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Pelops 1

RIII.1-0782: Pelops, Oenomaus, Hippodamia, Myrtilus. Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Göttingen, 1845- Dresden, 1923), Ausfürliches Lexikon der griechisches und römisches Mythologie, 1884.

Pelops 1 was slaughtered by his father, boiled, and offered as a meal to the gods, who having discovered this disgusting circumstance, brought him to life again. Pelops 1 emigrated from Phrygia, seized the kingdom of Oenomaus 1, and having expanded it, called it Peloponnesus after himself.

Pelops 1's impious father

Pelops 1's impious father Tantalus 1, being a son of Zeus, was for some time a favorite of the gods, and Zeus, they say, used to confide his plans to him. But since those who enjoy privileges not seldom take undue advantage, also Tantalus 1 became boastful and assumed that whatever he conceived would be allowed to such a nice fellow like himself. So for example, he gave himself to gossip and started to report Zeus' plans to mortal men.

Pelops 1 served as a meal

In addition, he also felt that time could be ripe to play some jokes at the gods' expense. Accordingly, he slain his own son Pelops 1, and cut him up serving him as an splendid meal at a banquet of the gods. It was then that Demeter ate Pelops 1's arm, but when the gods discovered the bizarre trick that Tantalus 1 had played on them, they, joining all limbs together again, restored Pelops 1 to life. And Demeter, noticing that the shoulder was not complete, for she had eaten of it, fixed one of ivory in its place and Pelops 1 was made whole again. Pelops 1 came back to life, they say, fairer than ever, and that is why Poseidon, admiring the beauty of the young man, fell in love with Pelops 1 and gave him a winged chariot the axles of which were not wet even when it ran through the sea. Naturally, some believe that these are deceptive stories embroidered with lies.

Emigrant Pelops 1

Having escaped alive from the banquet of the gods, Pelops 1 must have deemed inconvenient to stay in his cruel father's home in Mount Sipylus near Smyrna in Asia Minor, for he emigrated to Hellas where he met great success because, says General Thucydides, Pelops 1 carried with him a vast wealth to a needy country. But it has also been told that Pelops 1 was forced to withdraw when Ilus 2, the founder of Troy, launched an army against him. Pelops 1 arrived to Hellas approximately at the time when Perseus 1 went to hunt Medusa 1.

The king of Pisa

Now, in the district of Elis in Peloponnesus there was a king Oenomaus 1, who ruled in the city of Pisa, owning arms and horses which Ares had given him. Some have affirmed that this king was too much in love with his own daughter Hippodamia 3, but others have said that an oracle had declared that the man who would marry her was the same who would kill him. For one of these reasons, or for both, or for others unknown, King Oenomaus 1 lacked the disposition, or the talent, to become what some would call a caring father-in-law. And his temperament not being gentle, but instead rather fierce, he devised a system in order to get rid of his daughter's suitors.

Dealing with Oenomaus 1

Oenomaus 1 offered as a prize to the suitors the hand of his daughter, and each suitor had to take up Hippodamia 3 on his own chariot, and flee as far as the Isthmus of Corinth. Then Oenomaus 1 pursued him, and if he overtook him he killed him; and only if the suitor were not overtaken, he was given Hippodamia 3 to wife. Applying this method, he slew many suitors (the SUITORS OF HIPPODAMIA 3 were at least nineteen), and after killing them he cut off their heads, and nailed them to his house so that all could learn how dear his daughter was to him.


Wishing to marry this princess, Pelops 1 came to the residence of Oenomaus 1 asking for the hand of Hippodamia 3, but when he saw the nailed heads of his predecessors Pelops 1 regretted having come, for the king's horses were known to be swifter than the wind. When Pelops 1 understood that this four-horse race was impossible to win in a regular way, he decided to leave fair play by obtaining the confidence of the king's charioteer Myrtilus, whom he promised half of the kingdom if he would help him to come across this dangerous situation. And yet some have said that when Pelops 1 appeared, Hippodamia 3 fell immediately in love with him, and that it was she who persuaded Myrtilus to help Pelops 1. And either because Myrtilus, son of Hermes, expected to rule over half of the kingdom, or because he was himself in love with Hippodamia 3, he did not insert the linchpins in the boxes of the wheels of his master's chariot. That is how Myrtilus let himself be turned into a saboteur, letting Pelops 1 get a stolen victory. For King Oenomaus 1 lost the race, being entangled in the reins and dragged to death or, as some say, being killed by Pelops 1. When the king was dying, he discovered Myrtilus' treachery, and cursing him, he prayed that he might perish by the hand of Pelops 1. When Pelops 1 saw that the king was dead, the bride was his, and himself was about to become a respectable man of power, inheriting the kingdom of the man he had murdered, he started to see things in a different light, thinking that the whole affair would disgrace him. So he refused to keep his promise to Myrtilus, who was both accomplice and witness, and he cast him into the sea. However, some say that when all three were returning from the race, Pelops 1 withdrew to fetch some water, and then Myrtilus tried to rape Hippodamia 3. When Pelops 1, on his return, learned what had happened he threw Myrtilus into the sea, which was called after him the Myrtoan Sea, which is between the Peloponnesus and the islands called Cyclades. But before dying, Myrtilus uttered curses not only against Pelops 1 but also against his whole house, for, they say, the punishment for breaking an oath also comes upon the descendants of the sinner. And that is why it could be said many years later:

