In addition to the major deities, Greek mythology is full of minor gods who are basically just personifications of certain concepts, rather than having fully fleshed-out personalities. It seems that a lot of these are old deities who remained in the religion and the stories for some reason, probably because many of them filled niches that the better known deities didn’t fit. One of these niche gods was Morpheus, who was in charge of dreams.
Well, some dreams, anyway. Morpheus was the oldest of several brothers known as the Oneiroi, all of whom had powers associated with dreams. He specialized in dreams focusing on people, especially those relaying prophecies and other messages from the gods, and was able to take any human form within a dream. His younger brother Phobetor specialized in nightmares, while Phantasos created the unreal aspects of dreams. Some sources also mention a fourth brother, Icelus, who was responsible for the realistic parts. Actually, Ovid refers to a lot of Oneiroi, but I believe only the four have been named. Early sources make Morpheus and his brothers the sons of the primordial night goddess Nyx, but the more common genealogy shows them as sons of the sleep god Hypnos (Somnus in Latin), and hence grandson of Nyx. One of Hypnos’ own brothers was Thanatos, the personification of death.
In his true form, Morpheus was a winged being, and sometimes carried his flightless father.
Picture by Elsie Russell
He lived in the world of dreams, which was located somewhere in the underworld, and was known to sleep in a cave full of poppies. It was sometimes thought that he married Iris, divine messenger and goddess of the rainbow, although her more common counterpart was Zephyrus.
Perhaps because dreams have played a significant role in fiction as long as anyone can remember, Morpheus tends to show up from time to time, despite his fairly minor role in classical mythology.