PASITHEA was one of the younger Kharites (Charites) and the wife of Hypnos, god of sleep. She was probably the goddess of rest and relaxation.
FAMILY OF PASITHEA
[1.1] DIONYSOS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 15.87 & 33.37)
[2.1] HERA (Nonnus Dionysiaca 31.103)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homer, Iliad 14.231 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"There [in Lemnos] she [Hera] encountered Hypnos (Sleep), the brother of Thanatos (Death). She clung fast to his hand and spoke a word and called him by name : ‘Hypnos . . . do as I ask; and all my days I shall know gratitude. Put to sleep the shining eyes of Zeus under his brows as soon as I have lain beside him in love . . .’
Then Hypnos the still and soft spoke to her in answer : ‘Hera, honoured goddess and daughter of mighty Kronos (Cronus), any other one of the gods, whose race is immortal, I would lightly put to sleep . . . but I would not come too close to Zeus, the son of Kronos, nor put him to sleep, unless he himself were to tell me . . .’
Then in turn the lady ox-eyed Hera answered him : ‘Hypnos, why do you ponder this in your heart, and hesitate? Or do you think that Zeus of the wide brows, aiding the Trojans, will be angry as he was angry for his son, Herakles? Come now, do it, and I will give you one of the younger (hoploterai) Kharites (Charites, Graces) for you to marry, and she shall be called you lady; Pasithea, since all your days you have loved her forever.’
So she spoke, and Hypnos was pleased and spoke to her in answer : ‘Come then! Swear it to me on Styx' ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Kronos (Cronus) may be witnesses to us. Swear that you will give me one of the younger Kharites, Pasithea, the one whom all my days I have longed for.’
He spoke, nor failed to persuade the goddess Hera of the white arms, and she swore as he commanded, and called by their names on all those gods who live beneath the Pit, and who are called Titanes (Titans)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 35. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Homer--he too referes to the Kharites (Charites)--makes one the wife of Hephaistos (Hephaestus), giving her the name Kharis (Charis). He also says that Hypnos was a lover of Pasithea, and in the speech of Hypnos there is this verse :--‘Verily that he would give me one of the younger Kharites.’ Hence some have suspected that Homer knew of older Kharites (Charites, Graces) as well."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 395 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Hypnos (Sleep) swiftly flew to Pasithea's couch. From slumber woke all nations of the earth."
Statius, Thebaid 2. 285 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Pasithea eldest of the gracious sisters (Gratiae) [i.e. the Kharites]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 15. 87 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[In the war of Dionysos against the Indians :] While the Indians were running drunken on the hills, just then sweet Hypnos (Sleep) plying his vigorous wing, assaulted the wavering eyes of the persistent Indians, and put them to bed, tormented in mind by immoderate wine, doing grace to Pasithea's father, Dionysos."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 24. 261 ff :
"[The Kharites (Charites), Graces] the dancers of Orkhomenos (Orchomenus) who were attendants upon the Paphian [Aphrodite] had no dancing then to do [when Aphrodite entered a contest against Athena in weaving]; but Pasithea made the spindle run round, Peitho dressed the wool, Aglaia (Aglaea) gave thread and yarn to her mistress. And weddings went all astray in human life."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 103 ff :
"[Hera commands Iris summon the god of sleep Hypnos :] ‘Promise him Pasithea for his bride, and let him do my need from desire of her beauty. I need not tell you that one lovesick will do anything for hope.’
At these words, Iris goldenwing flew away peering through the air . . . seeking the wandering track of vagrant Hypnos (Sleep). She found him on the slopes of nuptial Orkhomenos (Orchomenus) [i.e. the home of the Kharites (Charites)]; for there he delayed again and trailed his distracted foot, a frequent visitor at the door of his beloved Pasithea . . .
