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Who Was Thanatos?

The Greeks had many ideas about who would come to them at the end of their life, but the most often mentioned figure was Thanatos, a minor god of the Greek pantheon. His job was to separate people from the realm of the living and escort them to the afterlife. He was generally seen to do so with seriousness and purpose. But Thanatos only came for those who died a gentle peaceful death.

You may have come across words based on Thanatos, which means “death” in Greek. For example, thanatophobia is the fear of things associated with death, such as corpses or graveyards. And euthanasia, meaning “good death”, is the act or practice of ending the life of an individual who would otherwise experience severe, incurable suffering or disability.

Phoebe, a Greek matron, tells Miriam about her fear of Thanatos in “The Recollection”, one of several stories in my latest book The Deadliest Deceptions:

“I need to deliver an emergency supply of papyrus scrolls to the clerks in the morgue. I should have sent our shop helpers with the order a week ago, but I kept procrastinating.”

“That’s so unlike you, Pheeb. To procrastinate.”

“I was afraid our helpers would bring the god of death back with them. You know, Thanatos. And he’d carry one of us off to the Underworld. But now the clerks are flat out of scrolls, and the shop is too busy to send anyone else.”

Phoebe will have to take the chance of going to the morgue, but you won’t have to when you buy a copy of The Deadliest Deceptions. To find out more, just click here.


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