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A tantalus is an open cabinet or case usually constructed from wood or metal, containing between 2 and 4 decanters. The tantalus contains a lock and key, so that the decanter and its contents could be seen but not touched by unauthorised hands. First appearing in the mid 19th century, it is understood in 1881 that a design for a wooden tantalus was patented by Mr John Betjemann.

The name Tantalus originates from the figure in Greek mythology, who committed crimes against the Gods which resulted in his punishment in the underworld. Zeus was so angered by Tantalus’ actions that he administered one of his most severe punishments. Tantalus was placed below a tree that dangled succulent fruit in front of him, but that he could never quite reach; he was also surrounded by a pool of water that parted whenever he went to drink. This resulted in an insatiable thirst and hunger that could never be met. This is where the name Tantalus for the locked away decanters came from, as the drinks are in view but out of reach without the key.


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A tantalus is an open cabinet or case usually constructed from wood or metal, containing between 2 and 4 decanters. The tantalus contains a lock and key, so that the decanter and its contents could be seen but not touched by unauthorised hands. First appearing in the mid 19th century, it is understood in 1881 that a design for a wooden tantalus was patented by Mr John Betjemann.

The name Tantalus originates from the figure in Greek mythology, who committed crimes against the Gods which resulted in his punishment in the underworld. Zeus was so angered by Tantalus’ actions that he administered one of his most severe punishments. Tantalus was placed below a tree that dangled succulent fruit in front of him, but that he could never quite reach; he was also surrounded by a pool of water that parted whenever he went to drink. This resulted in an insatiable thirst and hunger that could never be met. This is where the name Tantalus for the locked away decanters came from, as the drinks are in view but out of reach without the key.