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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 he blabbed to men the mysteries of the gods, and because he attempted to share ambrosia with his fellows.1

1 As to the punishment of Tantalus, see Hom. Od. 11.582-592, who describes only the torments of hunger and thirst, but says nothing about the overhanging stone. But the stone is often mentioned by later writers. See Archilochus, quoted by Plutarch, Praecept. Ger. Reipub. 6, and by the Scholiast on Pind. O. 1.60(97); Pind. O. 1.55(87)ff. with the Scholia on 60(97); Pind. I. 8.10(21); Eur. Or. 4-10; Plat. Crat. 395d-e; Hyp. Fr. 176, ed. Blass; Antipater, in Anth. Pal., Appendix Planudea, iv.131.9ff.; Plut. De superstitione 11; Lucian, Dial. Mort. 17; Paus. 10.31.10; Philostratus, Vit. Apollon. iii.25; Apostolius, Cent. vii.60, xvi.9; Nonnus, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, Appendix Narrationum 73, p. 386; Athenaeus vii.14, p. 281 BC; Lucretius iii.980ff.; Cicero, De finibus i.18.60; Cicero, Tusc. Disp. iv.16.35; Hor. Epod. 17, 65ff.and Sat. i.1.68ff.; Ov. Met. 4.458ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 82. Ovid notices only the torments of hunger and thirst, and Lucian only the torment of thirst. According to another account, Tantalus lay buried under Mount Sipylus in Lydia, which had been his home in life, and on which his grave was shown down to late times (Paus. 2.22.3, 5.13.7). The story ran that Zeus owned a valuable watchdog, which guarded his sanctuary in Crete; but Pandareus, the Milesian, stole the animal and entrusted it for safekeeping to Tantalus. So Zeus sent Hermes to the resetter to reclaim his property, but Tantalus impudently denied on oath that the creature was in his house or that he knew anything about it. Accordingly, to punish the perjured knave, the indignant Zeus piled Mount Sipylus on the top of him. See the Scholiast on Pind. O. 1.60(97); Scholiast on Hom. Od. xix.518, xx.66. In his lost play Tantalus Sophocles seems to have introduced the theft of the dog, the errand of Hermes to recover the animal, and perhaps the burial of the thief under the mountain. See The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, vol. ii. pp. 209ff.

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