(3 syl.). The personification of female sorrow. According to
Grecian fable, Niobe was the mother of twelve children, and taunted
Latona because she had only two- namely, Apollo and Diana. Latona
commanded her children to avenge the insult, and they caused all the
sons and daughters of Niobe to die. Niobe was inconsolable, wept
herself to death, and was changed into a stone, from which ran water,
“Like Niobe, all tears” (Hamlet.)
The group of Niobe and her children, in Florence, was discovered at
Rome in 1583, and was the work either of Scopas or Praxiteles.
The Niobe of nations.
So Lord Byron styles Rome, the “lone mother of dead empires,” with
“broken thrones and temples;” a “chaos of ruins;” a “desert where we
steer stumbling o'er recollections.” (Childe Harold, canto iv.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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