Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

Greek Heroes » Tantalus

Tantalus, the greedy sufferer of the Underworld

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

Home and Family of Tantalus

Tantalus was the ruler of Sipylon (also called Tantalis), a wealthy, fertile region in Lydia, in modern Turkey. Tantalus was a son of Zeus, the king of the gods and the 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, that's why he was very generous with him. Therefore, Tantalus was one of the few mortals who were allowed to dine with the gods and take part in their councils.

The Punishment of Tantalus

One day, while dining with the gods, Tantalus took advantage and stole nectar(their drink) and ambrosia (their food) from the dining table. Quickly, he brought the delicacies to his kingdom to share them with his friends.

As a punishment, the gods threw Tantalus in the Underworld, inside a lake with a threatening rock dominating right above him, ready to crush the hero. The lake was full with water and lots of fruit-laddden trees were hanging next to his shoulders.

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

Tantalus soon ended up starving and terrified. This punishment is known nowadays 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)