The people of the ancient city-state of Corinth believed their king, King Sisyphus of Corinth, was the cleverest king who ever lived! They were always bragging about him.
But the most clever thing the king did hardly anyone knew about, for a very good reason!
As the story goes ....
One day, the king of Corinth was busy trying to come up with an idea to solve Corinth's fresh water problem. He saw Zeus fly by, carrying a lovely river spirit in his arms.
"That Zeus," sighed the king. "What a trouble maker!"
Soon after, the river-god Asopus flew by. "Have you seen my daughter?" he bellowed at the king.
"If you will give my city a source of fresh water, I will tell you what I saw," King Sisyphus shouted back. Immediately, a crystal clear stream of fresh water bubbled up.
"Zeus took her that way," the king pointed.
The king knew Zeus would be angry when he heard what the king had done. But Corinth desperately needed a source of fresh water. And now they had one.
Sure enough, Zeus was furious. He told his brother Hades to take King Sisyphus down to the underworld immediately! Nearly immediately, King Sisyphus heard about his impending horrible fate, as gossip back then flew through the village as rapidly as gossip does today. Only this rumor happened to be true. King Sisyphus never doubted it. He knew Zeus was furious and probably had not bothered to lower his voice or to be secret about his instructions to his brother Hades at all.
King Sisyphus acted immediately. "When they tell you I am dead, do not put a gold coin under my tongue," King Sisyphus whispered urgently to his wife. Being a good wife, she did exactly as the king had asked her.
Because the king was a very important person, Hades himself met the king at the River Styx, the entrance to the underworld. Because no gold coin was placed under his tongue, the king arrived at the entrance to the underworld as a poor beggar.
"Where is your gold coin?" Hades demanded to know. "How can you pay for a trip across the River Styx and arrive in the underworld?"
The king hung his head in shame. "My wife was too cheap to pay for the passage."
Hades mouth fell open. "You go right back there and teach that women some manners." Hades sent the king back to earth immediately, where he was magically alive and well again.
When he was sure no one was listening, the king and his beloved wife laughed when he told her about it. But he never told anyone else. You never knew when the gods might be listening. Or the gossips.