MISBEGOTTEN PLACES #12
Greek Mythology 102
COURSE TITLE: GREEK MYTHOLOGY 102
Prof. A Tillingham. Semester 2, Tues & Thurs 2 - 4 pm, room 503 (2 credits)
Prerequisite: Greek Mythology 101
Hello students. Glad to see you - I’m happy to be back. Please take your seats and we’ll get started.
In this first lecture we’re going to explore the Greek myth of Sisyphus. We’ll study the real story - not that crap about a boulder and a stupid hill.
Who here has heard that story? - Where Sisyphus was condemned to push a boulder up a hill for all eternity. Raise your hands…
Ah, that’s a lot. Almost all of you! Well that version of the myth is pure poppycock. I’ve done a great deal of research during my recent sabbatical, and I’ve discovered several truths about the story. I’m sure this will blow your minds. Get ready.
But before we proceed, I ask that you ignore the ugly rumors circulating about my sabbatical. Most of those outrageous accusations are unfounded. More on that later.
So let’s begin…
Last semester in Professor Bookbinder’s 101 class, your textbook was Bulfinch's Mythology. That book should really be called Bullshit Mythology! It’s filled with mistruths and lies, and sadly it has remained the seminal work on the subject since it was published in 1867. At last week’s department meeting, I suggested to Bookbinder - no, I insisted! - that he teach from my book: Professor Tillingham’s Revised Interpretation of Greek and Roman Mythology.1
But Bookbinder, that damn petulant fool, reminded me of the Court Order of Protection, so I removed myself to fifty feet away from him and continued my rant from there.
Back to Sisyphus. First let’s examine the root cause of the rift between him and Zeus. Bullshit Mythology states that Sisyphus cheated death twice, and for that Zeus angrily condemned him. We’re all aware of Zeus’s legendary anger, of course, but in this instance his anger was subdued. More like a rebuke. I compare it to the upbraiding I got from the department chair for disrupting the commencement ceremony when I ran up to the stage and read aloud from my book. Angry, but not screaming at me… not yet.
That would come later.
The boulder. Right. Let’s now talk about it. During the course of my disciplinary suspension - oops!, I meant “sabbatical” - I researched the geological makeup of Hades in ancient Greek times.
What I found was transformative. To illustrate my point, I will now read a passage from my book, Professor Tillingham’s Revised blah, blah, blah…
“Upon extensive examination, it was found that in all written accounts of Hades (aka ‘The Playground of the Damned’) there exists no mention of boulders, rocks, stones or pebbles. There is a vague reference, however, to some brimstone earrings worn by the Fallen Angel himself.” 2
So you see, there were no boulders in Hades. Just fire and brimstone. If Sisyphus had pushed anything up a hill, it may have been a brimstone but it definitely was NOT a boulder. What was it then? I’ll expand on that thought in a moment.
I trust you’re all following the logic here:
First, Zeus wasn’t all that mad at Sisyphus. Annoyed… yes. Angry… eh, not really. About as angry as Bookbinder got when he discovered that snake on his desk. 3
Second, as I have empirically proven beyond doubt that Zeus did not condemn our dear Mr. Sisyphus in the way that the ignoramus Bookbinder teaches, I ask “What was Sisyphus really doing in Hades anyway?”
Hey, you! In the back row. SIT DOWN! No, you can’t leave. Hey, I said get back in your chair… Oh really? Well, get out then. Just don’t come back to this class again! Ever!
I’m giving that guy an F. What a dope.
Where was I?…….. Let’s see. Oh yes - Bookbinder. “Professor” Bookbinder is a charlatan. Anyone can get a PhD in Classical Philosophy from Harvard 4, and several fancy post-doctoral degrees from Stanford and Yale. So what!
He thinks he’s SO much above me. But let me tell you something: when things get tough, he always lowers himself ALL THE WAY DOWN TO MY LEVEL!
Big deal that he wrote twelve books on classical literature and mythology. Did any one of them make it on the New York Times Best Seller List? No! Did any one of them get made into a major motion picture? No! Did he win twelve Pulitzers? No… he only got two 5. So this is your “great” Professor Bookbinder, who was given tenure despite all those anonymous letters I wrote. So unfair.
You two! Hey! Where do you think you’re going? No way! Sit down!… Well, then don’t come back! Leave. Do what you want. I don’t care.
There was that time I confronted Bookbinder in a coffee shop. This is what led to that stupid court order. Sure, I threw the first punch, but it was because he snickered derisively when I showed him my book.6 I hate derisive snickers! 7
Anyway, I digress. So I propose that Sisyphus must have been on a special mission on behalf of Zeus - this much we can logically assume.
You, in the dumb hat - over there… F. Yeah you, that’s right mister. Goodbye! (I never liked that guy anyway.)
His mission in all likelihood would have been to find Orpheus and Eurydice and return them from Hades. Orpheus went to Hades to rescue Eurydice, his wife, and bring her back to the land of the living. It seems she had joined a cult - got brainwashed - and ended up getting into some really weird shit. Oh boy, can I relate to THAT!
You two smarty pants! - Say hello to your new F. And you too, buddy. Don’t come back!
In my book, I surmise that Eurydice told Orpheus something along the lines of, “Go talk to Sisyphus. He’s got cred with Zeus.” But Sisyphus was on the other side of The River of Flames. It was too far to travel. This we know from the description of the Netherworld in Plato’s Republic, which I paraphrased - NOT PLAGIARIZED! - in my book. 8
Go ahead, you can leave too! But don’t complain when you get an F… Oh yeah? Same to you, Jerk.
Hades sounds like the perfect place for Bookbinder, doesn’t it? I can make sure he gets there! 9 Um… that was a joke, in case you missed it.
F,F and F! Good riddance to all three of you… Watch your language!
The so-called Ivy League experts got it wrong. Bookbinder got it really wrong. Only I got it right! This is the real story of Sisyphus. No boulder, no hill. Now you know. Knowledge is power, power to the people.
Next up, let’s discuss how Bookbinder butchered the myth of King Midas and his Golden Goose that Laid the Giant Egg.
I see we’re out of time. Make sure to buy my book before the next class!
Oh yeah? You and what army? That’s an F for you, pal! Get the hell out of here!
Tillingham, Alfonse, “Professor Tillingham’s Revised Interpretation of Greek and Roman Mythology” [self-published], 2015. Out of print.
Rasmussen, Ben, “Mythical Jewelry from Toe Rings to Tiaras” [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press], 1999. pg. 133
“HOORAY! CLASS DISMISSED! Python Found on Prof’s Desk” [The Daily Whiner - Student Campus Newsletter], 2020. Headline Front page.
Pritcher, M. and Holloway, P., “How To Become a Classicist in XIV Easy Steps” [New York, NY: Harper Collins], MMXIV. pg. XXVII
Fabian, Hortense, “So You Won a Pulitzer! Now What?“ [Chicago, Il: Chicago Review Press], 2011. pg. 27
“Campus Police Called to Break Up Professors’ ‘Mano a Mano’ ” [The Boston Globe, Boston, MA], 2017, pg. 6
Prof. A Tillingham - “I hate derisive snickers!”
(That was a joke, in case you missed it.)
“Prosecutors Prove Pedagog Professor Persistently Plagiarizes Plato” [The Pitcairn-Picayune, Pittsburgh, PA], 2017, pg. 11
“Disciplinary Board investigates ludicrous threats to professor” [Dean’s Letter to Parents], 2021.