In medicine, along with the other domains of our life, the myth of Sisyphus is frequently evoked upon confronting a task conceived as laborious, endless and for some futile or even purposeless and meaningless. In this paper, we explore the origin of the myth of Sisyphus so that its connotations and symbolizations will hopefully emerge clearer. It is suggested that the natural background of the myth might be related to the seismologic history of Greece, and Corinth in particular, a city ruined and rebuilt several times. The natural component might symbolically echo in the personified myth of Sisyphus, Corinth’s founder and might explain the peculiar labor he was condemned to execute eternally, as well as the meanings the myth carries. Like his own city, Sisyphus also suffered the same “ups and downs” of fate, either as a public figure –patron of several big achievements– or as a punished hero condemned to role a stone in the underworld. His persistent efforts led to temporary successes, even though he could not find permanent solutions to the labors he undertook alive or dead. Thus, the myth of Sisyphus is related to human efforts and its limitations, the feasible and infeasible the two main poles between which the myth functions. Conceptualizing with Sisyphean terms their function, physicians can celebrate their transient victories, and by realizing their limitations, reconstruct their aspirations without decreasing their efforts.

Key words: Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphean task, medicine.

Y.G. Papakostas, V.M. Papakosta, M. Markianos (page 330) - Full article