The Power of Somnus: How the Greek God of Sleep Impacts Our Lives Today

Written by: GOG Team



Time to read 6 min

Somnus - The Greek God of Sleep

Do you ever find yourself struggling to stay awake during the day or struggling to fall asleep at night? If so, you may want to learn more about Somnus, the Greek god of sleep.

Somnus, also known as Hypnos, was a prominent figure in Greek mythology, often depicted as a winged figure holding a poppy seed or a branch dripping with Lethe's waters, the river of forgetfulness.

But who exactly was Somnus, and what role did he play in Greek mythology? Keep reading to find out more.

The Origins of Somnus

Somnus was the son of the goddess Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness). He was one of the many offspring of Nyx, including other notable deities such as Nemesis (retribution), Thanatos (death), and Eris (discord).

According to Greek mythology, Somnus and his twin brother, Thanatos, lived together in a cave, with Somnus being responsible for putting humans to sleep and Thanatos taking care of them once they passed away.

The Powers and Symbols of Somnus

In the vast tapestry of Roman mythology, Somnus, the god of sleep, holds a unique and essential position. Portrayed as a benevolent figure ensuring rest and rejuvenation, understanding Somnus and his significance provides deeper insights into the human psyche and our innate need for repose.

The Powers of Somnus

Somnus is not just a deity overseeing sleep; his powers dive deep into the realms of dreams, fatigue, and rest. One could argue that he governs one of the most vital aspects of human health and well-being. With the ability to send dreams to mortals, Somnus could influence human thoughts, emotions, and even foretell events. His touch was gentle, ensuring that after the travails of the day, mortals found solace and renewal in sleep. Somnus could also send visions or prophecies through dreams, guiding or warning individuals about future occurrences.

Symbols Associated with Somnus

Several symbols are intricately linked to Somnus, each shedding light on various facets of his dominion:

1. Poppies: Often depicted with poppies around him or his abode, this flower is synonymous with deep sleep and dreams, even in modern interpretations. This connection is likely due to the sedative properties of poppies, making them a natural emblem for the god of sleep.

2. Wings: Somnus is frequently portrayed with wings, illustrating the swift and silent onset of sleep, or perhaps indicating how dreams might 'fly' into our minds. The wings also emphasize the ethereal and intangible nature of sleep, a state where the physical body remains grounded while the mind can soar.

3. Branch: A unique symbol of Somnus is a branch tipped with a horn. This hints at the two types of dreams he sends – those from the horn are believed to be truthful, while those from the ivory are deceptive or fantastical.

Understanding Somnus is not merely an academic pursuit of mythology. In an age where sleep disorders are rampant, and the quest for restful slumber is universal, Somnus stands as a reminder of the sacredness of sleep. Recognizing the symbols and powers associated with this deity could offer a deeper appreciation for the nightly rejuvenation we often take for granted.

In essence, Somnus, with his gentle powers and evocative symbols, remains a timeless testament to the importance of rest, dreams, and the mysteries of the night. Reflecting on his significance might just make one cherish the realm of sleep even more.

The Worship of Somnus

The Worship of Somnus: Delving into the Reverence for the God of Sleep

In the rich tapestry of Roman mythology, Somnus stands as the emblematic deity of sleep and dreams. Much like the mysteries that dreams unfold every night, the worship and significance of Somnus have deep-seated roots that offer intriguing insights into ancient Roman society.

Somnus: The God of Sleep and Brother of Death

Originating from the Latin word "somnus," meaning sleep, this god is often depicted as a serene figure, sometimes seen with closed eyes, suggesting a peaceful slumber. Intriguingly, he is the brother of Mors, the god of death. This familial link draws a symbolic parallel between sleep and death, suggesting that both are natural parts of life's cycle.

