wasted away.
The legend says the flower that bears his name grew at the spot where he died.
Pompeii archaeologists are slowly revealing the luxurious interior of the Roman villa where the Leda fresco was found.
The decoration is rich in floral ornaments, interspersed with griffins with cornucopias, flying cupids, still lifes and scenes of fighting animals.
In the Atrium where the Narcissus fresco was located are the remains of a staircase leading to the top floor.
Under the staircase, researchers found a storage area with a dozen glass vases, eight amphorae, a copper funnel and a situla (bucket).
"The beauty of these rooms, evident since the first discoveries, has led us to change our project and continue excavating," Russo said, adding they hoped to open up, sometime in the future, at least part of the Roman home, or Domus, to the public.
Pompeii's departing director Massimo Osanna also pointed out that "the location was pervaded by the 'joie de vivre' themes; beauty and vanity, underscored by the figures of maenads (female followers of Dionysus) and satyrs who, in a sort of Dionysian courtship dance, are visible all over the ancient house."
He said the villa "was deliberately luxurious, and probably dates back to the final years of the colony."