pflugk229: Pelops drives away with Hippodamia. From an 5C BC Attic amphora (Bruckmann).
|Life and Deeds of the Pelopides
The Pelopides are the descendants of Pelops 1: mainly Atreus, Thyestes 1, the Atrides (Agamemnon and Menelaus), Aegisthus, Orestes 2, and Tisamenus 2. They ruled the Peloponnesus until the return of the HERACLIDES. Synoptic
Himas' daughter Pluto 3 was seduced by Zeus, and had by him a
child Tantalus 1, who became king of Paphlagonia in northern Asia Minor, but was later driven out of the country by Ilus 2, the founder of Troy. Tantalus 1 is best
known for having told men about the mysteries of
the gods, and attempted to share ambrosia with his
fellows. For these crimes, he is still being
punished in Hades by having a stone impending on him, and by not being able to eat or drink, since the water in the lake dries out, and the fruits in the trees are lifted by the wind each time he tries to reach either. During his lifetime, Tantalus 1 had three children by Dione 3, daughter of Atlas; these were Niobe 2, Broteas 4, and Pelops 1. The grave of Tantalus 1 is at Mount Sipylus, which is east of Smyrna
in Asia Minor; near by, there is a lake called
Tantalus 1's daughter Niobe 2 became queen in Thebes, but left the city
after the killing of her childrenthe NIOBIDSby Apollo and Artemis, and returned to
her father's home at Sipylus, where on praying to Zeus, she was transformed into a stone from which tears flow night and day (though some say that she sheds tears only in summertime). It is told that Niobe 2's husband Amphion 1 was a great
musician, having learned the musical Lydian mode
and added three strings to the four old ones,
following the teaching of his father-in-law Tantalus 1.
Some affirm that Tantalus 1's son Broteas 4 was father of Tantalus 3, and that the latter was Clytaemnestra's first husband. But others assert that Tantalus 3's father was Thyestes 1, brother of Atreus. It is told that a
man called Broteas went mad and threw himself into
fire, but it is not certain whether this Broteas is
the same as the son of Tantalus 1.
Tantalus 1's son Pelops 1 was slaughtered
by his own father, cut up, boiled, and offered as a
meal at a feast of the gods. It was then that Demeter, unwittingly,
ate his arm; but when Tantalus 1's outrage
was discovered, Pelops 1 was given life again by the will of the gods, who
joined his limbs together. However, since the
shoulder was not complete, Demeter fitted an ivory
one in its place [for the bone of Pelops 1 see also Trojan War]. It is
told that, because of his beauty, Pelops 1 became a minion
of Poseidon, who gave
him a winged chariot, the axles of which were not
wet even when it ran through the sea.
Pelops 1 left father
and country , coming to that part of Hellas that
later was called after him: the Peloponnesus.
According to General Thucydides, Pelops 1 arrived with
vast wealth to a needy country, a combination of
circumstances that secured his success [see
Thucydides' account at Trojan War].
Pelops 1 became the last of the SUITORS OF HIPPODAMIA 3, the daughter of King Oenomaus 1 of
Pisa (in Elis, northwestern
Peloponnesus), and the only successful among them.
Many before him had died while attempting to become
the son-in-law of the king of Pisa. For Oenomaus 1 used to put
to death his daughter's suitors and nail their
heads to his house, fearing an oracle that had
declared that he would die whenever his daughter
King Oenomaus 1,
who had received from Ares arms and horses, offered as a prize to the SUITORS
the hand of his daughter, forcing each of them to
take up the bride on his own chariot, and flee as
far as the Isthmus of Corinth. Then Oenomaus 1 pursued him, killing the suitor if he overtook him; and only if the suitor were not overtaken, was he given Hippodamia 3 to wife. By this procedure, he slew many suitors, and after killing them, he cut off their heads and nailed them to his house. All these things were already tradition at the
house of Oenomaus 1 when Pelops 1 arrived
with the determination to win the bride for
The bribe wins the bride
Realizing the difficulty of his task, Pelops 1 approached
Myrtilus, son of Hermes and charioteer of Oenomaus 1, and persuaded him to change sides, after promising him half of the kingdom for his help. So when it was time to yoke the horses, Myrtilus simply did not put the pin in the wheels of his master's chariot. However, others say that when Pelops 1 appeared, Hippodamia 3 fell immediately in love with him, and that it was she who persuaded Myrtilus to help Pelops 1. And they add that because Myrtilus himself was in love with her and wished to gratify her, he did not insert the linchpins in the boxes of the wheels. In any case, Myrtilus let himself be transformed
into a saboteur, and thus he got Pelops 1 a stolen
victory: The king lost the race, being entangled in
the reins and dragged to death, or as some say, he
was killed by Pelops 1.
