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Tantalus is a figure from Greek mythology who was the rich but wicked king of Sipylus. For attempting to serve his own son at a feast with the gods, he was punished by Zeus to forever go thirsty and hungry in Hades despite being stood in a pool of water and almost within reach of a fruit tree. His terrible punishment was set as a warning for humanity not to cross the line between mortals and gods.
Tantalus was the legendary king of Sipylus, a kingdom which bordered Lydia and Phrygia. Tantalus' father was Zeus and his mother Pluto, daughter of Cronus and Rhea. He was famed for his great wealth, much like those other Asian kings Croesus and Midas. So much so, the king gave rise to the Greek expression, 'the talents of Tantalus.' His wife differs in various accounts – Euryanassa or Eurythemista, both daughters of river gods, or Clytie, daughter of Aphidamantes, or Dione, one of the Pleiades. He was the father of Pelops, the charioteer hero of Olympia, and Niobe, who foolishly boasted her large number of children showed she was superior to Leto, and so her nine daughters and nine sons were killed by the goddess Artemis with the help of Apollo.
Dinner with the Gods
The first generation of mortals was given the privilege of dining with the gods on Mt. Olympus, but Tantalus misbehaved spectacularly and made his host Zeus positively livid with outrage. There are three versions of Tantalus' mischief. The first is that he gossiped with his fellow mortals as to what the gods were cooking up with their divine plans for humanity. The second version has Tantalus stealing some of the divine nectar and ambrosia served at the dinner and giving it out to mere mortals down below. These two sins were bad enough and threatened the balance of order between gods and humanity, but the third version, the most popular one, tells of an even more outrageous deed.
Tantalus received one of those delicious punishments that Zeus occasionally dished out to the particularly wicked.
Wishing to test if the gods really did know everything and could tell what they were eating even if it was forbidden food, Tantalus killed, diced, and cooked up in a stew his own son Pelops and planned to serve him to all the gods at dinner. The plan fell flat when the Olympians immediately recognised that something was amiss, all that is except one. Demeter, upset at still not having found her lost daughter Persephone, absent-mindedly ate a chunk of Pelops' shoulder. For this reason, when Tantalus' wickedness was revealed and the gods decided to put Pelops back together and make him live again, the young man had to have a prosthetic shoulder made from ivory.
For his audacity, Tantalus first had his kingdom and dynasty cursed and then, in the afterlife, he was to receive one of those delicious punishments that Zeus occasionally dished out to the particularly wicked amongst the mortals. Sisyphus had to forever roll a stone up a hill each day, Ixion was tied to a flaming wheel that never stopped spinning, and Tantalus, completing the most unfortunate trio in Hades, was made to stand in a pool of water but never able to drink from it and quench his insatiable thirst as it drains whenever he bends down to drink. As an added frustration, he was positioned below a tree but can never quite grasp the succulent fruit that hangs from its boughs. He is seen in this condition by the wandering Odysseus down in Hades in Homer's Odyssey. The hero describes the scene, thus:
I also saw the awful agonies that Tantalus has to bear. The old man was standing in a pool of water which nearly reached his chin, and his thirst drove him to unceasing efforts; but he could never reach the water to drink it. For whenever he stooped in his eagerness to drink, it disappeared. The pool was swallowed up, and all there was at his feet was the dark earth, which some mysterious power had drained dry. Trees spread their foliage high over the pool and dangled fruits above his head – pear-trees and pomegranates, apple-trees with their glossy burden, sweet figs and luxuriant olives. But whenever the old man made to grasp them in his hands, the wind would toss them up towards the shadowy clouds. (Odyssey, 11:582-593)
Mt. Sipylus & the Destruction of Tantalis
Some authors give a third twist and have a rock precariously balanced overhead in perpetual danger of falling and squashing the villain instantly. This explains why Tantalus is pointing to a cliff in a scene from a 4th-century BCE red-figure vase from Apulia. This scene may also relate to one version of the Tantalus myth where the king kept the fabulous golden mastiff made by Hephaistos that had guarded Zeus when he was in the cave on Crete as a youngster. Tantalus, a receiver of stolen goods from the thief Pandareus, had refused to give up the idol until Hermes intervened. Zeus, on learning of the crime, had the king crushed under a cliff on Mt. Sipylus, the source of the kingdom's great mineral wealth.
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It is interesting that the ancient authors Strabo and Pausanias both claimed the city of Tantalis was destroyed in violent earthquakes which struck throughout Lydia and Ionia. Mt. Sipylus collapsed, marshes became flooded, and Tantalis was eventually submerged beneath a lake. Could this be the geophysical explanation for the punishment of Tantalus? Whatever the reason for the myth and Tantalus' ultimate punishment, from which derives the verb tantalise, the story was a terrible reminder for all mortals lest they be tempted into immoral and impious behaviour.
