Murder, Exile and Rise to Power

Pelops and Hippodamia had two twin sons, Thyestes and Atreus, who murdered an illegitimate son of Pelops to please their mother. They went into exile in Mycenae after their father banished them. Atreus finagled control of the kingdom by marrying the daughter of the king.

Thyestes becomes Jealous

Because his twin brother became the King of Mycenae, Thyestes became jealous and looked for ways to take the throne from Atreus. He began by trying to seduce Atreus' wife so that she may choose him instead of Atreus to be King.

The Golden Fleece

One day, Atreus decided to make a sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. While searching for the best lamb available, he came across a lamb with a golden fleece. He decided to offer the lamb and keep its fleece in a box.

Atreus' wife loved Thyestes more than her husband. She agreed to take the fleece from Atreus' box, so that she could give it to Thyestes. Thyestes then approached his brother and said

"Let's say whoever has the golden sheepskin can be King of Mycenae."

Well Atreus knew that he had it in his box, so he agreed. When Atreus found out that Thyestes had the fleece, he was very angry, but he couldn't do much about it because Thyestes was the new King of Mycenae.

The Counter Dare

Atreus went to Zeus to complain.

Zeus told Atreus to make a bet with Thyestes that if the sun ran backward, Atreus could be king again.

Thyestes took the bet because he knew that no one could make the sun run backward, but he didn't know that Zeus would be helping Atreus. The sun did run backward, and Atreus was given back the throne. Atreus then banished Thyestes from Mycenae.

Family Dinner for Four?

Atreus knew that banishing Thyestes wasn't enough. He was still very angry at him. Because of this, he invited Thyestes to come over for dinner. Thyestes was overjoyed that his brother is inviting him back. He brought his two sons along.

When they got to the palace, Atreus told the kids to go out and play while he and Thyestes have dinner.

When dinner was over, Atreus called for the slaves to bring in dessert. The slaves brought in the dessert in a big covered dish.

When the slave took the cover off the dish, Thyestes was horrified to see his two sons’ bloody heads and hands and feet! Atreus had murdered them and cooked them and served them to him for dinner. Atreus then told Thyestes that he just ate his kids for dinner. Thyestes just ran out of the palace and never came back again.

Thyestes had one more son, Aegisthus, who eventually avenged him.