Semele, in Greek mythology, was the daughter of the Boeotian hero Cadmus and Harmonia, and the mother of Dionysus by Zeus. According to the myth, Zeus fell in love with Semele and visited her in the disguise of an old mortal. They had an affair and Semele became pregnant. Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife, found out about the affair and disguised herself as an old woman to visit Semele. She convinced the girl to ask Zeus to show himself to her in his true form, knowing that mortals could not look upon a god without being destroyed. Semele made the request, and Zeus, unable to refuse a direct request from a mortal, appeared in all his glory, causing her to be consumed by the lightning bolts.
However, Zeus managed to save their unborn child, Dionysus, by sewing him into his thigh. Dionysus was later born fully grown and was known as the “twice-born” god.
Semele’s tragic story is often used in literature as a cautionary tale of the dangers of hubris, and the consequences of asking for too much. Also, her son Dionysus was known as the god of wine, fertility, madness and religious ecstasy.