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King of Sparta
Wife Leda
Father Oebalus or Perieres
Mother Gorgophone

In Greek mythology, Tyndareus /tɪnˈdɛriəs/ (Ancient Greek: Τυνδάρεως [tyndáreɔːs]) was a Spartan king, son of Oebalus (or Perieres[2]) and Gorgophone[3] (or Bateia), husband of Leda (Λήδα), father of Castor, Clytemnestra, Timandra,[4] Phoebe and Philonoe, and stepfather of Helen of Troy and Pollux.[5]

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.

Helen and the Trojan War

Tyndareus’ stepdaughter Helen of Troy

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 heir 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]


According to Euripides’s Orestes, Tyndareus was still alive at the time of Menelaus’ return,[9] 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.[10]


  1. Virgil, Aeneid. Book VI. For an English translation see the Perseus Project.
  2. John Tzetzes on Lycophron, 511
  3. Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.21.7
  4. Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 23(a)7–9; Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 10. 6
  5. Apollodorus, 3.10.6.
  6. Hesiod, Catalogs of Women and Eoiae. For an English translation see the Online Medieval and Classical Library.
  7. Homer, Iliad, Book III; Odyssey, Books IV, and XXIII.
  8. Herodotus, Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0-674-99133-8. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library].
  9. Vienna Papyrus G2315, from Hermopolis
  10. 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.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Sparta Succeeded by
Preceded by
King of Sparta Succeeded by