Sisyphus punishment, to roll a rock on top of a moutain forever, is said to have been given because of his trickery with Thanatos.

However, it seems that the reason behind this punishment was not explicitely stated : French Wikipedia states on the subject this.

Toutefois, Homère ne faisait pas mention de la raison de ce châtiment. Certaines traditions le justifient par la réputation de brigand et de malfaiteur que Sisyphe avait acquise de son vivant.

However, Homer did not mention the reason of the punishment. Certain traditions justify it by [Sisyphus's] reputation of a criminal and wrongdoer that [he] has developed during his life.

So what was the reason behind the punishment? And what is the source behind the reason being the trickery with Thanatos, as explained in the English Wikipedia?

1 Answer 1


Homer describes Sisyphus as the craftiest of men; he was a generally deceitful guy. However Homer gives no reason for his punishment, no list of crimes and so we must look to other Classical writers.

The myth featuring Sisyphus and Thanatos comes from a fragment by Aeschylus titled Sisyphus the Stone-Roller:

Sisyphus bound Death fast, so that men ceased to die, until Ares came to the rescue, released Death, and gave Sisyphus into his power.

Apollodorus, Library writes of one of his apparently many duplicities:

This punishment he endures for the sake of Aegina, daughter of Asopus; for when Zeus had secretly carried her off, Sisyphus is said to have betrayed the secret to Asopus, who was looking for her.

Hyginus in his Fabulae gives the following reason :

Sisyphus and Salmoneus, sons of Aeolus, hated each other. Sisyphus asked Apollo how he might kill his enemy, meaning his brother, and the answer was given that if he had children from the embrace of Tryo, daughter of his brother Salmoneus, they would avenge him. When Sisyphus followed this advice, two sons were born, but their mother slew them when she learned of the prophecy. But when Sisyphus found out . . .
Because of his impiety he now, it is said, in the Land of the Dead rolls a stone [...].

While Plutarch writes:

Anticleia, while yet a virgin, was violated by Sisyphus and conceived Odysseus

(Euripides also supports this version of Odysseus's true parentage).

  • Very interesting, thank you - there is thus no mention of Thanatos? Should Wikipedia be corrected?
    – Docteur
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:09
  • @Docteur Sorry no, this is one of multiple reasons for his punishment. I will edit my answer to include more.
    – Piper
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:30

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