In Greek mythology, Tantalus, king of Lydia, was the son of Zeus*. A favorite of the gods, he was often invited to dine at their feasts. But Tantalus angered the gods. Some stories say that he betrayed their secrets to mortals, while others claim that he stole the food of the gods. Another myth gives a more gruesome explanation, saying that Tantalus killed his son Pelops and served the flesh to the gods to prove they could not tell the difference between human and animal meat.

underworld land of the dead

To punish Tantalus, the gods placed him in a pool of water in the underworld that was surrounded by fruit trees. When he went to drink, the water would recede. When he tried to eat the fruit, it moved out of reach. Tantalus's punishment gave rise to the word tantalizing, meaning something that is tempting but just out of reach.

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