Mythology – Notes #4
was a human who partied with the gods, which was not unheard of, and he was favored by
Zeus. Tantalus had a son named Pelops
. Greeks thought that the gods did not eat and drink the same
things they did – the gods ate refined foods, namely ambrosia
and drank nectar
and would not eat
regular food. Tantalus didn’t believe that gods only ate refined foods, so he tried to test it. He killed
Pelops, his son, chopped him up into bite-sized pieces, and fed him to the gods. It didn’t work – the
gods noticed immediately and punished him by sending him down to Tartarus, where he’ll forever be
hungry and thirsty. Tantalus stands in a stream whose waters recede just out of reach when he tries
to take a drink, and just above his head is a fruit tree, but the winds blow its branches just out of
reach when he tries to reach up. So Tantalus is forever teased … or “tantalized”.
Most humans go to the same underworld when they die, but if you offend/commit sins against the
gods, such as Tantalus did, you may get sent to Tartarus. Another example is Sisyphus
, who is
punished by having to try to push a rock uphill for eternity. He can push it to the point where the hill
goes straight vertical, but the boulder rolls back down again. Sisyphus tried to cheat death by
instructing his wife not to perform the proper burial rites when he died. So when he died, he went to
talk to Hades, saying that his good-for-nothing wife wouldn’t perform the rites, and asked Hades to
let him go back up and talk to her to convince her. Hades agrees, Sisyphus goes back up and lives for
many more years. When he dies again later (of old age), though, Hades punishes the deception by
sending him down to Tartarus to push the rock…because he offended the gods.
The gods realized that Pelops, Tantalus’son, had been killed before he had been fated to die, so they
brought him back to life. He fell in love with Hippodamia
, whose father was a king. Any suitor for
the king’s daughter had to win a chariot race against the king in order to win her hand in marriage.
The contestant got a 5 minute head start, but if the king caught up to them, he’d throw a spear
through their back. Thirteen men had tried before Pelops, and the king had all 13 of their heads
mounted on the wall in the palace.
Pelops went to Myrtilus