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SEMELE, in Greek mythology, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and mother of Dionysus by Zeus. It is said that Hera, having assumed the form of Semele's nurse, persuaded her rival to ask Zeus to show himself to her in all his glory. The god, who had sworn to refuse Semele nothing, unwillingly consented. He appeared seated in his chariot surrounded by thunder and lightning; Semele 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 Thyone (the raging one), to Olympus. Zeus and Semele probably represent the fertilizing rain of spring, and the earth, afterwards scorched by the summer heat. Another tradition represents Actaeon as the lover of Semele, 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.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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