- Thanatos in art
- Thanatos in mythology
- How Hercules defeated Death
- How Sisyphus deceived Death
- Thanatos in psychology
- A few words about mythology
Thanatos is the god personifying death in the mythology of ancient Greece. Most often depicted as a young man in a black cloak with wings behind his back, holding an extinguished torch in his hand, as a symbol of an extinct life.
Thanatos in art
A huge part of the works of the masters of ancient Greece was devoted to myths - these are sculptures, paintings, frescoes, and vessels. In modern culture, we can also find works on the theme of myths. In addition, the image of death for many artists is very attractive.
In the image on the left - Eros and Thanatos, Life Instinct and Death Instinct, modern sculpture. On the right - Thanatos, a bas-relief on a marble column in the Temple of Artemis.
Every rich, self-respecting person was obliged to have painted vessels and vases in his house, on which various scenes from the mythology and life of the ancient Greeks were immortalized by the masters.
The vessel below depicts the twin brothers Hypnos (left) and Thanatos (right), carrying the warrior Sarpedon from the battlefield. This is how the Greeks imagined Thanatos.
Thanatos in mythology
Thanatos is the son of Nikta (Nyukty, Nyx) and the god of darkness Erebus. Nikta is the goddess of the night, the mother of Thanatos and Ether (eternal light), Hemera (bright day) and Kera (destruction), as well as Hypnos (sleep), Eris (strife), Apta (deceit) and many others.
The god of death lives in Tartarus, but usually lives next to the throne of the god of the kingdom of the dead Hades. He also has a twin brother, Hypnos, whom you have already read about above. Hypnos is a god who always accompanies Death, bringing sleep on his wings. He is calm and kind to people. The goddesses of fate Moira and Nemesis (goddess of justice) were their sisters.
The only god who does not recognize gifts is Thanatos. Mythology also reports that he had an iron heart and was the object of hatred of all Greek gods.
When the term of life allotted to a person by the goddesses of fate Moira ended, Thanatos appeared to a person. It meant inevitable death. True, there are exceptions to every rule, but about them later. According to legend, the god of death cut off a strand of hair from the dying with his sword to dedicate it to Hades, and then carried the souls to the kingdom of the dead.
How Hercules defeated Death
The ancient Greeks believed that the death of a person depends only on Thanatos, that only he is free to decide whether to kill or keep alive. That is, he could very well give someone a second chance at life, or he could be persuaded to do so.
King Admet and his wife Alcesta (Alcestis) were the happiest, loving and richest people in Thessaly. But then Admetfalls ill sharply and very seriously, cannot move his arms or legs, falls into unconsciousness. Alcesta can only pray to the gods that her beloved husband will recover. She prayed that Thanatos, the god of death, would remove his heavy hand from her husband. It worked.
However, instead of Admet, someone else must go to the kingdom of the dead. And neither parents nor friends dared to accept death for the beautiful Admet. Alcesta had to take the hit and she died.
Admet recovered, but he could not find a place for himself, he was always sad and mourned for his wife. At this time, Hercules comes to visit him. At first, Admet pretends that nothing happened, and then runs out of the hall in tears. Then Hercules learns the sad story of the king from his old servant and decides to save Alcesta, challenging Thanatos to a duel. He defeated him without ever touching the body of the god of death, because there was an opinion that one touch to Thanatos takes away life. And then demanded the return of Alcestis. The god of death had no choice but consent, otherwise Hercules would have pierced his neck with his sword. Alcestis returned to her husband from the realm of the dead. Hercules defeated Death.
Below is Frederic Leighton's painting of this myth, but Hercules still touches Thanatos.
How Sisyphus deceived Death
Sisyphus is a Corinthian king who cheated death twice. Once, Zeus sent Thanatos to Sisyphus, who, as befits the god of death, was supposed to take the life and soul of Sisyphus. But the cunning ruler of Corinth did notconfused and deceived the god of death himself with chains - he only asked to explain how to use them.
And angry Thanatos remained imprisoned by Sisyphus for several years. This contributed to the fact that God could not perform his functions, and people simply became immortal. Even if a person was beheaded, he remained alive. The mortally wounded could not die. I wonder how in a couple of years the gods of Olympus could not notice this? Hades was the first to be furious when he finally realized that souls did not enter his kingdom. And then the gods sent Ares to free poor Thanatos.
Sisyphus was immediately taken to the kingdom of the dead for such an act, but even then he was able to show off his cunning. Before his death, the king asked his wife not to perform funeral rites and not to make sacrifices. Sisyphus asked the god of death for a three-day delay in order to punish his wife for such an offense, but, as you already guessed, he did not return, and Hermes had to catch him.
And Sisyphus was severely punished by Hades for his actions. It is about him that the phraseological unit "Sisyphean labor". His task is to roll a huge boulder to the top of the mountain, but every time, almost at the very top, the stone breaks off, and Sisyphus needs to start all over again. You shouldn't mess with death, should you?
Thanatos in psychology
Many philosophers of different times puzzled over what drives human life. The famous psychologist and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud also thought about this issue and decided to study it in more detail.
Freud beganconsider the primary drives that drive life, such concepts as "life instinct" and "death instinct" - Eros and Thanatos. Freud writes that all human life is built on the basis of these two instincts.
They constantly interact with each other. Thanks to Eros, culture develops, because the instinct of life and love helps people interact with each other and unite into a family, people, state. The troubles, devastation and horror that the First World War brought testify to a person's inclinations to cruelty, aggression and self-destruction, this prompted Freud to think about the "death instinct".
"The goal of all life is death" - said Freud, Eros and Thanatos are constantly fighting with each other. Whether you agree with this or not is up to you.
A few words about mythology
Greek mythology, like any other, carries a lot of information about the people, some lessons are hidden among beautiful fairy tales (remember the story of Sisyphus, who played with death?). Myths are easy to remember, because they have a huge number of simple and understandable images.
Mythology served as an impetus for the development of art, this subject was very popular among creators of different times and peoples. So read, study, watch and think.