Sleep and Death: beyond the Greek world

Latin literature too offers some examples of the close relationship between sleep and death also in Latin literature. In his Tusculanae Disputationes (1.92), Cicero repudiates the fear of death by recalling the Epicurean perspective: death does not concern he who is alive (for he is alive is not affected by death) nor he who has already died (for he can no longer perceive death). Cicero draws a parallel between the perception of death and the perception of sleep (cf. Lucr. De rerum natura3.919-30).

They who make the least of death consider it as having a great resemblance to sleep; as if any one would choose to live ninety years on condition that, at the expiration of sixty, he should sleep out the remainder […] You look on sleep as an image of death, and you take that on you daily; and have you, then, any doubt that there is no sensation in death, when you see there is none in sleep, which is its near resemblance?

In the sixth book of the Aeneid, Virgil recounts Aeneas’ descent to the Underworld, and among the infernal figures Virgil mentions (v. 278) (more…)