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[6]

Zethus married Thebe, after whom the city of Thebes is named; and Amphion married Niobe, daughter of Tantalus,1 who bore seven sons, Sipylus, Eupinytus, Ismenus, Damasichthon, Agenor, Phaedimus, Tantalus, and the same number of daughters, Ethodaia ( or, as some say, Neaera), Cleodoxa, Astyoche, Phthia, Pelopia, Astycratia, and Ogygia, But Hesiod says that they had ten sons and ten daughters; Herodorus that they had two male children and three female; and Homer that they had six sons and six daughters. Being blessed with children, Niobe said that she was more blessed with children than Latona. Stung by the taunt, Latona incited Artemis and Apollo against them, and Artemis shot down the females in the house, and Apollo killed all the males together as they were hunting on Cithaeron. Of the males Amphion alone was saved, and of the females Chloris the elder, whom Neleus married. But according to Telesilla there were saved Amyclas and Meliboea,2 and Amphion also was shot by them.3 But Niobe herself quitted Thebes and went to her father Tantalus at Sipylus, and there, on praying to Zeus, she was transformed into a stone, and tears flow night and day from the stone.


1 For the story of Niobe and her children, see Hom. Il. 24.602ff.; Diod. 4.74; Paus. 1.21.3; Paus. 2.21.9; Paus. 5.11.2; Paus. 5.16.4; Paus. 8.2.5; Paus. 8.2.7; Tzetzes, Chiliades iv.416ff.; Ov. Met. 6.146ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 9, 11; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. iii.191; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 50 (First Vatican Mythographer 156). Great diversity of opinion prevailed among the ancients with regard to the number of Niobe's children. Diodorus, Ovid, Hyginus, Lactantius Placidus, and the First Vatican Mythographer agree with Apollodorus as to the seven sons and seven daughters of Niobe, and from the Scholiast on Eur. Ph. 159, we learn that Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes in lost plays adopted the same numbers, but that Pherecydes agreed with Homer in reckoning six sons and six daughters, while Hellanicus allowed the lady no more than four sons and three daughters. On the other hand, Xanthus the Lydian, according to the same Scholiast, credited her with a score of children, equally divided between the two sexes. Herein he probably followed the authority of Hesiod (see Apollodorus, below), and the same liberal computation is said to have been accepted by Bacchylides, Pindar, and Mimnermus, while Sappho reduced the figure to twice nine, and Alcman to ten all told (Aulus Gellius xx.70; Ael., Var. Hist. xii.36). Aeschylus and Sophocles each wrote a tragedy Niobe, of which some fragments remain. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 50ff., 228ff.; The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, ii.94ff., frag. 442-451. The subject is rendered famous by the fine group of ancient statuary now in the Uffizi gallery at Florence. See Baumeister, Denkmäler des klassischen Altertums, iii.1674ff. Antiquity hesitated whether to assign the group to Scopas or Praxiteles (Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxvi.28), and modern opinion is still divided on the question. See Frazer on Paus. ii.29.9 (vol. iii. p. 201). The pathetic character of the group may perhaps be held to speak in favour of Scopas, who seems to have excelled in the portrayal of the sterner, sadder emotions, while Praxiteles dwelt by preference on the brighter, softer creations of the Greek religious imagination. This view of the sombre cast of the genius of Scopas is suggested by the subjects which he chose for the decoration of the temple of Athena Alea at TegeaPaus. 8.45.5-7), and by the scanty remains of the sculptures which have been found on the spot. See Frazer, commentary on Pausanias, vol. iv. pp. 426ff. However, the late historian of Greek sculpture, Professor M. Collignon, denied that the original of this famous group, which he regarded as a copy, was either by Scopas or Praxiteles. He held that it belongs to an Asiatic school of sculpture characterized by picturesque grouping, and that it could not have been executed before the third century B.C. To the same school he would assign another famous group of sculpture, that of Dirce and the bull (above, Frazer on Apollod. 3.5.5). See M. Collignon, Histoire de la Sculpture Grecque (Paris, 1892-1897), ii.532ff. The tomb of the children of Niobe was shown at ThebesPaus. 9.16.7; compare Eur. Ph. 159ff.); but according to Statius, Theb. vi.124ff. the Mater Dolorosa carried the ashes of her dead children in twice six urns to be buried on her native Mount Sipylus. Thus the poet dutifully follows Homer in regard to the number of the children.

2 Compare Paus. 2.21.9, Paus. 5.16.4, according to whom Meliboea was the original name of Chloris; but she turned pale with fear at the slaughter of her brothers and sisters, and so received the name of Chloris, that is, the Pale Woman. As to the marriage of Chloris with Neleus, see Hom. Od. 11.281ff.

3 The ancients differed as to the death of Amphion. According to one account, he went mad (Lucian, De Saltatione 41), and in attempting to attack a temple of Apollo, doubtless in order to avenge the death of his sons on the divine murderer, he was shot dead by the deity (Hyginus, Fab. 9). According to Ov. Met. 6.271ff., he stabbed himself for grief.

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