Morpheus – Origins, Family Tree, Power, & Abilities

Morpheus

Morpheus in Greek mythology. Image: Morpheus, painted by French painter Jean-Bernard Restout

Not so much a frequently worshiped and revered god in the Greek pantheon, ancient Greek god Morpheus was associated with dreams and sleep. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, Morpheus was believed to guide people to sleep, giving the dreamer the shapes and story line that come with the sleep.

Although he does not have a glossy appeal as the likes of Zeus, Hermes or Apollo, Morpheus certainly plays an important role in Greek mythology.

World History Edu explores the myths surrounding Morpheus origins, meaning, worship, significance, and symbols.

Meaning and epithets

Morpheus’ name is believed to have its roots in the ancient Greek word for ‘shape’ or ‘form’.

In some accounts, he was known as the ‘Fashioner’ – perhaps a reference to his ability to make shapes in the dreamer’s mind.

Birth story and family

According to Roman poet Ovid, Morpheus is the offspring of Hypnos (Roman Somnus). Ovid also states that Morpheus reveals himself to dreamer in human form.

Morpheus’ father, Hypnos, is the god of sleep. In the story, Hypnos is the son of Nyx (Night) and the twin brother of Thanatos (Death). Hypnos and many of his family members reside in the underworld. In some accounts however, they reside on the island of Lemnos.

According to Homer’s Iliad, Hypnos is betrothed to Pasithea, one of the Graces. This was the reward he received for helping Hera, Zeus’ wife, make Zeus fall asleep. Hera had wanted Zeus out of the way so that she could freely support the Greeks against the Trojans during the Trojan War.

Somnia – the children of Somnus

Again in Ovid’s work, Metamorphoses, Morpheus is described as one of many children of Hypnos. The Roman poet describes Morpheus and his siblings as the Somnia, which means “dream shapes”.

Phantasos (‘Fantasy’) and Phobetor (‘Frightner’) are the two most well-known siblings of Morpheus. Phobetor is believed to appear in the form of beast or bird or in some cases a serpent. Phantasos, on the other hand, appears in a very visually appealing but deceptive shape, often taking the shape of rocks, trees and other inanimate objects.

Appearance, depictions and association

Morpheus is the god of dreams in Greek mythology. Image: Evening or Morpheus by French painter and art theorist Charles Le Brun

As with many Greco-Roman gods associated with sleep and dreams, Morpheus is depicted with wings.

Morpheus is usually associated with deities of sleep, dreams and perhaps nightmare, particularly his father Hypnos.

As the son of Hypnos, Morpheus is the grandson of Nyx, a primordial deity of the night. Nyx is so powerful in Greek mythology that even Zeus was sometimes frightened by her.

Read More: List of Roman gods and goddess and their Greek Equivalents

The Matrix movie franchise

The character Morpheus in The Matrix franchise takes his name from the Greek god of dreams Morpheus (Μορφεύς). In the franchise, Morpheus is one of the protagonists who serves as the spiritual leader and protector of the fictional city of Zion against attack from the Machines.

Family tree of Morpheus

Morpheus

Of all the children of the god Hypnos (Somnus), Morpheus, Phantasos (‘Fantasy’) and Phobetor (‘Frightner’) are the most well-known in Greek mythology

God of: dreams

Parent: Hypnos (Sleep)

Siblings: Several thousands, including Phantasus, Phobetor

Common Epithets: “Shaper”; “Shaper of dreams”

Other names: Μορφεύς, Morpheus, or Μορφέας, Morpheas, “shaper (of dreams)”

Association: Hypnos

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