When about to die, the king discovered Myrtilus'
treachery, and cursing him, prayed that the traitor
might perish by the hand of Pelops 1.
Saboteur without wages
That came to pass. For when Pelops 1 saw the king dead, the bride his, and himself about to become a respectable man of power, he started to see things in a different light, thinking that the whole affair would disgrace him. Consequently, he not only refused to keep his promise to Myrtilus, but also cast him into the sea, as if to eliminate an accomplice or witness. However, others say that when all three were
returning from the race, Pelops 1 withdrew to
fetch some water, and that Myrtilus, taking
advantage of Pelops 1's absence, tried to rape Hippodamia 3. So Pelops 1, having learned on his return what had happened, threw Myrtilus into the seawhich was called after him the Myrtoan Seaat Cape Geraestus. In any case, this was the end of Myrtilus; but
before dying he uttered terrible curses against the
house of Pelops 1, whose
descendantsparticularly Atreus, Thyestes 1, Agamemnon, Aegisthus, and Orestes 2took good care to fulfil with their follies.
originality in finding names
This is how Pelops 1 became king, ruling over what was formerly called
Apia and Pelasgiotis, which he now called
Peloponnesus after himself.
Notes about some of his children
Hippalcimus 1 became one of the ARGONAUTS.
Nicippe 1 is mother of Eurystheus.
Alcathous 3 became famous for having
killed the Cithaeronian lion.
Copreus became the herald of Eurystheus.
Pittheus, king of Troezen, became
grandfather of Theseus through his daughter Aethra 2.
Troezen 1 was also son of Pelops 1, the city Troezen being named
Letreus founded Letrini in Elis.
Pelops 1 had by
Danais an illegitimate son Chrisyppus 2 whom Laius 1 (later king of Thebes) loved, carrying
him off. Pelops 1 recovered this son through war, although others
have said otherwise.
There are other children attributed to Pelops 1, but they are
also said to have other parentages.
Atreus and Thyestes 1 excelled in cruelty and folly
among the children of Pelops 1:
Atreus and Thyestes 1 agree in that each wants power for himself
It is told that once a golden lamb appeared
among the sheep of Atreus; but his wife Aerope 1, having a love affair with Thyestes 1, gave him the golden lamb. At the time, the Mycenaeans had received an oracle which bade them choose a Pelopid for their king, and when a discussion took place concerning the throne, Thyestes 1 declared that the kingdom ought to belong to him who owned the golden lamb. When Atreus agreed, Thyestes 1 produced the lamb that her mistress had secretly given him, and was made king. However, Zeus sent Hermes to instruct Atreus to stipulate with Thyestes 1 that Atreus himself should be king if the sun should go backwards; and when Thyestes 1, deeming such an event impossible, agreed, the sun set in the east by the will of the god. Thus Atreus got the kingdom,
and banished his brother.
Atreus imitates his
The good news for Atreus were that he now was king, the bad news being that his wife was adulterous. So when he learned about it, he plotted against his brother: He invited him to come to Mycenae, and prepared a
special dinner according to family tradition, that
is, one resembling the dinner Tantalus 1 had once offered to the gods. For this purpose, he murdered two or three of Thyestes 1's sons, and cutting them limb from limb, boiled them and served them up to Thyestes 1, except the extremities, which he showed to his brother once he had eaten what he thought to be a delicious meal. And when the infamous dinner was ended, he banished him again.
The fatal sword
While suffering such a disgrace, Thyestes 1 consulted the Oracle, which declared that he would be able to retaliate if he had intercourse with his own daughter. And being in Sicyon, Thyestes 1 did ravish his own daughter Pelopia 4, although he did not know who the girl was. During the ravishing, she drew his sword from the sheath, and hid it under the pedestal of a statue. The next day, Thyestes 1 went back to Lydia without his weapon.
Birth of Aegisthus
In the meantime, misery had come to Mycenae, as they
thought, because of the crime of Atreus; an oracle then declared that he should restore the kingdom to Thyestes 1, or bring him back to the city. Atreus then came to King Thesprotus 2, looking for Thyestes 1; but when he saw Pelopia 4 in the court, he asked that she be given to him in marriage, believing she was Thesprotus 2's daughter. The king handed her over to him, and when she gave birth to Aegisthus, Atreus thought him to be
his own son.
