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Title: Hypnos  
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Subject: Lethe, Eris (mythology), List of Greek mythological figures, Elysium, Borysthenis
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God of Sleep
Hypnos and Thanatos, Sleep and His Half-Brother Death by John William Waterhouse
Abode Underworld
Symbol Poppy
Consort Pasithea
Parents Nyx
Siblings Thanatos, Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos
Children Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos (according to Ovid)
Roman equivalent Somnus

In Greek mythology, Hypnos (; Greek: Ὕπνος, "sleep")[1] was the personification of sleep; the Roman equivalent was known as Somnus.[2]

Home dwelling place

Hypnos lives in a cave, whose mansion does not see the rising, nor the setting sun, nor does it see the "lightsome noon." At the entrance were a number of poppies and other hypnotic plants. His dwelling had no door or gate so that he might not be awakened by the creaking of hinges. The river [3]


Hypnos lived next to his twin brother, Thanatos (Θάνατος, "death personified") in the underworld.

Hypnos' mother was Nyx (Νύξ, "Night"), the deity of Night, and his father was Erebus, the deity of Darkness. Nyx was a dreadful and powerful goddess, and even Zeus feared entering her realm.

His wife, Pasithea, was one of the youngest of the Graces and was promised to him by Hera, who is the goddess of marriage and birth. Pasithea is the deity of hallucination or relaxation.

Hypnos' three sons known as the Oneiroi, which is Greek for "dreams." Morpheus is the Winged God of Dreams and can take human form in dreams. Phobetor is the personification of nightmares and created scary dreams, he could take the shape of any animal such as bears or tigers. Phantasos was known for creating fake dreams and dreams full of illusion. Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos appeared in the dreams of kings. The Oneiroi lived at the shores of the Ocean in the West, in a cave. They had two gates with which to send people dreams; one made from ivory and the other from buckhorn. However, before they could do their work and send out the dreams, first their father, Hypnos, had to put the people to sleep.[4]

Hypnos in the Iliad

Hypnos used his powers to trick Zeus. Hypnos was able to trick him and help the Danaans win the Trojan war. During the war, Hera loathed her brother and husband, Zeus, so she devised a plot to trick him. She decided that in order to trick him she needed to make him so enamoured with her that he would fall for the trick. So she went and washed herself with ambrosia and anointed herself with oil, made especially for her to make herself impossible to resist for Zeus. She wove flowers through her hair, put on three brilliant pendants for earrings, and donned a wondrous robe. She then called for Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and asked her for a charm that would ensure that her trick would not fail. In order to procure the charm, however, she lied to Aphrodite because they sided on opposites sides of the war. She told Aphrodite that she wanted the charm to help her parents stop fighting. Aphrodite willingly agreed. Hera was almost ready to trick Zeus, but she needed the help of Hypnos, who had tricked Zeus once before.

Hera called on Hypnos and asked him to help her by putting Zeus to sleep. Hypnos was reluctant because the last time he had put the god to sleep, he was furious when he awoke. It was Hera who had asked him to trick Zeus the first time as well. She was furious that Hercules, Zeus' son, sacked the city of the Trojans. So she had Hypnos put Zeus to sleep, and set blasts of angry winds upon the sea while Heracles was still sailing home. When Zeus awoke he was furious and went on a rampage looking for Hypnos. Hypnos managed to avoid Zeus by hiding with his mother, Nyx. This made Hypnos reluctant to accept Hera's proposal and help her trick Zeus again. Hera first offered him a beautiful golden seat that can never fall apart and a footstool to go with it. He refused this first offer, remembering the last time he tricked Zeus. Hera finally got him to agree by promising that he would be married to Pasithea, one of the youngest Graces, whom he had always wanted to marry. Hypnos made her swear by the river Styx and call on gods of the underworld to be witnesses so that he would be ensured that he would marry Pasithea.

Now, with Hypnos' help, Hera went to see Zeus on Gargarus, the topmost peak of Mount Ida. Zeus was extremely taken by her and suspected nothing as Hypnos was shrouded in a thick mist and hidden upon a pine tree that was close to where Hera and Zeus were talking. Zeus asked Hera what she was doing there and why she had come there from Olympus and she told him the same lie she told her daughter Aphrodite. She told him that she wanted to go help her parents stop quarreling and she stopped there to consult him because she didn't want to go without his knowledge and have him be angry with her when he found out. Zeus said that she could go any time, and that she should postpone her visit and stay there with him so they could enjoy each other's company. He told her that he was never in love with anyone as much as he loved her at that moment. He took her in his embrace and Hypnos went to work putting him to sleep, with Hera in his arms. While this went on, Hypnos traveled to the ships of the Achaeans to tell Poseidon, God of the Sea, that he could now help the Danaans and give them a victory while Zeus was sleeping. This is where Hypnos leaves the story, leaving Poseidon eager to help the Dananns. Thanks to Hypnos helping to trick Zeus, the war changed its course to Hera's favor, and Zeus never found out that Hypnos had tricked him one more time.[5]

Hypnos in art

Bronze Head of Hypnos in the British Museum, from Civitella d'Arna near Perugia in Italy, 1st-2nd Century AD.[6]

Hypnos appears in numerous works of art, most of which are vases. An example of one vase that Hypnos is featured on is called “Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus,” which is part of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston’s collection. In this vase, Hypnos is shown as a winged god dripping Lethean water upon the head of Ariadne as she sleeps.[7] One of the most famous works of art featuring Hypnos is a bronze head of Hypnos himself, now kept in the British Museum in London. This bronze head has wings sprouting from his temples and the hair is elaborately arranged, some tying in knots and some hanging freely from his head.[8]

Words derived from Hypnos

The English word "hypnosis" is derived from his name, referring to the fact that when hypnotized, a person is put into a sleep-like state (hypnos "sleep" + -osis "condition").[9]

Additionally, the English word "insomnia" comes from the name of his Latin counterpart, Somnus. (in- "not" + somnus "sleep"),[10] as well as a few less-common words such as "somnolent", meaning sleepy or tending to cause sleep.[11]

See also


  1. ^ ὕπνος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ James H. Mantinband. Concise Dictionary of Greek Literature. New York: Philosophical Library, 1962.
  3. ^ Richard S. Caldwell. Hesiod's Theogony. Cambridge, MA: Focus Information Group, 1987.
  4. ^ Ovid. "Book the Eleventh." Trans. John Dryden. Metemorphoses. Trans. Sir Samuel Garth. Cambridge, 1717.
  5. ^ Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. Ed. Bernard Knox. New York: Viking, 1990.
  6. ^ British Museum Highlights
  7. ^ "Ancient Greek Art: Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus." Ancient Greek Art: Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
  8. ^ "Bronze Head of Hypnos." British Museum -. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
  9. ^ "Hypnosis | Define Hypnosis at". Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  10. ^ "Insomnia | Define Insomnia at". Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  11. ^ "Somnolent | Define Somnolent at". Retrieved 2014-01-27. 

External links

  • Hypnos at
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