The Man Who Tried to Deceive Zeus

One greek king tried his luck at deceiving the gods of the Greek pantheon

Calin Aneculaesei
Sep 13 · 4 min read
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Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a hill in Tartarus

reek mythology is an interesting subject to study. Most, if not all, stories told about the Greek pantheon have a conclusion from which we can draw wisdom from. This couldn’t be more true of the story of the king Sisyphus. After evoking the wrath of the god of gods the king was condemned to an eternity of agony.

Ephyra

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A depiction of Zeus. Source: Wikicomons

The legend of Sisyphus starts in modern-day Greece. Here it is said that he founded the Kingdom of Ephyra which he went on to rule with an iron fist. As part of his tyrannical rule of the region, he would often murder guests and messengers who visited him in order to ensure his rule would be uncontested. This was a big problem due to the sacred rule of Greek society known as ξενία (Anglicised: Xenia).

Xenia was a key part of Greek society. This fundamental rule ensured that travellers and guests felt safe within Greek homes. The god responsible for upholding this rule was none other than Zeus. Sisyphus also betrayed Zeus by revealing the location of the daughter of the river god Asopus who Zeus kidnapped.

These two transgressions led to Zeus seeking revenge, as such he contacted Thanatos, the personification of death, to bring the king to Tartarus, the harshest part of the Greek underworld. Thanatos was meant to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus but was tricked by the sly Greek king. Upon being brought down to Tartarus he asked Thanatos to demonstrate how the chains worked and in the process trapped the being allowing him to escape. This created a lot of problems.

Death

With Thanatos trapped in Tartarus, the process of death could not take place in the mortal realm. This led to instability across the world as the old and sickly were left to suffer, unable to die without the presence of Thanatos. Most annoyed by this was the god of war, Ares, as no warriors could now die in combat. To rectify this he travelled to Tartarus to free Thanatos after which he captured Sisyphus.

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The return of Persephone, by Frederic Leighton. Source: Wikicommons

Although now Sisyphus was meant to make the journey down to the underworld he saw a way of cheating death. Before Thanatos came after him he told his wife to throw his naked dead body in the middle of a square. After his wife did this Sisyphus went to the goddess of the underworld, Persephone, to whom she argued that his body was desecrated and he had to go back to write the wrongs done to him. Persephone allowed this leading to the spirit of Sisyphus being allowed to re-enter the mortal realm.

Once out of the underworld Sisyphus argued with his wife about the treatment of his body and forcing her to bury him in a normal manner.

After his body was laid to rest Sisyphus thought he could stay out of the underworld in his spirit form, refusing to go back after his funeral had finished. Only after being dragged by Hermes was the king finally taken to the underworld then Tartarus where Zeus planned to punish him for all of the mischief he caused.

Knowing that Sisyphus liked to be sly, Zeus prepared the perfect punishment for the now-dead Greek king. In Tartarus, he set up a steep hill with a boulder next to it. Sisyphus was forced to push said boulder up the hill until reaching the summit after which the boulder would move away from Sisyphus, rolling down the hill forcing him to start the task over again.

This piece of mythology has often been cited when someone wants to describe a useless pursuit or task. Looking a bit deeper into the story we can also draw the conclusion that we can never outrun the consequences of our actions and doing so only makes those consequences worse.

For any enquiries or comments make sure to contact me at aneculaeseicg@gmail.com.

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Calin Aneculaesei

Written by

Student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. History fanatic. Contact: aneculaeseicg@gmail.com

History of Yesterday

From the times that the pyramids were raised to the end of the cold war in this publication you will find it all. This is a publication that has been created to tell the stories of forgotten battles and fortunes that have crafted the world that we live in today.

Calin Aneculaesei

Written by

Student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. History fanatic. Contact: aneculaeseicg@gmail.com

History of Yesterday

From the times that the pyramids were raised to the end of the cold war in this publication you will find it all. This is a publication that has been created to tell the stories of forgotten battles and fortunes that have crafted the world that we live in today.

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