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Niobe

The wife of the king of Thebes Amphion, Niobe, had seven daughters and seven sons. The daughter of Tantalus was proud of her children. Beautiful as young gods were her children. Happiness, wealth and beautiful children were given by the gods to Niobe, but the daughter of Tantalus was not grateful to them.

Apollo and Artemis kill Niobe's children
Apollo and Artemis kill Niobe's children.
Drawing on a vase

Once upon a time the daughter of a blind soothsayer Tiresia, broadcasting Manto, passing through the streets of the seven-fold Thebes, called all the Thebans to sacrifice Latona and her twin children: golden-haired, far-reaching Apollo and virgin Artemis. Obedient to Manto's call, the Thebans went to the altars of the gods, decorating their heads with laurel wreaths. Only Niobe, proud of her power and the happiness sent to her by the gods, did not want to go to make sacrifices to Latona.

The Theban women were confused by Niobe's words full of pride. But they still made sacrifices. The women of Thebes humbly begged the great Latona not to be angry.

The goddess Latona heard Niobe's haughty speeches. She called her children, Apollo and Artemis, and, complaining about Niobe, said:

Niobe's daughter
Niobe's daughter.
(Statue of the 5th century BC)

- The proud daughter of Tantalus has seriously offended me, your mother. She doesn't believe I'm a goddess! Niobe does not recognize me, although only the great wife of Zeus, Hera, I am inferior in power and glory. Surely you children will not avenge this insult. After all, if you leave Niobe without revenge, then people will stop honoring me as a goddess and destroy my altars. After all, you were insulted by the daughter of Tantalus! She equates you, the immortal gods, with her mortal children. She is as arrogant as her father Tantalus!

The strelover Apollo interrupted his mother:

- Oh, come quickly! Don't say anything else! After all, you are delaying punishment with your complaints!

- It will! Don't tell me! Artemis also exclaimed angrily.

Shrouded in a cloud, angry brother and sister quickly rushed from the top Kinta to Thebes. Golden arrows rattled ominously in their quivers. They rushed to the seven-fold Thebes. Apollo invisibly stopped on a flat field near the city walls, where the Theban youths practiced martial games. When the distant Apollo, shrouded in a cloud, stood at the Theban walls, the two sons of Niobe, Ismen and sipil, raced on hot horses, dressed in purple cloaks. Suddenly Ismen cried out, and Apollo's golden arrow pierced his chest. He released the golden reins and fell dead to the ground. Sipil heard the terrible ringing of the bowstring of Apollo's bow; he wants to escape on a fast horse from a terrible danger. The Sipil rushes at full speed across the field, as a sailor rushes across the sea, having spread all the sails on a ship, fleeing from a threatening cloud. Niobe's son was overtaken by a deadly arrow, it pierced him in the back at the neck. Niobe's sons, Faydim and Tantalus, fought with their arms tightly wrapped around each other. An arrow flashed in the air and pierced both of them. With a groan they fell. Death simultaneously extinguished the light of life in their eyes, at the same time they breathed their last breath. Their brother Alpenor hurries to them, he wants to lift them up, he embraces their cold bodies, but Apollo's arrow pierced deep into his heart, and he fell lifeless on the bodies of his brothers. Damasikhtonwas struck by Apollo in the thigh near the knee: the son of Niobe wants to pull out a golden arrow from the wound, suddenly another arrow plunges into his throat with a whistle. The last of Niobe's sons, the young one, raised his hands to the sky Ilioneus, he prays to the gods:

Niobe tries to hide her youngest daughter from the arrows of the goddess Artemis
Niobe tries to hide her youngest daughter from the arrows of the goddess Artemis.
(Sculpture group of the V century BC)

- Oh, Olympic gods, have mercy, have mercy!

His plea touched the formidable Apollo. But it's too late! The golden arrow has already fallen off the bowstring, it cannot be returned. She pierced the heart of the last son of Niobe. The rumor of the great misfortune quickly reached Niobe. With tears, the servants and Amphion are informed about the death of his sons.

Amphion could not bear their loss, he himself pierced his chest with a sharp sword.

Bending over the bodies of her sons and husband, Niobe sobs. She kisses their cold lips. Niobe's heart is bursting with suffering. In despair, the unfortunate woman stretches her hands to the sky. But it is not for mercy that she pleads. Grief did not soften her heart. She exclaims angrily:

- Rejoice, cruel Latona! Have fun until your heart is sated with my sorrow! You've won, rival! Oh, no, what am I saying, you didn't win! I, unhappy, still have more children than you, happy! And although there are many lifeless bodies of my children around me, I still defeated you, still I have more children left than you.

As soon as Niobe fell silent, there was a terrible ringing of the bowstring. Horror seized everyone. Only Niobe remained calm, misfortune gave her courage. It was not for nothing that the bowstring of Artemis rang. One of Niobe's daughters, standing in deep sadness around the bodies of her brothers, falls, struck by an arrow. Here the bowstring rings again, and another daughter of Niobe falls. Six golden arrows one after another flew off the bowstring of Artemis, and six beautiful, young daughters of Niobe lie lifeless. Only the youngest daughter remained. She rushed to her mother and hid in her lap, in the folds of her dress.

Grief broke Niobe's proud heart.

- Leave me at least a younger daughter, great Latona! - Niobe pleads, full of sorrow, - at least leave one to me!

But the goddess did not take pity, and the arrow of Artemis pierces her youngest daughter.

Niobe stands surrounded by the bodies of her daughters, sons and husband. As if she was numb with grief. The wind does not stir her hair. There is no blood in her face, her eyes do not glow with life, her heart does not beat in her chest, only tears of sorrow flow from her eyes. A cold stone clothed her limbs. A violent whirlwind arose and transported Niobe to her homeland, Lydia. There, high on Mount Sipile, stands Niobe turned to stone and forever sheds tears of sorrow.