Thanatos (Θάνατος) the greek personification of Death is the god responsible to guide the dead to the underworld. His genealogy is explained for the first time in the poem Theogonía by Hesiod, who says that He is son of Nyx (goddess of the Night) and Erebos (god of the Darkness). The poet also describes his twin brother Hypnos who personifies the Sleep.
His obscure nature gave him very negative attributes and to emphasise that idea, it was given to him more gloomy siblings such as “Suffering”, “Doom”, “Retribution”, “Deception”, “Blame”, “Strife” or “Old-age”. This dark atmosphere that surrounds him tends to get worse throughout the ages, specially during the Middle Ages. Among some other moralistic concepts of Hell or Sin, the Death was used as a tool to inflict the most apolitical fear on people, in order to manipulate them effortlessly.
In the original personifications, Thanatos appears as a winged young man; the figure evolved to his most popular aspect during the 14th century in Europe . At this time, when the world faced its worst pandemic, he became to be known as “The Grim Reaper”.
The ancient angelic figure rot and turned into a skeletal figure, symbol of human decaying; the black robe is commonly associated to religious funerary outfits of that epoch, while the famous scythe (symbol of Saturn and Time in classical times) it is said to be inspired by the agricultural practices and harvesters – with this tool the figure assumes the job of a reaper (of souls).
Through the dark ages, the reputation of the personified Death grew beyond measure and we still “celebrate” the same image in the current times.