In Greek mythology, Cronus, Cronos, or Kronos (/ˈkroʊnəs/ or
/ˈkroʊnɒs/ from Greek: Κρόνος, Krónos), was the leader and
youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of
Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth. He overthrew his father and
ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by
his own son
Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus. According to Plato, the
deities Phorcys, Cronus, and Rhea were the eldest children of Oceanus
Cronus was usually depicted with a harpe, scythe or a sickle, which
was the instrument he used to castrate and depose Uranus, his father.
In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hekatombaion, a
Kronia was held in honour of
Cronus to celebrate the
harvest, suggesting that, as a result of his association with the
virtuous Golden Age,
Cronus continued to preside as a patron of the
Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the
Roman deity Saturn.
1.1 Libyan account by Diodorus Siculus
1.2 Sibylline Oracles
2 Name and comparative mythology
2.2 From the
Renaissance to the present
2.3 El, the Phoenician Cronus
Roman mythology and later culture
In an ancient myth recorded by Hesiod's Theogony,
Cronus envied the
power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus. Uranus drew
the enmity of Cronus's mother, Gaia, when he hid the gigantic youngest
children of Gaia, the hundred-handed
Hecatonchires and one-eyed
Cyclopes, in Tartarus, so that they would not see the light. Gaia
created a great stone sickle and gathered together
Cronus and his
brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus.
Giorgio Vasari: The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn (Cronus)
Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle
and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus
attacked him with the sickle, castrating him and casting his testicles
into the sea. From the blood that spilled out from Uranus and fell
upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and
Meliae were produced. The
testicles produced a white foam from which the goddess Aphrodite
emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance and called his sons
Titenes (Τιτῆνες; according to
Hesiod meaning "straining
ones," the source of the word "titan", but this etymology is disputed)
for overstepping their boundaries and daring to commit such an act (in
an alternate version of this myth, a more benevolent
the wicked serpentine Titan
Ophion and in doing so he released the
world from bondage and for a time ruled it justly).
After dispatching Uranus,
Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, and
the Cyclopes and set the dragon
Campe to guard them. He and his sister
Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. The period in
Cronus ruled was called the Golden Age, as the people of the
time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and
immorality was absent.
Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens of
Cronus devouring one of his children
Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be
overcome by his own sons, just as he had overthrown his father. As a
result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hestia, Hera,
Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to
prevent the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought
Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution
Cronus for his acts against his father and children.
Rhea secretly gave birth to
Zeus in Crete, and handed
Cronus a stone
wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the
Omphalos Stone, which
he promptly swallowed, thinking that it was his son.
Zeus hidden in a cave on Mount Ida, Crete. According to some
versions of the story, he was then raised by a goat named Amalthea,
while a company of Kouretes, armored male dancers, shouted and clapped
their hands to make enough noise to mask the baby's cries from Cronus.
Other versions of the myth have
Zeus raised by the nymph Adamanthea,
Zeus by dangling him by a rope from a tree so that he was
suspended between the earth, the sea, and the sky, all of which were
ruled by his father, Cronus. Still other versions of the tale say that
Zeus was raised by his grandmother, Gaia.
Once he had grown up,
Zeus used an emetic given to him by Gaia to
Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order:
first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Mount
Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, and then his two brothers and
three sisters. In other versions of the tale, Metis gave
emetic to force him to disgorge the children, or
Zeus cut Cronus's
stomach open.
After freeing his siblings,
Zeus released the Hecatoncheires, and the
Cyclopes who forged for him his thunderbolts, Poseidon's trident and
Hades' helmet of darkness. In a vast war called the Titanomachy, Zeus
and his brothers and sisters, with the help of the
Cronus and the other Titans. Afterwards, many of
the Titans were confined in Tartarus. However, Oceanus, Helios, Atlas,
Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius were not imprisoned following the
Titanomachy. Gaia bore the monster
Typhon to claim revenge for the
Accounts of the fate of
Cronus after the
Titanomachy differ. In
Homeric and other texts he is imprisoned with the other Titans in
Tartarus. In Orphic poems, he is imprisoned for eternity in the cave
of Nyx. Pindar describes his release from Tartarus, where he is made
Elysium by Zeus. In another version, the
Titans released the Cyclopes from Tartarus, and
Cronus was awarded the
kingship among them, beginning a Golden Age. In Virgil's
Aeneid, it is
Latium to which Saturn (Cronus) escapes
and ascends as king and lawgiver, following his defeat by his son
One other account referred by Robert Graves, who claims to be
following the account of the Byzantine mythographer Tzetzes, it is
Cronus was castrated by his son
Zeus just like he had done
with his father Uranus before. However the subject of a son castrating
his own father, or simply castration in general, was so repudiated by
the Greek mythographers of that time that they suppressed it from
their accounts until the Christian era (when
The Fall of the Titans, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, 1596-1598
Libyan account by Diodorus Siculus
In a Libyan account related by
Diodorus Siculus (Book 3), Uranus and
Titaea were the parents of
Cronus and Rhea and the other Titans.
Ammon, a king of Libya, married Rhea (3.18.1) but Rhea abandoned Ammon
married her brother
Cronus and, at Rhea's urging, with the other
Titans made war upon Ammon, who fled to
Cronus in turn is defeated by Ammon's son Dionysus
(3.71.3-3.73) who appoints Cronus' and Rhea's son, Zeus, as king of
Zeus then join their forces to defeat the
remaining Titans in Crete, and on the death of Dionysus,
all the kingdoms, becoming lord of the world (3.73.7-8).
Cronus is mentioned in the Sibylline Oracles, particularly in book
three, which makes Cronus, 'Titan' and Iapetus, the three sons of
Uranus and Gaia, each to receive a third division of the Earth, and
Cronus is made king over all. After the death of Uranus, Titan's sons
attempt to destroy Cronus's and Rhea's male offspring as soon as they
are born, but at Dodona, Rhea secretly bears her sons Zeus, Poseidon
Hades and sends them to
Phrygia to be raised in the care of three
Cretans. Upon learning this, sixty of Titan's men then imprison Cronus
and Rhea, causing the sons of
Cronus to declare and fight the first of
all wars against them. This account mentions nothing about Cronus
either killing his father or attempting to kill any of his children.
Name and comparative mythology
Cronus was occasionally interpreted as Chronos, the
personification of time. The Roman philosopher
Cicero (1st century
BCE) elaborated on this by saying that the Greek name
synonymous to chronos (time) since he maintains the course and cycles
of seasons and the periods of time, whereas the
Latin name Saturn
denotes that he is saturated with years since he was devouring his
sons, which implies that time devours the ages and gorges. The
Greek historian and biographer
Plutarch (1st century CE) asserted that
the Greeks believed that
Cronus was an allegorical name for
χρόνος (time). The philosopher
Plato (3rd century BCE) in his
Cratylus gives two possible interpretations for the name of Cronus.
The first is that his name denotes "κόρος" (koros), the pure
(καθαρόν) and unblemished (ἀκήρατον) nature of his
mind. The second is that Rhea and
Cronus were given names of
streams (Rhea – ῥοή (rhoē) and
Cronus – Xρόνος
Proclus (5th century CE), the Neoplatonist
philosopher, makes in his Commentary on Plato's Cratylus an extensive
analysis on Cronus; among others he says that the "One cause" of all
things is "Chronos" (time) that is also equivocal to Cronus. In
addition to the name, the story of
Cronus eating his children was also
interpreted as an allegory to a specific aspect of time held within
Cronus' sphere of influence. As the theory went,
the destructive ravages of time which devoured all things, a concept
that was illustrated when the Titan king ate the Olympian gods — the
past consuming the future, the older generation suppressing the next
Renaissance to the present
Chronos and his child by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, National Museum
in Warsaw, a 17th-century depiction of Titan
Cronus as "Father Time,"
wielding a harvesting scythe
During the Renaissance, the identification of
rise to "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe. H. J. Rose
in 1928 observed that attempts to give "Κρόνος" a Greek
etymology had failed. Recently, Janda (2010) offers a genuinely
Indo-European etymology of "the cutter", from the root *(s)ker- "to
cut" (Greek κείρω (keirō), cf. English shear), motivated by
Cronus's characteristic act of "cutting the sky" (or the genitals of
anthropomorphic Uranus). The Indo-Iranian reflex of the root is kar,
generally meaning "to make, create" (whence karma), but Janda argues
that the original meaning "to cut" in a cosmogonic sense is still
preserved in some verses of the
Rigveda pertaining to Indra's heroic
"cutting", like that of
Cronus resulting in creation:
RV 10.104.10 ārdayad vṛtram akṛṇod ulokaṃ he hit Vrtra
fatally, cutting [> creating] a free path.
RV 6.47.4 varṣmāṇaṃ divo akṛṇod he cut [> created] the
loftiness of the sky.
