Sisyphus

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In Greek mythology Sisyphus (pronounced /ˈsɪsəfəs/; Greek: Σίσυφος Sísyphos) was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity. He is also found in Roman mythology.

The word "sisyphean" means "endless and unavailing, as labor or a task".[1]

Contents

Myth

Sisyphus was son of King Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete, and the founder and first king of Ephyra (Corinth). He was the father of Glaucus by the nymph Merope, and the grandfather of Bellerophon.

Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce, but was avaricious and deceitful, violating the laws of hospitality by killing travelers and guests. He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his dominant position. From Homer onwards, Sisyphus was famed as the craftiest of men. He seduced his niece, took his brother's throne and betrayed Zeus' secrets. Zeus then ordered Thanatos (Death personified) to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus. Sisyphus slyly asked Thanatos to demonstrate how the chains worked. When Thanatos did so, Sisyphus secured them and threatened him. This caused an uproar since no human could die with Thanatos out of commission. Eventually Ares (who was annoyed that his battles had lost their fun because his opponents would not die) intervened, freeing Death and sending Sisyphus to Tartarus.[2]

However, before Sisyphus died, he had told his wife to throw his naked body into the middle of the public square (purportedly as a test of his wife's love for him). Then, complaining to Persephone that this was a sign of his wife's disrespect for him, Sisyphus persuaded her to allow him to go back to the upper world and scold his wife for not burying his body (as a loving wife should). Back in Corinth, Sisyphus refused to return to the underworld and had to be forcibly dragged back by Hermes.

In another version of the myth, Persephone was directly persuaded that he had been conducted to Tartarus by mistake and ordered him to be freed.[3]

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