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Semele is a person in Greek mythology. She is the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia. She has a child called Dionysus. Her child grows up and becomes a god.

Story[change | change source]

Semele was a priestess of Zeus. On one day, Zeus saw her as she killed a bull at his altar. She swam in the river Asopus to wash the blood off her body. Zues turned himself into an eagle and flew over the place where she was bathing. Zeus saw Semele and fell in love with her. He visited her many times, in secret.[1] Zeus' wife, Hera got jealous of the girls Zeus loved. She found out of his love with Semele. Semele became pregnant. Hera turned herself into an old woman. Hera became friends with Semele. Semele told her that her lover was Zeus. Hera pretended not to believe her. She made Semele wonder if her lover was lying about being Zeus. Semele asked Zeus to grant her a wish. Zeus promised on the River Styx to give her anything she wanted. She then told Zeus to come to her in his truest form. Zeus asked her not to ask this. But she did not change her choice. Zeus tried to spare her by showing her the smallest of his thunderbolts. Humans cannot look upon the gods without being burned, so Semele died, getting burned in a lightning fire.[2][3]

Zeus rescued Semele's unborn child, Dionysus. He sewed the fetal Dionysus into his thigh. Dionysus grew there until he was ready to be born. This is why Greeks called Dionysus "the twice-born."[4]

When he grew up, Dionysus rescued his mother from underworld. Later, she became a goddess on Mount Olympus. She got a new name Thyone. She lived being inspired by her son Dionysus. At a later point in Dionysiaca, Semele, now reborn, feel proud to her sister Ino.[5][6][7]

Music[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Nonnus, Dionysiaca 7.110-8.177 (Dalby 2005, pp. 19–27, 150)
  2. Or in the guise of Semele's nurse, Beroë, in Ovid's Metamorphoses III.256ff and Hyginus, Fabulae167.
  3. Ovid, Metamorphoses III.308–312; Hyginus, Fabulae 179; Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8.178-406
  4. Apollodorus, Library 3.4.3; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.1137; Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 9; compare the birth of Asclepius, taken from Coronis on her funeral pyre (noted by L. Preller, Theogonie und Goetter, vol I of Griechische Mythologie 1894:661).
  5. Hyginus, Astronomy 2.5; Arnobius, Against the Gentiles 5.28 (Dalby 2005, pp. 108–117)
  6. Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8.407-418
  7. Verhelst, Berenice. Direct Speech in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill. 2017. pp. 268-270. ISBN 978-90-04-33465-6