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The Weeping Rock in Mount Sipylus, Manisa, Turkey, has been associated with Niobe's legend since Antiquity

Niobe (Νιόβη) was a daughter of Tantalus and the sister of Pelops, all of whom figure in Greek mythology.

Her father was the ruler of a city called either under his name, as "Tantalis" [1] or "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the Common Era,[2] although few traces remain today.[3] Her father is referred to as "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia" [4], although his city was located in the western extremity of Anatolia where Lydia was to emerge as a state before the beginning of the first millennium BC, and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia, situated more inland. References to his son and Niobe's brother as "Pelops the Lydian" led some scholars to the conclusion that there would be good grounds for believing that she belonged to a primordial house of Lydia.

Later writers such as pseudo-Apollodorus[5] assert that Niobe was wedded to Amphion, one of the twin founders of Thebes, where there was a single sanctuary where the twin founders were venerated, but in fact no shrine to Niobe.

For her prideful hubris, Apollo and Artemis punished her with the loss of all her children, the Niobids. Homer[6] places the scene in Asia Minor. Later writers transferred it to Thebes.[7]

Contents

Central theme

Niobe's Rock may assume very different appearances according to the distance of observation and the air and light conditions.

According to the accounts, Niobe boasted of her superiority to Leto because the goddess only had two children, the twins Apollo and Artemis, while Niobe had fourteen children (the Niobids), seven male and seven female.[8] Her speech which caused the indignation of the goddess was rendered in the following manner:

It was on occasion of the annual celebration in honor of Latona and her offspring, Apollo and Diana, when the people of Thebes were assembled, their brows crowned with laurel, bearing frankincense to the altars and paying their vows, that Niobe appeared among the crowd. Her attire was splendid with gold and gems, and her face as beautiful as the face of an angry woman can be. She stood and surveyed the people with haughty looks. "What folly," said she, "is this! to prefer beings whom you never saw to those who stand before your eyes! Why should Latona be honored with worship rather than I? My father was Tantalus, who was received as a guest at the table of the gods; my mother was a goddess. My husband built and rules this city, Thebes; and Phrygia is my paternal inheritance. Wherever I turn my eyes I survey the elements of my power; nor is my form and presence unworthy of a goddess. To all this let me add, I have seven sons and seven daughters, and look for sons-in-law and daughters-in-law of pretensions worthy of my alliance. Have I not cause for pride? Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan's daughter, with her two children? I have seven times as many. Fortunate indeed am I, and fortunate I shall remain! Will any one deny this? [9]

Using poisoned arrows, Artemis killed Niobe's daughters and Apollo killed Niobe's sons, while they practiced athletics, with the last to die begging for their lives. According to some versions, at least one Niobid was spared, (usually Meliboea). Their father, Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Apollo for having sworn revenge. A devastated Niobe fled back to Mount Sipylus[10] and was turned into stone, and, as she wept unceasingly, waters started to pour from her petrified complexion. Mount Sipylus indeed has a natural rock formation which resembles a female face, and it has been associated with Niobe since ancient times and described by Pausanias. The rock formation is also known as the "Weeping Rock" (Turkish: Ağlayan Kaya), since rainwater seeps through its porous limestone.

Niobe in literature and fine arts

"The Children of Niobe Killed by Apollo and Diana", 1772 painting by Pierre-Charles Jombert
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Literature

The story of Niobe, and especially her sorrows, is an ancient one. She is mentioned by Achilles to Priam in Homer's Iliad book XXIV, as a stock type for mourning. Priam is not unlike Niobe in the sense that he was also grieving for his son Hector, who was killed and not buried for several days.[citation needed]

Niobe is also mentioned in Sophocles's Antigone where, as Antigone is marched toward her death, she compares her own loneliness to that of Niobe. [11]

The Niobe of Aeschylus, set in Thebes, survives in fragmentary quotes that were supplemented by a papyrus sheet containing twenty-one lines of text.[12] From the fragments it appears that for the first part of the tragedy the grieving Niobe sits veiled and silent. Sophocles too contributed a Niobe that is lost.[citation needed]

Furthermore, the conflict between Niobe and Leto is mentioned in one of Sappho's poetic fragments ("Before they were mothers, Leto and Niobe had been the most devoted of friends.").[citation needed]

Niobe's iconic tears were also mentioned in Hamlet's soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2), in which he contrasts his mother's grief over the dead King, Hamlet's father - "like Niobe, all tears" - to her unseemly hasty marriage to Claudius [13] .

