1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Semelē

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SEMELĒ, in Greek mythology, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and mother of Dionysus by Zeus. It is said that Hera, having assumed the form of Semelē's nurse, persuaded her rival to ask Zeus to show himself to her in all his glory. The god, who had sworn to refuse Semelē nothing, unwillingly consented. He appeared seated in his chariot surrounded by thunder and lightning; Semelē was consumed by the flames and gave birth prematurely to a child, which was saved from the fire by a miraculous growth of ivy which sprang up round the palace of Cadmus. Dionysus afterwards descended to the nether world, and brought up his mother, henceforth known as Thyõnē (the raging one), to Olympus. Zeus and Semelē probably represent the fertilizing rain of spring, and the earth, afterwards scorched by the summer heat. Another tradition represents Actaeon as the lover of Semelē, and his death as due to the jealousy of Artemis. A statue and grave were to be seen in Thebes.

See Apollodorus iii. 4; Pausanias iii. 24. 3, ix. 2. 3; Ovid, Metam. iii. 260.