Tantalus is the son of Zeus and
Pluto, and was the sovereign of the city of Sipylos, in the homonymous mountain in Lydia. Even if he was just a semi
god, Gods loved him and considered him as an equal. As a child, he was
allowed to go to the top of the Olympus and to sit next to the Gods.
There he could hear and watch them, drink nectar and eat ambrosia.
According to the myth, he finally became immortal.
Later he went to live with the
humans and cultivated a good relationship with the Gods. However, he
valuated himself far too much, and finally he exceeded his own limits. One
day, he stole some nectar and ambrosia from the Gods and brought this
delicacies to the Earth to boast about his good contacts. Another of his
crimes was to make a false oath. Once, Pandaros stole the golden dog
responsible for guarding the young Zeus and his foster-mother in Crete.
Then he gave it to Tantalus to take care of it for a while and, when
Hermes came in the name of the Gods to get the dog, Tantalus denied to have it.
In resume, he did many bad things.
to repair all his sacrileges, Tantalus decided one day to invite the Gods for a rich meal at
his house. Unfortunately, he did not expect that all gods would pass by,
but finally almost all of them were there and he realized that he did not
have food enough. At that moment, instead of reconsidering the situation
and trying to fix his mistake, he just did a bigger one. He did then the
unbelievable and slaughtered his own son
Pelops, hacked it to pieces, cooked him
and offered him to the Gods. Though, as everybody knows, Gods are
omniscient, so they did not
eat one more bite. Just Demeter, lost in his own thoughts, ate a piece of the
shoulder. After this, the Gods left the house and set Pelops back to his
original shape, replacing his missing piece of shoulder with a piece of ivory.
As a punishment, Tantalus was sent to hell and suffered agonies from
thirst and hunger, while he had always water and fruits within reach.
Sunk in a lake of clear water till his chin, every time he bent his head
down to get water, the water would
disappear. And every time he wanted to get the gorgeous branches with
splendid fruits hanging over his head, the wind would take them away from
his reach. Besides, Zeus placed a rock over his head that looked to be
about to fall on him all the time, so he would live in eternal fear.
Today, some languages use the term "Tantalus torment" to talk about
Gods / Heroes / The Danaids / Europa / The Atriden / Trojan War / The Oracle