The son of Pelops and the brother of Atreus. He too was a victim of the curse that blighted Pelops' family. Atreus had succeeded King Sthenelus as the ruler of Mycenae but Thyestes, who had an affair with Atreus' wife Aerope, managed to seize the throne with her help. Determined to be king again, Atreus sought the help of the gods and managed to regain his throne, banishing Thyestes.
Angered, Thyestes attempted to kill his brother by using Pleisthenes, the son of Atreus. The attempt failed and driven by hatred against his brother, Atreus served Thyestes' own son as a meal to him, keeping only the hands and feet. After Thyestes had finished eating, Atreus produced the hands and feet and taunted his brother with them, and then banished his brother once more.
An oracle advised Thyestes that in order to regain his throne he had to father a son by his own daughter. He did so and named the boy Aegisthus. When Aegisthus grew to manhood he killed Atreus and restored Thyestes to the throne. He was later expelled a third and final time by Agamemnon, another son of Atreus.
The phrase a Thyestean feast refers to one at which human flesh is served.
- Aeschylus. Agamemnon, 1242.
- Euripides. Orestes, 1008.
- Homer. Iliad ii, 107.