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Atreus was an antagonist in Greek mythology. He was the patriarch of the infamous House of Atreus, the brother of Thyestes and the father of Menelaus and Agamemnon. As King of Mycenae, he abused his power and violated xenia (sacred hospitality) in order to punish his brother for attempting to cheat him out of the throne of Mycenae.


Atreus was grandson of Tantalus and son of Pelops and Hippodamia. In accordance with a curse placed on Pelops's line by Myrtilus, Atreus and his brother Thyestes grew jealous of their half-brother Chrysippus and killed him by throwing him down a well, for which they were exiled by their father. King Eurystheus of Mycenae granted them shelter and granted them temporary stewardship over Mycenae while he was away fighting the Heraclids. When the Heraclids won and slew Eurystheus, Atreus and Thyestes argued over who should take his throne.

Atreus vowed to sacrifice the best lamb from his flock to the gods if they would make him king; however, he found a golden lamb among the flock and, not wishing to sacrifice it, gave it to his wife Aerope to hide. Aerope then gave the lamb to Thyestes, who she was having an affair with. Thyestes convinced Atreus to agree that whoever had the lamb should have the throne of Mycenae before producing it and ascending the throne. Angered, Atreus asked the god Zeus for help. Zeus told Atreus to bet Thyestes that the sun would rise in the west the next day and get him to agree to hand over the throne if he did so. Thyestes agreed to the bet, believing he was sure to win. But Zeus had convinced the sun god Helios to move backwards in the sky that day, so Atreus won the bet, took the throne and banished Thyestes.

As king, Atreus had two sons by Aerope, Agamemnon and Menelaus. However, he soon learned of her affair with Thyestes and plotted brutal revenge. Atreus gave Thyestes permission to return to Mycenae with his two sons. When Thyestes returned, Atreus took his sons, killed them and served them to Thyestes in a banquet. Once Thyestes had eaten his sons, Atreus produced their uncooked hands and feet (their heads in some versions) and revealed what he had just eaten. He then declared Thyestes a cannibal and banished him once again. Soon after, Atreus avenged himself on Aerope by throwing her off a cliff to her death.

Thyestes vowed revenge against Atreus and consulted the Oracle of Delphi, which informed him that if he had a son by his daughter Pelopia that son would slay Atreus. Thyestes began raping Pelopia to produce this son, eventually getting her pregnant with Aegisthus. Meanwhile, Mycenae had become barren due to the god's hatred for Atreus, so he consulted the Oracle and was told to find Thyestes and return him to Mycenae. Atreus searched for Thyestes in Sicyon but was unable to find him, only finding Pelopia, who he decided to make his wife. Pelopia was brought back to Mycenae and married to Atreus, but not before abandoning the infant Aegisthus in the wilderness because she was ashamed of how he was born. Atreus discovered his existence and ordered the infant brought to him; a shepherd found him and delivered him to Atreus.

Many years passed, and Atreus continued to search for Thyestes to fulfil the prophecy. His sons Agamemnon and Menelaus eventually captured Thyestes in Delphi and brought him back to Mycenae. As the prophecy said nothing about keeping Thyestes alive Atreus decided to have him killed, sending Aegisthus to Thyestes's prison cell to do the deed. Once they were alone Thyestes revealed the truth to Aegisthus, who decided to kill Atreus. He returned to the throne room and informed him that Thyestes was dead. Atreus was overjoyed at the news and went down to the beach to make a sacrifice to the gods, accompanied only by Aegisthus. With nobody else around, Aegisthus killed Atreus with the sword meant for Thyestes, thus fulfilling the prophecy.


With Atreus dead, the gods allowed prosperity to return to Mycenae, thus fulfilling the second prophecy. However, Atreus's violations of xenia lead to a further curse being placed on the House of Atreus, in addition to the previous curses placed on Tantalus and Pelops. Due to this, misfortune and evil continued to plague the House of Atreus: Thyestes unfairly banished Agamemnon and Menelaus from Mycenae, Agamemnon deposed and exiled Thyestes, Menelaus's wife Helen was abducted by Paris and the resultant war left many dead and finally Agamemnon was murdered by Aegisthus and his unfaithful wife Clytemnestra. The curse was only broken when Agamemnon's son Orestes, after killing Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, gained the assistance of the goddess Athena in purifying his line.



Notable Legends
Chupacabra | Cyclops | Dragons | Wyverns | Dullahan | Fairies | Gremlins | Grim Reaper | Ghosts | Giants | Headless Horseman | Kraken | Loch Ness Monster | Medusa | Minotaur | Monsters | Mothman | Ogres | Siren | Skeletons | Spiders | Vampires | Wendigo | Yeti | Zombies

Demonology Legends
The Devil | Demons | Fallen Angels
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Disambiguation Pages
Satan | Demon | Pazuzu | Succubus | Antichrist | Baphomet | Krampus | Behemoth

