Thanatos | Greek God

Thanatos Greek Mythology

Thanatus or Tânatos (Greek: Θάνατος, transl.: Thánatos, lit. "death"), in Greek mythology, was the personification of death, while Hades reigned over the dead in the nether world.

His name is transliterated in Latin as Thanatus and his equivalent in Roman mythology is Mors or Leto (Letum). He is often mistakenly identified with Orc (Orc himself had a Greek equivalent in the form of Horkos, God of the Oath). He is known to have a heart of iron and a guts of bronze.

Tânato is the son of Nix, the night, and Erebo, the darkness, sons of Chaos. Erebo and Nix had two twin sons: Tânato, the personification of death, and Hypno, the personification of sleep. The brothers inhabited the Elysian Fields (the land of Hades, the place of the underworld), and were hardly ever seen apart.

He is represented by a silver cloud that snatched the life from mortals. He was also represented by a man with silver hair and eyes. His role in Greek mythology is accompanied by Hades, the god of the nether world.

He appears in numerous myths and legends, such as the story of Sisyphus and King Midas.

Participations in mythological stories

Tangatos in the story of Sisyphus

Sisyphus aroused Zeus' anger, for Zeus had turned into an eagle and flown over Sisyphus' kingdom with Egina, daughter of Asopos, then when Asopos asked Sisyphus if he had seen Egina, he told in exchange for a fountain of water. Then Zeus sent Tangatus to take him to Hades.

But Sisyphus managed to trick Tangatus, praised his beauty and asked him to let him adorn his neck with a necklace, the necklace was actually a collar, with which Sisyphus kept death imprisoned while preventing any other person or living being from dying. This time Sisyphus got into trouble with Hades, the god of the dead, and with Ares, the god of war, who needed death to consummate his battles.

As soon as he learned of this, Hades released Tangatus and ordered him to bring Sisyphus immediately to the mansions of death. When Sisyphus said goodbye to his wife, he was careful to secretly ask her not to bury his body.

Once in hell, Sisyphus complained to Hades about his wife's lack of respect for not burying him. He then begged for one more day to take revenge on his ungrateful wife and to fulfill the funeral rites. Hades granted his request. Sisyphus then took back his body and fled with his wife. He had deceived Death for the second time

Thanatos in the legend of Admeto

The story goes that King Admetus receives the hero Heracles in his palace. Alceste, Admetus' wife, was dying, and so Tangatos is sent to take Alceste's soul, but Heracles throws him out.

Tangatos and Macarius

Tangatos once met Macariah, goddess of good death and daughter of Hades and Persephone. Tangatos was in love with the goddess, she had also been in love with him. So Macaria and Thanatos swore that even though they could not be together they would stay close to each other. They both proclaimed over the River Styx : "Then let them dig two graves, if I die I promise I will wake up on your side."


For Psychoanalysis, Tangatos is the mythical personification of the death drive, an instinctive, unconscious drive that seeks death and/or destruction. This concept appears developed in Sigmund Freud's books "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" and "Unrest in Civilization".