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Aris Katsaris writes...

You said: <<O.K. Thanks. So death was NEVER personified?
Certainly Uranos was personified in the mythology, right? And Eros, of course. >>

Umm, I'm not certain what exactly it is you mean by "personification", so let me be a bit more elaborate.

Pretty much *everything* was personified as a deity, including abstractions like "Victory"-Nike, "Peace"-Eirene, "Justice"-Dike, "Violence"-Bia, "Night"-Nyx, "Sleep"-Hypnos, etc. The name is the concept is the deity...

However most of these deities never seemed to have a solid existence in stories besides their very function - unlike gods and goddesses like Athena, Hades, Hermes, Thetis, Callisto, etc, who very clearly were "persons" with a history and personalities that was separate from their specific roles...

Uranus was ofcourse personified - he was a person who was defeated and castrated by Cronos, etc, etc. And in fact he was probably personified so much that the meaning of his name being "sky" was probably almost forgotten, and Zeus was considered the god whose province was the sky, etc.

Eros is a weird case: The story which "personified" him as the son of Aphrodite and the lover of Psyche, was written very late, 2nd century AD I think, by a Roman writer. In that one he was obviously a seperate person, "personified" with any definition one can come up with.

But before that, Eros seems to have been much more of an abstraction, one of the very first gods who was birthed by Chaos: For if there had been no Eros (no love) later gods (like Gaia and Uranus, or Cronos and Rhea, or Zeus and Hera) could not have loved each other. More of a force, less of a person.

Now Death-"Thanatos" was ofcourse personified like anything else: he's supposed to be the son of Night, and the older brother of Sleep (Hypnos). But besides that, he seems to me to be much more of an abstraction like Nike, and less of a person like Athena. He's referred to as a person occasionally (Zeus sends Hypnos and Thanatos to carry the body of Sarpedon with honour away from Troy, I think that Hercules is supposed to have wrestled with Thanatos in one case) but those two are pretty much the only occasions I remember him be a person...

I don't know if the above helped clarify or confuse...

Greg responds...

It helped clarify where you were coming from, but I think even the brief mentions you give legitimize the way I characterized Thanatos. The God of Death. He doesn't have a lot of stories attached to him. But that's still the idea.

Live you said, "The name is the concept is the deity."

(And I knew about the two versions of Eros.)

Response recorded on November 21, 2000