Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep
Who was Hypnos?
Hypnos was one of the primeval gods who was a son of Nyx was believed to be the mother of everything mysterious and anything that was inexplicable, such as death, disease, sleep, ghosts, dreams, witchcraft and enchantments. His father was Erebus, who reigned in a palace in the dark regions of the Underworld. His twin brother was Thanatos, a god of Death who was feared and hated as the enemy of mankind and whose hard heart knew no pity. Hypnos was the God of sleep who brought nightmares but also brought some relief to troubled humans via dreams. According to Greek mythology his cavernous palace was in the Underworld where the sun never shines. At the entrance of his palace were a garden of poppies which symbolized death, eternal sleep and oblivion. The hypnotic properties of the poppy has long been used to treat insomnia allowing sleep to people who have trouble sleeping.
Picture of Hypnos carrying poppies with his mother Nyx
The Children of Hypnos - The Oneiroi
The sons of Hypnos were called the Oneiroi, the dark-winged spirits of dreams. The Greek word for dream was 'oneiros'. The Greek phrase for nightmare was melas oneiros meaning 'black dream'. Their names of three of the many Oneiroi were Morpheus, Phobetor (known as Icelus to the gods) and Phantasos.
Hypnos, the Oneiroi and the Gates of Horn and Ivory
The Oneiroi shared the cavernous palace of Hypnos from which they emerged each night like a flock of bats. The nightly route of the Oneiroi passed through one of two gates. One gate was made from horn, the second gate was made from ivory. The Oneiroi who passed through the gates of horn would carry prophetic or true god-sent dreams. The phrase originated in the Greek language, in which the word for "horn" is similar to that for "fulfil". The Oneiroi who passed through the gates of ivory carried false dreams, without true meaning. The Greek word for "ivory" is similar to that for "deceive".
Hypnos (Roman Counterpart was Somnus)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek gods and goddesses, such as Hypnos, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Roman counterpart of Hypnos was Somnus.