A-Z: General definitions: Semele


When Semele was pregnant by her lover Zeus, Hera was determined to destroy her. She disguised herself as Semele's old nurse, and made her doubt that Zeus really was the father of her child. She persuaded her to ask Zeus to appear in all his glory, just as he appeared to Hera. Zeus had promised to do all she asked, so he had to appear to her as the god of the thunder and lightning. As a result, Semele was burnt to death. But Zeus snatched the unborn child from her body and stitched him into a gash in his own leg. Here, the child continued to grow. This son was Dionysus. Afterwards, her sisters, including Agave, refused to believe that Zeus really had been her lover, saying that her death had occurred because Zeus was angry at her presumption. This was punished later in the death of Pentheus.
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