Niobe turned to stone

Hi everyone! This weekend we had some trouble with the heating of our apartment which slowed down my writing a bit, but I’m very happy the heating is back on so now I finally got some writing done :). I have written in a log before how the slaughtering of the children of Niobe came about who was Niobe?  but I never explained how Niobe and her husband Amphion reacted on this tragedy.

Penn Libraries call number: Inc B-720

Penn Libraries woodcut illustration of Niobe, Amphion and their dead sons ca. 1474.

There are different stories about Amphion’s reaction, but writer Ovid claims that the grieving father committed suicide after the deaths of his sons. This woodcut illustration shows Niobe and Amphion looking at their seven dead sons. The sun is a symbol for Apollo who traditionally is the one that is said to have killed the sons while his twin-sister Artemis is usually portrayed as the killer of the daughters. The rays of the sun symbolize the arrows that Apollo supposedly used to kill them.

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Etching, Niobe, 1989, Oldrich Kulhaneck.

Niobe was of course really sad. Some say that she was slain herself as well as part of her punishment, but most versions claim that Niobe turned to stone. This sculpture is from Luci Coles in 2009 and is called Niobe captured in her youth. I will write a post in the future with more depictions of Niobe’s petrification.

How this came about is a bit unclear some say her family came to visit her usually her father Tanthalos with an elderly woman that could be her mother, mother-in-law or nurse. Some say her brother Pelops came to visit her with his wife Hippodamia, but none of them were able to console the grieving mother and she eventually turned to stone, because of her tears.


Other sources claim that Niobe went to her homeland Lydia in modern-day Turkey and turned into the ancient mountain Sipylus. The head-shape rock, composed of porous limestone that has water seeping through it is known as the weeping rock and it supposedly is Niobe who still cries over the death over her children even after being changed into a rock. The mountain is now called Mount Spil or Spil Dağı . 


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Weeping rock of Mount Sipylus.

One of the reasons for the Niobe-myth to exist is probably to explain the unusual shape of Mount Spil.

Another function the myth has is to warn women not to brag too much about their children and compete with/compare their children with other mothers. Most Greek myths have a warning in them for humans to not show hubris (pride/arrogance).

iyi geceler arkadaşlar, Hilde




2 thoughts on “Niobe turned to stone

  1. Pingback: Medieval book illustrations | hemmahoshilde

  2. Pingback: Medieval book illustrations

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