Niobe and her children - Ancient Greek Myth answers questions


Niobe (Nye-OH-bee) was a woman in Greece - in Thebes - a long long time ago (in the story). She was the daughter of Tantalus, and so she lived under a curse. Niobe had seven children, boys and girls, who were called the Niobids, meaning children of Niobe (I don't know what happened to their dad; he is not in the story). Niobe was very proud of her children, and she was proud that she had so many children. Too proud: she became hubristic (arrogant). She bragged that she had seven children, while the goddess Leto (LEE-toe) only had two (Apollo and Artemis). So Niobe thought she was better than Leto.

Apollo and Artemis shoot Niobe's children
Athenian red-figure vase, about 450 BC

But it is very dangerous to brag that you are better than the gods. Leto heard about Niobe and sent her two children, Apollo and Artemis, to show Niobe who was really better. Apollo and Artemis, who are both good marksmen, shot every one of the Niobids with their arrows and killed them. As Niobe stood there crying over her dead children, Leto came and said, "Now who has more children?"

No matter how skilled people are, they are never any match for the gods. People need to remember their place, and not try to be stronger or wiser or smarter than the gods, or bad things will happen to them. Hubris also plays a big part in the Iliad

Learn by doing: find examples of hubris in modern television
More about hubris

Bibliography and further reading about Niobe:

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire (Look under Artemis).

(Sorry, the only scholarly books I know of about Niobe are in German).

More about Artemis
Ancient Greece home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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