In Greek mythology, Atreus (Template:Polytonic) was a king of Mycenae, the son of Pelops and Hippodamia, and the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Collectively, his descendants are known as Atreidai or Atreidae.
Atreus and his twin brother Thyestes were exiled by their father for murdering their half-brother Chrysippus in their desire for the throne of Olympia. They took refuge in Mycenae, where they ascended to the throne in the absence of King Eurystheus, who was fighting the Heracleidae. Eurystheus had meant for their stewardship to be temporary, but it became permanent after his death in battle.
According to most ancient sources, Atreus was the father of Plisthenes, but in some lyric poets (Ibycus, Bacchylides) Plisthenides (son of Plisthenes) is used as an alternative name for Atreus himself.
There is a possible reference to Atreus in a Hittite text known as the 'Indictment of Madduwatta'. The indictment describes several army clashes between the Greeks and the Hittites which took place around the late 15th or early 14th centuries BCE. The Greek leader was a man called Attarsiya, and some scholars have speculated that Attarsiya (or Attarissiya) was the Hittite way of writing the Greek name Atreus. Other scholars argue that even though the name is probably Greek (since the man is described as an Ahhiyawa) and related to Atreus, the person carrying the name is not necessarily identical to the famous Atreus.
The word Atreides refers to one of the sons of Atreus—Agamemnon and Menelaus. The plural form Atreidae or Atreidai refers to both sons collectively; in English, the form Atreides (the same form as the singular) is often used. This term is sometimes used for more distant descendants of Atreus.
House of AtreusEdit
The House of Atreus begins with Tantalus. Tantalus initially held the favor of the gods but decided to cook his own son Pelops and feed him to the gods as a test of their omniscience. Most of the gods, as they sat down to dinner with Tantalus, immediately understood what had happened, because they knew the nature of the meat they were served, were appalled and did not partake. Nevertheless, Demeter, who was distracted due to the abduction by Hades of her daughter Persephone, obliviously ate Pelops' shoulder. The gods threw Tantalus into the underworld, where he spends eternity standing up to his chin in a pool of water, which drains whenever he attempts to slake his thirst. Above him are low-hanging fruit that lift just out of reach when he tries to grab it. Thus is derived the word "tantalize". The gods brought Pelops back to life, replacing the bone in his shoulder with a bit of ivory, thus marking the family forever afterwards.
Pelops and Hippodamia Edit
Pelops married Hippodamia, after winning a chariot race against her father by arranging for the sabotage of his would-be-father-in-law's chariot - resulting in his death. The versions of the story differ here - the sabotage was arranged by a servant of the king, Myrtilus, who was killed by Pelops for one of the following reasons: 1) because he had been promised the right to take Hippodamia's virginity, which Pelops retracted, or 2) because he attempted to rape her, or 3) because Pelops did not wish to share the credit for the victory. As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops and his line, further adding to the house's curse.
Atreus, Thyestes and Chrysippus Edit
Pelops and Hippodamia had two sons, Atreus and Thyestes, who (depending on myth version) murdered Chrysippus, their stepbrother. Because of the murder, Hippodamia, Atreus, and Thyestes were banished to Mycenae, where Hippodamia is said to have hanged herself.
Atreus vowed to sacrifice his best lamb to Artemis. Upon searching his flock, however, Atreus discovered a golden lamb which he gave to his wife, Aerope, to hide from the goddess. She gave it to her lover, Thyestes (also Atreus' brother), who then convinced Atreus to agree that whoever had the lamb should be king. Thyestes produced the lamb and claimed the throne.
Atreus retook the throne using advice he received from Hermes. Thyestes agreed to give the kingdom back when the sun moved backwards in the sky, a feat that Zeus accomplished. Atreus retook the throne and banished Thyestes.
Atreus then learned of Thyestes' and Aerope's adultery and plotted revenge. He killed Thyestes' sons and cooked them, save their hands and feet. He tricked Thyestes into eating the flesh of his own sons and then taunted him with their hands and feet. Thyestes was forced into exile for eating the flesh of a human. Thyestes responded by asking an oracle what to do, who advised him to have a son by his daughter, Pelopia, who would then kill Atreus. However, when Aegisthus was first born, he was abandoned by his mother who was ashamed of her incestuous act. A shepherd found the infant Aegisthus and gave him to Atreus, who raised him as his own son. Only as he entered adulthood did Thyestes reveal the truth to Aegisthus, that he was both father and grandfather to the boy. Aegisthus then killed Atreus, although not before Atreus had two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus.
Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, and Menelaus married Helen, her sister (known later as Helen of Troy). Helen was taken away from Menelaus by Paris of Troy during a visit. Menelaus then called on the chieftains to help him take back Helen.
