|Greek and Roman Mythology > Amphion
With his twin brother Zethus he was exposed at birth on Mount
Cithaeron, where they grew up among the shepherds, not knowing
their parentage. Mercury gave Amphion a lyre, and taught him to
play upon it, and his brother occupied himself in hunting and
tending the flocks. Meanwhile Antiope, their mother, who had
been treated with great cruelty by Lycus, the usurping king of
Thebes, and by Dirce, his wife, found means to inform her
children of their rights, and to summon them to her assistance.
With a band of their fellow-herdsmen they attacked and slew
Lycus, and tying Dirce by the hair of her head to a bull, let him
drag her till she was dead (the punishment of Dirce is the
subject of a celebrated group of statuary now in the Museum at
Naples). Amphion, having become king of Thebes fortified the
city with a wall. It is said that when he played on his lyre the
stones moved of their own accord and took their places in the
In Tennyson's poem of Amphion is an amusing use of this story:
"Oh, had I lived when song was great,
In days of old Amphion,
And ta'en my fiddle to the gate
Nor feared for reed or scion!
And had I lived when song was great,
And legs of trees were limber,
And ta'en my fiddle to the gate,
And fiddled to the timber!
"'Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
He left a small plantation;
Whenever in a lonely grove
He set up his forlorn pipes,
The gouty oak began to move
And flounder into hornpipes."