Niobe of the Voreni
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|Niobe of the Voreni|
|Portrayed by||Indira Varma|
|Family||Lucius Vorenus (husband)
Vorena the Elder (daughter)
Vorena the Younger (daughter)
Evander Pulchio (brother-in-law)
Her namesake was the daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion, king of Thebes, whose seven sons and seven daughters were slain by Apollo and Diana, because, on the strength of her numerous progeny, she triumphed over Latona. Niobe herself was changed into a stone, which was transported in a whirlwind to the top of Sipylus, and has ever since remained wet with tears.
A beautiful woman devoted to her family, Niobe is a proud Plebeian from a large clan. After marrying Lucius Vorenus and giving birth to their two daughters, she functioned as a single parent when Lucius went off to war. About seven years later, the bureaucrats who had been delivering Vorenus's pay to her stopped doing so, claiming that he was dead. When Vorenus did return, his reunion with Niobe was awkward and tempestuous: after eight years of bloody wars, Vorenus did not know how to be a husband and father; after eight years alone, one of them a nominal widow, Niobe did not know how to treat him. In addition, Niobe had cheated on Lucius with her sister's husband and had a child by him, then lied to Lucius, claiming the child was in fact their daughter's. Niobe loved her husband but had difficulty understanding him. They eventually managed to reconcile.
Niobe married Vorenus when she was "thirteen summers" old. After the Gallic War took her husband away for eight years, she was forced to deal with further hardship when she was mistakenly told that Vorenus had been killed, and his salary was stopped. She was astonished to learn that Vorenus was still alive. Vorenus was likewise astonished and enraged to find Niobe holding an infant, until Niobe told him that the child was his grandson—the son of his now-teenaged daughter, Vorena the Elder, who was quickly arranged to marry the presumed father of the child.
The reintegration of Lucius Vorenus into family life was made more difficult by Niobe's secret: the "grandson" Lucius was actually her son by her brother-in-law, Evander Pulchio, who had been her lover in Lucius' absence. The tensions between Niobe, her sister Lyde, and her brother-in-law did not make the restructuring of the family's life any easier, and Vorenus' personality did not help the situation: he came across as cold and mean, and Niobe described him as a "brute."
Family tensions did not lessen when Evander mysteriously disappeared—murdered by Titus Pullo and Gaius Octavian when they learned the truth about Niobe and Vorenus' "grandson." Pullo covered up the murder by claiming that Evander was rumored to have been murdered by members of the criminal underworld due to gambling debts. Niobe devoted her time to helping Lyde adapt, something that Vorenus felt interfered with his attempts to reforge a relationship with his wife.
When calamity threatened the family fortunes, Vorenus was forced to re-enlist with the Legion, with the added prestige of being one of the evocati. This was a step Vorenus did not wish to take, but he did so for the good of his family. It was a sacrifice that was not lost on Niobe.
Niobe again lost Vorenus to the Legion as Caesar's forces clashed with those of the Optimates in Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, and finally Hispania. Yet again, she was left at home to wonder whether her husband was alive or dead. His eventual return led to rising fortunes for the Vorenus clan: Lucius was granted a new career as a city magistrate, while Niobe and Lyde embarked on a lucrative joint venture overhauling and running Evander Pulchio's butchering business. The Voreni family began to enjoy a comfortable measure of prosperity.
Niobe worked to hold her family together in the face of changing family fortunes and new social circumstances, although, as an open, friendly, yet socially unsophisticated lady, she did not quite mesh with the likes of Atia of the Julii or other Patrician women, whom she was now forced to interact with due to Vorenus's new occupation.
In the Season One finale, Vorenus was appointed a Roman senator by Julius Caesar on the basis of his public popularity, although Niobe correctly suspected it was that he could serve as a bodyguard while the senate was in session. However, just before Caesar's assassination, the plans for which he was unaware, Vorenus also learned that his "grandson" was really Niobe's illegitimate child and went home to confront her (As the conspirators had planned, so he was not present when the assassins attacked Caesar). When Vorenus returned home, he destroyed much of their home in a rage and then demanded the truth. Niobe indirectly admitted that Lucius is her son, reminding him she thought he was dead. Vorenus sat down and picked up a kitchen knife. Niobe, believing he planned to kill Lucius, told him that the boy is blameless before throwing herself off the balcony. Niobe's son came upon the scene of Vorenus holding the dead Niobe in his arms, his anger driven out by grief.
Niobe's death was felt keenly by her surviving family, all of whom reacted quite differently: Vorenus wished to develop a better relationship with his children (who in his mind now included Lucius), Vorena the Elder blamed her father for Niobe's death and grew to despise him, and Lyde tried to act as a peacemaker for her deceased sister's sake.
Vorenus's love for Niobe was apparent when many years later he dreamed that the prostitutes he frequented in Alexandria were her (Varma reprised her role for the sequence).