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Semele

In Greek mythology, Semele (Roman equivalent: Stimula), daughter of Cadmus, was the mother of Dionysus (the Roman Bacchus by Zeus.

Zeus's wife, Hera, a jealous and vain goddess, discovered the affair while Semele was pregnant. Appearing as an old crone, Hera befriended Semele, who confided in her that her husband was actually Zeus. Hera pretended not to believe her, and planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind. Curious, Semele demanded of Zeus that he reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he agreed. Mortals, however, can not look upon a god without dying, and she perished. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus, however, by sewing him into his leg. A few months later, Dionysus was born. This leads to his being called "the twice-born".


The story was the basis of an oratorio, Semele, by George Frideric Handel, first performed in 1744. The libretto was based on a work of 1710 by William Congreve, with additions by Alexander Pope.



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