(From the right corner above, Apollo and Artemis shoot the NIOBIDS. 0511: Apollo and Artemis punish Niobe by killing her children. Painting by Abraham Bloemaert 1566-1655. Künsthistorische Museum, Wien)
Niobe was the wife of Amphion, the King of Thebes. Together they had seven sons and seven daughters. Niobe and Amphion were very proud of their children.
Until day, Niobe started boasting that she was superior than Leto, since Leto was only blessed with two children, Apollo, the god of the sun and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Outraged by the insult, Leto swore revenge on Niobe, so she asked from her children Apollo and Artemis to eliminate Niobe's children one by one.
Apollo and Artemis obeyed and they killed all fourteen children with arrows dipped in poison. Apollo aimed at the male, whereas Artemis aimed at the female children. After their awful death, Niobe’s children had to remain without burial for nine whole days, because Zeus, the King of the Gods, promised he would turn anyone who attempted to bury the children into stone.
The royal couple was inconsolable. Amphion committed suicide, while Niobe resorted to Sipylos, a city of the Near East. Once there, she pleaded with the gods for mercy, asking them to take away her life. The gods finally sympathized and they turned Niobe into stone, placing her at the peak of the city.
Ever since that day, every summer, one can see drops of water seeping out of the stone's pores...they are nothing but the tears of Niobe!