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In Greek mythology, Tyndareus or Tyndareos (ancient Greek Τυνδαρεύς or Τυνδάρεως) was a Spartan king, son of Oebalus (or Perieres) and Gorgophone (or Bateia), husband of Leda ('Λήδα') and father of Helen, Castor and Polydeuces, Clytemnestra, Timandra, Phoebe and Philonoe.

Tyndareus had a brother named Hippocoon (Ἱπποκόων), who seized power and exiled Tyndareus. He was reinstated by Heracles, who killed Hippocoon and his sons, including Lycon. Tyndareus's other brother was Icarius (Ἰκάριος), who became the father of Penelope (Πηνελόπη).

Tyndareus' wife, Leda, was seduced by Zeus, who disguised himself as a swan. She laid two eggs, each producing two children. According to the usual version, from one egg, Polydeuces (Pollux) and Helen were the children of Zeus; from the other, Castor and Clytemnestra were the children of Tyndareus.

When Thyestes seized control in Mycenae, two exiled princes, Agamemnon and Menelaus came to Sparta, where they were received as guests and lived for a number of years.

Helen and the Trojan War

Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world, and when it was time for her to marry, many Greek kings and princes came to seek her hand or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf. Among the contenders were Odysseus, Ajax the great, Diomedes, Achilles, Patroclus, Idomeneus, and both Menelaus and Agamemnon. All but Odysseus brought many and rich gifts with them. Helen's favourite was Menelaus who, according to some sources, did not come in person but was represented by his brother Agamemnon, who chose to support his brother's case, and himself married Helen's sister Clytemnestra instead.

Tyndareus would accept none of the gifts, nor would he send any of the suitors away for fear of offending them and giving grounds for a quarrel. Odysseus promised to solve the problem in a satisfactory manner if Tyndareus would support him in his courting of Penelope, the daughter of Icarius. Tyndareus readily agreed and Odysseus proposed that, before the decision was made, all the suitors should swear a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband against whoever should quarrel with the chosen one. This stratagem succeeded and Helen and Menelaus were married. Eventually, Tyndareus resigned in favor of his son-in-law and Menelaus became king of Sparta.

Some years later, Paris, a Trojan prince came to Sparta to marry Helen, whom he had been promised by Aphrodite. Helen left with him--either willingly because she had fallen in love with him, or because he kidnapped her, depending on the source--leaving behind Menelaus and Hermione, their nine-year-old daughter. Menelaus attempted to retrieve Helen by calling on all her former suitors to fulfil their oaths, leading to the Trojan War and her eventual return to Sparta.


According to Euripides's Orestes, Tyndareus was still alive at the time of Menelaus's return, and was trying to secure the death penalty for his grandson Orestes due to the latter's murder of Tyndareus's daughter, Clytemnestra, but according to other accounts he had died prior to the Trojan War. In either case Orestes eventually married Hermione, his first cousin on both sides.

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