Hypnos and Thanatos in Greek Mythology

Hypnos and Thanatos – Sleep and His Half-Brother Death, by English painter John William Waterhouse, 1874.

“Sleep and His Half-Brother Death” is an 1874 oil painting created by English painter John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). The painting depicts two mythological figures, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), who are twin brothers and often depicted together in Greek mythology. Hypnos is shown as a young man with wings and a serene expression, while Thanatos is depicted as an older man with wings and a stern expression. They are shown embracing, with Thanatos holding a butterfly, which is a symbol of the soul, and Hypnos clasps poppies, symbolic of dreamlike-states and narcosis.

Although the figures in the painting assume similar postures, the character in the foreground is illuminated by light, while his brother is enveloped in darkness. Thus, the former represents Sleep and the latter Death.

The painting is known for its use of light and dark contrast, as well as its attention to detail and realistic style.

Who are Hypnos and Thanatos?

Hypnos and Thanatos are two important figures in Greek mythology who are seen as the personification of sleep and death, respectively.

Hypnos, also known as Somnus in Roman mythology, is the god of sleep. He is often depicted as a young man with wings on his shoulders and carrying a horn filled with poppy seeds, which he uses to put people to sleep. Hypnos is the son of Nyx, the goddess of night, and the brother of Thanatos.

Thanatos, also known as Mors in Roman mythology, is the god of death. He is often depicted as a winged figure carrying a sword or a butterfly, symbolizing the soul leaving the body. Thanatos is the son of Nyx and the brother of Hypnos.

In some myths, Hypnos and Thanatos work together to help people pass peacefully into the afterlife. Hypnos would put them to sleep, while Thanatos would guide their souls to the Underworld. In other myths, they are portrayed as antagonistic figures, with Hypnos trying to keep people alive by putting them to sleep, while Thanatos seeks to take their lives.

Overall, Hypnos and Thanatos represent the inevitable cycle of life and death in Greek mythology, with Hypnos bringing sleep and temporary escape from the world, and Thanatos bringing permanent release from the mortal realm.