The myth of Sisyphus



Ever had a problem with authority? Wished you could live forever, or at the very least, cheat death? Well one man did it, and he did it twice. Much to the wrath of Hades and the Fates.


This is the myth of Sisyphus.



What would a man not do to escape his fate?


Sisyphus, king of Ephyra was a beloved by his kingdom. He did right by his people and set an example of how a Greek citizen should act. But all men must die and this was something that Sisyphus couldn't face. So when it came time for him to die, he instructed his wife to not put a coin under his tongue for Charon, the ferryman to the underworld.


Alas when he arrived in the underworld as a poor beggar, Hades was confused. How could a beloved, richly king arrive in the underworld with no money to pay his fare? Hades decided to send Sisyphus back to the world of the living to teach his wife a lesson lest she should set a bad example for the other wives of Greece. So back went Sisyphus, to live out many more years with his wife and in his kingdom.


Fooled him again!


When it came time for Sisyphus to die again, this time, Hades came for him directly. He was taking no chances. Sisyphus seemed to accept his fate but asked Hades, why had Hermes not come to collect him as that was his job, to bring people to the bank of the River Styx. It seemed odd, as certainly, Hades wasn't some messenger boy, he was king of the underworld.


Hades realised that Sisyphus had a point, and while Hades tried to come up with a sufficient answer, Sisyphus deftly crept around the God, chaining him to a tree like a dog. Hades quickly realised why he had done, but by then it was too late and Sisyphus ran off to live again.


Enough is enough


As long as Hades remained in the living world, no one could die, the Fates could not cut the strings of life. People couldn't make sacrifices to the Gods and world spiralled into complete chaos. Finally, Zeus threatened Sisyphus with a fate worse than death if he didn't untie Hades from the tree so Sisyphus finally caved and untied the God of the Dead. Soon, the world returned to normal, people could die again and life when on as before. The first soul to be claimed of course, was Sisyphus.


Punishment


When Sisyphus finally arrived in the underworld, Hades ensured it would be forever this time. Sisyphus was sent to Tartarus, the tortured part of the underworld and was given a simple task. Push a bolder to the top of a hill. The punishment however, was that when Sisyphus nearly reach the top, he would lose his grip, the boulder would roll to bottom of the hill and Sisyphus would have to start again - for all eternity.


I heard something different?


In some versions of this myth, Thanatos, not Hades, comes to collect Sisyphus for the second time and is chained to a tree after being asked how the chains work. Many myths have different versions but essentially the story is the same - Sisyphus was punished for all eternity for trying to cheat death and as such, disrupt the balance of the universe.



Storytelling


Head to the Mythology page to learn more about each character in Greek Mythology - it'll help a great deal as we continue to add more stories to the list! There are some incredible stories and lessons we can learn from the ancient Greeks, so stay tuned and subscribe for more!




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