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RI.1-1173: The Dioscuri (Polydeuces to the left and Castor behind the horse), Leda, and Tyndareus. Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Göttingen, 1845- Dresden, 1923), Ausfürliches Lexikon der griechisches und römisches Mythologie, 1884.

"Can there be a man with the name of Zeus ... ? For there is only one in heaven. Where in the world is there a Sparta, except by the streams of Eurotas ... ? The name of Tyndareus is the name of one alone." (Menelaus, in Euripides' Helen 490).

"Tyndareus begot a race of daughters notorious for blame, infamous throughout Hellas." (Electra 2 to Orestes 2. Euripides, Orestes 250).

"This thought occurred to Tyndareus: the suitors should swear to each other and join right hands and pour libations with burnt-sacrifice, binding themselves by this curse: whoever wins the child of Tyndareus for wife, they will assist that man, in case a rival takes her from his house and goes his way, robbing her husband of his rights; and march against that man in armed array and raze his city to the ground, Hellene no less than barbarian." (Agamemnon. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 57ff.).

King Tyndareus of Sparta is remembered mainly for being the temporal father of Helen, and for having forced her SUITORS to swear the fateful "Oath of Tyndareus", a curse allowing the many kingdoms of Hellas to form a coalition and sail against Troy to demand, by persuasion or by force, the restoration of Helen, whom the seducer Paris had abducted, and of the Spartan treasures, which the same Paris had seized.

Youth in exile

Nothing is told of Tyndareus' childhood, but when he was a young man, he and his brother Icarius 1 were expelled from Lacedaemon by Hippocoon 2, who then seized the kingdom. Hippocoon 2 could have been brother or half-brother of Tyndareus, since he was son of Oebalus 1 and Batia 2. And in fact, Hippocoon 2 claimed the throne on the ground of being the eldest (Pau.3.1.4). Having been sent into exile, Tyndareus and his brother Icarius 1 sought refuge in the land of the Curetes in Aetolia (the region in mainland Greece north of the Gulf of Patrae), which was then ruled by Thestius 1 from the city of Pleuron. The brothers then joined their benefactor in the wars he waged against his Calydonian neighbors, which culminated in the dispute around the skin of the boar killed by the CALYDONIAN HUNTERS. Several sons of Thestius 1 demanded the skin, but were killed by Meleager, who refused to surrender it. The bloody episode disappointed Meleager's mother Althaea (herself daughter of Thestius 1), who, grieving her dead brothers, let her own son die by burning the brand on which his life depended, before hanging herself. Others (Pau.3.1.4) have said that Tyndareus settled in Pellana (a Laconian town on the river Eurotas on the road from Sparta to Arcadia) when he was expelled. Another daughter of Thestius 1—Hypermnestra 2—married Oicles and became mother of Amphiaraus, one of the kings of Argos who marched against Thebes in the war of the SEVEN. But his third daughter—Leda—Thestius 1 gave in marriage to Tyndareus.

Tyndareus restored

The rule of Hippocoon 2 ended as a consequence of the campaigns of Heracles 1 in the Peloponnesus. Having defeated King Neleus of Pylos, whom he killed along with his sons (except Nestor, who was abroad), Heracles 1 marched against their Lacedaemonian allies (Hippocoon 2 and his sons), who besides were responsible for the death of Oeonus, son of Licymnius (brother of Alcmena, mother of Heracles 1). In this war, Hippocoon 2 and his sons lost their lives, and the throne being vacant, Heracles 1 entrusted the kingdom to Tyndareus, who then returned to Lacedaemon. This "entrusting" of the land was later invoked by the HERACLIDES to justify their claims. Having invaded the Peloponnesus, they argued that Heracles 1 had "entrusted" Lacedaemon to Tyndareus, and Pylos to Nestor, but that they now had returned to take those territories back (Pau.2.18.7).

