LF310 -- Greek Mythology -- Summer 2005
From: Morford and Lendardon, Classical Mythology,
7th edition (Oxford: OUP, 2003)
Preliminary to the Mycenaean saga: Stories of Elis, Olympia, and Pisa
- Tantalus and Pelops
- The crime of Tantalus (feeding his children to the gods) and his punishment
in Hades (forever unable to have food and water just out of his reach):
- The re-membering of Pelops
- OenomaŁs, king of Pisa, had a chariot contest for his daughter
Hippodameia ("horse tamer")
- Pelops won the race by bribing the father's charioteer, Myrtilus.
OenomaŁs was killed when he fell from the chariot.
- Pelops did not reward Myrtilus as he expected (by giving him the first
night with Hippodameia), but instead threw him off a cliff into the sea
- Myrtilus cursed the descendants of Pelops
- Pelops became king of Pisa
Mycenaean Saga Proper:
Atreus and Thyestes
- The sons of Pelops, Atreus and Thyestes quarrelled over the kingship
of Mycenae, offered to a "son of Pelops" through an oracle
- The power rested on the ownership of a golden-fleeced ram
- Pan brought it to Atreus, but Thyestes seduced Aerope, Atreus' wife,
and took the ram
- Atreus was exiled, but returned and exiled Thyestes
- Pretending to be reconciled to Thyestes, Atreus recalled him,
murdered Thyestes' sons, and fed them to him.
- Thyestes goes into exile again
- Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus
- Thyestes had another son, Aegisthus, by his own daughter Pelopia.
- Atreus had two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus
- Before sailing for Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter,
Iphigeneia, to appease Artemis and make the winds blow at Aulis
- Clytemnestra hated Agamemnon for the sacrifice of her daughter
- Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, seduced Clytemnestra while
Agamemnon was on the Trojan expedition
- When Agamemnon returned from Troy with Cassandra, Aegisthus
and Clytemnestra killed him
- The most powerful representations of this murder are in the Odyssey,
Book 11, when Agamemnon tells his story to Odysseus. Throughout
the epic, the story of Agamemnon and his homecoming are to be compared
to Odysseus and his homecoming. Another powerful representation is in
Aeschylus' play Agamemnon.
- Orestes and Electra
- When Agamemnon's son Orestes grew up, he avenged his father's
death by murdering Aegisthus and his own mother Clytemnestra
- Electra, who loves her father and hates her mother,
helps Orestes commit the crime
- The Furies, or Erinyes, who avenge crimes against the
family, drove him mad
- Orestes is acquitted for his crime in Athens, where a new type of justice
replaces blood vengeance.
- See the different versions of the story among the 5th century BC playwrights
- The most well known versions are Aeschylus' plays and Sophocles' Electra,
but Euripides also has plays on Orestes and Electra that show them to
be real murderers.
- In most versions of the story, after he is purified, Orestes
eventually marries Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaus.
She had been married to Neoptolemos, son of Achilles.
Neoptolemos was killed at Delphi.