In Greek mythology, Tyndareus (Ancient Greek: Τυνδάρεος or Τυνδάρεως) was one of Sparta's legendary kings.
Tyndareus was the son of Oebalus (or Perieres) and Gorgophone (or Bateia). He married the Aetolian princess, Leda by whom he became the father of Castor, Clytemnestra, Timandra, Phoebe and Philonoe, and the stepfather of Helen of Troy and Pollux.
Tyndareus had a brother named Hippocoon, who seized power and exiled Tyndareus. He was reinstated by Heracles, who killed Hippocoon and his sons. Tyndareus’ other brother was Icarius, the father of Penelope.
Tyndareus’ wife Leda was seduced by Zeus, who disguised himself as a swan. She laid two eggs, each producing two children.
When Thyestes seized control in Mycenae, two exiled princes, Agamemnon and Menelaus came to Sparta, where they were received as guests and lived for a number of years. The princes eventually married Tyndareus' daughters, Clytemnestra and Helen respectively.
Curse of the goddess
According to Stesichorus, while sacrificing to the gods Tyndareus forgot to honor Aphrodite and thus the goddess was angered and made his daughters twice and thrice wed and deserters of their husbands. As what Hesiod also says:
"And laughter-loving Aphrodite felt jealous when she looked on them and cast them into evil report. Then Timandra deserted Echemus and went and came to Phyleus, dear to the deathless gods; and even so Clytaemnestra deserted god-like Agamemnon and lay with Aegisthus and chose a worse mate; and even so Helen dishonoured the couch of golden-haired Menelaus."
Helen and the Trojan War / The Oath of Tyndareus
Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world, and when it was time for her to marry, many Greek kings and princes came to seek her hand or sent emissaries to do so on their behalf. Among the contenders were Odysseus, Ajax the Great, Diomedes, Idomeneus, and both Menelaus and Agamemnon.
All but Odysseus brought many and rich gifts with them. Helen's favourite was Menelaus who, according to some sources, did not come in person but was represented by his brother Agamemnon, who chose to support his brother's case, and himself married Helen's half-sister Clytemnestra instead.
Tyndareus would accept none of the gifts, nor would he send any of the suitors away for fear of offending them and giving grounds for a quarrel. Odysseus promised to solve the problem in a satisfactory manner if Tyndareus would support him in his courting of Penelope, the daughter of Icarius.
Tyndareus readily agreed and Odysseus proposed that, before the decision was made, all the suitors should swear a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband against whoever should quarrel with the chosen one. This stratagem succeeded and Helen and Menelaus were married. Eventually, Tyndareus resigned in favour of his son-in-law and Menelaus became king.
Some years later, Paris, a Trojan prince came to Sparta to marry Helen, whom he had been promised by Aphrodite. Helen left with him – either willingly because she had fallen in love with him, or because he kidnapped her, depending on the source – leaving behind Menelaus and Hermione, their nine-year-old daughter.
Menelaus attempted to retrieve Helen by calling on all her former suitors to fulfil their oaths, leading to the Trojan War.
At one point, Tyndareus had aided Agamemnon and Menelaus in the retrieving the throne of Mycenae, for Tyndareus lead a large Spartan army against Myceneae, forcing Thyestes to step aside, and so Agamemnon became king of Mycenae, with Clytemnestra as his queen.
By this time, the sons of Tyndareus, Castor and Pollox, had left the mortal realm, and so Tyndareus made Menelaus his heir, and then abdicated, making Menelaus the new king of Sparta, with Helen as his queen.
The story of Tyndareus, and that of Leda are generally considered to stop at this point, for in most ancient sources neither are spoken of again; and thus it is generally assumed that both were deceased by the time of Trojan War.
According to Euripides's Orestes, Tyndareus was still alive at the time of Menelaus’ return, and was trying to secure the death penalty for his grandson Orestes due to the latter's murder of his own mother who was also Tyndareus' daughter, Clytemnestra, but according to other accounts he had died prior to the Trojan War. In some versions of the myth, Tyndareus was one of the dead men resurrected by Asclepius to live again.
Virgil, Aeneid. Book VI. For an English translation see the Perseus Project.
John Tzetzes on Lycophron, 511
Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.21.7
Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 23(a)7–9; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 10. 6
Scholiast on Euripides, Orestes 249; Hesiod, Catalogue of Women Fragment 67. Translated by Evelyn-White, H G. Loeb Classical Library Volume 57. London: William Heinemann, 1914.
Hesiod, Catalogs of Women and Eoiae. For an English translation see the Medieval and Classical Literature Library.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.10.9.
Herodotus, Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0-674-99133-8. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
Vienna Papyrus G2315, from Hermopolis
Euripides, Helen, in The Complete Greek Drama, edited by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr. in two volumes. 1. Helen, translated by E. P. Coleridge. New York. Random House. 1938.
John Tzetzes. Chiliades, 10.49 line 720
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