Mythology Monday: Tantalus and the Cursed House of Atreus

Tantal

“You know, if I had a gorgeous goddess following me, I’d slow down.”

I turned, following the deep voice to its owner. Another demigod stood beside the silver set of double doors that led to the auditorium. He looked taller than Adonis, but about as muscular. If Adonis got into heavy steroids. Seriously, I couldn’t decide if I felt impressed or frightened. It’s a thin line.

“Tantalus.” He offered his hand, then shifted, grabbing me before I walked into the “Private Function” sign mounted on a gold pole. “Watch out.”

Letting out an embarrassed laugh, I stumbled into Tantalus. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself; I’ve only been walking for three years. It takes practice. “Thanks.”

“Here for the convention?” He kept his hands on my shoulders and didn’t move away from me or out of the way of the door. Ignoring the people streaming around him, he looked me over. Clearly, he liked what he saw.

Finally! Some appreciation. I could do with a little more reverence and a little less attitude. Especially if it came from someone who looked like this.

Tantalus noticed me noticing him and puffed up with pride. My interest wavered. “Um…actually…” I didn’t want to get into my whole investigation in this crowd. One on one, I could always charm him into not telling anyone what I’d shared and charm him into reporting to me if he saw anything suspicious. But in a room like this, there was no telling how far even a whisper could carry. I’d rather not waste the energy charming an entire convention into silence. I searched for another reason for being here, but drew a blank. “I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise?”

Stopping at the edge of the auditorium, I leaned against the back wall, soundproofing fuzzies tickling my bare arms. Adonis stood out like a golden beacon in the crowd, somehow managing to almost glow despite the dim light.

I scoped out the rest of the room, taking a moment to get my bearings. Booths, set up in semicircles so everyone seated could see the stage, spread to either side of the auditorium. The walls and tables were accented with silver swirls that glittered against the black. No one sat. The atmosphere in the room felt rushed and impatient. Sitting would indicate a time commitment no one seemed to want to fill.

Tantalus smirked and leaned against the wall beside me, hand planted right next to my head. “I’d buy that, if I ran into you on deck.”

What difference would that make? I cocked my head. “What is this anyway?”

“Orientation.”

Ah, for the convention. That made sense. “Maybe I’m just enjoying the view.”

He beamed. Gods, men were so easy to flatter. Tantalus stepped in front of me, holding out his hands as if he were the gods gift to man. Which technically speaking…. “Well look no further, sweetheart.”

A violent shudder wrenched through me at the term of endearment. I wrapped my arms around myself as if I’d shivered.

“Cold?” His eyes flickered over me. “If you want, we can ditch this and go someplace warmer.” His tone made the request behind his offer crystal clear.

I kept my eyes on Adonis, considering Tantalus’ proposition. Well, not considering that angle of his proposition. I prefer men who worship me, not themselves.

Adonis stood in the center of the crowd, deep in conversation with a short, brunette woman. I did double take. She was one of the Plain Janes. The rest of the trio stood close by, chatting up another model. They were here for the modeling convention? Huh. Adonis nodded at something she said, not once looking away to search for me in the crowd.

No. I wasn’t going to do this. Goddesses didn’t follow guys around and stare at them across rooms hoping to catch them trying to steal a glance. A goddess did not pine. And as much as I wanted to convince myself that my only motivation to keep an eye on Adonis was my investigation, I knew that wasn’t true.

But Tantalus? Tantalus wouldn’t question me following him around. He’d actually welcome my attention. And I wouldn’t be heartbroken if something happened to him. That made him good bait.

~@~

Tantalus was a demigod, the son of Zeus and a nymph. He was invited to a dinner on Olympus by Zeus, and while there stole ambrosia and nectar and the gods secrets. He also might have had a part in stealing Rhea’s dog, but that’s debatable.

Following what I believe to be a pattern of Ambrosia driving demigods crazy (it is deadly to mortals, but demigods had it on occasion, often before doing incredibly stupid things with very little motive given) Tantalus made misguided effort to appease the gods by killing his son, Pelops, by boiling him alive, slicing him up, and serving him to the gods at dinner.

