Hypnos is a primordial deity in Greek mythology, which is considered the personification of sleep.
Hypnos is the word responsible for the origin of the word hypnosis, which also translates to putting one under a trance or putting one to sleep.
The Family Tree of Hypnos
|Father||Erebus (The God of darkness). It is also said Hypnos was fatherless|
|Mother||Nyx (The Goddess of Night)|
|Brother||Thanatos (His twin brother, the God of peaceful death)|
|Wife||Pasithea (The Goddess of Relaxation and hallucination)|
The Description of Hypnos
He is often regarded as the one with no father or the fatherless son of Nyx, the Goddess of Night. His mother was such a terror that even Zeus feared trespassing into her realm. He was said to live next to his brother Thanatos in the underworld. A place where the sun rays and the light of the moon could never reach nor a sound of any manner.
He is said to have lived in a cave where poppy plants grew (which signified sleep and hallucinations or dreams). And through the cave, it was said that the river Lethe passed – The river of forgetfulness. The inference is that once one goes to sleep, at least momentarily, one can forget one’s troubles and be at peace for the duration of the sleep).
It is said that he lay on his couch, surrounded by his three sons. Mainly Morpheus, the one who brought about the dreams of men. Icelus brought about the dreams of animals, and Phantasus brought about the dreams of the Inanimate things.
Homer, the Greek historian and poet, stated he lived on an island called Lemnos, which is sometimes claimed to be his own dream island.
He is regarded as a gentle and calm God who helps mortals in their times of need. And is the owner of half the time in a person’s life as people sleep in the night which makes up half of all time.
Interesting Myths About Hypnos
The main ability that Hypnos possesses is to make one fall asleep. Hence all of the myths in Greek mythology about Hypnos are centered around this aspect.
The most famous of these myths are the sequences of events in which Hypnos makes the God Zeus fall asleep not once but twice.
Hypnos and Zeus – The First Sleep
At a time long before the famous Trojan war, Heracles/ Hercules, the Demi-God son of Zeus, had sacked the city of the Trojans. This had irked and angered Hera. But in spite of her status and power, she knew that if she moved against Hercules, her husband Zeus would not stay still. So in order to torment the Hero and Demi-God Hercules.
She devised a devious ploy. She approached Hypnos, the God of sleep. And convinced him to work his magic and put Zeus to sleep. When Hypnos did what Hera asked him to do, Zeus stumbled into a deep slumber. Hera took this opportunity and set upon tormenting Hercules for the sacking of Troy. She sent blasts of winds to topple his ship as he was sailing in the sea and tried to destroy the vessel itself, according to some sources.
When Zeus awoke from his slumber, though, he was livid, but as he could not apprehend his own wife for her misdeeds, he turned his anger towards Hypnos. Hypos sensing the trouble and danger he was in, fled to the underworld. At the same time, Zeus, in his fury and anger, rampaged around the lands looking for Hypnos. The God of sleep had tactfully managed to hide in the domain of his mother, Nyx.
When Zeus finally did find Hypnos, he was hiding in the hands of his mother. Zeus, although the almighty God of Olympus, was wary of Nyx. She was a terrifyingly powerful being to an extent where even Zeus had to consider the thought of not provoking her. His anger melted away, but he warned Hypnos to never try to trick him again, leaving Hypnos unpunished for his crime against God. This was said to be a deeply terrifying experience for Hypnos himself. And he hid away in his cave, never wanting to interact with any mortals or immortals for at least a brief period.
Hypnos and Zeus – The Second Sleep
The Trojan war was on in full swing, and a scenario where Hera and her husband Zeus were on the opposite sides had emerged. Hera loathed and despised the Trojans. He wanted them to lose the war and wanted to help the Danaans to achieve victory over them, but Zeus was not ready to have it any other way. So she devised a plan to trick Zeus and wanted Hypnos to play his part where he would put the unsuspecting God to sleep.
Hypnos was wary of this task, as he remembered what had happened when he put the God to sleep the first time, and he politely declined Hera’s request. Hera then told Hypnos that in return for this favor, she offered him a golden seat that would never fall apart and a footstool to go with it.
Hypnos was wary and declined the offer, saying nothing materialistic would ever make him go against the God Zeus. Hera then had to give him her second offer, which was that she would allow him to marry Pasithea, one of the youngest Charities (Graces). Hypnos was pleased with the offer but was wary. He had always wished to marry Pasithea and would be willing to go to any lengths for it.
He finally accepted her offer. But made her swear by the river Styx with all the Gods of the underworld being present to witness it. So that he would be given what he was promised, the hand of Pasithea in marriage, in return for making the God Zeus fall asleep for the second time.
Now with Hypnos on her side, Hera proceeded with her plan. She washed herself with Ambrosia, adorned herself in the choicest of jewels, and wore the most beautiful of robes. She had made herself appear in a way to be irresistible to Zeus.
She also went to Aphrodite and asked the Goddess to Charm her. Now she was wary of doing this as Hera and Aphrodite were both on the opposite sides of the Trojan war. And she simply gave the Goddess the excuse that she wanted Aphrodite to charm her so that she and Zeus could stop fighting and be at peace.
Aphrodite willingly agreed and charmed her. She then proceeded to the topmost peak of Mount Ida, Gargarus. Along with her in her shadow tagged along Hypnos, invisible to the eyes of others. When she reached the top, she went to meet Zeus. And the God was struck by her beauty and told her to sit beside him so that he could have a peaceful conversation with her. As the God sat there with his wife in his arms, Hypnos, who had hidden himself, managed to make Zeus fall into a peaceful slumber.
Seizing the opportunity when Zeus had fallen asleep, Hypnos traveled to the ships of the Achaeans. And informed Poseidon that he could offer his support to the Danaans and help them secure victory in the Trojan war. Poseidon, who was waiting for the opportunity, was impressed and exalted at this, went ahead and helped the Achaeans. This is one of the myths that cemented the victory of the Greeks over the Trojans in the Trojan war. Zeus never found out about the fact that Hypnos had tricked him a second time. And had made him fall asleep, a moment that had changed the outcome of the all-important Trojan war.
Another said contribution of Hypnos was that with the body of Sarpedon. After the fated death of the son of Zeus, Sarpedon. Apollo hands over the body of Sarpedon to Hypnos and Thanatos, the winged brothers of sleep and peaceful death, respectively. They carried his body to the countryside of Lycia, where they laid him to eternal rest.
Hypnos and Endymion
Hypos, in one myth, is so enthralled with the handsome and beautiful Endymion,the King and ruler of Eris. Hypnos bestowed upon Endymion the ability to sleep with his eyes open so that he could admire his face to its fullest extent. It is but a minor tale but a mention about Hypnos and his character.
All in all, Hypnos was considered a minor god in Greek mythology. He was the one who was not worshiped as frequently and as fervently as the major gods in the mythological texts and events. But still had a major influence on what happened during turning points in the mythological events.
Also Read: The Greek Gods of Sleep and Dreams
Hypnos was a gentle God and was not considered an evil being even though he lived in the underworld. He was a lazy but sensible being of existence. A God, who personified sleep, in other words, represented half of the time of a mortal (The Night is considered the time of sleep). And whatever they experienced in the depth of their slumber.