Thanatos was a son of Nyx (Night) and Erebus and twin of Hypnos (Sleep). According to mythology, Thanatos could occasionally be outwitted, a feat that Sisyphus twice accomplished. When it came time for Sisyphus to die, he succeeded in chaining Thanatos up with his own shackles, thereby prohibiting the death of any mortal. Eventually Ares released Thanatos and handed Sisyphus over to him, though Sisyphus would trick Thanatos again by convincing Zeus to allow him to return to his wife.
In early mythological accounts, Thanatos was perceived as a powerful figure armed with a sword, with a shaggy beard and a fierce face. His coming was marked by pain and grief. In later eras, as the transition from life to death in Elysium became a more attractive option, Thanatos came to be seen as a beautiful young man. Many Roman sarcophagi depict him as a winged boy, much like Cupid.
Thanatos is sometimes depicted as a young man carrying a butterfly, wreath or inverted torch in his hands. He has also been depicted as having two wings and a sword attached to his belt.
Thanatos is a common name for characters in various fictional works, including video games, TV shows, animé and comic books. Thanatos is referred to:
- in Thanatopsis, a 19th century American poem by William Cullen Bryant
- In The Thanatos Syndrome, a novel by Walker Percy
- In Fire From Heaven, a novel by Mary Renault
- In Eternal Champions as the god of death until 1692
- In the book On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, he is the main character. He is however only referred to as Thanatos several times by Mother Nature. In the other books of the Incarnations of Immortality he appears as a supporting character and is referred to as Thanatos.
- In the book Donnerjack by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold, he is the personification of Death. Master of Deep Fields.
- In the 'Gap Cycle' of books by Stephen Donaldson feature a pirate stronghold called Thanatos Minor.
- In Robert Ludlum's The Lazarus Vendetta by Patrick Larkin, Thanatos is the name of the unmanned flying machines that transport Lazarus' deadly nanophages.
- In Thomas Pynchon's Vineland the Thanatoids live life as though they were dead.
- In Ragnarok: Into the Abyss Thanatos is the Evil sword that Sakray Bear
- In a Brazilian song named "Perfeição" (Perfection) by a Pop-Rock band named "Legião Urbana" (Urban Legion). The verse is "... vamos celebrar, Eros e Tanatos, Perséfone e Hades... " ("...let's celebrate Eros and Thanatos, Persephone and Hades...")
- In the song I Hate You All by Sakurai Atsushi, translated: I'm Eros, I'm Thanatos, I created sexual desire, I hate you all!
- In the song Thanatos by BUCK-TICK
- In the song Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt by The Mars Volta
- In the song Abraxas by Therion "Eros And Thanatos Are branches from the same old tree"
- In the album Thanatron by Dane & the Death Machine
- In the Portuguese metal band ThanatoSchizo.
- In the song Thanatos by Scottish punk/new wave band The Skids from their album Days in Europa
- In the song Anti-Anti-Christ by American metal band GWAR, from their album Violence Has Arrived. "Awake deep Thanatos..."
- In the song Thanatos - If I can't be yours by Shiro Sagisu, from The end of Evangelion OST.
- In the pen and paper roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons, as a location deep in the lower planes.
- In the MechWarrior universe, as a BattleMech called Thanatos
- In the video game Wild Arms 2, the spell Thanatos X is named after Thanatos.
- In the video game Chaos Legion, as a creature you summon for aid. It is the 'Ultimate Legion'.
- In the video game Silent Hill 2, featuring a song called "Angel's Thanatos", as well as various symbolic elements.
- In the video game Lost Kingdoms II as a creature of the same name, consisting of three skull heads and dealing phenomenal damage.
- In the video game Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Thanatos is an island rife with savages and wild beasts where no civilization exists.
- In the video game Disciples II, Thanatos is a monster that the Undead Horde can summoon
- In the video game Panel de Pon, the penultimate boss is called Sanatos, which is something of a mistranslation of Thanatos.
- In the video game Seiken Densetsu 2 aka Secret of Mana, Thanatos is one of the main villains of the game, the "bodyguard" of Emperor Vandole, who is actually Thanatos' puppet.
- In the video game Final Fantasy X, the Thanatos Spear is a weapon that is used by the character, Kimahri.
- In the video game Final Fantasy X-2, two enemies, called "Aeshma" and "Aka Manah", have an attack called "Emblem of Thanatos."
- In the video game Resident Evil: Outbreak, the most powerful enemy in the game is named Thanatos.
- In the video game Dragon Quest VIII, there exists a powerful, cursed shield called "Thanatos' Shield"
- In the video game Golden Sun: The Lost Age, there is a medium level weapon known as the "Thanatos Mace" which has as unleash featuring the grim reaper.
- In the video game Battle Clash, the main villain is named Thanatos
- In the video game Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge, an enemy robot is named Thanatos
- In the video game Ragnarok Online, there is a Thanatos Tower, and a monster named Thanatos.
- In the video game Persona 3, one of the Personae that player's character uses is named Thanatos
- In the video game EVE Online, the Thanatos is one of the designs in the Carrier class of capital ship.
- In the video game Shadow Hearts: Covenant Thanatos is an attack performed by one of Yuri's Fusions.
- In the video game Monster Rancher 2, Thanatos is a powerful Joker monster which appears in S class tournaments.
- The MMORPG MapleStory has a monster called Thanatos.
- In the video game Aliens: The Thanatos Encounter, Thanatos is the huge freighter on which the game takes place.
- In the video game Shining Force 3, Thanatos is the light elementental summon
- In the video game "Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest" Theres an enemy called "Thanatos" That appears as the weak version of the "Dullahan".
- In the video game Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Thanatos is the strongest monster in the death class
- In the video game Soul Calibur 2, Thanatos is the "Legendary" weapon for Astaroth. It is described as the scythe Death wields.
- In the Marvel Comics universe, as the supervillain Thanos.
- In the Marvel 2099 Universe, as the villain Thanatos, appearing in Spider-Man 2099 and possibly other comics in the 2099 series.
- In the DC Comics universe, as the supervillain Thanatos, an otherdimensional villain who repeatedly menaced Aquaman in his dreams.
- In the webcomic Gods of Arr-Kelaan, as a character.
- In the series T*Witches, as a villain.
- The name/concept also appears in an episode of Dead Like Me (Season 2).
- In the radio station WBGU-FM, Thanatos is a creepy old man who dates the teenagers of the station
- The villain in the Hulk Hogan classic, Mr. Nanny.
- In the popular anime Saint Seiya, as a villain under the legion of Hades minions.
- The soundtrack of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion's includes several versions of a song titled "Thanatos."
- In the television show Gargoyles, as the last name of the main villain for the first few seasons (David Xanatos).
- In the cartoon Aeon Flux, there is an episode titled "Thanatophobia."
- In the Star Wars Jedi Apprentice books, a character is named Xanatos.
- In the satirical newspaper The Onion, there was a June 2004 article about a fictional Doomsday device called a "Thanatos Device".
- In the webcomic Tanatos, he is depicted as the classic tall skeleton with a scythe. His name in the comic is written the proper way "Thanatos".
- In the RPG Septerra Core as part of the spell "Summnon Thanatos"