Among works of modern literature which have Niobe as a central theme, Kate Daniels' "Niobe Poems" can be cited.[14]

Fine Arts

The subject of Niobe and the destruction of the Niobids was part of the repertory of Attic vase-painters and inspired sculpture groups and wall frescoes as well as relief carvings on Roman sarcophagi.

Notably, the subject of the Attic calyx-krater from Orvieto conserved in the Musée du Louvre has provided the name for the so-called "Niobid Painter". [15]

The lifesize group of marble Niobids (including Niobe sheltering one of her daughters) found in Rome in 1583 along with the Wrestlers were taken to the Uffizi in Florence in 1775, where, in a gallery devoted to them, they remain some of the most prominent surviving Hellenistic sculptures. New ones come into daylight from time to time, like one headless statue found in early 2005 among the ruins of a villa in the Villa dei Quintili just outside Rome. [16]

In painting, Niobe was painted by artists from very traditions (see below). A first work of importance, "The Death of Niobe's Children" by Abraham Bloemaert was painted in 1591 and is part of Dutch Golden Age paintings. Two notable works, both dated 1772, "Apollo and Diana Attacking Niobe and her Children" by Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier, and the quite similar "The Children of Niobe Killed by Apollo and Diana" by Pierre-Charles Jombert belong to the tradition of French Baroque and Classicism. A notable work of the 20th century, titled, simply, "Niobe" was painted by Károly Patkó in 1923.

In music Benjamin Britten based one of his Six Metamorphoses after Ovid on Niobe.

Examples in painting and sculpture

Related terms

The choice of "Niobe" simply as a name in works of art and literature is not uncommon either. Two minor characters of Greek mythology have the same name (see Niobe (disambiguation)) and the name occurs in several works of the 19th century. More recently, one of the characters in the films The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions was also named Niobe.

The element Niobium was named as such as an extension of the inspiration which had led earlier to the naming of the element tantalum by Anders Gustaf Ekeberg. On the basis of his argument according to which there were two different elements in the tantalite sample, Heinrich Rose named them after children of Tantalus; Niobium and Pelopium, although the argument was later contested as far as pelopium was concerned.

A mountain in British Columbia, Canada is named Mount Niobe.

See also

Sources

Modern scholarship

Classical authors

  • Virginia Brown's translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pp. 33-35; Harvard University Press 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses VI.145-310.

General reading

  • Ekrem Akurgal (2002). Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey: From Prehistoric Times Until the End of the Roman Empire ISBN 0710307764. Kegan Paul. 
  • George E. Bean (1967). Aegean Turkey: An archaeological guide ISBN 978-0510032005. Ernest Benn, London. 
  • Cecil John Cadoux (1938). Ancient Smyrna: A History of the City from the Earliest Times to 324 A.D.. Blackwell Publishing. 

