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The son of Zeus and Pluto. His wife is called by some Euryanassa, by others Taÿgeté or Dioné, and by others Clytia or Eupryto. He was the father of Pelops, Broteas, and Niobé. All traditions agree in stating that he was a wealthy king, but while some call him king of Lydia, others describe him as king of Argos or Corinth. Tantalus is particularly celebrated in ancient story for the terrible punishment inflicted upon him after his death in the lower world, the causes of which are differently stated by the ancient writers. According to the common account Zeus invited him to his table, and communicated his divine counsels to him. Tantalus divulged the secrets thus intrusted to him; and he was punished in the lower world by being afflicted with a raging thirst, and at the same time placed in the midst of a lake, the waters of which always receded from him as soon as he attempted to drink them. Over his head, moreover, hung branches of fruit, which receded in like manner when he stretched out his hand to reach them. (Ovid. Met. iv. 457; Hor. Sat. i. 1, 68; Hygin. Fab. 82). Another account says that there was suspended over his head a huge rock, ever threatening to crush him (Pind. Olymp. i. 56). Another tradition relates that, wishing to test the gods, he cut his son Pelops in pieces, boiled them and set them before the gods at a repast. (See Pelops.) A third account states that Tantalus stole nectar and ambrosia from the table of the gods and gave them to his friends ( Olymp. i. 60); and a fourth relates the following story: Rhea caused the infant Zeus and his nurse to be guarded in Crete by a golden dog, whom Zeus afterwards appointed guardian of his temple in Crete. Pandareus stole this dog, and, carrying him to Mount Sipylus in Lydia, gave him to Tantalus to take care of. But when Pandareus demanded the dog back, Tantalus took an oath that he had never received it. Zeus thereupon changed Pandareus into a stone, and threw Tantalus down from Mount Sipylus. Others, again, relate that Hermes demanded the dog of Tantalus, and that the perjury was committed before Hermes. Zeus buried Tantalus under Mount Sipylus as a punishment; and there his tomb was shown in later times. The punishment of Tautalus was proverbial in ancient times, and from it the English language has borrowed the verb “to tantalize,” that is, to hold out hopes or prospects which cannot be realized. The patronymic Tantalides is frequently given to the descendants of Tantalus. Hence we find not only his son Pelops, but also Atreus, Thyestes, Agamemnon, Menelaüs, and Orestes called by this name.


Son of Thyestes, who was killed by Atreus. Others call him a son of Broteas. He was married to Clytaemnestra before Agamemnon, and is said by some to have been killed by Agamemnon.


Son of Amphion and Niobé.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Pindar, Olympian, 1
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.457
    • Horace, Satires, 1.1
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