Agamemnon, Iphigenia, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Orestes and Electra Edit
Prior to sailing off to war against Troy, Agamemnon had angered the goddess Artemis because he had killed a sacred deer in a sacred grove, and had then boasted that he was a better hunter than she was. When the time came, Artemis stilled the winds so that Agamemnon's fleet could not sail. A prophet named Calchas told him that in order to appease Artemis, Agamemnon would have to sacrifice the most precious thing that had come to his possession in the year he killed the sacred deer. This was his first-born daughter, Iphigenia. He sent word home for her to come (in some versions of the story on the pretense that she was to be married to Achilles). Iphigenia accepted her father's choice and was honored to be a part of the war. Clytemnestra tried to stop Iphigenia but was sent away. After doing the deed, Agamemnon's fleet was able to get under way. Artemis, however, had instantly switched Iphigenia, as she lay upon the altar, with another deer without anyone noticing, and had taken her to distant Colchis, there to be her priestess.
While he was fighting the Trojans, his wife Clytemnestra, infuriated by the murder of her daughter, began an affair with Aegisthus. When Agamemnon returned home he brought with him a new concubine, the doomed prophetess Cassandra. When Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra lured him into their room and hacked him to death with an axe.
Agamemnon's only son, Orestes, was quite young when his mother killed his father. He was sent into exile. In some versions he was sent away by Clytemnestra to avoid having him present during the murder of Agamemnon; in others Electra herself rescued the infant Orestes and sent him away to protect him from their mother. In both versions he was the legitimate heir apparent and as such a potential danger to his usurper uncle.
Goaded by his sister Electra, Orestes swore revenge. He knew it was his duty to avenge his father's death, but saw also that in doing so he would have to kill his mother. He was torn between avenging his father and sparing his mother. 'It was a son's duty to kill his father's murderers, a duty that came before all others. But a son who killed his mother was abhorrent to gods and to men.'
When he prayed to Apollo, the god advised him to kill his mother. Orestes realized that he must work out the curse on his house, exact vengeance and pay with his own ruin. After Orestes murdered Clytemnestra, he wandered the land with guilt in his heart. After many years, with Apollo by his side, he pleaded to Athena. No descendant of Atreus had ever done so noble an act and 'neither he nor any descendant of his would ever again be driven into evil by the irresistible power of the past.' Thus Orestes ended the curse of the House of Atreus.
Plato in his dialogue The Statesman tells a "famous tale" that "the sun and the stars once rose in the west, and set in the east, and that the god reversed their motion, and gave them that which they now have as a testimony to the right of Atreus."
Later influence Edit
In the Dune series, Frank Herbert tells the story of Leto, Paul and Leto II of House Atreides, the enemies of the Harkonnen clan. The Atreides claim to trace their ancestry back to the original Atreides of the Trojan War. In one of the prequel novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, the Play The Oresteia is performed in Castle Caladan, during the reign of Duke Paulus Atreides.
In a column assessing Caroline Kennedy's candidacy for the US Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton in early 2009, Maureen Dowd likened the Kennedy family role in US politics, from grandfather Joe Kennedy to father John Kennedy and uncles Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, to the House of Atreus, and Caroline and her brother John Kennedy Jr.'s place in it as "heartbreaking." The columnist had eight years earlier traced the Kennedy/Atreus parallels in more detail, in a piece comparing the then-ascendant "Bush dynasty" with the Kennedy one. 
Heavy metal band Virgin Steele from New York has released a metal opera called 'The House of Atreus.' The metal opera is split up in 'The House of Atreus Act I' (1999) and the double cd 'The House of Atreus Act II' (2000) and spans the time from the end of the Trojan war until Orestes' death.
Spoken-word myths - audio files Edit
|Atreus myths as told by story tellers|
|1. Crime and banishment of Atreus: the Laius and Chrysippus myth, read by Timothy Carter|
|Bibliography of reconstruction: Pindar, Olympian Ode, I (476 BCE); Apollodorus Library and Epitome 3.5.5 (140 BCE); Hyginus, Fables, 85. Chrysippus; 243. Women who Committed Suicide (1st c. CE); Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.5-10, 6.20.7 (c. 160 - 176 CE); Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, Book XIII, 602 (c. 200 CE); Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, ii, 34, 3 - 5 (150 - 215 CE)|
- ↑ Bryce, Trevor R., 'The Trojan War: Is There Truth behind the Legend?', Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 65, No. 3. (Sep., 2002), p. 193.
- ↑ M. L. West, 'Atreus and Attarissiyas', Glotta, vol. 77 (2004), pp. 262-266. He suggests that Atreus is a secondary form based on the patronymic Atreïdēs, which is in turn derived from the Mycenaean *Atrehiās.
- ↑ "Plato, The Statesman"
- ↑ "Sweet on Caroline" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, January 7, 2009 p. A27, NY edition.
- ↑ "Liberties: Pappy And Poppy" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, January 7, 2001. Retrieved 2-8-09.
- ↑ The House of Atreus: A Note on the Mythological Background to the Oresteia
Burkert, Walter (1972), "Homo Necans" pp. 103-108
- Treasure of Atreus
- House Atreides The fictional Great House of Frank Herbert's Dune who claim to be descendants of this line.br:Atreüs
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