Temples and Worship

Temples dedicated to Somnus were not as grand or as ubiquitous as those for gods like Jupiter or Mars. However, they held a special place for those seeking reprieve from insomnia or seeking prophetic dreams. Many Romans believed that by offering prayers or sacrifices to Somnus, they could gain clarity through dreams. Historians have found evidence of small shrines dedicated to him, often nestled near the homes of priests and dream interpreters.

Dreams as Divine Messages

The Romans placed significant importance on dreams, viewing them as messages from the gods. Somnus served as the conduit for these divine messages. Pilgrims often traveled to his shrines, seeking interpretations of dreams that they believed held prophetic value. The high priests and dream interpreters played pivotal roles, offering insights and connecting worshippers to the god's wisdom.

Somnus in Literature and Art

Somnus and his influence are evident in various works of Roman literature and art. Poets, like Ovid, have alluded to him, drawing parallels between the world of dreams and the realm of the gods. In art, frescoes, and mosaics, he is often depicted as a young man holding a poppy and a horn of sleep-inducing opium, symbols associated with relaxation and dreams.

Somnus's Lasting Legacy

While Somnus might not be as prominently revered as other deities in the Roman pantheon, his subtle influence permeates the culture's understanding of sleep and dreams. In today's fast-paced world, the ancient rituals surrounding Somnus remind us of the essential role of rest and the profound insights that dreams can offer. As modern society continues to explore the mysteries of sleep, the ancient reverence for Somnus serves as a testament to the timeless connection between humanity and the dream world.

Somnus in Greek Mythology

Somnus appears in many Greek myths, often in the role of a minor character. One notable example is the story of Endymion, a mortal shepherd who was granted eternal youth and immortality by Zeus. However, Endymion could not stay awake, and Somnus fell in love with him while he was sleeping. Somnus put Endymion in an eternal slumber so that he could visit him whenever he pleased.

Another story involving Somnus is the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. In this tale, Somnus helps Medea, the sorceress and lover of Jason, by putting a dragon guarding the Golden Fleece to sleep so that Jason can steal it.

Somnus in Popular Culture

Somnus has been referenced in various works of literature and media throughout history, such as in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Ovid's "Metamorphoses." He has also appeared in modern works such as the video game "Final Fantasy XV," where he is portrayed as a powerful deity who can control dreams.


Somnus, the Greek god of sleep, may not be as well-known as some of the other gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, but his powers over slumber and dreams were an important aspect of ancient Greek culture. From his origins as the son of Nyx to his appearances in myths and legends, Somnus remains an intriguing and essential figure in Greek mythology.

Connect with the Greek Gods and Goddesses through this special manual

Frequently Asked Questions about God Somnus

  1. Who is Somnus? Somnus is the Roman god of sleep. He is the equivalent of the Greek god Hypnos, and is often depicted as a gentle, calming figure who brings peaceful slumber to mortals.
  2. What are some of Somnus' other names? Somnus is also known as Somnus-Tiberinus, as he was believed to reside in the Tiber River in Rome. He is also sometimes referred to as "Morpheus," after the Greek god of dreams.
  3. What is Somnus' role in mythology? Somnus is primarily associated with sleep and dreams. In mythology, he is said to have the power to put both mortals and immortals to sleep, and is often called upon by gods and heroes alike for his assistance in achieving restful slumber.
  4. What are some symbols associated with Somnus? Somnus is often depicted holding a poppy flower, which was believed to have sleep-inducing properties. He is also sometimes shown holding a horn, which he uses to blow sleep-inducing breezes over the land.
  5. Are there any famous stories involving Somnus? In Ovid's "Metamorphoses," Somnus is called upon by Juno to put Jupiter to sleep so that she can carry out her plan to deceive him. Somnus is hesitant at first, but eventually gives in and puts Jupiter into a deep slumber, allowing Juno to carry out her plan.
  6. Is Somnus still worshiped today? No, worship of Somnus ended with the decline of the Roman Empire. However, his influence can still be seen in modern language, as words like "somnolent" and "insomnia" have their roots in his name.