Theban Hero


Mercury Teaches Amphion the Lyre by Jean Vignaud

Mercury Teaches Mercury the Lyre by Jean Vignaud (1819)

Museum of Fine Arts, NîmesPublic Domain


Amphion was a Greek hero and king, the son of Zeus and Antiope and the twin brother of Zethus (in some accounts, Antiope’s mortal husband Epopeus of Sicyon was also named as the twins’ father). Amphion and Zethus were abandoned as infants and raised by a herdsman, but they later returned to Thebes to punish those who had mistreated their mother.

Amphion and Zethus were famous for building the walls of Thebes and for jointly ruling the city. Amphion was portrayed as an artist and musician who could move stones with his lyre, while his more practical brother Zethus was skilled in agriculture and war.

Amphion was happy for many years, until his wife Niobe offended Apollo and Artemis with her boasting; the gods slaughtered her and Amphion’s children as punishment. Amphion, overcome by grief, died soon after, either at the hands of Apollo, by suicide, or from insanity.[1]