66. Atreus and Thyestes

Once upon a time, Atreus and Thyestes, the sons of King Pelops and Hippodameia, fought over the kingship of Mycenae. They were fated to fight each other, since long ago, Myrtilus had cursed the entire house of Pelops.

Atreus married Aerope, the daughter of King Catreus of Crete. Aerope was a deceptive woman of slack morals, and she secretly lay with her husband’s brother Thyestes, while continuing the deception of appearing to everyone, as a faithful wife of Atreus.

Meanwhile, Atreus took an oath to offer the best of his flock, as a sacrifice to goddess Artemis, and a golden lamb showed up. Seeing the beautiful golden lamb, Atreus broke his oath and did not sacrifice the lamb. Instead, he hid the lamb. But the adulteress Aerope, stole the lamb and gave it to her lover Thyestes. With the golden lamb in his possession, Thyestes, the debaucher of his brother’s wife, found a means to claim the throne of Mycenae.

Thyestes declared to Atreus that only the person owning a golden lamb, should ascend the throne of Mycenae. Atreus agreed, believing that he had the golden lamb safely hidden. However, Thyestes produced the lamb. Thus, by employing adultery, Thyestes became the king of Mycenae. Thereafter, Thyestes banished Atreus.

Atreus prayed to Zeus, who sent Hermes, to advise Atreus in making a fresh pact with Thyestes. Obeying the instructions of Hermes, Atreus declared to Thyestes that if the sun moved backwards, then Thyestes should vacate the throne. Thyestes found this as an impossibility and agreed. But everything is possible for the gods, and indeed, the sun moved backwards, setting in the east. Now, Atreus became the king of Mycenae and he banished Thyestes.

Tongues began to wag that if Aerope had resisted her love for Thyestes, then the sun would not have changed its course. But it was the curse of Myrtilus that brought only betrayal, adultery and slaughter, on the house of Pelops.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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