The Ancient Library

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On this page: Nigidius Figulus – Niobe – Nisus – Nobility



in two books and a handbook on Harmony, of which only the first book is preserved en­tire, the second consisting of two fragments which cannot be said with certainty to come from Nicomachus. The first-mentioned work gives valuable information as regards the arithmetic of the Greeks in earlier times. It was translated into Latin by Boethius.

Nigldias FIgilns (PiMius). A friend and contemporary of Cicero, next to Varro the most learned Roman of his day, born about 98 b.c. He was an adherent of Pompey, and after his defeat went into exile, where he died in 45. He had a propensity to mysticism, which led him to the Pytha­gorean philosophy, astrology and magic, which he actually practised. His writings On theology, natural history, and grammar were in some cases very voluminous, but owing to their obscurity and subtlety, in spite of their erudition, they met with far less notice than those of Varro.

NI6be. Daughter of Tantalus and Dlone, sister of Pelops and wife of Amphion of Thebes. Like her father, she stood in close connexion with the gods, especially with Leto, the wife of Zeus, and fell into misfortune by her own arrogance. In maternal pride for her numerous progeny of six sons and six daughters, the ill-fated woman ventured to compare herself to Leto, who had only two children. To punish this presumption Apollo and Artemis slew with their arrows all Niobe's children, in their parents' palace. For nine days they lay in their blood without any to bury them, for Zeus had changed all the people into stone. On the tenth day the gods buried them. Niobe, who was changed to stone on the lonely hills of Sipylus, cannot even in this form forget her sorrow. Thns runs Homer's account [11. xxiv 614], in which we have the earliest reference to " a colossal relief roughly carved on the rocks" of Mount Sipylus in Lydia, the face of which is washed by a stream in such a manner that it appears to be weeping [cp. Jebb on Soph., Ant. 831]. The accounts of later writers vary greatly in respect of the number of the daughters of Niobe and of the scene of her death. Sometimes the spot where the disaster occurs is Lydia, sometimes Thebes, where moreover the grave of Niobe's children was pointed out: the sons perish in the chase or on the race­course, while the daughters die in the royal palace at Thebes or at the burial of their brethren. This story describes Niobe as re­turning from Thebes to her home on Sipylus,

and as there changed into a stone by Zeus, at her own entreaty. The fate of Niobe was often in ancient times the theme both of poetry and of art. The group of the children of Niobe discovered at Rome in 1583 and now at Flo­ rence (part of which is shown in the cut) is well - known : it is probably the Roman copy of a Greek work which stood in Pliny's time in a temple of Apollo at Rome, and with regard to which it was a moot niche. point with the (Florence, Ufflzi.) ancients whether

it was from the hand of Scopas or of Praxi­teles [Pliny, N. H. xxxvi 28. Cp. Stark, Niobe und die Niobiden, 1863].

Nleus, son of Pandlon, brother of jEgeus of Athens, king of Megar& and reputed builder of the seaport Nissea. When Minos, in the course of his expedition of reprisal against -ffigeus, besieged Megara, Scylla, Nisus' daughter, from love for the Cretan king, brought about her father's death by pulling out a golden or (according to another account) a purple hair on the top of his head, on which his life and the fate of the realm depended.

Minos, however, did not reward her treachery; he fastened her to the stern of his ship, and thus drowned her in the Saronic Gulf, or, according to others, left her behind him; whereupon she cast herself into the sea, and was changed either into a fish or into a bird called Ciris.

Nobility (NoVtlUas). The aristocracy of office, which at Rome took the place of the patrician aristocracy of birth, after the admission of the plebeians to all the offices of state and the levelling of the distinction between patricians and plebeians consequent thereon. It comprised those patrician and plebeian families whose members had held one of the curule magistracies. These fami­lies, for the most part the most illustrious and wealthy, had the influence and money, which afforded them the necessary means to canvass for and hold an office. Thus, in spite of the theoretical equality of rights

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