The Tale Of Tantalus


TantalusKing Tantalus of Sipylus was thought to be the son of Zeus and the Oceanid Plouto. Because he was considered to be a favorite amongst the gods, he was often granted a seat at their dining table on Mount Olympus.

Zeus and the other deities regularly confided their most intimate and private thoughts to Tantalus, for they considered him to be a true and trustworthy friend.

It came to be that one evening after enjoying a particularly satisfying feast in the company of the immortals, Tantalus helped himself to some of the divine nectar and secretly carried it back down to his earthly home.

He then paraded about in front of his subjects, loudly boasting of his many entitlements and insolently repeating the myriad of secrets that the gods had told to him.

Although this behavior greatly angered Zeus, the thunder lord chose to turn the other cheek and blamed the entire matter on too much wine recklessly combined with an inadequate amount of common sense.

However, it was not long before Tantalus once again offended the gods, this time elevating the severity of the malefaction to an unforgivable level. It seems that the wicked king decided to test the wisdom of the gods by inviting them all to a feast that he was hosting at his royal palace.

Feast of TantalusFor the main course Tantalus ordered the cook to dismember his young son Pelops and add the mixture of body parts into the stew.

Unaware of the cruel joke that was being played on them, the Olympians took their places at the banquet table and anxiously waited for dinner to be served.

But when their plates were set before them, the stunned deities recoiled in horror, for they immediately recognized the meat inside of their bowls to be bite sized pieces of human flesh!

Only Demeter, who was so distraught over the loss of her precious daughter Persephone unwittingly ate a mouthful of the unclean concoction and so consumed a bit of the poor boy's shoulder.

As punishment for his profane and immoral actions, Zeus sentenced Tantalus to an eternity of never-ending torment deep inside the formidable pit of Tartarus. The irreverent king was shackled to a post which was then placed inside of a great pool of water.

Tantalus PunishedThough the height of the water conveniently reached to chin level, every time Tantalus leaned forward to quench his undying thirst the taunting liquid would quickly descend down to his ankles.

Near the edge of this unruly basin stood a magnificent fruit tree whose branches hung heavy with delectable morsels just ripe for the picking.

Every time Tantalus tried to satisfy his insatiable hunger by stealing even the smallest nibble, a blusterous wind would blow and sweep the luscious treats far away from his reach.

Zeus then placed a heavy stone directly above his head to serve as an ominous reminder that all those attempting to mislead the gods could easily be crushed at any moment.

Pelops was magically brought back to life and went on to marry Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oenomaus of Pisa. Together they had numerous children but sadly the curse of Tantalus remained active throughout many of the future generations.

To make up for Demeter's folly, Hephaestus fashioned a replacement shoulder out of the finest ivory and graciously attached it to the body of Pelops.


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