Death of Atreus
Years passed and Atreus, who was still
looking for his brother, sent his sons Agamemnon and Menelaus to inquire about Thyestes 1 at Delphi. There they met,
by chance, their uncle, who still asked the Oracle
about taking vengeance on his brother. Having
seized him, they brought him to Mycenae and cast him into prison. Having thus recalled Thyestes 1 to Mycenae as the Oracle
had ordained, Atreus bade Aegisthus, whom he believed to be his third son, to kill Thyestes 1 in his confinement. Aegisthus then came to the prison to carry out Atreus' request, but he appeared in front of the prisoner wearing the sword that Thyestes 1 had lost when he ravished his own daughter Pelopia 4. And when Thyestes 1 asked him where he had got it, Aegisthus replied that his mother Pelopia 4 had given it to him. They then summoned Pelopia 4, who said that she had stolen it from the unknown man who had raped her by night, the same who was Aegisthus' father. This is how father and son learned who they were, but Pelopia 4, realising who the father of her son was, snatched the sword and plunged it in her breast. Aegisthus came back
to Atreus with the bloody
instrument of murder, and Atreus rejoiced because he thought Thyestes 1 was dead. But Aegisthus killed Atreus as he was
sacrificing on the shore, and restored the kingdom
of Mycenae to Thyestes 1.
Agamemnon and Menelaus came as exiles to the court of King Polyphides 1 of Sicyon, but later they
were supported in their return by Tyndareus, and with his help they drove away Thyestes 1 to live in Cythera, an island off the southern coast of the Peloponnesus. The Atrides married the daughters of Tyndareus: Agamemnon married Clytaemnestra,
becoming king of Mycenae, and Menelaus married Helen (also called
daughter of Zeus). When Tyndareus died, he was
succeeded by Menelaus as king of Sparta.
Agamemnon in Aulis
Peace was disturbed when the Trojan Paris came to Sparta and abducted Helen while Menelaus was away
attending the funeral of Catreus (his mother's father). Because of The Oath of Tyndareus [see SUITORS OF HELEN],
an alliance was formed to punish the Trojans for
the abduction of Helen,
and Agamemnon was appointed commander in chief of this alliance that gathered at Aulis, a harbor in Boeotia. However, the Achaean fleet, being wind bound in
Aulis, could not sail to Troy; and Agamemnon, following
what he believed to be the wise counsel of the seer Calchas, agreed to
sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia in order to
obtain propitious winds.
Whatever happened at Aulis (for some say that Iphigenia was saved by Artemis, while others
affirm that she was indeed sacrificed), Clytaemnestra had reasons to be angry at her husband, not only on account of her daughter. So while Agamemnon was busy at Troy, Clytaemnestra took Aegisthus as her
lover, and when Agamemnon returned to Mycenae, they both
murdered him. This is how Aegisthus paved his
way to the Mycenaean throne, which had once
belonged to both his uncle and his father. He ruled
in Mycenae for seven
Agamemnon's son Orestes 2 was smuggled
away when Aegisthus took over power in Mycenae, and stayed in
exile until he was a grown-up man. Then he returned
to Mycenae, and with
Pylades' help, he murdered his own mother and her
lover in order to avenge his father. Orestes 2 became the
ruler of a vast territory: besides Mycenae and Argos, he extended his
rule over the greater part of Arcadia, and succeeded
to the throne of Sparta.
Orestes 2 was killed
by the bite of a snake at Oresteum in Arcadia. On his death, Tisamenus 2, his son by Hermione, became king.
It was under the latter's reign that the HERACLIDES returned to the Peloponnesus, and some affirm that Tisamenus 2 was killed by them. The HERACLIDES claimed
their share of power in the Peloponnesus because
they were descendants, through Heracles 1, of Perseus 1, founder of Mycenae, whereas Tisamenus 2 was a Pelopid, and in their eyes, an usurper.
Return to Asia
Orestes 2 had also a bastard son Penthilus 1 by Erigone 1, daughter of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. He
is said to have led the Aeolian colonisation (which
preceded the Ionian), and to have advanced as far
as Thrace sixty years after the Trojan War (about the
time of the return of the HERACLIDES). The sons of Tisamenus 2 were Daimenes, Sparton 1, Tellis, Leontomenes, and Cometes 4. They led the Achaeans who settled in Ionia (Asia Minor).