Niobe, the daughter of Tantalos and the rival of Leto, is twice called a "goddess" in Sophocles' extant tragedies (Ant. 834 et El. 150). The term is surprising if understood in the sense of "immortal god," especially since the myth attached to Niobe stresses the unbridgeable gap that divides men and gods. The traditional explanation that interprets Niobe's divine status as a hyperbolic statement meant to provide solace to Antigone and to express Electra's admiration is not quite satisfying in view of Sophocles' interest in religious questions. Rather than understanding the term as "immortal god" and interpreting it as an exaggeration, it seems preferable to give it a genuine religious significance as "cult-hero," a usage attested as early as the fifth century B.C. to refer to local cult figures and exemplified in the Sophoclean corpus in the case of the hero Colonos (O.C. 65). Casting Niobe as a cult-hero, i.e. a dead endowed with special powers, matches the special position that she occupies in Theban and Argive traditions and is thematically relevant to the contexts of the Antigone and the Electra, two tragedies centered on the status and the power of the dead.
|Translated title of the contribution||A goddess in tears: Niobe and the semantics of the word ΘeoΣ in Sophocles' works|
|Number of pages||21|
|Journal||Revue des Etudes Grecques|
|State||Published - Jul 1 2004|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts