|“||Sisyphus cheated death. First he chained up Thanatos, the reaper of souls, so no one could die. Then when Thanatos got free and was about to kill him, Sisyphus told his wife to do incorrect funeral rites so he wouldn't rest in peace.||”|
|“||If someone has a name that sounds like “Sissy Fuss,” then you know he’s real trouble.||”|
Sisyphus was the king of Corinth, son of Aeolus and Enarete. He married the Pleiad Merope, and she bore him five sons; Glaucus, Ornytion, Thersander, Almus and Porphyrion. As a ruler, he promoted navigation and commerce, though at the same time he was deceitful and violated the laws of hospitality by killing travelers and guests. He lay with his niece, Tyro, daughter of his brother, Salmoneus, in hopes of bearing children that would then kill his brother, and when Zeus abducted Aegina, daughter of the river-god Asopos, Sisyphus told her father where Zeus had taken her.
This enraged Zeus, and he then ordered Thanatos to go and collect Sisyphus' soul. However, when Thantos arrived to collect his soul, Sisyphus cleverly asked the god to demonstrate how the chains worked and as Thanatos was granting did so, Sisyphus took the opportunity to trap Thanatos in the chains instead, cheating death. With Thanatos chained, no one could die and Ares, having grown mad that battles had lost their fun because nobody lost their lives, eventually found Thanatos and released him. Before he died, however, Sisyphus told his wife that, if he were to die, she was not to bury him and upon arriving in the Underworld, he complained about this to Persephone and asked that he be allowed to return to life so as to scold his wife for not giving him a proper funeral. The goddess granted his request and upon returning to life, Sisyphus remained in Corinth until he died of old age years later.
As punishment, Sisyphus was tasked to roll a boulder up a hill with the condition being that he would able to go free once he had finished. Sisyphus tried, but everytime he got to the top of the hill, the boulder fell back down and so he continues to try again, and again, and again, forever.
When Percy Jackson first entered the Underworld with Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, after passing Cerberus, Percy sees Sisyphus from afar in the Fields of Punishment pushing his rock up the hill. He sees Sisyphus from so far away that he compares him to the size of an ant and his hill to the size of an ant hill.
The Sword of Hades
|“||I'll bust out of here soon, and when I do, they'll all be sorry!||”|
–Sisyphus, in The Sword of Hades
When Percy, Thalia, and Nico went to try to find the thief of the Sword of Hades, they encountered Sisyphus. Thalia pushed the boulder for Sisyphus while Percy and Nico asked him about the thief and a possible exit of the Underworld. 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. When they got the information, Thalia unwillingly forces the boulder back to Sisyphus who screams at them to let him free of his punishment which he believes it is just a minor set back. It gave him just one short break.
“Sisyphus was not pretty. He looked like one of those troll dolls with orange skin, a pot belly, scrawny legs and arms, and a big loincloth/diaper thing around his waist. His ratty hair stuck up like a torch.”
- As shown in Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, Sisyphus was one of the few souls who received a personal audience with Hades himself. Sisyphus is also the only known mortal to capture Thanatos and even trick Hades himself.
- Sisyphus is also the only known individual who has ever managed to deceive Hades, though, as revealed in Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, this was because the god had initially believed that dead souls would never dare to lie to him.
- The word "Sisyphean" is derived from his name, meaning "endless and unveiling, as a labor or task."
- Sisyphus can speak several different languages, including Ancient Greek, English, and French.