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Dirce or Dirke ("double" or "cleft") (Δίρκη) was the wife of Lycus in Greek mythology, and sister in law to Antiope whom Zeus impregnated. She fled in shame to King Epopeus of Sicyon and abandoned her children, Amphion and Zethus. They were exposed on Mount Cithaeron, but were found and brought up by a shepherd. Nycteus, unable to retrieve his wife, sent his brother Lycus to take her. He did so and gave her as a slave to his own wife, Dirce.

Amphion became a great singer and musician after Hermes taught him to play and gave him a golden lyre, Zethus a hunter and herdsman. They punished King Lycus and Queen Dirce for cruel treatment of Antiope, their mother, whom was treated as a slave. Dirce was tied to the horns of a bull as revenge. They built and fortified Thebes, huge blocks of stone forming themselves into walls at the sound of Amphion's lyre. Amphion married Niobe, and killed himself after the loss of his wife and children. Zethus married Aedon, or sometimes Thebe. The brothers were buried in one grave.

Greek Mythology

Dirce, Lorenzo Bartolini (1834). Louvre [Source]

Greek Mythology

Farnese Bull

The Farnese Bull

Greek Mythology

Akrasos, Dirke

E. W. Leach, The punishment of Dirce: a newly discovered painting in the Casa di Giulio Polibio and its significance within the visual tradition, RM 93, 1986, 157 .


Greek Mythology


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