I first came across Niobe as a clematis, simple but striking with an innate beauty - not loud and flouncy, I fell for her simple charms and planted her in the garden.
When my gorgeous girl was born several names had been banded about - most of them boys. But 5 weeks before her alloted date she was born, (a great surprise to me as I'd only gone out shopping for a few bits) without any decision having been made over a name. Within a couple of days the name Niobe seemed to stick with little thought as to its history.
Niobe is one of Greek mythology's more tragic figures. She was the daughter of Tantalus (probably) and one of several possible ladies. Niobe was the queen of Thebes and married to Amphion. They had 14 children (the Niobids), and unfortunately Niobe boasted about her seven sons and seven daughters at a ceremony in honour of Leto, daughter of the titans Coeus and Phoebe. She mocked Leto, who only had two children, Apollo, god of prophecy and music, and Artemis, virgin goddess of the wild. Leto took offence and to retaliate, sent Apollo and Artemis to slaughter all Niobe's children. Apollo killed the seven sons while they practiced their athletics. Artemis killed the seven daughters with her lethal arrows. At the sight of his dead sons, Amphion either committed suicide or was also killed by Apollo for wanting to avenge his children's deaths. Whatever happened, Niobe's entire family was dead in a matter of minutes. In shock and grief she fled to Mount Siplyon where she turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream (the Achelous) from her ceaseless tears. She became the symbol of eternal mourning.
The rock of Niobe weeps even now. She is seen on a rock cliff on Mt Sipylus - the fading image of a female that the Greeks claim is Niobe. Composed of porous limestone, the stone appears to weep as the water after rainfall seeps through it.
We've moved a couple of times since she was born but I always have a Niobe in the garden.
Today my gorgeous girl is 17 and amazes me daily with her wit and charm and generosity of spirit. I love the fact that we know of no-one with the same name and she has got used to the myriad of names her friends call her instead. One day I'll take her to see Niobe's rock. Until then I'll just say
Happy Birthday, Little Niobe