The Curse of the House of Atreus

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Kelly Macquire
by and
published on 17 March 2023

There aren't many families in ancient greek Mythology that were quite as unlucky as the house of Atreus and the multiple curses that plagued the household over multiple generations. Atreus was the mythical Greek king of Mycenae. He is perhaps best known for being the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus, two heroes of the Trojan War, as well as for the terrible curse placed upon his family. This was a hereditary curse, plaguing the family for five generations with a vicious cycle of murder and revenge.

The curse of the House of Atreus began when its founder, Tantalus, offended the gods by serving them a feast made of the dismembered remains of his own son, Pelops, in an attempt to test their omniscience. It continued with the rivalry between Atreus and his brother Thyestes that blossomed into a bloody feud, and it afflicted the next generation as well, with the murder of Agamemnon by his own wife. The curse did not end until Atreus' grandson Orestes avenged Agamemnon's murder and was absolved from all guilt by the gods after being tormented by the furies.

The story of the curse of the house of Atreus made excellent dramatic material for ancient Greek and Roman literature, as seen in the trilogy known as the Oresteia written by Greek tragedy playwright Aeschylus and the tragedy Thyestes written by Seneca. The members of the House of Atreus are referenced in many different sources of Greek mythology, with Atreus' descendants being collectively known as Atreidai, the plural form of the patronymic name Atreides.



0:00​ Introduction
1:00 The Beginning of the Curse of Atreus
2:15 The Second Generation - Pelops and Hippodamia
4:02 The Sons of Pelops, Atreus, and Thyestes
7:32 Agamemnon, Menelaus and Aegisthus
10:37 Orestes and the End of the Curse
11:56 Outro

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World History Encyclopedia

#greekmythology #atreus #ancientgreece

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2023, March 17). The Curse of the House of Atreus. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Curse of the House of Atreus." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 17, 2023.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Curse of the House of Atreus." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 17 Mar 2023. Web. 15 Jul 2024.