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Mors also known as Letus was a Roman deity and the personification of death. Her name literally means “death.” Thanatos was its Greek counterpart. She was the twin sister of Somnus – god and personification of sleep. Nyks was their mother – the personification of the night. She lived in a cave found by her brother, near the Lete River.

Her presence in Roman mythology is confirmed, among others in the title of Novell’s atellana “Mortis ac Vitae iudicium” and the satire of Ennius “Mors ac Vita”, as well as in many other poets and through gravestone inscriptions.
There are several main types of personifying death in poetry: as the cause of death, as a transition from life to death, as a state/stillness.

Tibullus shows her as black or dark. In the play, she is usually depicted as a young man with black wings on his arms (symbolizing death), with the extinguished and inverted torch in his hand (symbolizing death), accompanied by Somnus. However, Roman art sometimes showed Death as a woman.

In all mythological, philosophical or satirical contexts in which the Roman personification of death appeared, it was presented only to show death as a phenomenon, and never for religious purposes. She was also rarely associated with other Roman deities: Mars – the god of war; Pluto – god of the underworld; and whether Orcs – the demon of death. Mors played no role in the Roman religion; it never appears in authentic myths, worship or folk beliefs. The few mythological contexts in which it appears are associated with Greek influences on Roman literature.

In Roman mythology, Hercules fought Mors to save his friend’s wife. Mors is also portrayed as a servant of Pluto who ended the life of a person after completing the path of life through Parks, and Mercury, the messenger of the gods, escorting the souls of the dead to the gates of the underground.

  • Kempiński Andrzej, Encyklopedia mitologii ludów indoeuropejskich, Warszawa 2001
  • Schmidt Joël, Słownik mitologii greckiej i rzymskiej, Katowice 1996

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