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Niŏbé

Νιόβη). The daughter of Tantalus and Dioné. She was the sister of Pelops and wife of Amphion of Thebes. Like her father, she stood in close connection with the gods, especially with Leto, the wife of Zeus, and fell into misfortune by her own arrogance. In her maternal pride for her numerous progeny of six sons and six daughters, the ill-fated woman ventured to compare herself to Leto, who had only two children. To punish this presumption Apollo and Artemis slew with their arrows all Niobé's children in their parents' palace. For nine days they lay in their blood without any one to bury them, for Zeus had changed all people into stone. On the tenth day the gods buried them. Niobé, who was changed to stone on the lonely hills of Sipylus, could not, even in this form, forget her sorrow. So runs Homer's account ( Il. xxiv. 612), in which we have the earliest reference to “a colossal relief roughly carved on the rocks” of Mount Sipylus, in Lydia, the face of which is washed by a stream in such a manner that it appears to be weeping (cf. Jebb on Antig. 831). Pausanias (i. 21, 5) declares that he saw this relief which modern archaeologists now regard as referable to the art of the Hittites.

The accounts of later writers vary greatly in respect of the number of the daughters of Niobé and of the scene of her death. Sometimes the spot where the disaster occurs is Lydia, sometimes Thebes, where, moreover, the grave of Niobé's children was pointed out; the sons perish in the chase, or on the race-course, while the daughters die in the royal palace at Thebes, or at the

Niobé. (Uffizi Gallery, Florence.)

burial of their brethren. This story describes Niobé as returning from Thebes to her home on Sipylus, and as there changed into a stone by Zeus, at her own entreaty. The fate of Niobé was often, in ancient times, the theme both of poetry and of art. The group of the children of Niobé, discovered at Rome, near the Lateran Church, in 1583, and now (since 1775) at Florence, is well known; it is probably the Roman copy of a Greek work which stood in Pliny 's time in a temple of Apollo at Rome, and with regard to which it was a mooted point with the ancients whether it was from the hand of Scopas or of Praxiteles (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxxvi. 28). See Stark, Niobe und die Niobiden (1863).

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