"O chariot-race of Pelops long ago, source of many a sorrow, what disaster you have brought upon this land! For ever since Myrtilus sank to rest beneath the waves, hurled to utter destruction from his golden chariot in disgraceful outrage, from that time to this, outrage and its many sorrows were never yet gone from this house." (Mycenaean women. Sophocles, Electra 504).

The kingdom of Pelops 1

Having been purified by Hephaestus for the murder of Myrtilus, Pelops 1 returned to Pisa, took also possession of Olympia, and in time expanded his kingdom to what was formerly called Apia and Pelasgiotis, calling it Peloponnesus after himself. According to the people of Elis, Pelops 1 was the first to found a temple of Hermes in Peloponnesus, for he wished to avert the wrath of the god for the death of Myrtilus. The kingdom of Pelops 1 was a flourishing one, and when he held the games in Olympia he surpassed in splendor all of his predecessors. Pelops 1 may be said to have been the strongest of the kings in Peloponnesus, in part because of his wealth, but also because he gave many daughters in marriage to men of power and rank, and appointed many of his sons among the cities as their rulers. Also Pelops 1 gave King Amphion 1 of Thebes his sister Niobe 2 as wife. From that union the NIOBIDS were born, who were later killed by the children of Leto. But above all, the descendants of Pelops 1 infiltrated, through marriage, the royal house of Mycenae, and eventually (counting from Eurystheus) took power in the city, keeping it until the HERACLIDES, who are Perseids (that is, descendants of Perseus 1, the founder of Mycenae), invaded the Peloponnesus.

Pelops 1 refuses to punish love

While Oedipus' father Laius 1 was still in exile, he lived in Peloponnesus, being hosted by Pelops 1. Laius 1 fell in love with Pelops 1's bastard son Chryssipus 2, son of the nymph Danais, and carried him off, being pursued and arrested by the legitimate sons of Pelops 1 and Hippodamia 3, Atreus and Thyestes 1. But Laius 1 obtained mercy from the king, for apparently Pelops 1 did not wish to punish a man on account of his love. But Queen Hippodamia 3 plotted against bastard Chrysippus 2, and arguing that he would become a contestant for the throne, she tried to persuade her sons to murder him. As they refused, Hippodamia 3 visited at night Laius 1 and Chrysippus 2 when they were asleep, and taking the sword of the Theban, she wounded Chrysippus 2 and fixed the sword in his body, so that Laius 1 would be suspected. However, Chrysippus 2 acknowledged the truth before dying, and King Pelops 1 banished his wife, who, according to some, committed suicide.


The death of Pelops 1 has not been reported, but it is known that his shoulder blade in ivory was precious to the Achaeans fighting in Troy. For it had been prophesied that Troy could only be taken if the bone of Pelops 1 were brought from Pisa to the front at Troy. After the sack of Troy, the bone was supposed to be returned to Pisa, but the ship carrying the bone was wrecked off Euboea in a storm. It was only many years later that Damarmenus, a fisherman from Eretria in the island of Euboea, drew up the bone from the sea. For some time he kept it hidden in the sand, but it was afterwards restored to Elis, following instructions from the oracle at Delphi.


Pelops 2 is the son of Agamemnon and Cassandra. He was killed by Aegisthus while still a baby.


Parentage (two versions)




Tantalus 1 & Dione 3


Tantalus 1 & Euryanassa 2


Dione 3 is a daughter of Atlas.
Euryanassa 2 is otherwise unknown.


