Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
ATREUS
Son of Pelops and Hippodamia, grandson of Tantalus. (See PELOPS.) With the help of his brother Thyestes he murdered his step-brother Chrysippus. To escape the wrath of their father, the pair of brothers took refuge with their brother-in-law Sthenelus, king of Mycenae, who gave them Media to live in. Eurystheus, the brother of their protector, was killed in battle with the Heracleidae. Atreus kept possession of the kingdom of Mycenae, which had been given him in charge by Eurystheus, and maintained it in virtue of possessing a golden lamb, which had been given him by Hermes for the purpose of exciting discord in the house of Pelops and avenging the death of his son Myrtilus. Thyestes debauched his brother's wife Aerope, daughter of the king of Crete, and with her aid got possession of the golden lamb and the kingdom. But, as a sign that right and wrong had been confounded, Zeus turned the sun and the moon back in their course. Atreus accordingly recovered the kingdom and expelled Thyestes. To revenge himself, Thyestes sent Pleisthenes, a son of Atreus whom he had brought up as his own, to Mycenae to murder Atreus. But Atreus slew Pleisthenes, not knowing that he was his son. Atreus replied by bringing back Thyestes and his family from exile, and serving up to Thyestes at table the limbs of his own sons. Thyestes fled away; the land was visited with barrenness and famine. In obedience to an oracle, Atreus goes forth to seek him, but only finds his daughter Pelopia, whom he takes to wife. Egisthus, her son by her father Thyestes, who is destined to avenge him, Atreus adopts and rears as his own child. Thyestes is afterwards found by Agamemnon and Menelaus, who bring him to Mycenae. He is imprisoned, and Aegisthus ordered to murder him. By the sword which Aegisthus carries Thyestes recognises him as his son, and proposes to him to slay Atreus. Meanwhile Pelopia, in horror at the discovery of her son's incestuous origin, drives the sword into her own breast. Aegisthus takes the bloody sword to Atreus as a proof that he has executed his commission, and afterwards falls upon him with Thyestes, while he is engaged in making a thank-offering on the sea-shore. Thyestes and Aegisthus thereupon seize the government of Mycenae, and drive Agamemnon and Menelaus out of the country. The older story knows nothing of these horrors. In Homer Pelops receives the sceptre from Zeus by the ministration of Hermes; he leaves it to Atreus, and Atreus to Thyestes, who hands it down to Agamemnon. Hesiod alludes to the wealth of the Pelopidae, but is silent as to the rest.
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