T is for Tantalus

tantalosTantalus the king of Sipylus, was a son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto. As a son of Zeus. He had a good life, but much like the two brothers who featured in S, he proved to be too clever for his own good, and that lead to his ultimate sad fate.

Often, he was invited to Olympus as a guest of Zeus but there he took to stealing nectar and ambrosia, the food of the Gods, and bringing it back for mortals on land. This angered Zeus, but he did not punish his son.

Emboldened, Tantalus played more pranks, and one day he decided to test the Gods in a most gruesome manner. He invited the Gods to his kingdom, and served them a delicious meat curry, cooked from the flesh of his own butchered son. The Gods knew and refused to touch the meal, except for the Goddess Demeter, who was so enveloped in grief over the loss of her daughter Persephone, that she lost her discernment and ate a piece of the shoulder. Zeus was so angry, that he killed Tantalus right there and banished him to Tartarus, the underworld with a very specific punishment for his atrocious deeds.

Tantalus was made to stand in neck deep cool refreshing water for all eternity with a bough of juicy ripe fruits hanging right over him! I can see that you are wondering how this can be punishment. Well, whenever he tried to drink the water, the water would recede just out of his reach, and when he tried to pluck a fruit, the bough would rise just a little, so that the fruit too was for ever out of his reach. And so Tantalus, stand thirsty and hungry forever with water and delicious food tantalisingly near yet just out of his reach. As if this is not enough, an enormous stone hangs precariously over his thirsty and hungry head and body for eternity.

And yes, the word ‘tantalize’ does come from this over-smart character in Greek mythology.

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2 Responses to T is for Tantalus

  1. kristin says:

    It doesn’t get more gruesome than that – serving the gods his own butchered son. He deserved what he got and more.

    Finding Eliza

  2. Arti Jain says:

    I had no clue! I agree that logic and myths don’t make good bedfellows, but I have to ask: Why did he kill his son? What was he trying to achieve with this trick?
    Like Kistin says…he deserves what he got.

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