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Dune’s House of Atreides is Named in Honor of an Ancient Greek King

Dave Bautista in Dune
Greek-Filipino actor Dave Bautista in Dune (2021). Credit: Warner Brothers

Dune was one of 2021’s biggest movies, grossing nearly half a billion dollars around the world. The movie is an adaptation of the 1965 science fiction novel, also titled “Dune,” by Frank Herbert.

The sci-fi thriller tells the story of a group of families that fight for control of a powerful resource known as “spice” on the planet Arrakis.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also previously directed the science fiction remake “Blade Runner 2049”, the film was met with acclaim by critics and fans.

The protagonist of Dune, Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto of House Atriedes, joins his family to take over Arrakis, the planet recently awarded to them by the ruler of the Universe.

Paul and his noble family are descendants of Atreus, specifically Agamemnon — Atreus’ most notable son— and thus are known as Atreides, an ancient Greek name for those who come from Atreus’ direct line.

This reference grounds the story of one of ancient Greece’s most famous rulers — Agamemnon — and his legacy in mythology and the epic poetry of Homer.

Agamemnon infamously offended Chryses, the priest of Apollo, and Apollo spread pestilence among the king’s people.

The story of Agamemnon, the root of Dune’s Atreides family

At the beginning of the first book of the Iliad of Homer, Agamemnon insulted Apollo’s priest by refusing to give back his daughter, whom he had captured in a raid.

The priest knelt in front of Agamemnon and begged him to release his daughter.

But Agamemnon told the priest to get out of his sight as quickly as he could, lest he lost his patience.

The frightened priest runs away from the Greek camp. When he was at a safe distance, he immediately prayed to Apollo to punish the Greeks.

He reminded the god he had built a temple to honor and worship him, offering him rich sacrifices. “Make the Greeks pay for my tears,” he appealed to Apollo.

Chryses called Apollo “Sminthian,” the god of plague. The name Sminthos came from a town in Troas near which the Greeks had possibly pitched their camp.

Apollo listened to Chryses, becoming very angry with the insolence of Agamemnon.

He rushed “like night” out of Mt. Olympos in Thessaly and landed in the Greek camp near Troy.

He started shooting his invisible plague arrows at mules and dogs and then soldiers.

Homer says the dead fell to the ground for nine days, and fires everywhere burned their bodies.

This plague came to an end only by appeasing Apollo.

Achilles, “of the swift feet,” the greatest hero of the Trojan War, asked Kalchas, the “blameless” seer accompanying the troops, to reveal the reason why Apollo was spreading plague among the Greeks.

Achilles assured Kalchas he could count on him for his protection, so he urged him to tell the truth.

Kalchas said Apollo was furious because of the way Agamemnon had treated his priest, Chryses.

The Greeks, Kalchas said, should return “the glancing-eyed” daughter of the priest, Chryseis, to him and sacrifice 100 cattle in honor to Apollo, who would then cease his biological warfare against them.

Despite the threats of Agamemnon, Achilles and Kalchas prevailed. The Greeks returned Chryseis to her father, and Apollo stopped shooting them with his arrows of disease.

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