Sleep and Death

The association between sleep and death is one of the most consolidated topoi of the literature of all time: Homer praises the power of Hypnos, Thanatos’s brother, in the episode called Διὸς ἀπάτη (‘the deception of Zeus’), when Hera aims to distract his royal husband from the duties of war and to divert him from supporting the Trojans (Il.14.231-7):

There she met Sleep, the brother of Death;

and she clasped him by the hand, and spake and addressed him:

“Sleep, lord of all gods and of all men,

if ever thou didst hearken to word of mine,

so do thou even now obey, and I will owe thee thanks all my days.

Lull me to sleep the bright eyes of Zeus beneath his brows,

so soon as I shall have lain me by his side in love. (transl. Murray)

Hypnos and Thanatos are entrusted with the task of shipping Sarpedon’s body to Lycia so that he may receive his funeral honors (Il. 16.677-83):  (more…)