Mythology has it that Thanatos was the spirit of death after whom the term “thanatology” is named. The Greek god of gentle death, his name literally translates to “death”, and he was often compared to Hypnos and associated with restful sleep.

Thanatos was also a god of some other mythologies, including Hinduism (in his role as Yama), Judaism (as Azazel), and Islam (as Ghoulish).


The origin of the god of death was an interesting one, stemming from the Greeks’ tendency to avoid death and their fear of it. In order to explain the death of loved ones and even strangers in their midst, they created a god that would control life’s end.

The myths surrounding this deity vary according to the culture, location, and time period. But there were several stories about Thanatos that seem to have been common knowledge throughout Greece. 

Who exactly was Thanatos? 

No one knew for sure, but there were lots of theories as to who he really was.

Many thought he was the same ghost that haunted the living; while others believed he was a killing man, an executioner, or a god of death. He is sometimes described as a spirit, ghost, or restless spirit. It is also said that Thanatos is usually depicted with wings. 

Modernistic interpretations have suggested that Thanatos is actually the brother or even mother figure of Hypnos (god of sleep).

What is Thanatos the god of? 

To the Greeks, death was something that happened to other people. However, not everyone had a fear of death. In fact, some myths suggest that Thanatos is actually a god of the living; his spirit would rise from the dead and then take another life. He was associated with dreaming “deadly dreams” or nightmares. Greek poets were said to deliberately create these dreams for their audience just before they died (about 92% of all people in ancient times will dream this specific dream).

What were Thanatos’ powers?

He was a daimon, which is the Greek word for spirit, but the most common term associated with him was psyche, meaning “soul” or “breath.” These words were used to describe Thanatos’ power of taking life. Later myths said that he would come to give people a peaceful death at their end. They would rest easy in death and wake up in the afterlife.

Who were the parents of Thanatos? 

Because the myths were all over the place, there are many different answers to this question. Several ancient Greek poets argue that he is the child of Nyx (night) or Nyx’s husband. Some say he is Aphrodite’s son or just a son to one of Zeus’ mistresses. Others say that Gaia (Earth) gave birth to Thanatos herself. His father was usually linked to be Hypnos, god of sleep; sometimes it’s Hades; and others still, Poseidon.

Who were the brothers and sisters of Thanatos? 

There were many siblings of the deity. His brother, Hypnos, was called “the gentle sleeper”. His sisters were Themis (Greek for order) and one of them called Orphne. Themis was often viewed as a personification of law in Greece, and she was very important in the death rituals. Orphne was a young woman than personified death’s female side and had dominion over all spirits of the dead.

What symbol is Thanatos? 

Thanatos is represented by a young boy, usually dressed in black. Sometimes he is wearing wings and sometimes not. Sometimes there are two of him, sometimes there are more. He could even be viewed as a corpse. Thanatos was commonly shown as the very image of death – an old man with a sickle and/or a horse. All symbols were used to instill fear in those who saw them because they reminded them that their time was limited.

What are some myths about Thanatos?  

The following are a few of the stories that were told about Thanatos. Some say he was the one who caused someone to have a dream in which they died. Some say it was dreams of death that brought someone to death. One myth said it was Thanatos who was responsible for the lives of humans being short, while another said he gave them life but hated them when they grew up and needed to be buried. Thanatos was also known as a “Titan” in Greece, where he helped overthrow many of the Titans, which were the gods that were before Zeus. He was also a great hero in various battles. He helped Odysseus on his journey by giving him sleep when he needed it most and also helped Achilles defeat Ajax during the Trojan War.

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