Who Was Tantalus In Greek Mythology and Why Was the Mortal Son of Zeus Banished To the Underworld?

Like Sisyphus, Tantalus drew the wrath of the gods and was punished with perpetual torment.

A mortal son of Zeus, Tantalus dined regularly with the gods on Mount Olympus.

One day, Tantalus invited the gods to a feast of his own.

To test their omniscience, Tantalus decided to kill his own son, Pelops and make him into a stew. When the gods arrived at Tantalus’s banquet, they were horrified by the human sacrifice.

They resurrected Pelops, who was missing part of his shoulder, which had been eaten by Demeter before she realized what she had been served.

The gods fashioned Pelops a new shoulder out of ivory.

As punishment, Zeus banished Tantalus to the underworld, where he forever stood in a pool of water with clusters of fresh fruit hanging overhead.

Whenever Tantalus bent down to quench his thirst, the water dried up.

Whenever he grasped for fruit to satisfy his hunger, the branch swung out of reach.

The word tantalize, which means to torment or tease with empty promises, comes from the Greek story of Tantalus.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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