Diana and Apollo Piercing Niobe’s Children with their Arrows (1772) by Jacques-Louis David


By Citlali Meritxell Diaz

Niobe and Medea were both mothers who, through their actions, brought about their own children’s end. Mocking Leto for only having two children, Niobe attracted the goddess’ wrath, resulting in the death of her fourteen children at the hands of Apollo and Artemis, Leto’s progeny. Similarly, Medea’s own wrath against her unfaithful husband struck down her children. She killed their children and his new wife, leaving him effaced in his bloodline. Regardless of how or by whom the children were slain, a mother best knows the endless intermingling of love and pain; extreme labor pains bring her the most radiant of loves: a living child. Yet, there is no love that will not hold grief, and grief is love’s enduring resolve. The two are inseparable, as are hope and sorrow. Sorrow arises out of lost hope, and one cannot have hope without the possibility of sorrow. A mother is the epitome of such dualities.

A bond between siblings is as unique and potent as the bond between mother and child. Ariadne renounced this bond of blood when she gave her lover, Theseus, a thread to guide him through the labyrinth to slay the Minotaur, her brother. The Minotaur was a beast who knew not of the soft touch of a parent’s caress; he knew only the cold walls of the maze made to contain him. He was considered an atrocity, yet there remains the question of if this was reason enough for Araidne to have doomed her own blood. On the other hand, Antigone doomed herself to death by defying the orders of King Creon, who stated that her “traitorous” brother must not be buried. She did not leave her blood unburied in the dust, resulting in her exile into a mausoleum.

Both of the following sonnets present two different examples of a similar situation, demonstrating the complexities that arise out of a bond of kinship. A bond of siblings and of parents and children contains love, anger, betrayal, and forgiveness all at once . There is nothing straightforward about these sorts of relationships except the fact that you are connected by blood, which in ancient Greek mythology is the strongest force imaginable; familial duty is part of divine law. While this may no longer be the case in the present day, for many, including myself, there is no force that can ever separate the bond I have with my mother or my brother. The woes and joys of life are for us to share.


Niobe with Her Stone

Niobe, wail against the dripping stone.

Cease not the beating of your breast, alike

To the arrows of wrath from Leto’s own

Which onward fly with cruel Medea’s flight

After her womb blood shed across the floor,

A feat Niobe brought with boastful words.

But blood is blood and kins open a door

That brings forth grief to rise amidst the birds.

In an eternal dance are love and grief,

Mingling in a tune a mother best knows.

She dances to the flute of no relief

Among the steps of lovely hope and woe.

No lyre can cover the endless moans

So dear Niobe, wail against the stone.


The Minotaur

Ariadne spun a web tight and red

For you, sweet ragged beast of horns and fear

And caught foul bloodied hands from silky thread;

Up flew the howl as down you fell, my dear.

Would you have handed her your resting grace

Forgiven as only blood kin can do

If Theseus had conquered not your maze?

Did she not hear Antigone’s cries through

The mausoleum stone, against Creon,

Who marked her blood a traitor fit f or dust?

“He was my brother,” she had said, a bond

That blood nor endless time can ever rust.

What is a brother but another soul

That fits along your heart’s tedious role?


Citlali Meritxell Diaz is a student at UC Berkeley studying English as well as Ancient Greek and Roman Studies.