In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 Sisyphus (icon; Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: 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".


Sisyphus was son of King Aeolus
Aeolus was the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology. In fact this name was shared by three mythic characters. These three personages are often difficult to tell apart, and even the ancient mythographers appear to have been perplexed about which Aeolus was which...

 of Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 and Enarete
In Greek mythology, Enarete , daughter of Deimachus, was the wife of Aeolus and ancestress of the Aeolians. Her children were Canace, Sisyphus, Deioneus, Salmoneus, Macar, Cretheus, Athamas, Perieres, Calyce, Peisidice, Perimede and in some myths, Alcyone. She may have been the mother of Arne, if...

, and the founder and first king of Ephyra
Kichyros , later called Ephyra , was the capital of ancient Thesprotia, according to the myth built by the Pelasgian leader Thesprotos. Thucydides describes it as situated in the district Elaeatis in Thesprotia, away from the sea. At its site is the famous Necromanteion...

Ancient Corinth
Corinth, or Korinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately northeast of the ancient ruins...

). He was the father of Glaucus by the nymph Merope
Merope was originally the name of several, probably unrelated, characters in Greek mythology. The name may refer to:-Greek mythology:* Merope , one of the Heliades, daughter of Helios and Clymene...

, the brother of Salmoneus
In Greek mythology, Salmoneus was the son of Aeolus and Enarete, the brother of Athamas, Sisyphus, Cretheus, Perieres, Deionus, Canace, Alcyone, and Perimede. Salmoneus was the father of Tyro by his first wife Alcidice, the second one being Sidero....

, and the grandfather of Bellerophon
Bellerophon or Bellerophontes is a hero of Greek mythology. He was "the greatest hero and slayer of monsters, alongside of Cadmus and Perseus, before the days of Heracles", and his greatest feat was killing the Chimera, a monster that Homer depicted with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a...


King Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce but was avaricious and deceitful. He also killed travelers and guests, violating the hospitality laws of the goddess named Xenia
Xenia (Greek)
Xenia is the Greek concept of hospitality, or generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. It is often translated as "guest-friendship" because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host.The Greek god Zeus sometimes referred...

. He took pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rulership. Sisyphus and Salmoneus were known to hate each other as Sisyphus had consulted with the Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

 of Delphi on just how to kill Salmoneus without incurring any severe consequences for himself. From Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 onwards, Sisyphus was famed as the craftiest of men. He seduced his niece Tyro
In Greek mythology, Tyro was the daughter of Salmoneus and married Cretheus, but loved Enipeus. She gave birth to Pelias and Neleus, the twin sons of Poseidon. With Cretheus she had Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon....

 in one of his plots to kill Salmoneus, only for Tyro to slay the children she bore by him when she discovered that Sisyphus was planning on eventually using them to dethrone her father Salmoneus. King Sisyphus also betrayed one of Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

's secrets by telling the river god Asopus
Asopus or Asôpos is the name of four different rivers in Greece and one in Turkey. In Greek mythology, it was the name of the gods of those rivers.-The rivers in Greece:...

 of the whereabouts of his daughter Aegina
Aegina (mythology)
Aegina was a figure of Greek mythology, the nymph of the island that bears her name, Aegina, lying in the Saronic Gulf between Attica and the Peloponnesos. The archaic Temple of Aphaea, the "Invisible Goddess", on the island was later subsumed by the cult of Athena...

 (an Asopides who was taken away by Zeus) in return for causing a spring to flow on the Corinthian Acropolis
Acropolis means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel . For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides...


Zeus then ordered Thanatos
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology, often referred to but rarely appearing in person...

, god of death, to chain King Sisyphus down below in Tartarus
In classic mythology, below Uranus , Gaia , and Pontus is Tartarus, or Tartaros . It is a deep, gloomy place, a pit, or an abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides beneath the underworld. In the Gorgias, Plato In classic mythology, below Uranus (sky), Gaia (earth), and Pontus...

. King Sisyphus slyly asked Thanatos to demonstrate how the chains worked. As Thanatos was granting his wish, Sisyphus then seized the advantage and trapped the god of death in the Underworld instead. This caused an uproar since no human could die with Thanatos out of commission. Eventually Ares
Ares is the Greek god of war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera. In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent aspect of war, in contrast to the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and...

