Z and Amphion

In the city of Thebes lived the daughter of the river god Asopa, Antiope. She was loved by Zeus-thunderer. Antiope had two twin sons. She named them Zet and Amphion. Fearing the wrath of her father for secretly marrying Zeus, Antiope put her young sons in a basket and took them to the mountains. Antiope was sure that Zeus would not let his sons die. Indeed, Zeus took care of them. He sent a shepherd to the place where Zeth and Amphion were lying. The shepherd found the little sons of Zeus and Antiope, took them to his home and raised them. And so the brothers grew up in the shepherd's house. Already in childhood, Zet and Amphion differed in character from each other: Zet was a strong boy, he began to help the shepherd to graze the flocks early, Amphion had a meek, friendly character, nothing attracted him like music. When both brothers grew up, Z became a mighty warrior and a brave hunter. No one surpassed him in strength and agility; he was pleased only with the noise of weapons during battle and hunting wild animals, while Amphion, the favorite of god Apollo, only brought joy - playing the golden-stringed kithara, which was given to him by the silver-armed son himself Latons Apollo. Amphion played the cithara so wonderfully that he set even trees and rocks in motion with his game.

The young men still lived with the shepherd, not knowing who their father and mother were. And their mother Antiope languished at this time in the power of the harsh king of Thebes Lika and his wife Dirka. Chained in heavy chains, Antiope was imprisoned in a dungeon, into which no ray of the sun penetrated, but Zeus freed her. The chains fell off her by themselves, the prison doors opened; she fled to the mountains and took refuge in the hut of the shepherd who raised her sons.

Z and Amphion tie Dirk to the horns of the bull
Z and Amphion tie Dirk to the bull's horns.
(Sculpture group of the I century BC)

As soon as the shepherd took her under his protection, the cruel Dirka appeared to him; she and other Thebans celebrated the merry festival of Dionysus in the mountains. Wandering through the mountains, wearing a wreath of ivy and with a thyrsus in her hands, she came by chance to the shepherd's hut. Dirk saw Antiope, and all the hatred for her flared up uncontrollably in the heart of the cruel queen. She decided to ruin the unfortunate Antiope. Dirka summoned Zeta and Amphion, slandered Antiope and persuaded the young men to tie the innocent daughter of Asop to the horns of a wild bull so that he would tear her to pieces. Z and Amphion were already ready to obey Dirky; they caught the bull and grabbed Antiope, but then, fortunately for Antiope, a shepherd came. Seeing that his own sons wanted to tie Antiope to the horns of an angry bull, the shepherd exclaimed:

- Poor wretches, what a terrible crime you want to commit! You want, without knowing what you are doing, to put your own mother to a terrible death. After all, this is your mother.

Z and Amphion were horrified when they realized what a terrible crime they could have committed through the fault of the cruel Dirk. In anger they seized Dirk, who had slandered their mother, tied her to the horns of a wild bull with the words:

- Perish yourself with the death to which you condemned our mother! Let this death be your deserved punishment for both cruelty and slander!

Dirka died a painful death. Zet and Amphion and Lycus took revenge for their mother: they killed him and seized power over Thebes.

Having become kings of Thebes, the brothers decided to strengthen their city. Only the high Kadmea, the fortress of Thebes, built by Cadmus, was protected by walls, while the rest of the city was defenseless. The brothers built the wall themselves, around Thebes. How different was their work! Mighty as a titan, Z carried huge blocks of stone, straining all his strength, and piled them on top of each other. Amphion, on the other hand, did not wear blocks of stone; obedient to the sound of his golden-stringed kithara, they moved the stones themselves and piled them into a high, indestructible wall. The fame of the great heroes Zeta and Amphion has spread far, they were known even far beyond the borders of Greece. Himself Tantalus, the favorite of the gods, gave Amphion his daughter to wife Niobe. Z married Aedona, daughter of the king of Ephesus, Pandarea. Niobe and Aedon brought misfortune on the house of the sons of Antiope.