Study Guide

Sisyphus Mortality

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Yeah, it's kind of hard to miss the theme of mortality in this myth. Death himself, a.k.a. Thanatos, actually shows up in person, so there you go. The quest to escape his own death is Sisyphus's major driving motivation. You have to hand it to the guy, he does a better job than most of us would, escaping from the Underworld not one but two times. (Not too shabby.) It seems to us that Sisyphus's quest to escape death is all too human. It's not like it's something that too many of us are looking forward to. Who wouldn't do their best to escape it, if it were in their power?

Questions About Mortality

  1. How does Sisyphus escape from the Underworld?
  2. Why does Ares rescue Thanatos? What's your opinion of his motivations?
  3. Describe the way that Thanatos, a.k.a Death, is depicted in this myth. What might be the larger meaning of this depiction?
  4. Describe what the world would be like if no one could die.
  5. Imagine a debate between Thanatos and Hermes over who's the better psychopomp, or guide to the dead. Write a dialogue where both lay out an argument for why they're better at the job.

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