[Iris disguised as Nyx, Hypnos' mother, spoke to the god :] ‘I have heard that you want one of the Kharites (Charites, Graces); then if you have in your heart an itch for her bedchamber, have a care! Do not provoke Pasithea's mother, Hera the handmaid of wedded love!’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 33. 4 ff :
"[During the war of Dionysos against the Indians, the god was driven mad by Hera and his army routed :] One of the swiftshoe Kharites (Charites) [Pasithea] was gathering the shoots of the fragrant reeds in the Erythraian garden, in order to mix the flowing juice of Assyrian oil with Indian flowers in the steaming cauldrons of Paphos, and make ointment for her Lady [Aphrodite]. While she plucked all manner of dew-wet plants she gazed all around the place; and there in a forest not far off she saw the madness of Lyaios (Lyaeus) [Dionysos] her father. She wept for sorrow and tender affection, and tore her cheeks with her nails in mourning. Then she saw the Satyroi scurrying from battle [and saw Bassarides lying dead] . . . she pitied Khalkomede (Chalcomede) fleeing with stormswift shoe from the blade of furious Morrheus [an Indian prince]--and indeed she was shaken with jealousy of the rosy-cheek maiden, for fear she might win the day with radiant Aphrodite [i.e. Khalkomede was said to rival Aphrodite in beauty].
Sorrowing she returned to heaven, but she hid her grief for Lyaios [Dionysos] her father in mournful silence. Pallor displaced the bloom on her rounded cheek, and dimmed the bright radiance of her face. Kypris (Cypris) [Aphrodite], the lover of Adonis, saw Pasithea downcast, and understood the grief heralded by her silent face; then she addressed to her these comforting words : ‘Dear girl, what trouble has changed your looks? Maiden, what has made you lose your ruddy looks? Who has quenched the gleams of springtime from your face? The silvery sheen shines no longer upon your skin, your eyes no longer laugh as before. Come now, tell me your anxieties. Are you plagues by my son [Eros, Love], perhaps? Are you in love with some herdsman, among the mountains, struck with desire, like Selene (the Moon)? Has Eros (Love) perhaps flicked you also with the cestus, like Eos (the Dawn) once before?--Ah, I know why your cheeks are pale : shadowy Hypnos (Sleep), the vagabond, woos you as a bridegroom woos a maid! I will not compel you if you are unwilling; I will not join Hypnos the blackskin to Pasithea the lilywhite!’
When Aphrodite had said this, the Kharis weeping replied : ‘O mother of the Erotes (Loves)! O sower of life in the everlasting universe! No herdsman troubles me, no bold desire of Hypnos (Sleep). I am no lovesick Eos (Dawn) or Selene (Moon). No, I am tormented by the afflictions of Lyaios [Dionysos] my father, driven about in terror by the Erinyes (Furies). He is your brother--protect Dionysos if you can!’
Then she recounted all her father's afflictions to her mistress, and the countless ranks of Bassarides that Morrheus [an Indian Prince] had killed, and all the fugitive host of Satyroi (Satyrs), even Dionysos lashed with the Erinys' whip, and wailing Gigarto gasping on the ground, and Kodone (Codone) gone before her season: with shame she described the sorrows and beauty of Khalkomedeia. Then sweetsmiling Aphrodite put off the wonted laugh from her radiant rosy face, and told her messenger Aglaia [one of the elder Kharites] to call Eros her son, that swift airy flyer . . . [and Eros made the Indian general Morrheus fall in love with one of the Bakkantes which distracted him from his war against the leaderless troops of Dionysos]."
Pasithea as the wife of Hypnos, god of sleep and dreams, may have been envisaged as the goddess of hallucinations and hallucinogenic drugs. Her name is difficult to translate--the prefix pasis can be translated equally as "all", "possessed" or "acquired" and the suffix thea as "sight", "seeing", "contemplation", "goddess" or "divine". Translating it as "Acquired-Sight" may suggest a goddess of hallucination, however, in the story of the Iliad, where Hypnos acquires her from Hera in exchange for certain favours, the "Acquired-Goddess" meaning is quite apt. The name pasithea was also given to some unidentified "magical" plant, perhaps even an hallucinogenic. Hypnos was himself associated with poppies and opiates.
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.