Tantalus (Greek Τάνταλος, Tántalos) was the ruler of an ancient western Anatolian city called either after his name, as "Tantalís", "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus, at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the Common Era, although few traces remain today. Pausanias further reports that there was a port under his name and a sepulchre of him "by no means obscure", in the same region. In Greek mythology he was the father of Pelops, Niobe and Broteas (by either Dione the Hyad or Euryanassa), and a son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto.
Tantalus is referred to as "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia", although his city was located in the western extremity of Anatolia where Lydia was to emerge as a state before the beginning of the first millennium BC, and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia, situated more inland. References to his son as "Pelops the Lydian" led some scholars to the conclusion that there would be good grounds for believing that he belonged to a primordial house of Lydia.
Other versions name his father as Tmolus, the name of a king of Lydia and, like Sipylus, of another mountain in ancient Lydia. The location of Tantalus' mortal mountain-fathers generally placed him in Lydia;  and more seldom in Phrygia or Paphlagonia, all in Asia Minor.
The identity of his wife is variously given: generally as Dione, but whose name may simply mean "The Goddess," or perhaps as the Pleiad with that name; or as Eurythemista, a daughter of the river-god Xanthus; or Euryanassa, daughter of Pactolus, another river-god, both of them in Anatolia; or Clytia, the child of Amphidamantes (Graves 1960, section 108). Tantalus, through Pelops, was the founder of the House of Atreus.
The geographer Strabo, quoting earlier sources, states that the wealth of Tantalus was derived from the mines of Phrygia and Mount Sipylus. Near Mount Sipylus archaeological features that have been associated with Tantalus and his house since Antiquity. Near Mount Yamanlar in İzmir (ancient Smyrna), where the Lake Karagöl (Lake Tantalus) associated with the accounts surrounding him is found, is a monument mentioned by Pausanias: the tholos "tomb of Tantalus" (later Christianized as "Saint Charalambos' tomb") and another one in Mount Sipylus, and where a "throne of Pelops", an altar or bench carved in rock and conjecturally associated with his son is found. A more famous momument, a full-faced statue carved in rock mentioned by Pausanias is a statue of Cybele, said by Pausianias to have been carved by Broteas is in fact Hittite.
Full article ▸