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  • Whether it's being chained to a burning wheel, turned into a spider,

  • or having an eagle eat one's liver,

  • Greek mythology is filled with stories of the gods

  • inflicting gruesome horrors on mortals who angered them.

  • Yet one of their most famous punishments is not remembered

  • for its outrageous cruelty, but for its disturbing familiarity.

  • Sisyphus was the first king of Ephyra, now known as Corinth.

  • Although a clever ruler who made his city prosperous, he was also a devious tyrant

  • who seduced his niece and killed visitors to show off his power.

  • This violation of the sacred hospitality tradition greatly angered the gods.

  • But Sisyphus may still have avoided punishment

  • if it hadn't been for his reckless confidence.

  • The trouble began when Zeus kidnapped the nymph Aegina,

  • carrying her away in the form of a massive eagle.

  • Aegina's father, the river god Asopus, pursued their trail to Ephyra,

  • where he encountered Sisyphus.

  • In exchange for the god making a spring inside the city,

  • the king told Asopus which way Zeus had taken the girl.

  • When Zeus found out, he was so furious that he ordered Thanatos, or Death,

  • to chain Sisyphus in the underworld so he couldn't cause any more problems.

  • But Sisyphus lived up to his crafty reputation.

  • As he was about to be imprisoned,

  • the king asked Thanatos to show him how the chains worked

  • and quickly bound him instead, before escaping back among the living.

  • With Thanatos trapped, no one could die, and the world was thrown into chaos.

  • Things only returned to normal when the god of war Ares,

  • upset that battles were no longer fun, freed Thanatos from his chains.

  • Sisyphus knew his reckoning was at hand.

  • But he had another trick up his sleeve.

  • Before dying, he asked his wife Merope to throw his body in the public square,

  • from where it eventually washed up on the shores of the river Styx.

  • Now back among the dead, Sisyphus approached Persephone,

  • queen of the Underworld, and complained

  • that his wife had disrespected him by not giving him a proper burial.

  • Persephone granted him permission to go back to the land of living

  • and punish Merope, on the condition that he would return when he was done.

  • Of course, Sisyphus refused to keep his promise,

  • now having twice escaped death by tricking the gods.

  • There wouldn't be a third time,

  • as the messenger Hermes dragged Sisyphus back to Hades.

  • The king had thought he was more clever than the gods,

  • but Zeus would have the last laugh.

  • Sisyphus's punishment was a straightforward task

  • rolling a massive boulder up a hill.

  • But just as he approached the top, the rock would roll all the way back down,

  • forcing him to start over

  • and over, and over, for all eternity.

  • Historians have suggested that the tale of Sisyphus may stem from ancient myths

  • about the rising and setting sun, or other natural cycles.

  • But the vivid image of someone condemned to endlessly repeat a futile task

  • has resonated as an allegory about the human condition.

  • In his classic essay The Myth of Sisyphus,

  • existentialist philosopher Albert Camus compared the punishment

  • to humanity's futile search for meaning and truth

  • in a meaningless and indifferent universe.

  • Instead of despairing, Camus imagined Sisyphus defiantly meeting his fate

  • as he walks down the hill to begin rolling the rock again.

  • And even if the daily struggles of our lives

  • sometimes seem equally repetitive and absurd,

  • we still give them significance and value by embracing them as our own.

Whether it's being chained to a burning wheel, turned into a spider,

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B1 TED-Ed sisyphus zeus punishment camus king

The myth of Sisyphus - Alex Gendler

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/15
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