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Last Update: 23 Mar 2021


Tantalus, the greedy sufferer of the Underworld

Tantalus was a figure of Greek mythology renowned for his eternal punishment in the Underworld.

Tantalus was one of the most characteristic persons of divine and eternal damnation in Greek Mythology, through whom the controversy as to what is "divine" and "sacred" was stigmatized.

Home and Family of Tantalus

Tantalus was the ruler of Sipylon (also called Tantalis), a prosperous, fertile region in Lydia, in modern Turkey.

Tantalus was a son of Zeus, king of the gods and of Nymph Pluto. He was the father of Niobe and Pelops, a king of Peloponnese in Southern Greece.

Tantalus, the favorite Child of Zeus

Zeus loved Tantalus very much, therefore he was very generous to him. For this reason, Tantalus was one of the few mortals who were allowed to dine with the gods and take part in their deliberations.

The Punishment of Tantalus

One day, while dining with the gods, Tantalus took advantage of the hour and stole nectar (their drink) and ambrosia (their food) from the dinner table. He quickly brought the delicacies to his realm to share with his friends.

As a punishment, Zeus struck him with his thunderbolt and threw him into the underworld, where he lay in a lake just beneath the branches of trees full of various fruits.

Every time Tantalus tried to drink water, the lake dried up. Every time he got hungry and tried to pick some fruit from the trees, the wind carried the trees to the sky.

So Tantalus soon ended up starving and scared.
This punishment is known today as the "Torment of Tantalus".

to tantalize: "to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach"
(from the Merriam Webster Dictionary)

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