Ancient sources for Tantalus include Apollodorus, Diodorus Siculus, Euripides, Homer, Hyginus, Antoninus Liberalis, Nonnius, Ovid, Pausanias, Plato, and Plutarch.
After Tantalus betrayed the trust of the gods his family started to suffer. His daughter Niobe was turned to stone. His grandson was the first husband of Clytemnestra and was killed by Agamemnon. Another grandson, through ivory-shouldered Pelops, was Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Atreus and Thyestes were brothers and rivals who wound up destroying each other. They had fallen under a curse uttered by Hermes' son Myrtilus against Pelops and all his family. Atreus further defied the gods by promising Artemis a golden lamb and then failing to deliver it. After a series of tricks and treacheries between the brothers, Atreus served up a dish to his brother of three of Thyestes' children.
Calendar of Events
Saturday, November 16 – Annual Meeting
2020 Board Meetings
All TCA residents welcome. 6 pm potluck, 7 pm meeting:
Dates to be selected at first meeting in Jan.
Contact [email protected] for additional information.
2020 Community Workdays
Saturday, January 18
Saturday, April 25
Saturday, July 18
Saturday, October 17
2020 Social Events for Residents
Easter Party – date & location tbd
Halloween – Saturday Oct. 31, need host
Annual Meeting – Saturday, Nov. 7, 14 or 21, tbd
Christmas Caroling – date & location tbd
Tantalaus (Τάνταλος, Tántalos) was the great king of Sibylus, Lydia who pleased all twelve Olympians. He was the son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto. He would often invite the gods to dinner at his great palace. Thus, Tantalaus thought he had nothing good enough to offer them as, being gods, they would already have access to the most delectable of foods. But Tantalaus had a son who he loved deeply named Pelops. So one evening, he killed his son and served his body to the gods.
All the gods saw through this ruse except Demeter, who ate Pelop's shoulder. However, Zeus did not like human sacrifices. To punish Tantalaus for his sin, the gods sent him to Tartarus where water went up to his neck and fruit hung above his head from low branches. And whenever he tried to drink the water or grasp at the fruit, it would move away from him. Also, to intimidate him, a rock hung over his head, ready to crush him. His son was then revived and given a replacement shoulder by Hephaestus.
Vintage Tantalus Sets: Keep Your Spirits Under Lock & Key!
The tantalus is a late-19th century introduction to keeping your liquor under lock and key. Liquor stored in decanter bottles was kept safe by the locking tantalus frame that held decanter bottles inside. The frame was designed in such a way that while it was an open caddy for displaying elegant decanters, it also locked so the decanters and their stoppers could not be removed without the key!
Did you know that until the licensing act of 1860, spirits and wines were not sold in their own bottle? No, they were sold straight from the barrel, which meant if you wanted to buy alcohol, you also needed to take along a container to be filled. Until the first decanter was produced in the 1690s, a claret jug was typically used.
The first patented tantalus was in 1881 by George Betjemann, a cabinet maker from the Netherlands. However, the first tantalus prototype was introduced in Stourbridge in 1860 and was made of wood. There are differences of opinion as to why the tantalus was ever made, but the fun version is they were designed to protect the bottled goodness from the servants sneaking a few sips! As a result you will also hear a tantalus referred to as ‘The Butler’s Enemy’!
The tantalus solved two problems. With an increasing consumption of spirits in the home, it was one way to keep the alcohol from being pilfered, and at the same time allowed the showy decanters to remain on display, an important consideration for the Joneses of the day!
You will find a range of tantalus options and designs for holding 2 decanters, 3 decanters and sometimes even 4.
You will also discover the tantalus design was adapted to accommodate other things: cigar boxes, fountain pens, perfume bottles and even tea in tins!
Let’s take a peek at a few options you might have seen at Audrey Would!
Both are from the 1950s and are complete with lock and key. Our 2-decanter tantalus is quite unique with a wind up musical feature that plays, ‘How Dry Am I’ when one or both bottles are removed! How much fun is that?
If you are looking for a unique gift for Dad with historical roots, we think a tantalus is a great way to go!
If you want to learn more about the history of the tantalus… and there is a lot more to learn about in just the name itself… we recommend these two articles:
Once you read them, you decide. Was the tantalus designed to keep the servants from pilfering, or was it simply a novelty item meant to be enjoyed by the rising affluent middle class of the time?
Photographs by Sheila Zeller for Audrey Would! Please link and credit if you choose to use.