 (who was annoyed that his battles had lost their fun because his opponents would not die) intervened. The exasperated god of war freed Thanatos and turned King Sisyphus over to the god of death as well.

Before King Sisyphus died, however, 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). This caused King Sisyphus to end up on the shores of the river Styx
In Greek mythology the Styx is the river that forms the boundary between the underworld and the world of the living, as well as a goddess and a nymph that represents the river.Styx may also refer to:-Popular culture:...

. Then, complaining to Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

 that this was a sign of his wife's disrespect for him, King Sisyphus persuaded her to allow him to return to the upper world and scold his wife for not burying his body and giving it a proper funeral (as a loving wife should). Once back in Corinth, the spirit or shade of King Sisyphus thereby scolded his wife for not giving him a proper funeral. When he then refused to return to the Underworld he was forcibly dragged back there by Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...


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.

As a punishment from the gods for his trickery King Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Before he could reach the top, however, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubris
Hubris , also hybris, means extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power....

tic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus Himself. Zeus accordingly displayed his own cleverness by consigning Sysiphus to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Thus it came to pass that pointless and/or interminable activities are sometimes described as Sisyphean. King Sisyphus was a common subject for ancient writers and was depicted by the painter Polygnotus
Polygnotus was an ancient Greek painter from the middle of the 5th century BC, son and pupil of Aglaophon. He was a native of Thasos, but was adopted by the Athenians, and admitted to their citizenship....

 on the walls of the Lesche
Lesche is an Ionic Greek word, signifying council or conversation, and a place for council or conversation. There is frequent mention of places of public resort, in the Greek cities, by the name of leschai , some set apart for the purpose, and others so called because they were so used by...

 at Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...



According to the solar theory, King Sisyphus is the disk of the sun that rises every day in the east and then sinks into the west. Other scholars regard him as a personification of waves rising and falling, or of the treacherous sea. The 1st-century BC Epicurean
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom...

 philosopher Lucretius
Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".Virtually no details have come down concerning...

 interprets the myth of Sisyphus as personifying politicians aspiring for political office who are constantly defeated, with the quest for power, in itself an "empty thing", being likened to rolling the boulder up the hill. Friedrich Welcker
Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker
Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker was a German classical philologist and archaeologist.-Biography:Welcker was born at Grünberg, Hesse-Darmstadt. Having studied classical philology at the University of Giessen, in 1803 he was appointed master in the high school, an office which he combined with that of...

 suggested that he symbolises the vain struggle of man in the pursuit of knowledge, and Salomon Reinach
Salomon Reinach
Salomon Reinach was a French archaeologist.The brother of Joseph Reinach, he was born at St Germain-en-Laye and educated at the École normale supérieure before joining the French school at Athens in 1879...

 that his punishment is based on a picture in which Sisyphus was represented rolling a huge stone Acrocorinthus, symbolic of the labour and skill involved in the building of the Sisypheum. Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

, in his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. It comprises about 120 pages and was published originally in 1942 in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe; the English translation by Justin O'Brien followed in 1955....

, saw Sisyphus as personifying the absurdity of human life, but Camus concludes "one must imagine Sisyphus happy" as "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart."

In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation.

Literary interpretations

Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, the Roman poet, makes reference to Sisyphus in the story of Orpheus
Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who...

 and Eurydice
Eurydice in Greek mythology, was an oak nymph or one of the daughters of Apollo . She was the wife of Orpheus, who loved her dearly; on their wedding day, he played joyful songs as his bride danced through the meadow. One day, a satyr saw and pursued Eurydice, who stepped on a venomous snake,...

. When Orpheus descends and confronts Hades and Persephone, he sings a song so that they will grant his wish to bring Eurydice back from the dead. After this song is sung, Ovid shows how moving it was by noting that Sisyphus, emotionally affected, for just a moment, stops his eternal task and sits on his rock, the Latin wording being inque tuo sedisti Sisyphe, saxo.

Though purported to be one of the dialogues of Greek philosopher Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, the Sisyphus
Sisyphus (dialogue)
The Sisyphus is purported to be one of the dialogues of Plato. The dialogue is extant and was included in the Stephanus edition published in Geneva in 1578. It is now generally acknowledged to be spurious. The work dates from the fourth century BC, and the author was presumably a pupil of Plato.It...

is generally believed to be apocryphal, possibly written by one of his pupils.

Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

, the French
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

 absurdist, wrote an essay entitled The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. It comprises about 120 pages and was published originally in 1942 in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe; the English translation by Justin O'Brien followed in 1955....

in which he elevates Sisyphus to the status of absurd hero. Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

 repeatedly referred to Sisyphus as a bachelor; the Kafkaesque for him were those qualities that brought out the Sisyphus-like qualities in himself. According to Frederick Karl: "The man who struggled to reach the heights only to be thrown down to the depths embodied all of Kafka's aspirations; and he remained himself, alone, solitary." The philosopher Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor (philosopher)
Richard Taylor was an American philosopher renowned for his dry wit and his contributions to metaphysics. He was also an internationally-known beekeeper....

 uses the myth of Sisyphus as a representation of a life made meaningless because it consists of bare repetition.

In popular culture

  • Sisyphus is alluded to in the Astronautalis
    Astronautalis is an American hip hop artist based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.After gaining some renown in local circles in Jacksonville and competing at Scribble Jam, Astronautalis self-released his debut album, You and Yer Good Ideas, in 2003...

     song 'This is Our Science': "Our work is never done/ We are Sisyphus"
  • A radio play A View From The Mountain written by Don Haworth broadcast in 1987 on BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

     starring Michael Williams and Judi Dench
    Judi Dench
    Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...

     revisited the Sisyphus myth.
  • La Dispute
    La Dispute
    La Dispute is a prose comedy written by Pierre de Marivaux, shown for the first time on 19 October 1744 by the Theatre-Italien in the Hotel de Bourgogne....

     tells the tale of Sisyphus in the song "Six"
  • In the video game Rock of Ages
    Rock of Ages (video game)
    Rock of Ages is an action-strategy video game, developed by ACE Team. Unlike Ace Team's first and previous game, Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages is powered by Unreal Engine 3. It is for Windows, and Xbox Live Arcade and was released by Atlus on August 31, 2011....

    , Sisyphus is the game's protagonist, and is portrayed using an image based on his famous bas-relief vase depiction.
  • Sieges Even
    Sieges Even
    Sieges Even was a progressive metal band from Munich, Germany. The band was originally formed under the name Sodom in the early 80s and released their first demo in 1983 before becoming Sieges Even in 1985. In the summer of 2008 the band decided to split due to internal differences...

    , a progressive metal/rock band, deals with the Sisyphus story in the song "The Waking Hours" from the album "A Sense Of Change"
  • Finnish composer Jouni Kaipainen
    Jouni Kaipainen
    Jouni Kaipainen is a Finnish composer.Kaipainen was born in Helsinki. He studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki under Aulis Sallinen and Paavo Heininen.- Works for the Stage :...

    's Sisyphus Dreams.
  • In 1972, Swiss astronomer Paul Wild
    Paul Wild (Swiss astronomer)
    Professor Paul Wild of Berne, Switzerland, is an astronomer who discovered numerous comets and asteroids.- Career :Professor Wild was director of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Berne from 1980 to 1991...

     discovered the largest Earth-crossing asteroid
    Earth-crosser asteroid
    An Earth-crosser is a near-Earth asteroid whose orbit crosses that of Earth as observed from the ecliptic pole of Earth's orbit. The known numbered Earth-crossers are listed here. Those Earth-crossers whose semi-major axes are smaller than Earth's are Aten asteroids; the remaining ones are Apollo...

    , which was named 1866 Sisyphus
    1866 Sisyphus
    1866 Sisyphus is a binary Apollo asteroid which, at approximately 10 km in diameter, is the largest of the Earth-crossing asteroids. It is comparable in size to the Chicxulub object whose impact may have killed off the dinosaurs....

  • Stone of Sisyphus is an album by the rock band Chicago
    Chicago (band)
    Chicago is an American rock band formed in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois. The self-described "rock and roll band with horns" began as a politically charged, sometimes experimental, rock band and later moved to a predominantly softer sound, becoming famous for producing a number of hit ballads. They had...

  • "Sysyphus" is an instrumental, four-part suite
    In music, a suite is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces normally performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniment; they may be extracts from an opera, ballet , or incidental music to a play or film , or they may be entirely original movements .In the...

     written by Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd
    Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

     keyboardist Richard Wright
    Richard Wright (musician)
    Richard William Wright was an English pianist, keyboardist and songwriter, best known for his career with Pink Floyd. Wright's richly textured keyboard layers were a vital ingredient and a distinctive characteristic of Pink Floyd's sound...

     for the rock band's 1969 album Ummagumma
    Ummagumma is a double album by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in 1969 by Harvest and EMI in the United Kingdom and Harvest and Capitol in the United States...

