Hypnos The Greek God of Sleep, Origin and Legends

Know today in detail the figure of Hypnos God of Sleep. Discover its origin and surprising legends that will awaken you.

Hypnos god of Sleep
Hypnos god of Sleep

Hypnos god of sleep

The Greek god of sleep is Hypnos, whose mission is to help people sleep soundly. His twin brother Thanatos is the god of peaceful death. Together, they were able to help humans avoid suffering and die peacefully in their sleep. The twins are the children of Nyx, the goddess of night, and Erebus, the god of darkness.

There are different stories about the house of Hypnos. Some believe he lived in the underworld in a dark cave filled with opium flowers. Another myth suggests that he lived under the Greek island of Lemnos, in a cave that had the river of oblivion flowing through it.


Who was Hypnos?

He was a primordial deity in Greek mythology, the personification of sleep. He lived in a cave with his twin brother, Thanatos, in the underworld, where the sun and moon shed no light; the earth in front of the cave was filled with poppies and other sleep-inducing plants. The river Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) flowed through the cave.

He was depicted as a young man with wings on his shoulders or forehead. His attributes included a sleep-inducing opium horn, a poppy stalk, a branch dripping water from the river Lethe (forgetfulness) or an inverted torch.

The appeal of Hypnos

In many artistic works inspired by Greek mythology, he was depicted as a gentle youth, usually with wings attached to his temples or shoulders. In Hesiod’s portrayal, Hypnos and his brother Thanatos, the god of death, were terrible gods and quite inseparable in their actions.

Although the dream is intangible, Hypnos himself could have been both, but in any case he had enormous power over mortals and immortals, including the god of gods, Zeus. Hypnos was also the father of another powerful deity: Morpheus, the deity of dreams.

Hypnos Family Tree

The god Hypnos was the son of the goddess Nyx (meaning “night”) and Erebus (deep darkness, or shadow). However, in Hesiod’s version, he had no father.

thanatos and hypnos
Thanatos and Hypnos

He lived in the dark cave, in Hades (underworld), whose entrance was filled with poppies and other hypnotic plants. One version suggests that the god of sleep lived in the cave under a Greek island, Lemnos, and that through his cave the river of forgetfulness, Lethe, used to flow.

Family of Hypnos

  • Father: The deity of darkness, Erebus
  • Mother: The deity of night, Nyx
  • Brother: The god of death, Thanatos
  • Wife: The deity of hallucinations, Pasithea

Sons of Hypnos

  • Morpheus: The winged god of dreams, capable of taking any human form in dreams
  • Phobetor: He was the one who created the dreams of fear. He was thepersonification of nightmare, taking the form of huge and terrifying animals
  • Phantasus: He was the one who created false and illusory dreams, and had no animus form
  • Ikelos: He was the one who created the true dreams, making them more realistic

Marriage of Hypnos

He was married to the youngest of the Charites: Pasithea (or Pasithee), a deity of hallucination or relaxation, according to interpretation. Their marriage was the direct result of Hypnos blackmailing Hera to do him a very difficult favor regarding the Trojan War, he asked Pasithea who had no other choice, so he offered her to Hypnos.

According to some rumors (which exist in mythology) that Hypnos and Pasithea had up to a thousand children, but the most common belief is that they had four children. Their sons, Oneiroi (which means “dreams” in Greek) were: Morpheus, Ikelos, Phobetor and Phantasos.

Oneiroi, the Dream Sons of Hypnos

The myth says that Oneiroi lived on the shore of the ocean in the west, in the cave near Hades. The cave had two doors, one made of rooster horn the other of ivory, so that they could choose which dreams to send. The latter was believed to be the door of false dreams. But before they could act, their father, had to do the work, put people to bed.

It seems that this family, including the brother, Thanatos, actually possessed the most dangerous and most desired abilities in Greek mythology. The clan of Hypnos were the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology who controlled dreams and sleep, as well as death and fear.

Tales and myths about Hypnos

There are numerous myths related to the god of sleep. Two of the most famous tales are based on the text of Homer’s Iliad and reveal how Hypnos overcame and dominated Zeus, the king of the gods, under the direction of the goddess Hera, Zeus wife.

Hypnos influence on the Trojan War

Hera did not care for Zeus son, Herakles, from birth. Herakles was conceived during one of her husband’s many adventures. His mother was Zeus human mistress, Alcmene, and Heracles soon grew big and strong. Years before the Trojan War began, he took his men on an expedition to Troy.

They destroyed much of the city and killed the king. Hera summoned Hypnos and asked him to put Zeus to sleep. She then proceeded to send storm winds over the waters during the time when Herakles and his men were sailing their ship home. When Zeus awoke and realized he had been tricked, he was very angry with Hypnos, who managed to avoid his wrath by hiding in his mother’s underworld cave.

hypnos god
Hypnos and his powers

Hypnos does it again

Much later, the constantly plotting Hera wanted to help the Achaeans who were losing the Trojan War, so she asked him for the dangerous favor of putting her husband back to sleep so she could go ahead with her plan.

He was reluctant to use tricks once again with the father of the gods. Hera tried to persuade him with gifts, but he was reluctant to try his luck again with Zeus and initially refused. Finally, he agreed to do so, on the condition that he be granted the goddess of grace Pasithea as his bride.

Hera went to see Zeus on the pretext that she wanted to talk about her quarreling parents. Perfumed and coiffed, she looked so beautiful that Zeus could not resist her charms. Just as he reached out to embrace her, Hypnos caused Zeus to fall asleep.

Hera then transformed Hypnos into a bird and quickly flew to Poseidon to inform him that he could help the Achaeans while Zeus slept. The Greeks won the war, and Zeus never know that he had been tricked once again.

Linguistic influence of Hypnos

Although Hypnos played a role in some important tales in Greek mythology, he is considered a minor deity. Despite this, many English words are derived from both his name and the names of his family members. The word hypnosis is taken directly from his name. Euthanasia means good death, and its derivation is Thanatos.


thanatos god
Thanatos the brother of Hypnos

The condition of not sleeping, insomnia, is from the name of the Roman counterpart of Hypnos, renamed to Somnus. We also have Phobos, the Greek word for fear or phobia, rooted in Phobia. The drug morphine is named after Morpheus, the dream molder who slept among the poppy flowers.

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