Take a Trip Up Tantalus
Famous Diamond Head as seen from Tantalus. Photo courtesy of erictessmer.
To residents it’s simply “the hill.” To visitors, it’s an excursion into a tropical jungle. Puʻuohiʻa, better known as Tantalus mountain, is both and more: hikers’ heaven, botanical paradise, cyclists’ and runners’ proving ground, a bird-watcher’s delight. This stately guardian to the Koʻolau range offers the best views, the best trails and, during summer months especially, metropolitan Honolulu’s backyard rain forest is an easy escape by car from the heated sidewalks and high-rises of the city
Few places on Oahu retain the mystique of this close-knit mountain community, with its gracious old kamaʻaina houses and estates hidden by a topography that favors privacy.
Turn onto Round Top Drive (which connects with Tantalus Drive) and there are driveways at seeming impossible inclines, rooftops that emerge level with your car wheels, sheer drops into canyons many feet below, and unbeatable views across the city.
A canopy of kukui and banyan trees shades the mountain’s single road — a two-lane, 10-mile loop with a series of hairpin turns and blind corners that challenge even the smallest of cars.
Mongooses race fearlessly across the road, the melodic calls of shama thrush echo from trees swathed in giant philodendron leaves. It’s cool, peaceful and woodsy — and frequently wet. Though not strictly classified a rain forest, the rainfall at the summit of Tantalus, measures more than 160 inches annually, a tad wetter than the 20 inches recorded at nearby Waikiki.
At the “Hog’s Back” lookout, a razorback summit ridge where the road narrows to a single lane, views take in two major valleys: on the Waiʻanae side is Pauoa Flats, part of Nuʻuanu valley and toward Diamond Head is Manoa, the two valleys bridged by a panorama from Kalaeloa to Diamond Head Crater.
Giving the mountain its lushness are rare Hawaiian plants, an astonishing assortment of trees, fast-encroaching bamboo forests and beautiful flowers. Also, wild coffee plants, guavas, thimbleberries and mountain apples. Maidenhead ferns spring from Tantalus ash banks. Bordering Round Top Drive is exotic and fragrant night-blooming cereus.
Puʻuohiʻa was called Tantalus after the Greek god by Punahou schoolboys on a fern-collecting expedition in the 1840s. The mountain is home to a small community with its own telephone directory whose octogenarians walk daily to help clear roadside trash.
But there’s a dark side, too, famously referred to as Tantalus’ “hankery pankery.” Bodies and bones turn up from time to time in the undergrowth. The mountain is secluded, dark and quiet at night, harboring secrets to crimes as yet unsolved.
Though little in the way of a formal history is written about Tantalus, memories and stories from longtime residents paint a picture of the mountain in the last century as an Eden-like place. A time when Tantalus was “country,” and well-to-do Honolulu families owned a place in the country, as well as the city.
The first house is believed to have been built in the 1880s, a small cabin on the slope of the Punchbowl side. In the early days of homesteading at the beginning of the 20th century, summer houses and cabins were built as mountain retreats to escape the season’s heat. Roads were built and maintained by prisoners from Oahu prison, little more than trails of volcanic gravel excavated from nearby Makiki quarries.
House-building materials were hauled by horse and wagon or human effort up the mountain’s only road from Punchbowl side. According to early accounts, even when cars began making the journey around 1914, they frequently overheated and broke down, resenting the single, long winding path.
Homes were lit by kerosene lamps. Water then as now was collected in massive redwood rain tanks. Electricity arrived on the mountain in the mid-1920s. Few homes had telephones, and those that did shared with those who did not.
Today fewer than 200 homes exist off Round Top/Tantalus Drive. Most began as small summer houses with corrugated roofs, built for well-known families, among them the Dillinghams, Castles, Bishops, Isenbergs and Wilders. The homes were later expanded and improved or rebuilt into today’s upscale structures.
Several were designed by architects Charles Dickey and Hart Wood. Some families designed and built their own properties, with younger generations adding to them over the years.
Keywords Studios acquires 85% interest in Tantalus Media for up to $46.8 millionFounded in 1994 and based in Melbourne, Australia, Tantalus is a leading and prolific developer of high quality, multi-platform titles.
LONDON: Keywords Studios has acquired an 85% interest in Tantalus Media for a total consideration of up to US$46.8 million.
The investment will further the Group’s strategy to become the ‘go to’ technical and creative services platform for the global video games industry and marks Keywords Studios’ entry into the Australian video games market.
