The House of Tantalos

(genealogy)

Omitting various collaterals, it runs as follows: Zeus—Tantalos (king of Sipylon in Asia Minor)—Pelops and Niobe—Atreus and Thyestes—Agamemnon and Menelaos, sons of Atreus, and in some accounts, Anaxibia, who married Strophios king of Phokis and became the mother of Pylades—Agamemnon then married Klytaimestra and had issue Orestes, Elektra, Chrysothemis, Iphianassa, from whom Iphigeneia is sometimes distinguished (as by Sophokles), sometimes identified, not mentioned at all in Homer; Menelaos had, besides Hermione, two sons, Megapenthes and Nikostratos, both illegitimate.

The tradition constantly represents Pelops as a foreigner (which he probably was, i.e., he represents the coming of this house to Greece from Asia Minor; but it is inconstant in sometimes inserting somewhere in the genealogy a certain Pleisthenes, sometimes omitting him altogether. Agamemnon and Menelaos are in the oldest (Homeric) tradition respectively kings of Argos (or Mycenae) and Sparta, but this varies somewhat in later authors.

Tantalos and the Tantalidai
(from the Bibliotheke of Apollodoros)

Tantalus is punished in Hades by having a stone impending over him, by being perpetually in a lake and seeing at his shoulders on either side trees with fruit growing beside the lake. The water touches his jaws, but when he would take a draught of it, the water dries up; and when he would partake of the fruits, the trees with the fruits are lifted by winds as high as the clouds. Some say that he is thus punished because be blabbed to men the mysteries of the gods, and because he attempted to share ambrosia with his fellows.

[The eternal punishment of Tantalos was due (also) to his having attempted to trick the gods into anthropophagy in order to gain immortality for his son Pelops. The story was that at a banquet of the gods to which he had been invited, or of which he was the host in an era when men and gods might still exchange such hospitality, Tantalos served up the mangled limbs of his young son Pelops, which he had boiled in a kettle. Tantalos planned that the gods should entirely devour Pelops, but then, when apprized of having done so, would restore him with imperishable life. But with the exception of only Demeter, who was distracted by mourning the still unexplained disappearance of her daughter Persephone, the gods where not fooled and did not eat of Tantalos’ filthy meal. They did however restore him to life by putting him back into the kettle and drawing him forth again whole, with a shoulder of ivory to replace the flesh that Demeter or, according to others, Thetis had unwittingly eaten.]

Broteas [mentioned here because he too was a son of Tantalos], a hunter, did not honour Artemis, and said that even fire could not hurt him. So he went mad and threw himself into fire.

Pelops, after being slaughtered and boiled at the banquet of the gods, was fairer than ever when he came to life again, and on account of his surpassing beauty he became a minion of Poseidon, who gave him a winged chariot, such that even when it ran through the sea the axles were not wet. Now Oenomaus, the king of Pisa, had a daughter Hippodamia, and whether it was that he loved her, as some say, or that he was warned by an oracle that he must die by the man that married her, no man got her to wife; for her father could not persuade her to cohabit with him, and her suitors were put by him to death.

For he had arms and horses given him by Ares, and he offered as a prize to the suitors the hand of his daughter, and each suitor was bound to take up Hippodamia on his own chariot and flee as far as the Isthmus of Corinth, and Oenomaus straightway pursued him, in full armour, and if he overtook him he slew him; but if the suitor were not overtaken, he was to have Hippodamia to wife. And in this way be slew many suitors, some say twelve; and he cut off the heads of the suitors and nailed them to his house.

So Pelops also came a-wooing; and when Hippodamia saw his beauty, she conceived a passion for him, and persuaded Myrtilus, son of Hermes, to help him; for Myrtilus was charioteer to Oenomaus. Accordingly Myrtilus, being in love with her and wihing to gratify her, did not insert the linchpins in the boxes of the wheels, and thus caused Oenomaus to lose the race and to be entangled in the reins and dragged to death; but according to some, he was killed by Pelops. And in dying he cursed Myrtilus, whose treachery be had discovered, praying that he might perish by the hand of Pelops.