Hatched from an egg

Now it is told that Leda was seduced by Zeus, who came to her in the shape of a swan, and that on the same night Tyndareus had intercourse with his wife. As a result, four children were born—hatched from an egg—from the same mother, but from different fathers: Castor 1 and Polydeuces, called the DIOSCURI, and Clytaemnestra and Helen. Of these four, Helen and Polydeuces (children of Zeus) were immortal, but Castor 1 and Clytaemnestra (children of Tyndareus) were mortal. That Helen was fated to be a permanent cause of war became clear when Theseus abducted her, and, as a result, her brothers—the DIOSCURI—invaded and ravaged Aphidnae, a city in Attica northwest of Marathon. But some have affirmed that Tyndareus had entrusted Helen to Theseus, fearing Enarophorus (son of Hippocoon 2), who had sought to take her by force while she was still a child.

The abduction of Helen made "The Oath of Tyndareus" come into effect. 3633: Antonio Zanchi, 1631-1722 Venedig: Einschiffung der Helena. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Das Schloß.

The Oath

War threatened again when SUITORS came from many kingdoms of Hellas to compete for the hand of Helen. And Tyndareus, seeing such a multitude, feared that choosing one of them might provoke the others to start quarrelling. Noticing his plight, Odysseus (who was among the SUITORS) promised that if Tyndareus would help him to win the hand of his niece Penelope (daughter of Icarius 1), he in return would reveal a way by which any trouble could be prevented. Tyndareus accepted the bargain, and Odysseus told him to exact an oath from the SUITORS that they should defend and protect the one chosen as Helen's husband against any wrong done against him in regard to his marriage. This is how the curse known as "The Oath of Tyndareus" came about—the SUITORS being sworn by the king, and Odysseus receiving Penelope from a reluctant Icarius 1. For it is told that Icarius 1 tried to make the couple settle in Lacedaemon. And when he could not persuade them, and they set forth to Ithaca, he followed their chariot begging her daughter to stay. Finally, as Odysseus could no longer endure so much fatherly love and devotion, he bade Penelope either to come with him willingly, or else go back with her father to Lacedaemon, if she so preferred. She did not reply but indicated, by covering her face with a veil, that she wished to depart with her husband. The Oath of Tyndareus proved to be a curse also for its inventor. Odysseus remained bound to the oath he himself had conceived, and when time came he was forced to go to war. Furthermore, an oracle had declared that if he sailed to Troy he would be away twenty years, and he would lose everything. So, being reluctant to join the alliance, Odysseus feigned madness, but Palamedes, seeing through the deception, forced him to desist and join. The ceremony of the oath was performed in a place later called "The Tomb of the Horse," on the road from Sparta to Arcadia. For before administrating the oath to the SUITORS, Tyndareus sacrificed a horse, and after they had been sworn standing upon the pieces of the horse, the animal was buried in the same place. The Oath of Tyndareus had the value of a defence pact, for later, when the seducer Paris came to Sparta and abducted Helen taking her to Troy, the oath was invoked by her husband Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon in order to force the kings of Hellas to join the coalition that sailed against Troy in order to demand the restoration of both wife and treasures.

Matrimonial agent

Tyndareus, some say (Hyg.Fab.78), feared that Agamemnon might divorce Clytaemnestra, so he, following Odysseus' advice, bound himself by yet an oath and gave Helen leave to choose a husband whereupon she chose Menelaus, putting a wreath on his head. But others (Apd.3.10.9) affirm that it was Tyndareus who made that choice. And he, at the death of the DIOSCURI, handed over the kingdom of Sparta to his son-in-law Menelaus. It has been told that Tyndareus helped both Agamemnon and Menelaus, bringing them back from their exile in Sicyon, where they had sought refuge when Atreus' brother Thyestes 1 seized power in Mycenae. As a result of these arrangements, Tyndareus married Agamemnon and Menelaus to Clytaemnestra and Helen whereby they became rulers of Mycenae and Sparta respectively—a smashing combination. Still we learn that Clytaemnestra was already married to another man—Tantalus 3—and had a child by him. It was Tyndareus that gave her to him when she was still a virgin (Pau.2.18.2). But Agamemnon murdered him, and dashed the baby on the ground. So when the DIOSCURI, to defend their sister, came against the murderer, Tyndareus, listening to Agamemnon's suppliant prayers, rescued him and gave him Clytaemnestra as wife. In his role of matrimonial agent, Tyndareus also gave his granddaughter Hermione to Orestes 2 while Menelaus, who was away fighting at the Trojan War, promised her to Neoptolemus. This caused a dispute between Orestes 2 and Neoptolemus. The latter took the bride against her will on his return from Troy, but was later murdered by Orestes 2 at Delphi.

"Deafer to me than the sea as I shrieked out the name of Orestes, he (Neoptolemus) dragged me with hair all disarrayed into his palace ... But you ... Orestes, lay claim to your right with no timid hand." (Hermione to Orestes 2. Ovid, Heroides 8.8ff.).

Others (Pau.1.33.7) affirm that Neoptolemus indeed was Hermione's first husband, although she stayed by the side of Orestes 2 in all his plights.

Deep disappointment

Tyndareus' sympathy for Orestes 2 vanished later, and he is reported to have brought his grandson to trial at Athens for the murder of Clytaemnestra (Apd.Ep.6.25). Others (Hyg.Fab.119) have said that he accused him in Mycenae, and tried to have him stoned to death, but the Mycenaeans allowed him to go into exile for being the son of Agamemnon. But others have said that, Tyndareus being already dead, Orestes 2 was brought to trial by Perileos, son of Icarius 1, or else by Erigone 1 (daughter of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra), who hanged herself when Orestes 2 was acquitted. In any case, clad in black robes and with his hair cut short, he mourned his daughter, murdered by the grandson he himself had nursed and carried about in his arms. He condemned Clytaemnestra's deed, but even more his grandson's:

"For when Agamemnon breathed his last, struck on his head by my daughter, a most foul deed, which I will never defend, he (Orestes 2) should have brought a charge against his mother and inflicted a holy penalty for bloodshed, banishing her from his house; thus he would have gained moderation instead of calamity, keeping strictly to the law and showing his piety as well. As it is, he has come into the same fate as his mother. For though he had just cause for thinking her a wicked woman, he has become more wicked by murdering her." (Tyndareus to Menelaus. Euripides, Orestes 499).

And he that once had been a loving father had no good words for her other daughter either:

"Now I hate wicked women, especially my daughter who killed her husband; Helen, too, your own wife, I will never commend, nor would I even speak to her; and I do not envy you a voyage to Troy for a worthless woman." (Tyndareus to Menelaus. Euripides, Orestes 519).

Tyndareus' deep disappointment with his daughters is illustrated by an anecdote told by the traveller Pausanias:

"It is a sanctuary of Morpho, a surname of Aphrodite, who sits wearing a veil and with fetters on her feet. The story is that the fetters were put on her by Tyndareus, who symbolized by the bonds the faithfulness of wives to their husbands. The other account, that Tyndareus punished the goddess with fetters because he thought that from Aphrodite had come the shame of his daughters, I will not admit for a moment. For it were surely altogether silly to expect to punish the goddess by making a cedar figure and naming it Aphrodite. " (Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.15.22).


The tomb of Tyndareus could still be visited in Pausanias' time. But Tyndareus (says Apollodorus) was raised from the dead by Asclepius.


Parentage (three versions)




Perieres 1 & Gorgophone 2

Oebalus 1 & Batia 2

Oebalus 1 & Gorgophone 2

Tyndareus' father was either Perieres 1 or Oebalus 1, and his mother was either Batia 2 (a naiad) or Gorgophone 2. The latter was daughter of Perseus 1; she is remembered as the first woman to have married twice. She married first Perieres 1 and later Oebalus 1.

Perieres 1 was son either of Aeolus 1 (son of Hellen 1, son of Deucalion 1—the man who survived the Flood), or of Cynortes—a Lacedaemonian king son of Amyclas 1, son of Lacedaemon, son of Zeus.

Oebalus 1 is either son of Perieres 1, or son of Cynortes, which leads us again to the Thessalian and Lacedaemonian lines described above ('Thessalian' for the name of Aeolus 1, but Perieres 1 had become a ruler in Messenia—the region in southwestern Peloponnesus).


Castor 1




Timandra 1

Timandra 1 married Echemus, the Arcadian king who killed Hyllus 1, son of Heracles 1, in a battle that is counted as one of the first attempts of the HERACLIDES to return to the Peloponnesus. She had by him a son Laodocus, after whom a suburb Ladoceia near Megalopolis was named. Timandra married also Phyleus 1, son of Augeas (see Heracles 1).


Phylonoe was made immortal by Artemis.

Phoebe 6


Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Abas 2, Acrisius, Actaeus 1, Aeacus, Aegina, Aegisthus, Aegyptus 1, Aeolia, Aeolus 1, Aerope 1, Aeropus 2, Aethlius, Aetolus 2, Aezeius, Agamemnon, Agenor 1, Agenor 6, Aglaia 2, Aglaurus 1, Agorius, Aletes 1, Aleus, Amyclas 1, Amythaon 1, Anaxibia 4, Anchinoe, Andromeda, Anogon, Aphidas 1, Aphrodite, Apollo, Arcas 1, Ares, Asopus, Asterius 3, Astynous 1, Atlas, Atreus, Batia 2, Belus 1, Callisto, Calyce 1, Calydon, Cassiopea 2, Castor 1, Catreus, Cecrops 1, Cephalus 2, Cepheus 1, Cepheus 2, Chrysothemis 1, Cinyras 1, Cleoboea 1, Cleocharia, Clytaemnestra, Cometes 4, Corybas, Crete 1, Cretheus 1, Cretheus 1's Daughter, Creusa 3, Crisus, Cynortes, Daimenes, Damasius, Danae, Danaus 1, Deianira 4, Deucalion 1, Diomede 2, Dione 3, Doris 1, Dorus 1, Dorus 2, Echelas, Echemus, Elatus 2, Electra 2, Enarete, Endymion, Eos, Epaphus 1, Epicasta 1, Erigone 1, Europa, Eurotas, Eurydice 2, Eurythemis, Evarete, Gaia, Gorgophone 2, Gras, Harpina, Helen, Hellen 1, Hermes, Hermione, Herse 2, Hilaira, Hippodamia 3, Hypermnestra 1, Ide 1, Idomene, Inachus, Io, Iphigenia, Itone, Lacedaemon, Ladocus, Ladon 1, Laodice 1, Lapithus 1, Leda, Lelex 2, Leontomenes, Leucippus 2, Libya, Lycaon 2, Lycaon 6, Lycastus 1, Lyctius, Lycurgus 2, Lynceus 2, Mantineus 1, Medon 7, Megassares, Melia, Memphis 2, Menelaus, Metharme, Metope 1, Minos 1, Minos 2, Naiad 3, Neaera 3, Nilus, Niobe 1, Nonacris, Oebalus 1, Oenomaus 1, Orestes 2, Orseis, Pelasgus 1, Pelopia 4, Pelops 1, Peneus, Penthilus 1, Pereus, Perieres 1, Perseus 1, Phaethon 1, Pharnace, Pheres 1, Phocus 3, Phoebe 6, Phoenix 1, Phorbus, Phoroneus, Phthia 2, Phylonoe, Pleione, Pleuron, Pluto 3, Poseidon, Proetus 1, Pronoe 2, Protogenia 1, Psamathe 1, Pygmalion 1, Pylades, Pyrrha 1, Sandocus, Sparta, Sparton 1, Stilbe, Strophius 1, Strophius 3, Tantalus 1, Taygete, Tectamus, Teledice, Tellis, Thestius 1, Thyestes 1, Timandra 1, Tisamenus 2, Tithonus 2, Tyndareus, Xanthippe 1, Zeus.

Related sections Leda, Helen, Clytaemnestra, DIOSCURI, SUITORS OF HELEN, Trojan War  

Apd.1.9.5, 3.10.3, 3.10.5-9, 3.11.2; Apd.Ep.2.15, 6.25; Cic.ND.2.6; Eur.IA.50, 1150; Eur.Ore.passim; Hes.CWE.68.38; Hom.Od.11.298-304; Hyg.Fab.78, 119; Ov.Her.8.31ff.; Pau.3.1.4, 3.20.9, 8.34.4; Strab.10.2.24; Vir.Aen.3.330.