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62507.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:42 am Reply with quote


More than a third of all Roman Emperors were assassinated, many of them in particularly gruesome ways.


Name the Roman Emperor who was killed by a daffodil.




Commodus (161-192 AD) – he of Ridley Scott's Gladiator fame – who ruled from 180-192. He was strangled in his bath by an athlete called Narcissus on New Year's Eve 192 AD. Narcissus is the name of the genus to which all daffodils belong. The words narcissus and daffodil are often used interchangeably.



Narcissus in Greek legend was a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own reflection. On his death, the gods changed him into the flower that bears his name. His narcissism was a punishment from the goddess Nemesis after he spurned the attentions of Echo.

Beyond this, details differ. His reflection was either in a stream, a mountain pool or a fountain. He was either in love with his own beauty, or his reflection reminded him of his beloved dead sister. He killed himself in frustration, or he simply pined away or he tried to kiss his own reflection in the water, fell in and drowned or, because he was transfixed by the stream, the gods thought he would die of starvation so they changed him into the flower to stay there forever.

Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary says that Narcissus was half man and half nymph and that he was born in Thespis, where the luvvies come from.

The word 'Narcissus' comes from the Greek verb narkao 'to grow stiff', the same root that the English word 'narcotic' comes from. Narke' numbness' is also Greek for an electric ray, or 'torpedo'.The innocent-looking daffodil is in fact deadly.


The Greeks and Egyptians both associated daffodils with death. The Greeks believed they gave off an evil emanation, producing dullness, madness and death. Socrates called them 'the chaplet of the infernal gods' – a chaplet being the wreath worn on the head. The Egyptians often hung wreaths of narcissus during funerals. 

And they had a point.

All parts of the daffodil are poisonous. Daffodils and narcissi secrete a latex-like sap which is toxic to other flowers. They should be displayed separately or left in water on their own for 24 hours before mixing with other blooms.

If you are trapped in a small space with a daffodil, it will give you a nasty headache.

Daffodils can cause severe allergic problems and even death. Symptoms include allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis and urticaria (hives). The flowers contain a number of dodgy alkaloids including masonin and homolycorin. These, in conjunction with crystals of calcium oxalate seem to cause the hideous characteristic sores. Those mainly affected are workers in the flower-growing and fragrance industries.

An extract of daffodil bulbs, when applied to open wounds, produces staggering, numbness of the whole nervous system, and paralysis of the heart.

There have been several cases of death by daffodil poisoning in which the bulbs were eaten in mistake for onions. The effect is extremely fast acting and you don't need to eat many of them



Further details:

Echo was a loquacious goddess, daughter of Tellus and the Air, employed as a handmaiden to Juno. When Juno's husband Jupiter confided in Echo about the details of his extra-marital affairs, she was unable to keep stumm about it. Juno punished her by making her unable to speak except for repeating the words of any question she was asked. After Nascissus rejected her, Echo pined away and was turned into a stone, but still retained her limited power of speech.


s: duc
s: flo
s: faw
s: cyb
s: sut
s: dnz
s: LEM
Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary
s: GEL
Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon
s: FLB
Flora Britannica

62768.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:55 am Reply with quote

For another odd assassination, see post 49928

62786.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:48 am Reply with quote

No-one knows why 'daffodil' now has a 'd' on the beginning, considering the original spelling of 'asphodel'.

62794.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:57 am Reply with quote

Could it not have been from the french d'asphodel?

Just a thought.

62802.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:08 am Reply with quote

There is a term used by word experts to explain why words beginning with a vowel gradually acquire an initial consonant. Is it metanalysis? The famous example is “a norange” which became “an orange”.

Frederick The Monk
62805.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:15 am Reply with quote

It took painter John Singer Sargent 2 years to complete his masterpiece 'Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose' as he wanted to capture the golden moment at sunset when the light from the sun was in perfect equilibrium with the chinese lanterns of the children in the scene. This only happened for 2 minutes each day.

(Sir Edmund Gosse letter to Charteris , P74-75)

62878.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 12:36 pm Reply with quote

The nymph Echo lived in a pond in which she kept all manner of water fowl, but not ducks - which is why, to this very day ....


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