Popular reading

References

  1. ^ George Perrot (2007) (in French, English). History Of Art In Phrygia, Lydia, Caria And Lycia p. 62 ISBN 978-1406708837. Marton Press. 
  2. ^ James George Frazer (1900-1913-1965). Pausanias, and other Greek sketches, later retitled Pausanias's Description of Greece ISBN 1428649220, ISBN 978-1428649224. Kessinger Publishing Company. 
  3. ^ There is a "Throne" conjecturally associated with Pelops in Yarıkkaya locality in Mount Sipylus. There are two tombs called "Tomb of Tantalus" near the summits of the neighboring mountains of Yamanlar and Mount Sipylus in western Turkey, sources by respective scholars differing on the associations that may be based on the one or the other.
  4. ^ Thomas Bulfinch. Bulfinch's Mythology ISBN 1419111094, 1855 - 2004. Kessinger Publishing Company. 
  5. ^ Ps-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, iii.5.6.
  6. ^ Homer, Iliad, xxiv.599-620.
  7. ^ For a full discussion of the complexities, see Albin-Lesky, "Niobe" in Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft xxxiii (1936:644-73).
  8. ^ The number varies. According to Iliad XXIV, there were twelve, six male, six female. Aelian (Varia Historia xii. 36): "But Hesiod says they were nine boys and ten girls— unless after all the verses are not Hesiod but are falsely ascribed to him as are many others." Nine would make a triple triplet, triplicity being character of numerous sisterhoods (J.E. Harrison, A Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903), "The Maiden-Trinities" pp 286ff). Ten would equate to a full two hands of male dactyls.
  9. ^ Thomas Bulfinch. Bulfinch's Mythology ISBN 1419111094, 1855 - 2004. Kessinger Publishing Company. 
  10. ^ The return of Niobe from Thebes to her Lydian homeland is recorded in pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 3.46.
  11. ^ Antigone, around line 940. ANTIGONE: I’ve heard about a guest of ours, daughter of Tantalus, from Phrygia — she went to an excruciating death in Sipylus, right on the mountain peak. The stone there, just like clinging ivy, wore her down, and now, so people say, the snow and rain never leave her there, [830] as she laments. Below her weeping eyes her neck is wet with tears. God brings me to a final rest which most resembles hers. [940] CHORUS: But Niobe was a goddess, born divine — and we are human beings, a race which dies. But still, it’s a fine thing for a woman, once she’s dead, to have it said she shared, in life and death, the fate of demi-gods.
  12. ^ A. D. Fitton Brown offered a reconstruction of the form of the play, in "Niobe" The Classical Quarterly New Series, 4.3/4 (July 1954), pp. 175-180.
  13. ^ William Shakespeare, "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" Act I, scii, l 149, of Queen Gertrude.
  14. ^ Kate Daniels (1988). The Niobe Poems ISBN 0822935961, 9780822935964. University of Pittsburgh Press. 
  15. ^ identified by Webster, Der Niobidenmaler, Lepizig 1935; the iconography of the reverse subject and its possible relation to a lost Early Classical wall-painting by Polygnotes was examined in Erika Simon, "Polygnotid painting and the Niobid Painter", American Journal of Archaeology, 67(1963:43-62)
  16. ^ Jarrett A. Lobell (July/August 2005). Article: "A tragic figure emerges from the ruins of a Roman villa.". Archaeology (magazine), Vol. 58, Number 4. http://www.iconoclasm.dk/?p=25 Article:. 

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Niobe
by John Donne

By childrens births, and death, I am become
So dry, that I am now mine owne sad tombe.

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NIOBE, in Greek mythology, daughter of Tantalus and Dione, wife of Amphion, king of Thebes. Proud of her numerous family, six daughters and six sons, she boasted of her superiority to her friend Leto, the mother of only two children, Apollo and Artemis. As a punishment, Apollo slew her sons and Artemis her daughters. Their bodies lay for nine days unburied, for Zeus had changed the people to stone; on the tenth day they were buried by the gods. Out of pity for her grief, the gods changed Niobe herself into a rock on Mount Sipylus in Phrygia, in which form she continued to weep (Homer, Iliad, xxiv. 602-617; Apollodorus iii. 5; Ovid, Metam. vi. 146-312). The names and number of her children, and the time and place of their death, are variously given. This "Niobe," described by Pausanias (i. 21) and Quintus Smyrnaeus (i. 293-306), both natives of the district, was the appearance assumed by a cliff on Sipylus when seen from a distance and from the proper point of view (see Jebb on Sophocles, Antigone, 831). It is to be distinguished from an archaic figure still visible, carved in the northern side of the mountain near Magnesia, to which tradition has given the name of Niobe, but which is really intended for Cybele.

According to some, Niobe is the goddess of snow and winter, whose children, slain by Apollo and Artemis, symbolize the ice and snow melted by the sun in spring; according to others, she is an earth-goddess, whose progeny - vegetation and the fruits of the soil - is dried up and slain every summer by the shafts of the sun-god. Burmeister regards the legend as an incident in the struggle between the followers of Dionysus and Apollo in Thebes, in which the former were defeated and driven back to Lydia. Heffter builds up the story round the dripping rock in Lydia, really representing an Asiatic goddess, but taken by the Greeks for an ordinary woman. Enmann, who interprets the name as "she who prevents increase" (in contrast to Leto, who made women prolific), considers the main point of the myth to be Niobe's loss of her children. He compares her story with that of Lamia, who, after her children had been slain by Zeus, retired to a lonely cave and carried off and killed the children of others. The appearance of the rock on Sipylus gave rise to the story of Niobe having been turned to stone. The tragedians used her story to point the moral of the instability of human happiness; Niobe became the representative of human nature, liable to pride in prosperity and forgetfulness of the respect and submission due to the gods.