Pelops, therefore, got Hippodamia; and on his journey, in which he was accompanied by Myrtilus, he came to a certain place, and withdrew a little to fetch water for his wife, who was athirst; and in the meantime Myrtilus tried to rape her. But when Pelops learned that from her, he threw Myrtilus into the sea, called after him the Myrtoan Sea, at Cape Geraestus; and Myrtilus, as he was being thrown, uttered curses against the house of Pelops. When Pelops had reached the Ocean and been cleansed by Hephaestus, he returned to Pisa in Elis and succeeded to the kingdom of Oenomaus, but not till he had subjugated what was formerly called Apia and Pelasgiotis, which he called Peloponnese after himself.

The sons of Pelops were Pittheus, Atreus, Thyestes, and others. Now the wife of Atreus was Aerope, daughter of Catreus, and she loved Thyestes. And Atreus once vowed to sacrifice to Artemis the finest of his flocks; but when a golden lamb appeared, they say that he neglected to perform his vow, and having choked the lamb, he deposited it in a box and kept it there, and Aerope gave it to Thyestes, by whom she had been debauched. For the Mycenaeans had received an oracle which bade them choose a Pelopid for their king, and they had sent for Atreus and Thyestes. And when a discussion took place concerning the kingdom, Thyestes declared to the multitude that the kingdom ought to belong to him who owned the golden lamb, and when Atreus agreed, Thyestes produced the lamb and was made king.

But Zeus sent Hermes to Atreus and told him to stipulate with Thyestes that Atreus should be king if the sun should go backward; and when Thyestes agreed, the sun set in the east; hence the deity having plainly attested the usurpation of Thyestes, Atreus got the kingdom and banished Thyestes. But afterwards being apprized of the adultery, he sent a herald to Thyestes with a proposal of accommodation; and when he had lured Thyestes by a pretence of friendship, he slaughtered the sons, Aglaus, Callileon, and Orchomenus, whom Thyestes had by a Naiad nymph, though they had sat down as suppliants on the altar of Zeus. And having cut them limb from limb and boiled them, he served them up to Thyestes without the extremities; and when Thyestes had eaten heartily of them, he showed him the extremities, and cast him out of the country.

But seeking by all means to pay Atreus out, Thyestes inquired of the oracle on the subject, and received an answer that it could be done if he were to beget a son by intercourse with his own daughter. He did so accordingly, and begot Aegisthus by his daughter. And Aegisthus, when he was grown to manhood and had learned that he was a son of Thyestes, killed Atreus, and restored the kingdom to Thyestes.

But the nurse took Agamemnon and Menelaus to Polyphides, lord of Sicyon, who again sent them to Oeneus, the Aetolian. Not long afterwards Tyndareus brought them back again, and they drove away Thyestes to dwell in Cytheria, after that they had taken an oath of him at the altar of Hera, to which he had fled. And they became the sons-in-law of Tyndareus by marrying his daughters, Agamemnon getting Clytaemnestra to wife, after he had slain her spouse Tantalus, the son of Thyestes, together with his newborn babe, while Menelaus got Helen.

And Agamemnon reigned over the Mycenaeans and married Clytaemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus, after slaying her former husband Tantalus, son of Thyestes, with his child. And there were born to Agamemnon a son Orestes, and daughters, Chrysothemis, Electra, and Iphigenia. And Menelaus married Helen and reigned over Sparta, Tyndareus having ceded the kingdom to him.

But afterwards Alexander carried off Helen, as some say, because such was the will of Zeus, in order that his daughter might be famous for having embroiled Europe and Asia; or, as others have said, that the race of the demigods might be exalted. For one of these reasons Strife threw an apple as a prize of beauty to be contended for by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite; and Zeus commanded Hermes to lead them to Alexander on Ida in order to be judged by him. And they promised to give Alexander gifts. Hera said that if she were preferred to all women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war, and Aphrodite the hand of Helen. And he decided in favour of Aphrodite, and sailed away to Sparta with ships built by Phereclus. For nine days he was entertained by Menelaus; but on the tenth day, Menelaus having gone on a journey to Crete to perform the obsequies of his mother’s father Catreus, Alexander persuaded Helen to go off with him. And she abandoned Hermione, then nine years old, and putting most of the property on board, she set sail with him by night.

But Hera sent them a heavy storm which forced them to put in at Sidon. And fearing lest he should be pursued, Alexander spent much time in Phoenicia and Cyprus. But when he thought that all chance of pursuit was over, he came to Troy with Helen. But some say that Hermes, in obedience to the will of Zeus, stole Helen and carried her to Egypt, and gave her to Proteus, king of the Egyptians, to guard, and that Alexander repaired to Troy with a phantom of Helen fashioned out of clouds.

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