Gods & Spirits
Gods & Goddesses: Apep | Bila | Camazotz | Damballa | Fomorians (Balor, Bres) | Geb | Gods of Olympus (Ares, Atë, Chaos, Eris, Hades, Hera, Hermes, Limos, Poseidon, Uranus, Zeus) | Jötunn (Ymir, Loki, Hela, Skoll and Hati, Fenrir, Jormungandr, Surtr, Hræsvelgr) | Kali | Loviatar | Nun | Perkūnas | Set | Tiamat | Titans (Atlas, Kronos, Prometheus) | Veles | Xolotl
Spirits: Dybbuk | El Silbón | Fetch | Hinnagami | La Llorona | La Sayona | La Viuda | Mackenzie Poltergeist | Myling | Poltergeists | Sluagh | Stingy Jack | Umibōzu | Unseelie Court
Disambiguation Pages
God | Jesus Christ | Angel

Humans & Humanoids
Abhartach | Ajax the Lesser | Ame-onna | Antaeus | Atreus | Bandits | Baron Samedi | Black Rock Witch | Blair Witch | Bolster | Cain | Cassiopeia | Christie Cleek | Count Dracula | Creon | Davy Jones | Delilah | Draug | Doppelgangers | Dr. Victor Frankenstein| Goblins | Goliath | Gomorrahites | Green Knight | Green Witch | Grendel | Grendel's Mother | Hags | Haman the Agagite | Hanako-San | Herod the Great | Herodias | Horsemen of the Apocalypse | Humanity | Iemon | Ixion | Jezebel | Judas Iscariot | King Ahab | King Arthur | King Oenomaus | King Vortigern | Kuchisake-onna | Laius | La Santa Compaña | La Tunda | Lilith | Lord William de Soulis | Louhi | Lucius Tiberius | Lycaon | Marry-san | Meg of Meldon | Morag | Morgan le Fay | Nanny Rutt | Nessus | Orcs | Otus and Ephialtes | Pandarus | Paris | Phaedra | The Pharisees | Polyphemus | Rich Man | Romans | Saul | Sawney Bean | Sciron | Shechem | Sko-Ella | Sodomites | Stingy Jack | Tamamo no Mae | Tantalus | Tereus | Thyestes | Trauco | Tydeus | Yallery Brown | Ysbaddaden

Monsters, Animals & Anthropomorphic Beings
A-mi’-kuk | Akkorokamui | Averesboro Gallinipper | Aye-aye | Bakeneko | Basilisk | Boneless | Chimera | Cirein-cròin | Cockatrice | Cuegle | Cuélebre/Culebre | Devil Monkeys | Dip | Dragon | El Comelenguas | Erymanthian Boar | Escornau | Fossa | Fouke Monster | Foxes | Frankenstein's Monster | Giants of Voronezh | Golden Cicada | Groundhogs | Harpies | Herensuge | Hydra | Jackalopes | J'ba Fofi | Kappa | La Cegua | Lambton Worm | Leviathan | Manticores | Madman Marz | Michigan Dogman | Mikari Baba | Monster of Mount Bandai | Morag | Mordred | Morgan le Fay | Nekomata | Ojáncanu | Onamazu | Otesánek | Paparrasolla | Pesanta | Redcaps (Robin Redcap) | River Mumma | Scylla | Sphinx | Stymphalian Birds | Tailypo | Tarasque | Trolls | Tsuchinoko | Undead | Whowie | Will O' The Wisp | Wolves

Common Legends
Amanda the Doll | Black Goo | Bunnyman | Bye Bye Man | Candyman | China Doll | Clown Doll | Cropsy | Crying Boy | Hairy-Armed Woman | Hatman | Homey the Clown | Hook Killer | John and Susan Buckley | Joliet the Haunted and Cursed Doll | La Tunda | Licking Maniac | Melon Heads | Men in Black | Mystery Killer | Nain Rouge | Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square | Old Man Try-By-Night | Peeping Tom | Rain Man | Robert the Doll | Paimon | Patasola | Skinned Tom | Teke Teke | The Killer In the Backseat | The Man Upstairs

Beast of Gévaudan | Black Eyed Children | Black Stick Men | Cherufe | Devil Monkeys | Emela-Ntouka | Enfield Horror | Dog-headed Men | Fear Liath | Flatwoods Monster | Ghosts Goatman | Grafton Monster | Greys | Hoop Snake | Indrid Cold | Jackalopes | Jersey Devil | Kelpie of Loch Ness | Kongamato | Malawi Terror Beast | Mamlambo | Manananggal | Maricoxi | Mngwa | Momonjii | Morag | Nobusuma | Pope Lick Monster | Popobawa | Pukwudgies | Reptoids | Roc | Ropen | Salawa | Sea-Serpents | Shadow People | Sheepsquatch | Slide-Rock Bolter | Snallygaster | Spring Heeled Jack | Tanuki | Thunderbird | Two-Toed Tom | Water Horses | White-Eyed Children | Yowie

Modern Legends
Charlie | Bloody Mary | Bloody Mary (Halloween Horror Nights) | Ghost (Johnny, I Want My Liver Back) | Ghost Trains | Kunekune | Momo | Orie Chef | Aliens (AC) | Martinez Dog Demon | The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water | Crisis

Possessed Objects
Coffin on Wheels | Ghost Trains | Black Volga | Robert the Doll | Joliet the Haunted and Cursed Doll | China Doll | Amanda the Doll | Clown Doll | Gargoyles

See Also
Cthulhu Mythos Villains | Trevor Henderson Villains | Creepypasta Villains | SCP Foundation Villains