The tragic story of Niobe was a favourite subject in literature and art. Aeschylus and Sophocles wrote tragedies upon it; Ovid has described it at length in his Metamorphoses. In art, the most famous representation was a marble group of Niobe and her children, taken by Sosius to Rome and set up in the temple of Apollo Sosianus (Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxvi. 4). What is probably a Roman imitation of this work was found in 1583 near the Lateran, and is now in the Uffizi gallery at Florence. In ancient times it was disputed whether the original was the work of Praxiteles or Scopas, and modern authorities are not agreed as to its identity with the group mentioned by Pliny.

On the whole subject see C.E. Burmeister, De fabula quae de Niobe ejusque liberis agit (Wismar, 1836); L. Curtze, Fabula Niobes Thebanae (Corbach, 1836); W. Heffter in Zeitschrift fur Gymnasialwesen, ix. (1855); C. B. Stark, Niobe and die Niobiden (1863), the standard work; E. Thramer, Pergamos (1888); C. Friederichs, Praxiteles and die Niobegruppe (1865); A. Mayerhofer and H. Ohlrich, Die Florentiner Niobegruppe (1881 and 1888); for the Niobe on Mount Sipylus, see C. B. Stark, Nach dem griechischen Orient (1874); G. Weber, Le Sipylos et ses monuments (1880); W. Ramsay, "Sipylos and Cybele," in Journal of Hellenic Studies, iii. (1882); Frazer's Pausanias, iii. 555; for vase-paintings, see H. Heydemann, Niobe and Niobiden auf griechischen Vasenbildern (1875). For further literature on the subject, see A. Preuner's mythological bibliography in C. Bursian's Jahresbericht uber die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. xxv. (1891); the various derivations of the name and interpretations of the legend are given in Enmann's article in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie. In Greek Art, fig. 29 (from an Orvieto vase) represents the slaying of the children of Niobe by Apollo and Artemis; fig. 78 (P1. VI.), Niobe shielding her youngest daughter.


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Simple English

In Greek mythology, Niobe (Νιόβη) was the daughter of the semi-legendary ruler Tantalus, called the "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia" [1] Tantalus ruled in Sipylus, a city located at the western end of Anatolia. The city has the same name than the mountain on which it was founded (Mount Sipylus) and of which few traces remain[2], and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia lying more inland and centered around Gordion. Niobe was an Anatolian princess. She married Amphion of Thebes and Greek mythology was a vehicle for her historical record mixed with legends. Niobe was the sister of Pelops, who gave his name to the Peloponnese.[3]

Contents

Life

According to the Greek myth, Niobe boasted of her superiority to Leto because the goddess only had two children, the twins Apollo and Artemis, while Niobe had fourteen children (the Niobids), seven male and seven female.[4] Her famously quoted speech which caused the indignation of the goddess is as follows:

It was on occasion of the annual celebration in honor of Latona and her offspring, Apollo and Diana, when the people of Thebes were assembled, their brows crowned with laurel, bearing frankincense to the altars and paying their vows, that Niobe appeared among the crowd. Her attire was splendid with gold and gems, and her face as beautiful as the face of an angry woman can be. She stood and surveyed the people with haughty looks. "What folly," said she, "is this! to prefer beings whom you never saw to those who stand before your eyes! Why should Latona be honored with worship rather than I? My father was Tantalus, who was received as a guest at the table of the gods; my mother was a goddess. My husband built and rules this city, Thebes; and Phrygia is my paternal inheritance. Wherever I turn my eyes I survey the elements of my power; nor is my form and presence unworthy of a goddess. To all this let me add, I have seven sons and seven daughters, and look for sons-in-law and daughters-in-law of pretensions worthy of my alliance. Have I not cause for pride? Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan's daughter, with her two children? I have seven times as many. Fortunate indeed am I, and fortunate I shall remain! Will any one deny

this?[5]

