Tantalus (tănˈtələs) [key], in Greek mythology, king of Sipylos, son of Zeus and father of Pelops and Niobe. He was admitted to the society of the gods, but his abominable behavior aroused their anger, and Zeus condemned him to suffer eternally at Tartarus. One legend says that he had divulged divine secrets and stolen the gods' sacred food. Another tells that he had murdered his son Pelops and served his body to the gods to test their omniscience. As punishment he was condemned to hang from the bough of a fruit tree over a pool of water. When he bent to drink, the water would recede; when he reached for a fruit, the wind would blow it from his reach. A further account of his punishment tells of a great stone hanging over his head threatening to fall. The word tantalize originated from his name.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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