  • "Carve Away the Stone" is a song by Rush
    Rush (band)
    Rush is a Canadian rock band formed in August 1968, in the Willowdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. The band is composed of bassist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer and lyricist Neil Peart...

     from the 1996 Test For Echo
    Test for Echo
    Test for Echo is the sixteenth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1996. The album marks the final Rush work prior to the events in Neil Peart's life that put the band on hiatus for several years...

    album. The song directly references Sisyphus in the chorus (a background vocal by Geddy Lee
    Geddy Lee
    Gary Lee Weinrib, OC, better known as Geddy Lee , is a Canadian musician, best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush...

    ). The myth is also used as the basis for the lyrics which discuss the challenges in overcoming maddening Sisyphean tasks in the real world. The lyrics use the stone as the representation of emotion, pain, etc. and how "carving away" at the stone would result in alleviating the burden(s) the stone represents.
  • In the manga Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas
    Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas
    , also known as simply The Lost Canvas, is a manga by Japanese author Shiori Teshirogi, a spin-off based on the manga series Saint Seiya, which was created, written and illustrated by Japanese author Masami Kurumada...

    , the gold saint of Sagittarius is named Sisyphus.
  • In the 2009 film Triangle
    Triangle (2009 film)
    Triangle is a 2009 British-Australian psychological horror film, directed by Christopher Smith, and starring Melissa George, Rachael Carpani and Liam Hemsworth. It is set in the Bermuda Triangle. The film was released in the UK on 16 October 2009....

    , the lead character is punished in Sisyphean fashion for cheating Death
    Death (personification)
    The concept of death as a sentient entity has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In English, Death is often given the name Grim Reaper and, from the 15th century onwards, came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood...

     by being forced to endure a time loop
    Time loop
    A time loop or temporal loop is a common plot device in science fiction in which time runs normally for a set period but then skips back like a broken record. When the time loop "resets", the memories of most characters are reset...

  • In the four-part "Beyond Good and Evil" episode from the 1992-1997 animated X-Men
    X-Men (TV series)
    X-Men, also known as X-Men: The Animated Series, is an American animated television series which debuted on October 31, 1992, in the United States on the Fox Network as part of its Fox Kids Saturday morning lineup...

    television series, the villain Apocalypse
    Apocalypse (comics)
    Apocalypse is a fictional character who is an ancient mutant that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in X-Factor #5 , created by writer Louise Simonson and designed by artist Walter Simonson...

     makes reference to Sisyphus in relation to not being able to defeat either mankind or mutantkind
    Mutant (Marvel Comics)
    In comic books published by Marvel Comics, a mutant is an organism who possesses a genetic trait called an X-gene that allows the mutant to naturally develop superhuman powers and abilities...

  • The Children of Sisyphus is a novel by Orlando Patterson
    Orlando Patterson
    Orlando Patterson is a Jamaica-born American historical and cultural sociologist known for his work regarding issues of race in the America, as well as the sociology of development, currently holding the John Cowles chair in Sociology at Harvard University. Patterson took his B.Sc in Economics...

     set in a Jamaica
    Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

    n ghetto about characters who struggle to come to grips with the absurdity of life.
  • In the animated series Ulysses 31
    Ulysses 31
    is a Franco-Japanese animated television series that updates the Greek mythology of Odysseus to the 31st century. The show comprised 26 half-hour episodes and was produced by DIC Audiovisuel in conjunction with anime studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha...

    , Sisyphus is a king condemned to fill a crater with boulders for eternity for daring to want the secret of immortality.
  • In the motion picture, The Mission, Robert De Niro's character, Mendoza, repeatedly climbs a cliff with a heavy weight as penance for killing his brother in a fit of rage.
  • The first page of P. J. O'Rourke
    P. J. O'Rourke
    Patrick Jake "P. J." O'Rourke is an American political satirist, journalist, writer, and author. O'Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, and frequent panelist on...

