In Greek mythology, Hypnos is the god associated with sleep. His mother was Nyx (night) and his father was Erebus (darkness). Even Zeus, the most powerful of the Greek gods, was afraid of entering Nyx’s realm because she was such a dreadful and powerful goddess.
Hypnos and his twin brother, Thanatos (death), lived in the underworld (Hades)in caves that were located next to each other. The caves received no sunlight or moonlight and were completely silent. The caves were also surrounded by poppies and other plants that produce sleep. His bed is said to be made of ebony.
Hypnos is said to be a calm and gentle god who helps mortal humans in their time of need. Because he is the god of sleep, he owns half of every human life.
The river Lethe (forgetfulness) flows from Hypnos’ cave. His cave is also where day and night meet.
Hypnos was asked twice by Hera (the goddess of love and marriage who is married to her brother, Zeus), to put Zeus to sleep. The first time Hypnos put Zeus to sleep it was to avenge the ransacking of the city of Troy by Zeus’ son, Heracles. When Zeus woke up and found out what had happened, he tried to find Hypnos, but could not because Hypnos was hiding with his mother, Nyx.
The second time Hypnos put Zeus to sleep it was because Hera promised him he could have Pasithea as his wife. Hypnos made Hera swear an oath by the river Styx before he would help her. Hera then dressed up beautifully and went to Zeus to ask his permission to go to her parents and stop them from arguing. Hera also had a charm given to her by Aphrodite (the goddess of love). Zeus agreed and when he hugged Hera Hypnos put him to sleep. Hypnos then went to Poseidon (god of the sea) and told him he could help the Greeks win the Trojan War. Zeus never realized that Hypnos had put him to sleep a second time.
Hypnos and Pasithea, had three sons, Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos who were called Oneiroi (the dreams). The Oneiroi live in a cave that was near the Ocean of the West. Their cave had two doors which would send people their dreams. One of the doors was made of ivory and the other was made of buckthorn. Before the dreams could be sent, Hypnos had to put the person to sleep.
In works of art, Hypnos is depicted as a young man who has wings on either his shoulders or brow. He is often seen holding a horn of opium, which produces sleep, a branch that is dripping water that comes from the Lethe or an inverted torch.
Hypnos is sometimes called Somnus or Hypnus.
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