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)

consanguineus Leti Sopor‘and Death’s half-brother, Sleep’ (transl. J. Dryden)

In an erotic context, Ovid (Amores II 9b, 39-42) claims that:

Haples is he that all the night lies quiet

And slumbring, thinkes himselfe much blessed by it.

Foole, what is sleepe but image of cold death,

Long shalt thou rest when Fates expire thy breath. (transl. 1855)

The initial allegory of Dante’s Comedy (Hell, I 4-12) is similarly based on the association between sleep and death:

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant’ è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch’i’ vi trovai,
dirò de l’altre cose ch’i’ v’ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com’ i’ v’intrai,
tant’ era pien di sonno a quel punto
che la verace via abbandonai


Ahi how to say what was it is hard

This wild and rugged and strong wilderness

that fear is renewed in thought!

Tant is bitter that little is more death;

but to deal with the ben ch’i ‘I found you,

I will say of the other things that I have seen to you.

I do not know how to laugh as I see you,

so much was full of sleep at that point

that the true path I abandoned.