Artemis killed Niobe's daughters and Apollo killed Niobe's sons as they practiced athletics, with the last begging for his life. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to some versions at least one Niobid was spared, (usually Meliboea). Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Apollo for swearing revenge. A devastated Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus (Spil Mount) of Lydia in Anatolia and was turned into a stone waterfall as she wept unceasingly. Spil Mount has a natural rock formation resembling a female face claimed to be Niobe,[6] not to be confused with a sculpture carved into the rock-face of nearby crag Coddinus, north of Spil Mount, probably representing Cybele and attributed by the locals to Broteas, the ugly brother of Niobe.[7] The rock formation is also known as the "Weeping Stone", as the stone is said to have wept tears during the summer. The rock appears to weep because it is porous limestone and rainwater seeps through the pores.

, Hellenistic]]

There are various accounts about how and where Niobe perished; the story that returns Niobe from Thebes to her Lydian homeland is recorded in Bibliotheke 3.46.

The story of Niobe is an ancient one among Greeks: Niobe is mentioned by Achilles to Priam in Homer's Iliad book XXIV, as a stock type for mourning. Priam is like Niobe in that he is grieving for his son Hector, who was killed and not buried for several days. Niobe is also mentioned in Sophocles' Antigone: as she is marched toward her death, Antigone compares her own loneliness to that of Niobe. The Niobe of Aeschylus, set in Thebes, survives in fragmentary quotes that were supplemented by a papyrus sheet containing twenty-one lines of text.[8] From the fragments it appears that for the first part of the tragedy the grieving Niobe sits veiled and silent. Sophocles too contributed a Niobe that is lost. Furthermore, the conflict between Niobe and Leto is mentioned in one of Sappho's poetic fragments, ("Before they were mothers, Leto and Niobe had been the most devoted of friends.") The subject of Niobe and the destruction of the Niobids was part of the repertory of Attic vase-painters and inspired sculpture groups and wall frescoes as well as relief carvings on Roman sarcophagi.

Niobe's iconic tears were also mentioned in Hamlet's soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2), in which he contrasts his mother's grief over the dead King, Hamlet's father — "like Niobe, all tears" — to her unseemly hasty marriage to Claudius.

References

  1. Thomas Bulfinch. Bulfinch's Mythology ISBN 1419111094, 1855 - 2004. Kessinger Publishing Company, Massachusetts. 
  2. There are two tombs called "Tomb of Tantalus" near the summits of the neighbring mountains of Yamanlar and Mount Sipylus in western Turkey. Depending on who is asked, one or the other is the real one.
  3. There is a "Throne of Tantalus" in Yarıkkaya locality in Mount Sipylus
  4. The number varies. According to Iliad XXIV, there were twelve, six male, six female. Aelian (Varia Historia xii. 36): "But Hesiod says they were nine boys and ten girls— unless after all the verses are not Hesiod but are falsely ascribed to him as are many others." Nine would make a triple triplet, triplicity being character of numerous sisterhoods (J.E. Harrison, A Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903), "The Maiden-Trinities" pp 286ff). Ten would equate to a full two hands of male dactyls.
  5. Thomas Bulfinch. Bulfinch's Mythology ISBN 1419111094, 1855 - 2004. Kessinger Publishing Company, Massachusetts. 
  6. Pausanias. Greece i.21.3.
  7. Pausanias. Greece iii.22.4.
  8. A. D. Fitton Brown offered a reconstruction of the form of the play, in "Niobe" The Classical Quarterly New Series, 4.3/4 (July 1954), pp. 175-180.

Books

  • Ekrem Akurgal (2002). Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey: From Prehistoric Times Until the End of the Roman Empire. Kegan Paul. ISBN 0710307764. 
  • Cecil John Cadoux (1938). Ancient Smyrna: A History of the City from the Earliest Times to 324 A.D.. Blackwell Publishing. 
  • George E. Bean (1967). Aegean Turkey: An archaeological guide ISBN 978-0510032005. Ernest Benn, London. 
  • Cook, Robert Manuel, 1964. Niobe and Her children (Cambridge University Press). Summary of the most recent research on ancient Niobid representations, pp. 6-30.
  • Shakespeare, William. 1597ish. "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark". Act I, scii, l 149, of Queen Gertrude, "...Like Niobe, all tears..."
  • Virginia Brown's translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pp. 33-35; Harvard University Press 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses VI.145-310.
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