Each time that Sisyphus began to roll the boulder up the mountain was he aware before beginning the task that the boulder would roll back down once he had finished? In other words, in addition to being compelled to undertake a task that he could never complete, was he also given the additional burden of knowing he was engaged in a futile task? Will you please refer me to any resources you have used to support your conclusion?

Although I can imagine the gods having the power implant a desire in a man, I find it more difficult to believe (based on my limited education on the topic) that they can force a man to do something against his will. So, if the gods can force a man to do something against his will, can you provide other examples of where they have been so?

  • 1
    This is a good question, but the last paragraph seems to lead it into the territory of being Too Broad.
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 28, 2015 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


Based on the following passage from The Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterrell (and other common versions of the myth), I don't believe that Sisyphus knew in advance the futility of his efforts:

"Finally, Zeus lost patience and condemned Sisyphus to Tartarus to pay for his lifelong impiety. For the rest of eternity he had to roll a block of stone to the top of a hill only to see it roll back again as it reached the crest."

I believe that the entire point of the punishment was to trick him to believe that he was going to succeed. This is purely speculative, since no version of the myth I read answers this question explicitly. Moreover, I don't think that he had any choice in the matter, it wasn't his desire to roll the boulder. It resembles Hell in Christianity, those who suffer don't have their say in the matter.

  • 1
    yay sources! +1 and welcome to the site!
    – user62
    Sep 12, 2015 at 22:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.