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Thanatos

Θάνατος

Death

Thanatos

Thanatos and Alkestis
Thanatos at Troy
Thanatos in the Iliad [reference]
Thanatos in the Odyssey [reference]
Other Text References
Immortals Index
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A Child of Nyx [Night]

Nyx is one of the oldest Immortals ... she was brought forth by the first Immortal, Chaos. From Nyx came a hoard of Immortals, most of which are usually thought of as: horrible, painful, cruel, brooding, mocking and malignant but some of her children are true benefactors of the mortal humans. Thanatos is one of the more feared of Nyx's children.

Thanatos might be poetically called the twin brother of Hypnos [Sleep] but no matter how you describe him, he is a creature of bone chilling darkness. Hypnos goes kindly among the mortals but Thanatos has a heart made of pitiless iron ... when he takes hold of you, the world of light ceases to be.

From on high, Helios [Sun] never casts his light on Thanatos because he resides in his mother's house of gloom and only emerges when Helios has stabled his chariot and not riding through the sky.

Thanatos

Thanatos at Troy

Thanatos played an important role in the Trojan War when he was summoned by Apollon to assist in the return of the body of Sarpedon to his native land of Lykia. Sarpedon was a son of Zeus and thus a demigod. He was an ally of the Trojans and fought bravely until he was killed by Patroklos in the last year of the war.

Zeus had engineered the Trojan War to rid the earth of the demigods and as much as he regretted it, his son Sarpedon was one of the demigods fated to die at Troy. When Patroklos donned Achilles's armor and charged into the Trojan lines, he killed many men and then finally came against Sarpedon. When Patroklos engaged Sarpedon, he first killed Sarpedon's charioteer, Thrasymelos. Sarpedon threw his spear at Patroklos but missed and hit one of Achilles's chariot horses in the right shoulder ... the horse screamed and went down into the dust, dead. Patroklos again charged Sarpedon and killed him.

The fight for the body and armor of Sarpedon was fierce ... Zeus lamented the loss of his son and could not bear to see Sarpedon's body disgraced in the blood and gore of the battlefield ... he summoned Apollon and instructed him to retrieve Sarpedon's body, wash it clean and then instruct Thanatos and Hypnos to transport the body to Lykia so that Sarpedon could have a hero's burial and be mourned by his friends and family. Thanatos solemnly did as he was told.

Thanatos and Sarpedon

At Zeus's command, Thanatos retrieves the dead body of Sarpedon from the battlefield at Troy.

Thanatos and Alkestis

Thanatos may have a heart of iron but he can be persuaded to show sympathy ... the story of Admetos and his wife Alkestis is an example of how Thanatos released his death-hold and allowed a mortal to return to the land of the living.

Admetos was king of Pherae in Thessaly and unwittingly drawn into the plots and dramas of the Immortals when Zeus made Apollon into Admetos's slave for one year as retribution for Apollon's vengeful attack on the Cyclops. Admetos was a kind master and treated Apollon with respect ... in repayment for such noble treatment, Apollon arranged for Admetos to marry a lovely woman named Alkestis.

When Apollon found out that Admetos was destined to die immediately after the marriage, he wooed the Eumenides [Fates] with wine until they agreed to allow Admetos to live. The Eumenides were not easily persuaded ... they would only allow Admetos to live on the condition that someone else volunteer to die in his place. Alkestis loved her husband so much that she agreed to die for him.

During his travels, Herakles happened to visit King Admetos shortly after Thanatos had taken Alkestis ... when Herakles heard the story of how Alkestis had volunteered to die in Admetos's place, he was so moved by such an act of selflessness that he intercepted Thanatos as he was escorting Alkestis to the Underworld and persuaded him returned Alkestis to the land of the living to be reunited with Admetos.

Thanatos in the Iliad

[from four different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Loeb Classical Library

Robert Fagles

Robert Fitzgerald

Thanatos in the Odyssey

[from four different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Loeb Classical Library

Robert Fagles

Robert Fitzgerald

Hypnos and Thanatos

Hypnos and Thanatos carrying a dead man.

Other Text References

Theogony

Works and Days

Description of Greece by Pausanias

Thanatos
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