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Niobe

(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. stanza 79.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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