~ The tragic death of Dirce ~
Dirce was the wife of Lycus in Greek mythology, and aunt to Antiope.
After Zeus impregnated Antiope, Antiope fled in shame to King Epopeus of Sicyon, but was brought back by Lycus through force, giving birth to the twins Amphion and Zethus on the way. Lycus gave Antiope to Dirce. Dirce hated Antiope and treated her cruelly, until Antiope escaped.
Antiope flees back to the cave where she gave birth to Amphion and Zethus; they are now living there as young men. They disbelieve her claim to be their mother and refuse her pleas for sanctuary, but when Dirce comes to find Antiope and orders her to be killed, the twins are convinced by the shepherd who raised them that Antiope is their mother. They kill Dirce by tying her to the horns of a bull.
Dirce was devoted to the god Dionysus. He caused a spring to flow where she died, at Thebes, and it was a local tradition for the outgoing Theban hipparch to swear in his successor at her tomb. In Statius' Thebaid, the spring is a symbol of Thebes, and its name is often used metonymically to refer to the city itself.
This scene was recreated in spectacles in the Roman arena. This is how Christian women were martyred.
Painting : A Christian Dirce, by Henryk Siemiradzki
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