21 Apr

Sisyphus was famous for two things: his cleverness during his life and his punishment after death. Stories about him are sometimes different, but usually he is referred to as King of Corinth. One story involves Autolycus, who stole cattle and also changed their colour so that they couldn’t be identified. Sisyphus outsmarted Autolycus by putting a mark on their hooves so that he could follow their prints in the ground once they were stolen. In another story, Sisyphus dies twice. In the beginning he sees Zeus kidnapping a nymph. He promised to keep her hiding place a secret, however, Sisyphus betrayed Zeus, by telling nymph’s father the location of his daughter. Zeus got furious and so he sent Thanatos (death) to take Sisyphus to Hades, the ruler of the underworld. Sisyphus tied up Thanatos, and so for days no one on earth died, but after some time Ares went to free Thanatos and took Sisyphus to the underworld. Sisyphus told his wife not to bury him and managed to persuade Hades to let him come back to earth so that he could arrange a proper funeral. After returning to Corinth, he stayed there until he died again. After all the tricks he played on the gods, he was punished and put on a hillside in the underworld with a heavy boulder above him, and to escape death he needed to push it uphill. The gods told him that if he rolled the stone to the other side they would release him, but the boulder kept on rolling back down to the bottom once he reached the top. So the phrase “Labor of Sisyphus” refers to a hopeless task that must be repeated over and over.

Source Citation: “Sisyphus.” Myths and Legends of the World. Ed. John M. Wickersham. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.


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