Founded in 1994 and based in Melbourne, Australia, Tantalus is a leading and prolific developer of high quality, multi-platform titles. Led by Tom Crago, the studio has worked on close to 100 games, on every major platform since the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Notable game franchises among the studio’s credits include Age of Empires, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Cities Skylines, Sonic Mania and Mass Effect. Tom Crago will work with Keywords Studios to drive its expansion in the region, both organically and through a healthy pipeline of acquisition opportunities.
Tantalus has grown strongly in recent years and generated adjusted EBITDA of c.US$6m in 2020. Under the terms of the 85% investment, Keywords Studios will pay a maximum amount of US$46.8m, comprising initial consideration of US$30.6m (US$18.4m in cash from existing resources and the equivalent of US$12.2m in new ordinary shares) and deferred consideration of up to US$16.2m, in a mix of cash and new ordinary shares, based on performance targets for Tantalus over two years.
The new ordinary shares to be issued as part of the initial consideration and the deferred consideration will be subject to a one-year lock-in period and orderly market provisions for a further one year period.
Keywords has acquired 85% of the issued share capital of Tantalus’ parent company, Keywords Australia Pty Ltd (Keywords Australia), a new company set up for this transaction.
Put and call options are in place that would allow the Group to buy the 15% shareholding in Keywords Australia in 3 years from Tom Crago’s wholly owned investment company.
Jon Hauck, Joint Interim CEO of Keywords Studios commented: “Tantalus brings 27 years of experience of video game development in Australia for some of the largest global publishers and leading titles. The talented team, led by Tom Crago and supported by an experienced management team, has an impressive track record of development work on major franchises including Age of Empires, Sonic Mania, The Legend of Zelda, Mass Effect, Cars and Cities: Skylines.
“We are delighted to welcome Tantalus to the Keywords Studios family. As our first investment in Australia, we are very excited to work with Tom and his talented team who will bring invaluable expertise and market knowledge as we expand our presence in this attractive and growing region.”
Tom Crago, further commented: “This is a great day for our team, and we are delighted to be joining the Keywords Studios family. We share the same outlook on the opportunities within the video game industry, and we’re grateful to Keywords Studios for investing in our growth, not just in Tantalus, but in the wider Australian market.
“This provides us with a great platform for further expansion, and with the talent and expertise available in this part of the world, we are very excited about the future. For all of us, that means being able to work on more games than ever, with our existing publisher partners and beyond.”
Whereas: Stories from the People’s House
A parliamentary insult hurled at a Republican freshman had the effect of briefly banding his colleagues into a memorable (and merry) bloc.
Early in 1902, Eugene Loud of California, the chairman of the Post Office and Post Roads Committee, was explaining provisions about rural delivery in a postal bill to the full House. Freshman Robert Nevin of Ohio asked permission to speak—a seemingly innocuous act except for the fact that no other newcomer had dared to do so in the months’-old 57th Congress (1901–1903). Loud, a Civil War veteran of Phil Sheridan’s scorched-earth tactics in the Shenandoah Valley, warily consented but soon found Nevin’s question irritating. He dismissed Nevin as an upstart freshman trying “to get his name in the Congressional Record. I do not think I will gratify his ambition.”
So, early in the spring of 1902, Nevin and his colleagues joined forces, creating a social club open only to their class and future GOP freshmen. Samuel Powers of Massachusetts suggested naming it for Tantalus, the mythological figure condemned by the gods to stand for eternity with water up to his chin and with low-hanging fruit trees overhead. When he tried to drink, the water receded and when he reached for the fruit, the wind swept the branches away. “It seemed to me that the new member of Congress was very much in the situation of Tantalus,” Powers recalled. “Everything that he wanted was just out of his reach.”
At an early gathering the jesting included an exchange between Tantalus president Powers and Speaker David Henderson of Iowa—the guest of honor. After a toast to Henderson’s health, the Speaker stood up from his seat. “For what purpose does the gentleman rise?” Powers asked. “For the purpose of giving you kids some good advice,” Henderson shot back. “The gentleman is out of order and he will be seated,” ruled Powers. The Sergeant at Arms plunked Henderson on the head with the mace, scattering white owl feathers across the head table. “With a burst of laughter the Speaker, fully appreciating the humor of the situation, subsided,” reported the Washington Post. The dinner made an impression—Henderson remained a regular at Tantalus gatherings even after he left the House in 1903. Later, regular guests included Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois and senior Republicans such as John Dalzell of Pennsylvania and Sereno Payne of New York, various cabinet officials, and diplomats. The political cartoonist Clifford Berryman illustrated the club’s ornate menu booklets, and the Tantalus acquired a popularity rivaling the Gridiron Club.
