Her father was the ruler of a city called either under his name, as "Tantalis" or "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the 1st century AD, although few traces remain today. Her father is referred to as "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia", although his city was located in the western extremity of Anatolia where Lydia was to emerge as a state before the beginning of the first millennium BC, and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia, situated more inland. References to his son and Niobe's brother as "Pelops the Lydian" led some scholars to the conclusion that there would be good grounds for believing that she belonged to a primordial house of Lydia.
She was already mentioned in Homer's Iliad which relates her prideful hubris, for which she was punished by Apollo and Artemis with the loss of all her children, and her nine days of abstention from food during which time her children lay unburied. Once the gods interred them, she retreated to her native Sipylus, "where Nymphs dance around the River Acheloos, and although being a stone, she broods over the sorrows sent from the Gods". Later writers asserted that Niobe was wedded to Amphion, one of the twin founders of Thebes, where there was a single sanctuary where the twin founders were venerated, but in fact no shrine to Niobe.