    's humorous book The Bachelor Home Companion (1986) features a picture of the author pushing a rock uphill and the following quote: "Camus had it all wrong about the myth of Sisyphus - it's not symbolic of life, just housekeeping."
  • King Sisyphus was featured in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is a television series, filmed in New Zealand and the United States. It was produced from 1995, and was very loosely based on the tales of the classical Greek culture hero Heracles...

    and Xena: Warrior Princess
    Xena: Warrior Princess
    Xena: Warrior Princess is an American–New Zealand supernatural fantasy adventure series that aired in syndication from September 4, 1995 until June 18, 2001....

    portrayed by Ray Henwood in the first two appearances and by Charles Siebert
    Charles Siebert
    Charles Siebert is an American actor and television director. As an actor he is best known for his role as Dr. Stanley Riverside II on Trapper John, M.D. which he portrayed from 1979-1986...

     in the third appearance. In the "Xena: Warrior Princess" episode "Death in Chains", Sisyphus is visited by the fictional Celesta: Sister of Hades who was sent by the gods to take him to Tartarus. He tricks and chains her, stopping people from dying much like in the original myth. Xena and Gabrielle are asked by Hades to free her and the innocents who suffer because they cannot die. With help from Sisyphus' wife Karis, they freed Celesta but Sisyphus escaped. In the "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" episode "Highway to Hades," Hades abducted Hercules to help him when it came to Sisyphus tricking a man named Timuron into taking his place in Tartarus. Hercules took the spirit of Timuron with him and picked up Iolaus to help them. Because Karis is barren, Sisyphus is told by the Oracle of Delphi to mate with Timuron's widow Daphne in order to bear a child to be his heir. When Hercules came to take Sisyphus to Tartarus, Sisyphus claimed that he was called early due to a disagreement with Zeus. With help from Daphne, Karis, and Iolaus, Hercules captured Sisyphus and brought him to the Underworld where Hades had Charon take Sisyphus to Tartarus. In the "Xena: Warrior Princess" episode "Ten Little Warlords," Sisyphus has escaped from the Underworld and had stolen the Sword of Ares. He holds a contest where whoever slays the Baracus will win the Sword of Ares. When Xena and Ares win the contest, Sisyphus then pleads with Xena to destroy Ares and claim the prize, but Gabrielle and Joxer burst in and reveal the secret behind The Baracus. Bitterly defeated, Sisyphus confesses that Hades promised to make him the new God of War if he delivered the world's ten best warriors to him. Xena hands the sword back over to Ares then watches solemnly as Sisyphus returns to his previous punishment.
  • At one point during the Reaganing
    "Reaganing" is the fifth episode of the fifth season of the American television comedy series 30 Rock, and the 85th overall episode of the series. It was written by co-executive producer Matt Hubbard and directed by Todd Holland. It originally aired on the National Broadcasting Company network in...

     episode of 30 Rock
    30 Rock
    30 Rock is an American television comedy series created by Tina Fey that airs on NBC. The series is loosely based on Fey's experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live...

    , Jack Donaghy
    Jack Donaghy
    John Francis "Jack" Donaghy is a fictional character on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. He is the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric and later Kabletown....

     declares, "I am the Sisyphus of Reaganing!"
  • His story is mentioned in Matched by Ally Condie
    Ally Condie
    Ally Condie is a female American novelist. She is the author of New York Times bestseller Matched which was published by Dutton in November 2010. It is planned to be the first of a series.-Matched:...

     though it is twisted to be about a man who defied the Officials instead of an ancient myth.
  • Mrs Sisyphus is a poem by Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom Carol Ann Duffy
    Carol Ann Duffy
    Carol Ann Duffy, CBE, FRSL is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's poet laureate in May 2009...

    , that reflects on Sisyphus' punishment from the perspective of his wife.
  • King Sisyphus appears in the Class of the Titans
    Class of the Titans
    Class of the Titans is a Canadian animated television series created by Studio B Productions and Nelvana. It premiered on December 31, 2005 at 5 pm ET/PT on Teletoon with a special 90-minute presentation of the first three episodes. The series aired in the United States on qubo from September...

    episode "Like a Rolling Stone."
  • King Sisyphus is seen in Thor
    Thor (Marvel Comics)
    Thor is a fictional superhero who appears in publications published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 and was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby....

    #19 as an inmate of Tartarus. In Incredible Hercules
    Hercules (Marvel Comics)
    Hercules is a fictional character that appears in publications by Marvel Comics. The character first appears in Journey into Mystery Annual #1 and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby....

