Hypnos in Greek mythology


Hypnos is the god of sleep in Greek mythology. In the myths, he is generally seen as the son of Nyx (Night) and Erebus (god of darkness). He is popular known in the myths as the brother of Thanatos (death).

According to ancient Greek poet Hesiod (in the Theogony), Nyx and Erebus (god of darkness) are the offspring of Chaos, a gaping void that preceded the creation of the cosmos. What this implies is that Hypnos is the grandson of Chaos.

Hypnos and Thanatos are seen as twin deities in Greek mythology, according to Hesiod. The Greek poet also claimed that Hypnos had other siblings, including Momus (Blame), Oneiroi (Dreams), Apate (Deception), Eris (Strife), Philotes (Friendship), Moros (Doom),  Nemesis (Retribution), Charon (the Underworld boatman), Geras (Old Age), and Oizys (Suffering).

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

Also in Hesiod’s Theogony, it is said that the sun never gazes upon Thanatos and his twin brother Hypnos. The myth goes on to say that the two deities lived next to each other in the Underworld, a place where the sun never reaches.

In another account of the myth, Hypnos and his twin brother Thanatos, along with Apollo, were tasked by Zeus (king of the gods) to retrieve Sarpedon‘s body from the Greeks and then give it a befitting burial in his home in Lycia. A famed warrior and son of Zeus, the demigod Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus, the Greek warrior and childhood friend of Achilles.

Hypnos (left) and Thanatos (right) transporting the dead body of Greek demigod Sarpedon to his home in Lycia, while Hermes watches.

Hypnos is often depicted as a young man with wings attached to his temples or shoulders, carrying a poppy stem or branches with sleepy seeds. He is known for his ability to make people fall asleep and can even put the gods themselves into a deep slumber.

Hypnos is sometimes depicted as a gentle and soothing figure who helps mortals and gods alike to forget their troubles and find peace in sleep. He is also associated with dreams and can communicate with people through their dreams.

Did you know?

According to Roman poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, Hypnos (Somnus in Greek mythology) is the father of Morpheus, the god associated with dreams and sleep.

Hypnos – fast facts

Personification – Sleep

Parents – Erebus and Nyx

Consort – Pasithea

Children – The Somnia, which included Icelos, Morpheus, and Phantasos

Siblings – Thanatos, Apate, Keres, Momus, Nemesis, Oneiroi, Hesperides, Moirai, Eris, Styx,

Roman equivalent – Somnus