Hippodamia 3



Alcathous 3

This is the man who is said to have killed the Cithaeronian lion. Alcathous 3 married first Pyrgo 1, and afterwards Evaechme 1. The latter was daughter of Megareus 2, the Boeotian who helped King Nisus 1 of Megara in his war against Minos 2. Automedusa, daughter of Alcathous 3, married Iolaus 1, charioteer of Heracles 1.

Astydamia 1

Astydamia 1 married Alcaeus 1, son of Perseus 1, and had by him Amphitryon, who is the stepfather of Heracles 1.


Atreus became king of Mycenae. Once a golden lamb appeared among his sheep, but his wife, being in love with Thyestes 1, gave him the golden lamb. The people of Mycenae had received an oracle which bade them choose one of the Pelopides for their king. And in the course of the dispute concerning the kingdom, Thyestes 1 declared that the throne ought to belong to him who owned the golden lamb. When Atreus agreed to this, Thyestes 1 produced the lamb, and was appointed king. But Zeus sent Hermes to tell Atreus to stipulate with Thyestes 1 that Atreus should be king if the sun should go backwards. Thyestes 1, believing that impossible, agreed, but the sun did set in the east. In this way Atreus got the kingdom, and banished his brother.




Copreus was the herald of Eurystheus, the man who imposed the LABOURS to Heracles 1. Copreus had a son Periphetes 1, who was killed by Hector 1 during the Trojan War.


Epidaurus has been also called son of Argus 5, and son of Apollo.

Eurydice 11

Eurydice 11 married Electryon 1, and had by him a daughter Alcmena, mother of Heracles 1.

Hippalcimus 1

One of the ARGONAUTS.


Founder of Letrini in Elis.

Nicippe 1

Nicippe 1 married King Sthenelus 3 of Mycenae, and had by him Alcyone 3, Medusa 2, and Eurystheus.


Pittheus united the inhabitants of Hyperea and Anthea into a new city, which he called Troezen after his brother. He became king of Troezen, and later he caused King Aegeus 1 of Athens to lie with his daughter Aethra 2, who became mother of Theseus.


Sciron is said to have disputed with Nisus 1 about the throne. He compelled passers-by to wash his feet, and in the act of washing he kicked them into the sea to be the prey of a huge turtle. This is one of the evil-doers killed by Theseus in his way to Athens. Many other parentages have been attributed to Sciron.


King of Sicyon, but he is also called son of Metion 1, son of Erechtheus, and son of Marathon.

Thyestes 1

Thyestes 1 had a dispute with his brother Atreus concerning the kingdom of Mycenae, and was banished (see Atreus above). Thyestes 1 had by her own daughter Pelopia 4 a son Aegisthus, who became king of Mycenae, having murdered Agamemnon, son of Atreus, son of Pelops 1.

Troezen 1

The city Troezen was called after him by his brother Pittheus.


Chrysippus 2

See main text above.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Aegisthus, Aethra 2, Agamemnon, Ajax 1, Alcathous 3, Alcmena, Amphion 1, Amphitryon, Anaphlystus, Antiope 3, Astydamia 1, Atreus, Automedusa, Chryssipus 2, Copreus, Danais, Erigone 1, Eurydice 11, Eurystheus, Heracles 1, Hermione, Himas, Hippodamia 3, Iolaus 1, Iphicles, Menelaus, Nicippe 1, Niobe 2, NIOBIDS, Oenomaus 1, Orestes 2, Pelopia 4, Pelops 1, Penthilus 1, Periboea 2, Periphetes 1, Pittheus, Pluto 3, Sphettus, Tantalus 1, Theseus, Thyestes 1, Tisamenus 2, Troezen 1, Zeus.

Related sections

Pelopides, Tantalus 1, Oenomaus 1
Pelops 1 in GROUPS: SUITORS OF HIPPODAMIA 3 (see Oenomaus 1).


Apd.2.4.5-6, 2.5.1, 3.12.7, 3.5.5, 3.15.7; Apd.Ep.1.2, 2.3, 2.9-10; CYP.12; Dio.4.9.1; Eur.IT.1; Hyg.Fab.14, 82, 83, 85; Nonn.18.27; Ov.Met.6.404; Pau.2.6.5, 2.15.1, 2.30.8, 2.26.2, 6.22.8; Pin.Oly.1.55, 1.25ff., 1.70; Plu.PS.33; Strab.7.7.1.