    #131, King Sisyphus is seen in Tartarus when Hercules travels to the Underworld. When the boulder he was rolling is destroyed during the battle between Hercules and his mortal shade, a new boulder materialized in its place.
  • The Bright Eyes song 'Shell Games' mentions Sisyphus: "For the Everyman/Blessed Sisyphus/Slipping steadily into madness/Now that's the only place to be free/"
  • An episode of the TV show "Men of Certain Age" makes a reference to Sisyphus.
  • Sisyphus is referred to in the song "The Myth of Us" by Joshua Radin
    Joshua Radin
    Joshua Radin is an American recording artist, songwriter and actor. He was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and is of Swedish, German, Polish, Russian, and Austrian descent. He studied drawing and painting at Northwestern University, following his college years with stints as an art...

     along with Persephone
    In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

  • MMA fighter Jon Fitch
    Jon Fitch
    Jonathan Parker Fitch is an American mixed martial artist. He is currently ranked as the No. 2 welterweight in the world by Sherdog, as well as many other publications.-Background:...

     is often referred to as the "Sisyphus of MMA" due to his long win streaks and failure to capture a title.
  • In Gene Wolfe
    Gene Wolfe
    Gene Wolfe is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying into the religion. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the...

    's 1990 fantasy novel Soldier of Arete, the protagonist Latro finds himself accidentally in the underworld, where he completes Sisyphus's impossible task for him.
  • King Sisyphus appears in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians
    Percy Jackson & the Olympians
    Percy Jackson & the Olympians is a pentalogy of adventure and fantasy fiction books authored by Rick Riordan. The series consists of five books, as well as spin-off titles such as The Demigod Files and Demigods and Monsters. Set in the United States, the books are predominantly based on Greek...

    book The Demigod Files
    The Demigod Files
    The Demigod Files is a collection of stories by Rick Riordan published on February 10, 2009. It is a companion book to the main series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It contains three short stories, titled Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot, Percy Jackson and the Bronze Dragon, and Percy...

    . He is featured in "The Sword of Hades" segment rolling a boulder up a large hill in his part of the Fields of Punishment. Percy and Nico ask him for advice while Thalia rolls the boulder up the hill. He does not really help them much, but he does say that he helped someone else. He said that he told that other person to go see Melinoe. Therefore, Percy and his friends go to see Melinoe as Sisyphus begs for them to set him free from his punishment as being here was a minor set-back.

See also

  • 1866 Sisyphus
    1866 Sisyphus
    1866 Sisyphus is a binary Apollo asteroid which, at approximately 10 km in diameter, is the largest of the Earth-crossing asteroids. It is comparable in size to the Chicxulub object whose impact may have killed off the dinosaurs....

    , asteroid
    Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

  • Naranath Bhranthan
    Naranath Bhranthan
    Naranath Branthan is a character in Malayalam folklore. He was considered to be a divine person, a Mukhta who pretended to be mad. His chief activity consisted of rolling a big stone up a hill and then letting it fall back down. Unlike Sisyphus, he acted on his own volition rather than under the...

    , a similar character in Indian
    Culture of India
    India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

  • Syzyfowe prace
    Syzyfowe prace
    "Syzyfowe prace" or "Labors of Sisyphus" is a novel by Polish author Stefan Żeromski which first appeared in the magazine Nowa Reforma in 1897. The work was published under the pseudonym "Maurycy Zych" and it was the writer's first published work....

    , a novel by Stefan Żeromski
    Stefan Zeromski
    Stefan Żeromski was a Polish novelist and dramatist. He was called the "conscience of Polish literature". He also wrote under the pen names: Maurycy Zych, Józef Katerla and Stefan Iksmoreż.- Life :...

  • Tantalus
    Tantalus was the ruler of an ancient western Anatolian city called either after his name, as "Tantalís", "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus, at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the...

  • The Myth of Sisyphus
    The Myth of Sisyphus
    The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. It comprises about 120 pages and was published originally in 1942 in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe; the English translation by Justin O'Brien followed in 1955....

    , a philosophical essay by Albert Camus
    Albert Camus
    Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

  • Wu Gang
    Wu Gang
    Wu Gang, or Wu Kang, is a character in Chinese folklore and Taoism. He is known for endlessly cutting down a self-healing Bay Laurel on the Moon. The story has often been associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival...

External links

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