Ironically, Tantalus thrived at the zenith of centralized powers in the House—during the Cannon Speakership. By the 61st Congress (1909–1911), when Uncle Joe’s arbitrary rulings and despotic leadership had alienated many in his own party, just 11 of the original Tantalus founders still served in the House. What’s more, they were establishment figures. Cannon had lifted them into senior leadership ranks: six were committee chairmen (including Agriculture and Foreign Affairs). Ten of the 11 voted to support Czar Cannon as Democrats and Insurgent Republicans famously stripped him of the chairmanship of the Rules Committee in the Cannon Revolt of March 19, 1910, initiating an unraveling of the Speaker’s powers. Unlike Greek mythology, in the House the passage of time, a little camaraderie, and invaluable seniority had healed old grievances and brought that tantalizing fruit within reach.
And Chairman Loud? He lost his re-election race in fall 1902.
Sources: Samuel L. Powers, Portraits of a Half Century (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1925) Neil MacNeil, Forge of Democracy: The House of Representatives (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1963) Boston Globe, 8 December 1907 Washington Post, 2 March 1902, 16 March 1902, and 2 April 1902 Congressional Record (23 January 1902 and 19 March 1910).
Photo courtesy Flickr user Marc Loehrwald
Tantalus-Round Top Drive is an 8-mile, two-lane paved road that begins at the entrance to Punchbowl National Cemetery. The roadway climbs Tantalus Drive to an elevation of 1,800 feet and then descends along Round Top Drive. The district ends at the 8.0 mile marker. This drive is two miles from Waikiki and one mile from downtown Honolulu. The ridges that carry Tantalus-Round Top Drive surround Makiki, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Honolulu.
In 1906, the Civic Federation of Honolulu brought Charles Mulford Robinson from Rochester, New York for a survey in Honolulu. He recommended securing the top of Tantalus for “the one great park for Honolulu.” In 1957 the 2,000-acre Makiki State Recreation Area was established as part of the Hawaii State Park System. There are 7 trailheads along Tantalus-Round Top Drive that provide access to a network of some 15 trails that run throughout Makiki Valley and the Tantalus-Round Top mountain range.
The drive extends over three volcanic cinder cones in the Tantalus range with the highest at 1,800 feet above sea level. Makiki Valley contains three streams that carry 130 inches of annual rainfall from Tantalus-Round Top. By comparison, nearby Waikiki’s annual rainfall is 20 inches. In 1913 all upper Tantalus residences became part of the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, which was established that year to protect the vital water supply of Honolulu. Today it supplies Honolulu with some of the purest water in the world. A reforestation program was carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1934 and 1941.
Under Act 234, passed in 1957, the Tantalus-Round Top area was zoned as a Conservation District with conditional residential use. The zoning regulations were designed to prevent water pollution to the watershed area, thereby restricting further residential, commercial or agricultural development. Tantalus is home to around 600 residents with approximately 200 homes that are not serviced by the municipal water or sewer system.
HISTORY OF THE ROAD
This drive was built on public lands over a 25-year period, from 1892 to 1917. The development of the road extended through four governments, from the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Provisional Government of Hawaii, the Republic of Hawaii and the Territory of Hawaii. The ownership of the road remained with the Territory of Hawaii and subsequently with the State of Hawaii until 1993 when its title was transferred to the City and County of Honolulu in name and tax map only. There was no actual exchange of deeds or survey.
Residential lots on Tantalus were surveyed and laid out in 1891. Lorrin A. Thurston, Minister of Interior under King Kalakaua and a pioneer Tantalus resident, was credited with conceiving and promoting the Tantalus Road project. In 1891, Thurston authorized the construction of a carriage road “6’ wide with an easy grade of 7%”. He was the driving force behind government road construction to the summit of Tantalus on Oahu and was instrumental in the establishment of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawaii and Haleakala National Park on Maui.
Construction of the Tantalus road began in 1892, and was an effort by the Kingdom of Hawaii to provide access to several hundred acres of land for settlement.
In 1914, Tantalus Drive was improved to allow automobiles at a cost of some $4,000. The Round Top road was completed in 1917. With the completion of Tantalus and Round Top Drives the road was recognized as the most beautiful scenic drive in Honolulu. It was first paved in 1937 with $337,000 in federal funding from the Works Progress Administration.
The only substantial improvement since that time was in 1953-54, when low curbside retaining walls and quarried basalt roadside drainage culverts made were added, where needed, along the length of the road.
This is an edited version of the application for the nomination of Tantalus-Round Top Drive to the Hawaii Register of Historic Places. Tantalus-Round Top Drive was approved for State Historic Designation in 2007 and for The National Historic Register in 2009.