SEMELE

ΣΕΜΕΛΗ

A daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, at Thebes, and accordingly a sister of Ino, Agave, Autonoë, and Polydorus. She was beloved by Zeus (Hom. Il. xiv. 323, Hymn. in Bacch. 6, 57 ; Schol. ad Pind. Ol. ii. 40), and Hera, stimulated by jealousy, appeared to her in the form of her aged nurse Beroë, and induced her to pray Zeus to visit her in the same splendour and majesty with which he appeared to Hera. Zeus, who had promised that he would grant her every request, did as she desired. He appeared to her as the god of thunder, and Semele was consumed by the fire of lightning; but Zeus saved her child Dionysus, with whom she was pregnant (Apollod, iii. 4. § 3; Ov. Met. iii. 260, &c.; Hygin. Fab. 179). Pausanias (ix. 2. § 3) relates that Actaeon was in love with her, and that Artemis caused him to be torn to pieces by his dogs, to prevent his marrying her. The inhabitants of Brasiae, in Laconia, related that Semele, after having given birth to Dionysus, was thrown by her father Cadmus in a boat upon the sea, and that her body was driven to the coast of Brasiae, where it was buried ; whereas Dionysus, whose life was saved, was brought up at Brasiae (Paus. iii. 24. § 3). After her death, the common account continues, she was led by her son out of the lower world, and carried up to Olympus as Thyone (Pind. Ol. ii. 44, Pyth. xi 1; Paus. ii. 31. § 2, 37. § 5; A pollod. iii. 5. § 3). A statue of her and her tomb were shown at Thebes. (Paus. ix. 12. § 3, 16. § 4.)

Jupiter and Semele (detail), by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), French Symbolist painter

Jupiter and Semele (detail), by Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), French Symbolist