The Aiolidai: Sisyphos (page 174, with art)

Chapter 5: The Line of Deukalion

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Theognis 702-12

Aeolus’ son Sisyphus, whose wheedling words persuaded Persephone who giveth men forgetfulness by doing despite to their wits, so that through his wilinesses he returned even from Hades, a thing which hath been contrived of none other, whosoever hath once been veiled in the black cloud of Death and gone to the shadowy place of the departed, passing the black portal which for all their denial of guilt prisoneth the souls of the dead; yet e’en thence, ‘t would seem, to the light of the Sun came hero Sisyphus back by his own great cunning. Greek Text

♠ Pherekydes 3F119 – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 92, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Hellanikos 4F19a – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, pp. 110-11, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Paestum Museum: metope from Heraion I at Foce del Sele with Sisyphos and his rock, tormented by a male demon (Thanatos?)

Paestum Museum, Wikimedia

Formerly Kassel, Staatliche Antikensammlung S 49b (now lost): Lakonian black-figure cup, Sisyphos ?

J. Boehlau, Aus ionischen und italischen Nekropolen: Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der nachmykenischen griechischen Kunst (1898), pl. 10.4

Munich, Antikensammlungen 1494: Attic black-figure neck-amphora by the Swing Painter, Underworld with warrior (Aias, son of Telamon?), Persephone and Sisyphos with rock


Digital LIMC

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Munich Antkensammlungen 1549: Attic black-figure neck-amphora by Acheloos Painter, Underworld with Persephone, Sisyphos with rock, Hades


Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Hesiod, Ehoiai (Catalogue of Women) fr 43a MW – Fragmenta Hesiodea, pp. 27-31, ed. R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford 1967.

P. Cairensis Instituti Francogallici 322 fr. B, C, F, A; P. Oxy. 2495 fr. 21, 25, 30; P. Berol. 7497; P. Oxy. 421

[. . .pre]tty-crowned Polymele. [Or like the daughter of] god[like Erysichthon . . .] of the [. . .] son of Triops, [Mestre of pretty locks,] who had the [s]parkles [of the Graces; and they called him Aithon by] n[a]m[e] because [a blazing, mighty] famine [. . . the tribes] of mortal humans [. . .] and all [. . . blazi]ng famine [. . . for m]ortal humans [. . .] kn[ow- . . . shre]wd counsel in their [h]earts [. . . of w]omen [. . .]

          [. . .] girl [. . . dece]ived, [thou]gh he was very thoughtful [. . . ] darting-eyed, be[autif]ul-cheeked gi[rl . . .] and m[ar]ry a spirit-fit bedmate [. . . prom]ise[d] countless marriage gifts [. . . h]undred [. . .] h[erd]s o[f] lowing cattle [. . .] of sheep [. . .] of goats [. . . acce]pted [. . .] in spirit [. . .]

          [. . .] and out [. . .] and when she [had been] released, she darted away [and went off] i[nto the palace of her father,] and presently th[ereafter] a woman [was born i]n [her father’s] halls; [and . . .] followe[d . . .] with the mother [. . .]

     [. . .] and wished to take the girl [o]f[f . . . And so]on [aft]er strife and q[uarreling] wi[t]h each other ca[me to] Sisyphos and Aithon becau[se o]f the slender-ankled [girl,] and [n]o mortal could give judgment; but [. . .] they [re]ferred and praised; and then she [r]eliably se[t] forth her judgment [for] them [. . . “wh]enever someone longs to to ta[ke] a t[hin]g instead of the price[, . . .] must certainly [. . . con]cerning the pr[ice . . .] honor [. . . f]or it is [not] to be exchang[ed, when he has given it back] at first.”

          [. . .] to her [. . .] mules’ [. . .] after the mules [. . .]

     [. . .] of the ble[s]sed [. . .] and he surpassed the minds and the hea[rts] of me[n, b]ut he knew not at all the mind of aegis-holding Zeus, how the family of the children of the Sky would not grant him that any seed from Mestra [be] left to Glaukos among humans. And gro[und]shaking Poseidon overpowered her then, carrying her far from her father over the wine-colored oce[an,] in i[s]land Kos, though she wa[s] shrewd; there she bore Eurypylos, leader of a great arm[y,] she bore a child Ko[. . ., who ha]d presumptuous strength. And his sons we[re] Chalkon and Antagoras. And for only a small reason the stout son of Zeus sacked his attractive city and ravaged his villages, as soo[n as] he s[ail]ed from Troy i[n] s[wift] ships[. . .] because [of] Laomedon’s [ho]rses; an[d in Phlegra] he sle[w] the arrogant Gigantes.

     [But Mestra, aba]ndoning Kos, [cross]ed to her ancestral land, to holy Athens’ hill [. . . w]hen she bore a child to lord Poseidon[. . .] tended her [grim]-fated father.

[. . .] daughter of the son of Pandion [. . . wh]om Pallas Athena taught her works [. . . -]ing, for she had understanding equal to the goddesses, [from whose very bo]dy and silvery clothing [. . .] and a pleasant form blew away; [now, Sisypho]s son of Aiolos tested [her] plans, drivi[ng] off the cattle; [but] he did [not] know the mind of aegis-holding [Zeus at all]; he came [see]king the wom[an with gifts] by the will of Ath[ena; but against this] cloudgathering Zeu[s shook] his immortal head so that [. . .] would not ever exist [. . .] of the son of Sisyphos.

     And she, mixi[ng] with Pose[idon in his] arms, [. . .] blameless Belle[rophontes] to Glaukos in [. . . .] outstanding in wor[th among hum]ans on the boundless e[arth. His fa]ther gave to him, even [. . .] Pegaso[s,] the swiftest [horse . . .] everywhere [. . .] with which [. . .] fire[-breathing Chimaira].

     And he married the [dear] dau[ghter of great-hearted Iobates,] the respected ki[ng . . .] chief [. . .] who bo[re . . .]   (Transl. Silvio Curtis)

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Artistic sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown Univ., and Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, December 2019.

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, February 2022

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