The Ancient Library

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On this page: Atreus – Atridae – Atrium – Atropus – Atta – Atthis



the heaven ; or (after the earth was dis­covered to be spherical), the terrestrial globe. Among the statues of Atlas the Farnese, in the Museum at Naples, is the best known. (See also olympic games, fig. 3.)

In Greek architecture, the term Atlantis was employed to denote the colossal male statues sometimes used in great buildings instead of columns to support an entabla­ture or a projecting roof.

Atreus. Son of Pelops and Hippodamia, grandson of Tantalus. (See pelops.) With the help of his brother Thyestes he mur­dered his step-brother Chrysippus. To escape the wrath of their father, the pair of brothers took refuge with their brother-in-law Sthenelus, king of Hycense, who gave them Media to live in. Eurystheus, the brother of their protector, was killed in battle with the Heracleidae. Atreus kept possession of the kingdom of Mycenae, which had been given him in charge by Eurystheus, and maintained it in virtue of possessing a golden lamb, which had been given him by Hermes for the purpose of exciting discord in the house of Pelops and avenging the death of his son Myrtilus. Thyestes debauched his brother's wife Aerope, daughter of the king of Crete, and with her aid got possession of the golden lamb and the kingdom. But, as a sign that right and wrong had been con­founded, Zeus turned the sun and the moon back in their course. Atreus accord­ingly recovered the kingdom and expelled Thyestes. To revenge himself, Thyestes sent Pleisthenes, a son of Atreus whom he had brought up as his own, to Mycenae to murder Atreus. But Atreus slew Pleis­thenes, not knowing that he was his son. Atreus replied by bringing back Thyestes and his family from exile, and serving up to Thyestes at table the limbs of his own sons. Thyestes fled away; the land was visited with barrenness and famine. In obedience to an oracle, Atreus goes forth to seek him, but only finds his daughter Pelopia, whom he takes to wife. ^Egisthus, her son by her father Thyestes, who is destined to avenge him, Atreus adopts and rears as his own child. Thyestes is after­wards found by Agamemnon and Menelaus, who bring him to Mycense. He is impris­oned, and ^Egisthus ordered to murder him. By the sword which ./Egisthus carries Thyestes recognises him as his son, and proposes to him to slay Atreus. Meanwhile Pelopia, in horror at the discovery of her sou's incestuous origin, drives the sword

I into her own breast. ^Egisthus takes the bloody sword to Atreus as a proof that he has executed his commission, and after­wards falls upon him with Thyestes, while he is engaged in making a thank-offering on the sea-shore. Thyestes and ^Egisthus thereupon seize the government of Mycense, and drive Agamemnon and Menelaus out of the country.

The older story knows nothing of these horrors. In Homer Pelops receives the sceptre from Zeus by the ministration of Hermes ; he leaves it to Atreus, and Atreus to Thyestes, who hands it down to Aga­memnon. Hesiod alludes to the wealth of the Pelopldae, but is silent as to the rest.

Atridffl (Gr. Atreldce, Atreidat). The sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus.

Atrium. The original name for a Roman house, the interior of which consisted of a single chamber open at the front. After­wards the term was applied to the large hall which extended along the whole breadth of the house, and was lighted by an opening in the roof. The atrium wag entered by the floor of the house, and the other chambers were attached to it. (See house.) Other buildings, sacred or pro­fane, possessing halls of this kind with dwelling-rooms attached, were known by the name of atria, from the resemblance of their form to that of an ordinary house. The Atrium Vestee, or abode of the Vestal Virgins, is all example of a consecrated atrium. The Atrium Libertatis was secu­lar. This was the official residence of the censor, and it was here that Asinius Pollio established the first public library known to have existed at Rome. Auction-rooms were also called atria, and halls of this description were often attached to temples, and used for the meetings and festivals of societies.

Atr6pns. One of the three Fates. (See mcer.e.)

Atta (T. Quinctius [or Quinticius}). A Roman dramatic poet, author of togdtcR (see comedy), who died b.c. 77, and was a contemporary of Afranius. He was cele­brated for his power of drawing character, especially in conversational scenes in which women were introduced. Of his comedies only twelve titles remain, with a few insig­nificant fragments.

Atthis. A chronicle of Attic history, in which special attention was paid to occur­rences of political and religious significance. After the last half of the 4th century a.d., chronicles of this kind were composed by

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