57. Niobe becomes a forever weeping statue

Once upon a time, Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, was married to King Amphion of Thebes, by whom she gave birth to seven sons and seven daughters. She might have been the happiest mother on earth, if only pride had not destroyed her wit. Proud of her having fourteen children, Niobe considered herself superior than goddess Latona, who was the mother of only two children.

Meanwhile, Manto, the daughter of Tiresias the blind soothsayer, felt the fire of prophecy awakening in her. She rushed on the streets imploring all women, to worship Latona. When Niobe heard this, she told all women to worship her, as she had more children than Latona.

Hearing Niobe’s words drenched in pride, the furious Latona told her glorious children, how Niobe had debased her. Without delay, Artemis and Apollon, descended through the shielding shadows of clouds, and from the sky, they shot their unerring arrows at the seven sons of Niobe, namely, Ismenus, Sipylus, Phaedimus, Tantalus (named after his grandfather), Alphenor, Damsicthon, and Ilioneus. All the seven sons were slaughtered.

King Amphion suffered unending grief at the loss of his sons. He thrust his sword deep in his breast, thus ending both his grief and his life. At the funeral biers, one of the seven daughters, swooned to death, while another was struck with an unseen, deadly wound. Another ran to help but fell and died, while another died on her corpse. Yet another slipped beyond life’s edge, and life was taken from yet another. The youngest also met the same end.

Niobe saw the fifteen dead bodies of her seven sons, seven daughters, and her husband. So great was her grief that her tears never stopped. Slowly, a coldness spread over her and she became a stone statue. Even then, the tears did not end. Then a mighty wind carried the statue and fixed it upon a mountain peak, where also, her tears flowed. To this day, the statue of Niobe, drips with tears.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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