1. A daughter of Phoroneus, and by Zeus the mother of Argus
and Pelasgus. (Apollod. 2.1.1; Paus. 2.22.6; Plat. Tim. 22,
b.) In other traditions she is called the mother of
Phoroneus and wife of Inachus. 2. A daughter of Tantalus by
the Pleiad Taygete or the Hyad Dione (Ov. Met. 6.174; Hyg.
Fab. 9), or, according to others, a daughter of Pelops and
the wife of Zethus or Alalcomeneus (Eustath. ad Hom. p.
1367), while Parthenius relates quite a different story
(Erot. 33), for he makes her a daughter of Assaon and the
wife of Philottus, and relates that she entered into a
dispute with Leto about the beauty of their respective
children. In consequence of this Philottus was torn to
pieces during the chase, and Assaon fell in love with his
own daughter; but she rejected him, and he in revenge burnt
all her children, in consequence of which Niobe threw
herself down from a rock (comp. Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen.
159). But according to the common story, which represents
her as a daughter of Tantalus, she was the sister of Pelops,
and married to Amphion, king of Thebes, by whom she became
the mother of six sons and six daughters. Being proud of the
number of her children, she deemed herself superior to Leto,
who had given birth only to two children. Apollo and
Artemis, indignant at such presumption, slew all the
children of Niobe. For nine days their bodies lay in their
blood without any one burying them, for Zeus had changed the
people into stones; but on the tenth day the gods themselves
buried them. Niobe herself, who had gone to mount Sipylus,
was metamorphosed into stone, and even thus continued to
feel the misfortune with which the gods had visited her.
(Hom. Il. 24.603-617; Apollod. 3.5.6; Ov. Met. 6.155, &c.;
Paus. 8.2. in fin.) Later writers, and especially the
dramatic poets have greatly modified and enlarged the simple
story related by Homer. The number and names of the children
of Niobe vary very much in the different accounts, for while
Homer states that their number was twelve, Hesiod and others
mentioned twenty, Alcman only six, Sappho eighteen,
Hellanicus six, Euripides fourteen, Herodotus four, and
Apollodorus fourteen. (Apollod. l.c.; Ov. Met. 6.182;
Aelian, Ael. VH 12.36; Gellius, 20.6; Schol. ad Eurip.
Phoen. 159; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1367; Hyg. Fab. 11; Tzetz.
ad Lyc. 520.) According to Homer all the children of Niobe
fell by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis; but later writers
state that one of her sons, Amphion or Amyclas, and one of
her daughters, Meliboea, were saved, but that Meliboea,
having turned pale with terror at the sight of her dying
brothers and sisters, was afterwards called Chloris, and
this Chloris is then confounded with the daughter of Amphion
of Orchomenos, who was married to Neleus. (Apollod. l.c.;
Hom. Od. 11.282; Paus. 2.21. in fin., 5.16.3.) The time and
place at which the children of Niobe were destroyed are
likewise stated differently. According to Homer, they
perished in their mother's house; and, according to
Apollodorus, the sons were killed by Apollo during the chase
on mount Cithaeron (Hyg. Fab. 9, says on mount Sipylus), and
the daughters by Artemis at Thebes, not far from the royal
palace. According to Ovid, the sons were slain while they
were engaged in gymnastic exercises in a plain near Thebes,
and the daughters during the funeral of their brothers.
Others, again, transfer the scene to Lydia (Eustath. ad Hom.
p. 1367), or make Niobe, after the death of her children, go
from Thebes to Lydia, to her father Tantalus on mount
Sipylus, where Zeus, at her own request, metamorphosed her
into a stone, which during the summer always shed tears.
(Ov. Met. 6.303; Apollod. l.c.; Pauls. 8.2.3 Soph. Antiy.
823, Electr. 147.) In the time of Pausanias (1.21.5) people
still fancied they could see the petrified figure of Niobe
on mount Sipylus. The tomb of the children of Niobe,
however, was shown at Thebes. (Paus. 9.16. in fin., 17.1;
but comp. Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 159.) The story of Niobe
and her children was frequently taken as a subject by
ancient artists (Paus. 1.21.5, 5.11.2); but none of the
ancient representations is more celebrated than the group of
Niobe and her children which filled the pediment of the
temple of Apollo Sosianus at Rome, and was found at Rome in
the year 1583. This group is now at Florence, and consists
of the mother, who holds her youngest daughter on her knees,
and thirteen statues of her sons and daughters, independent
of a figure usually called the paedagogus of the children.
It is, however, not improbable that several of the statues
which now compose the group, originally did not belong to
it. Some of the figures in it belong to the most masterly
productions of ancient art. The Romans themselves were
uncertain as to whether the group was the work of Scopas or
Praxiteles. (Plin. Nat. 36.4; comp. Welcker, Zeitschrift für
die alter Kunst, p. 589, &c.) - A Dictionary of Greek and
Roman biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.