Ancient Death Scenes: Gorgias on Sleep and His Brother (Aelian, Varia Historiia 2.30)

“When Gorgias of Leontini was at the end of his life and, extremely old, he was over taken by a certain weakness, he stretched out in his bed slipping off to sleep. When one of his attendants who was looking over him asked how he was doing, Gorgias replied “Sleep is now starting to hand me over to his brother.””

Γοργίας ὁ Λεοντῖνος ἐπὶ τέρματι ὢν τοῦ βίου καὶ γεγηρακὼς εὖ μάλα ὑπό τινος ἀσθενείας καταληφθείς, κατ’ ὀλίγον ἐς ὕπνον ὑπολισθάνων ἔκειτο. ἐπεὶ δέ τις αὐτὸν παρῆλθε τῶν ἐπιτηδείων ἐπισκοπούμενος καὶ ἤρετο ὅ τι πράττοι, ὁ Γοργίας ἀπεκρίνατο ‘ἤδη με ὁ ὕπνος ἄρχεται παρακατατίθεσθαι τἀδελφῷ.’

Gorgias of Leontini was an orator who lived nearly one hundred years. In Greek myth, Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos) are brothers. Here’s the Euphronios Krater that shows the pair carrying off the mortally wounded Sarpedon.

Euphronios_krater_side_A_MET_L.2006.10

4 thoughts on “Ancient Death Scenes: Gorgias on Sleep and His Brother (Aelian, Varia Historiia 2.30)

    1. Good question. It looks like death is:

      Hesiod, Theogony 211-212

      “Night bore hateful Fate and dark Doom
      And death, and then she bore sleep, and then she was giving birth to the race of Dreams”

      Νὺξ δ’ ἔτεκε στυγερόν τε Μόρον καὶ Κῆρα μέλαιναν
      καὶ Θάνατον, τέκε δ’ ῞Υπνον, ἔτικτε δὲ φῦλον ᾿Ονείρων.

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