The gods caught on pretty quick to the human flavored feast before them and most of them did not partake. Demeter, distracted by her worry for her missing daughter, took a chunk out of the kids shoulder before realizing she’d consumed human flesh.

Tantalus was killed and sent to the depths of Tartarus for his crimes. His punishment was to stand ankle deep in water and look up at a cluster of grapes hung just out of reach as he starved and thirsted to death for all eternity. His location is a bit precarious as the giant boulder that another resident of Tartarus has to push up the hill everyday looms above him, precariously perched.

Meanwhile, the Fates gathered the body parts of poor Pelops, and Hephaestus made the kid a new shoulder out of ivory, marking him and his descendants, and he was brought back to life. Poseidon took the kid under his wing and taught him to race chariots until Zeus randomly decided Tantalus’ entire family line needed to suffer. Tantalus’ descendants became known as the cursed house of Atreus.

Pelops went on to win a chariot race for the hand of a woman named Hippodamia. But he won by cheating and sabotaging her father’s chariot which crashed and killed him, but not before Hippodamia’s dad managed to curse Pelops’ house (descendants) with his dying breath.

Pelops and Hippodamia had two sons. Atreus and Thyestes. Pelops dies at some point and Hippodamia gets remarried. Her sons kill their new step brother and get exiled, Hippodamia hung herself in shame.

Somehow Atreus became king of the land they were banished to, Mycenae, and he was going to sacrifice his best golden lamb to Artemis, but decided to give it to his wife instead, who in turn gave it to his brother because she was sleeping with him. His brother convinced Atreus to say whoever possessed the golden lamb should rule, since Atreus thought the lamb was safely at his home he agreed, his brother produced the lamb and took over, saying his brother could take back over once the sun moved backward in the sky.

Atreus and Hermes convinced Zeus to make that happen, and Atreus became king again. Angered by his brother’s betrayal (sleeping with his wife and taking over his kingdom is pretty underhanded) Atreus exiled Thyestes, but not before he killed Thysestes kids by boiling them and slicing them up for dinner, and forced Thyestes to eat them. He kept the kids hands and feet as trophies and taunted Thyestes with the dismembered bits of his children.

Isn’t Greek mythology fun 😀

As his revenge, Thyestes slept with his niece, Atreus’ daughter Pelopia. She had a son, Aegisthus, and abandoned him in the local sheep pen. A shepherd found the boy and presented him to Atreus who raised him as his own out of charity. Meanwhile, Atreus had two sons, Menelaus and Agamemnon. Thyestes came back on the scene, told Aegisthus his backstory, and sat back and watched while his son murdered Atreus.

Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, and Menelaus married Helen of Troy. When Paris took Helen to Troy, all hell broke loose, and Menelaus asked his brother for help. Agamemnon set sale right away, sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia to the gods so he could make better time. In some versions of the myth, Iphegenia was saved by Artemis (unbeknownst to anyone else) and sent to be a priestess.

Clytemnestra, furious that her firstborn daughter was killed, had an affair with Aegisthus (remember him? He killed Atreus, who was also his granddad and uncle) and the two plotted to kill Agamemnon when he returned home from the war. They succeeded, killing him in the bath tub with a net/funeral shroud, and then her other two children, Orestes and Electra, plotted to kill her to avenge their father.

Orestes was torn, and prayed to Apollo who advised him to kill his mother. He did, and Orestes was plagued by furies until Athena stepped in and a fair trial was held. Orestes was forgiven, and the gods stopped doing the whole punishing descendants for something their parents did thing. Thus ended the curse on the house of Atreus.

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2 thoughts on “Mythology Monday: Tantalus and the Cursed House of Atreus

  1. Pingback: Myths Featured in Love and War | Kaitlin Bevis

  2. Pingback: Mythology Monday: The Furies | Kaitlin Bevis

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