Myths and the Olympic Games
Pelops myth †http://www.nostos.com/olympics/#Myths%20Surrounding%20the%20Olympic%20Games
several Greek myths about how the games were started. The most common myth was
the story of the hero Pelops, after whom the Peloponnese
is named ("Pelopsí isle"). The story of Pelops was displayed
prominently on the east pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus.
Pelops was a prince from Lydia
in Asia Minor who sought the hand of Hippodamia, the daughter of King Oinomaos
Oinomaos challenged his daughter's suitors to a chariot race under the
guarantee that any young man who won the chariot race could have Hippodamia as
a wife. Any young man who lost the race would be beheaded, and the heads would
be used as decoration for the palace
of Oinomaos. With the
help of his charioteer Myrtilos, Pelops devised a plan to beat Oinomaos in the
chariot race. Pelops and Myrtilos secretly replaced the bronze linchpins of the
King's chariot with linchpins made of wax. When Oinomaos was about to pass
Pelops in the chariot race, the wax melted and Oinomaos was thrown to his
death. Pelops married Hippodamia and instituted the Olympic games
to celebrate his victory. A different version of the myth refers to the Olympic
games as funeral games in the memory of Oinomaos.
Myth of Tantalus, Pelopsí father
Tantalus is known for having been welcomed to
Zeus' table in Olympus, like Ixion. There he too
misbehaved, stole ambrosia, brought it back to his people,
and revealed the secrets of the gods.
Tantalus offered up his son, Pelops, as a
sacrifice to the gods. He cut Pelops up, boiled him, and served him up as food for the gods.
The gods were said to be aware of his plan for their feast, so they didn't
touch the offering; only Demeter, distraught by the loss of her daughter, Persephone,
"did not realize what it was" and ate part of the boy's shoulder.
Fate, ordered by Zeus, brought the boy to life again (she collected the parts
of the body and boiled them in a sacred cauldron), rebuilding his shoulder with
one wrought of ivory made by Hephaestus and presented by Demeter.
The revived Pelops was
kidnapped by Poseidon
and taken to Olympus to be the god's eromenos.
Later, Zeus threw Pelops
out of Olympus due to his anger at Tantalus.
The Greeks of classical times claimed to be horrified by Tantalus' doings; cannibalism,
sacrifice and parricide were atrocities and taboo. Tantalus was
the founder of the cursed House of Atreus in which variations on these
atrocities continued. Misfortunes also occurred as a result of these acts,
making the house the subject of many Greek Tragedies.