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The Greek Myths: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Graves Robert

Author:Graves, Robert [Graves, Robert]

Language: eng

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Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Published: 2012-04-23T16:00:00+00:00

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The Greek Myths: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Graves Robert

1. According to Strabo (xii. 8. 21), Tantalus, Pelops, and Niobe were Phrygians; and he quotes Demetrius of Scepsis, and also Callisthenes (xiv. 5. 28), as saying that the family derived their wealth from the mines of Phrygia and Mount Sipylus. Moreover, in Aeschylus’s Niobe (cited by Strabo: xii. 8. 21) the Tantalids are said to have had ‘an altar of Zeus, their paternal god, on Mount Ida’; and Sipylus is located ‘in the Idaean land’. Democles, whom Strabo quoted at second hand, rationalizes the Tantalus myth, saying that his reign was marked by violent earthquakes in Lydia and Ionia, as far as the Troad: entire villages disappeared, Mount Sipylus was overturned, marshes were converted into lakes, and Troy was submerged (Strabo: i. 3. 17). According to Pausanias, also, a city on Mount Sipylus disappeared into a chasm, which subsequently filled with water and became Lake Saloë, or Tantalis. The ruins of the city could be seen on the lake bottom until this was silted up by a mountain stream (Pausanias: vii. 24. 7). Pliny agrees that Tantalis was destroyed by an earthquake (Natural History ii. 93), but records that three successive cities were built on its site before this was finally flooded (Natural History v. 31).

2. Strabo’s historical view, however, even if archaeologically plausible, does not account for Tantalus’s connexion with Argos, Corinth, and Cretan Miletus. The rock poised over him in Tartarus, always about to fall, identifies him with Sisyphus of Corinth, whose similarly perpetual punishment was deduced from an icon which showed the Sun-Titan laboriously pushing the sun-disk up the slope of Heaven to its zenith (see 67. 2). The scholiast on Pindar was dimly aware of this identification, but explained Tantalus’s punishment rationalistically, by recording that: ‘some understand the stone to represent the sun, and Tantalus, a physicist, to be paying the penalty for having proved that the sun is a mass of white-hot metal’ (scholiast on Pindar’s Olympian Odes i. 97). Confusingly, this icon of the Sun-Titan has been combined with another: that of a man peering in agony through an interlace of fruit-bearing boughs, and up to his chin in water—a punishment which the rhetoricians used as an allegory of the fate meted out to the rich and greedy (Servius on Virgil’s Aeneid vi. 603; Fulgentius: Mythological Compendium ii 18). The apples, pears, figs, and such-like, dangling on Tantalus’s shoulders are called by Fulgentius ‘Dead Sea fruit’, of which Tertullian writes that ‘as soon as touched with the finger, the apple turns into ashes.’

3. To make sense of this scene, it must be remembered that Tantalus’s father Tmolus is described as having been wreathed with oak, and that his son Pelops, one of whose grandsons was also called Tantalus (see 112. c), enjoyed hero-rites at Olympia, in which ‘Zeus’s forester’ took part. Since, as is now generally agreed, the criminals in Tartarus were gods or heroes of the pre-Olympian epoch, Tantalus will have represented the annual Sacred King, dressed in fruit-hung branches, like those carried at the Oschophoria (see 98.

 

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The Greek Myths: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Graves Robert

Author:Graves, Robert [Graves, Robert] , Date: July 4, 2019

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Author:Graves, Robert [Graves, Robert]

Language: eng

Format: azw3

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Published: 2012-04-23T16:00:00+00:00
1. According to Strabo (xii. 8. 21), Tantalus, Pelops, and Niobe were Phrygians; and he quotes Demetrius of Scepsis, and also Callisthenes (xiv. 5. 28), as saying that the family derived their wealth from the mines of Phrygia and Mount Sipylus. Moreover, in Aeschylus’s Niobe (cited by Strabo: xii. 8. 21) the Tantalids are said to have had ‘an altar of Zeus, their paternal god, on Mount Ida’; and Sipylus is located ‘in the Idaean land’. Democles, whom Strabo quoted at second hand, rationalizes the Tantalus myth, saying that his reign was marked by violent earthquakes in Lydia and Ionia, as far as the Troad: entire villages disappeared, Mount Sipylus was overturned, marshes were converted into lakes, and Troy was submerged (Strabo: i. 3. 17). According to Pausanias, also, a city on Mount Sipylus disappeared into a chasm, which subsequently filled with water and became Lake Saloë, or Tantalis. The ruins of the city could be seen on the lake bottom until this was silted up by a mountain stream (Pausanias: vii. 24. 7). Pliny agrees that Tantalis was destroyed by an earthquake (Natural History ii. 93), but records that three successive cities were built on its site before this was finally flooded (Natural History v. 31).

2. Strabo’s historical view, however, even if archaeologically plausible, does not account for Tantalus’s connexion with Argos, Corinth, and Cretan Miletus. The rock poised over him in Tartarus, always about to fall, identifies him with Sisyphus of Corinth, whose similarly perpetual punishment was deduced from an icon which showed the Sun-Titan laboriously pushing the sun-disk up the slope of Heaven to its zenith (see 67. 2). The scholiast on Pindar was dimly aware of this identification, but explained Tantalus’s punishment rationalistically, by recording that: ‘some understand the stone to represent the sun, and Tantalus, a physicist, to be paying the penalty for having proved that the sun is a mass of white-hot metal’ (scholiast on Pindar’s Olympian Odes i. 97). Confusingly, this icon of the Sun-Titan has been combined with another: that of a man peering in agony through an interlace of fruit-bearing boughs, and up to his chin in water—a punishment which the rhetoricians used as an allegory of the fate meted out to the rich and greedy (Servius on Virgil’s Aeneid vi. 603; Fulgentius: Mythological Compendium ii 18). The apples, pears, figs, and such-like, dangling on Tantalus’s shoulders are called by Fulgentius ‘Dead Sea fruit’, of which Tertullian writes that ‘as soon as touched with the finger, the apple turns into ashes.’

3. To make sense of this scene, it must be remembered that Tantalus’s father Tmolus is described as having been wreathed with oak, and that his son Pelops, one of whose grandsons was also called Tantalus (see 112. c), enjoyed hero-rites at Olympia, in which ‘Zeus’s forester’ took part. Since, as is now generally agreed, the criminals in Tartarus were gods or heroes of the pre-Olympian epoch, Tantalus will have represented the annual Sacred King, dressed in fruit-hung branches, like those carried at the Oschophoria (see 98.

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