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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sisyphus January 18

Sisyphus: Sisyphus was the king and founder of Corinth.  Greek mythology is full of great heroes like Hercules and Achilles who get into all sorts of scrapes and constantly throw themselves in harm’s way, risking their lives and everyone else’s, whereas great rogues like Sisyphus and Odysseus who are pretty much determined to live forever or die trying.   When Hades came to drag him in chains down to the underworld, Sisyphus was all like, “I never saw chains like those before, how do they work?”  Hades obligingly put the chains on himself to demonstrate and so Sisyphus threw the god into a chest and shut the lid. 1  While Hades was in chains no one could die, so a bunch of young men waiting for their inheritance and would-be widows who’d already picked out their next husbands were praying and making sacrifices to Zeus, like “What’s up with this nobody-dying thing?”  Angriest of all was Ares the god of war because if you’re having a nice battle but nobody gets killed, I mean, what’s the point?  So finally Ares shows up in person and frees Hades and sends Sisyphus to the underworld.  But Sisyphus had one more trick up his toga.  His funeral instructions to his wife were to throw his naked body into the street.  So when Sisyphus arrives in the underworld he’s naked as the day Zeus made him, and Persephone is all like, “Put some clothes on, you’re frightening the children!”  When Sisyphus explains what his wife did to his corpse, Persephone sends him back topside to teach her a lesson, giving Sisyphus one more reprieve.  Finally Sisyphus ran out of tricks and ended up in Hades for good and all.  To punish him for the sin of not just dropping dead and being a good sport about it and of loving life too much, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a rock uphill for eternity.  Each time the rock is nearly at the peak, it rolls back down and Sisyphus must begin again. 2

1. Hades didn't get out much.
2. That's life.

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