Once upon a time, an oracle had prophesied that King Oenomaus, son of Ares, would be killed by his son-in-law, and thus, he never gave his dazzlingly beautiful daughter Hippodameia’s hand, in marriage to anyone.
However, as many suitors came, he set a condition that the suitor along with Hippodameia, in a four-horse chariot, would start from Pisa and end at the altar of Poseidon, on the Corinthian isthmus. When the suitor had started, then Oenomaus, after sacrificing a ram to Zeus, would give chase in his extremely swift, Ares gifted four-horse chariot, driven by Myrtilus, son of Hermes. If he overtook the chariot of the suitor, then he would kill the suitor, and if he did not, then the suitor would marry Hippodameia.
Many suitors agreed to the condition of the chariot race, but Oenomaus defeated all the suitors. He also chopped off their heads, nailed them on his door for all to see, and threw the beheaded bodies in a common grave.
Pelops, the son of Dione and Tantalus, presented himself as a suitor. But upon seeing the horrific sight of the rotting heads of previous suitors, nailed on the door, he became fearful. Hence, he decided to abandon fair play and promised half the kingdom, to Oenomaus’ charioteer Myrtilus, for helping him win the race. Myrtilus agreed and sabotaged Oenomaus’ chariot, by not putting the linchpins in the wheels. As a result, the chariot of Oenomaus broke, Oenomaus fell and entangled in the reins, was dragged to his death. The dying Oenomaus cursed the treacherous saboteur Myrtilus, to die by Pelops’ hands.
When Myrtilus asked for his share of the kingdom, Pelops refused and threw him down Cape Geraestus. The dying Myrtilus not only cursed Pelops, but the entire house of Pelops, for breaking an oath makes the sinner and his descendants suffer. To avert Hermes’ wrath for killing Myrtilus, Pelops built a temple of Hermes. Pelops married Hippodameia and named his kingdom as Peloponnesus.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani