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Definition: tantalus from The Macquarie Dictionary

a stand containing visible decanters, secured by a lock.


Etymology: from Tantalus

Summary Article: Tantalus
From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

In Greek mythology the son of ZEUS and a NYMPH (or of the Titaness Pluto). He was a Lydian king, highly honoured and prosperous, but, because he offended the gods, he was plunged up to the chin in a river of HADES, a tree hung with clusters of fruit being just above his head. Because every time he tried to drink the waters receded from him, and because the fruit was just out of reach, he suffered agony from thirst, hunger and unfulfilled anticipation.

Hence ‘to tantalize’, to excite a hope and disappoint it, and hence also the name ‘tantalus’ applied to a lock-up spirit chest in which the bottles are visible but unobtainable without the key.

Accounts of the way in which Tantalus offended the gods vary. One version is that he invited the gods to dine with him and, to test their omniscience, offered them a dish containing his son PELOPS. Only DEMETER, mourning the loss of PROSERPINA, failed to realize what was in the dish and ate part of Pelops. Another version tells how Tantalus stole nectar and ambrosia from the gods to give to his friends. Yet another tells how Pandareus stole a guard-dog from Zeus and gave it to Tantalus but when, first, HERMES and later Pandareus asked for the dog back, Tanatalus denied possessing it. See also IVORY SHOULDER OF PELOPS.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2012

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