King Louis XIV's involvement in campaigns against the Dutch/Swedish alliance in early 1682 prevented him from attending the premiere of Persée in April of that year. As was customary in the operas of composer Jean-Baptiste Lully and librettist Philippe Quinault, the prologue included references to current battlefield exploits and portrayed the king as a paragon of virtue. The prologues of previous Lully operas emphasized glory and prowess over virtue; the change in emphasis in Persée may have resulted from the increased influence of Madame de Maintenon (the king's new mistress) in the court and her pension for decorum.
Atys, which premiered on 10 January 1676, is the first of the tragédies lyriques of Jean-Baptiste Lully and Philippe Quinault to have a tragic ending. As the Prologue indicates, the tragedie itself is a divertissement to ease the king's mind of his impending duties. Joyce Newman, in Jean-Baptiste de Lully and his Tragédie Lyriques, summarizes the message of the story in this way: "In [Atys], Quinault shows how actions which are not in accord with the noble ideal will bring defeat and punishment. Not only is love in opposition to glory in this opera, but also it is shown that if love is place more highly than honor, it will bring unhappiness even to one of the immortals."