12. The Mortal Who Cheated and Defeated Death
Zeus was already upset with Sisyphus for his violation of the sacred laws of hospitality. He grew livid when Corinthian king snitched to Asopus about where the chief Olympian god had hid the river god’s kidnapped daughter. So he sent Thanatos, the god of death, to seize Sisyphus and chain him in the underworld. Sisyphus however tricked Thanatos and got him to explain how the chains worked. He then used that knowledge to chain the death god. With Thanatos chained, the mortally ill could no longer find release from earthly suffering, and no sacrifices could be made.
The gods threatened Sisyphus with dire vengeance if he did not free the god of death, so he reluctantly did. However, Sisyphus had one more trick up his sleeve to cheat Thanatos. He instructed his wife not to bury him or perform any of the sacred death rituals when he passed away, and to just throw his corpse out. She obeyed, and when Sisyphus arrived at the underworld, he begged Thanatos to allow him to return to earth to punish his wife for her “impiety”. Death agreed, but once Sisyphus was back on earth, he jumped bail and went on the lam.