Sisyphus fragment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Sisyphus fragment is a 5th-century BC play thought to contain an atheistic argument.[1][2]

Some shrewd and intelligent man invented fear of the gods for mortals, so the wicked would have something to fear ... concealing the truth with a false account

— translated by Gagarin and Woodruff 1995 (Introduction of the text Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy, 2000, p. 9)[1]


The authorship of the Sisyphus Fragment remains in question. While most scholars attribute it to Critias, including ancient sources such as Sextus Empiricus, some claim Euripides as the author.[3][4] We know that Critias earned a reputation for atheism in later antiquity, but that is likely due to his presumed authorship of this fragment.


The Sisyphus fragment is problematic due to its nature as a fragment of a lost Satyr play. Even were the author of the fragment known for certain, its inclusion in a 'tragicomedy' further insulates the sentiment being expressed in the play from any earnest argument the author may or may not be making.


  1. ^ a b ND Smith, P Woodruff. Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0195350928. 
  2. ^ JN Bremmer, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (p. 24, note 24).
  3. ^ Dihle, Albrecht (1977). "Das Satyrspiel 'Sisyphos'". Hermes 105: 28–42.
  4. ^ Kahn, Charles (1997). "Greek Religion and Philosophy in the Sisyphus Fragment". Phronesis 42 (3): 247–262.

External links[edit]