This may point to an older Indo-European mytheme reconstructed as
*(s)kert wersmn diwos "by means of a cut he created the loftiness of
the sky". The myth of
Cronus castrating Uranus parallels the Song
of Kumarbi, where Anu (the heavens) is castrated by Kumarbi. In the
Song of Ullikummi,
Teshub uses the "sickle with which heaven and earth
had once been separated" to defeat the monster Ullikummi,
establishing that the "castration" of the heavens by means of a sickle
was part of a creation myth, in origin a cut creating an opening or
gap between heaven (imagined as a dome of stone) and earth enabling
the beginning of time (chronos) and human history. A theory
debated in the 19th century, and sometimes still offered somewhat
apologetically, holds that Κρόνος is related to "horned",
assuming a Semitic derivation from qrn. Andrew Lang's objection,
Cronus was never represented horned in Hellenic art, was
addressed by Robert Brown, arguing that, in Semitic usage, as in
the Hebrew Bible, qeren was a signifier of "power". When Greek writers
encountered the Semitic deity El, they rendered his name as
Robert Graves remarks that "cronos probably means 'crow', like the
Latin cornix and the Greek corōne", noting that
Cronus was depicted
with a crow, as were the deities Apollo, Asclepius, Saturn and
El, the Phoenician Cronus
When Hellenes encountered Phoenicians and, later, Hebrews, they
identified the Semitic El, by interpretatio graeca, with Cronus. The
association was recorded c. AD 100 by Philo of Byblos' Phoenician
history, as reported in Eusebius' Præparatio Evangelica I.10.16.
Philo's account, ascribed by Eusebius to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan
War Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, indicates that
originally a Canaanite ruler who founded
Byblos and was subsequently
deified. This version gives his alternate name as Elus or Ilus, and
states that in the 32nd year of his reign, he emasculated, slew and
deified his father Epigeius or Autochthon "whom they afterwards called
Uranus". It further states that after ships were invented, Cronus,
visiting the 'inhabitable world', bequeathed
Attica to his own
daughter Athena, and
Taautus the son of
Misor and inventor of
Roman mythology and later culture
Main article: Saturn (mythology)
Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum.
While the Greeks considered
Cronus a cruel and tempestuous force of
chaos and disorder, believing the Olympian gods had brought an era of
peace and order by seizing power from the crude and malicious
Titans, the Romans took a more positive and innocuous
view of the deity, by conflating their indigenous deity Saturn with
Cronus. Consequently, while the Greeks considered
Cronus merely an
intermediary stage between Uranus and Zeus, he was a larger aspect of
Roman religion. The
Saturnalia was a festival dedicated in his honour,
and at least one temple to Saturn already existed in the archaic Roman
His association with the "Saturnian"
Golden Age eventually caused him
to become the god of "time", i.e., calendars, seasons, and
harvests—not now confused with Chronos, the unrelated embodiment of
time in general. Nevertheless, among Hellenistic scholars in
Alexandria and during the Renaissance,
Cronus was conflated with the
name of Chronos, the personification of "Father Time", wielding the
As a result of Cronus's importance to the Romans, his Roman variant,
Saturn, has had a large influence on Western culture. The seventh day
of the Judaeo-Christian week is called in
Latin Dies Saturni ("Day of
Saturn"), which in turn was adapted and became the source of the
English word Saturday. In astronomy, the planet Saturn is named after
the Roman deity. It is the outermost of the
Classical planets (those
that are visible with the naked eye).
A star (HD 240430) was named after him in 2017 when it was reported to
have swallowed its planets.
Cronus and Rhea 
^ Plato. Timaeus 40e. Translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA,
Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.
^ Apollodorus, 1.2.1.
^ GRAVES, Robert, Hebrew Myths.21.4
^ a b Κρόνος: Cronos — Later interpreted as chronos (time):
LSJ entry Κρόνος
^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 25
^ These men [the Egyptians] are like the Greeks who say that
but a metaphorical name for χρόνος (time). Plutarch, On Isis and
^ Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (1940) ,
"ἀκήρ-α^τος", A Greek-English Lexicon (revised and augmented
throughout by Sir
Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick
McKenzie ed.), Oxford: Clarendon Press, retrieved 9 August 2016 –
via Perseus Digital Library
^ Plato, Cratylus, 402b
^ Plato, Cratylus, 402b
^ Proclus, Commentary on Plato's Cratylus, 396B7
^ Dronke, Peter. (edit.) Marenbon, John. Poetry and Philosophy in the
Middle Ages, Leiden, The Netherlands. BRILL, 2001; pg. 316
^ Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology 1928:43.
^ Michael Janda, Die Musik nach dem Chaos, Innsbruck, 2010, 54-56.
^ Fritz Graf, Thomas Marier, trans. Thomas Marier, Greek mythology: an
introduction, 1996 ISBN 978-0-8018-5395-1, p. 88.
^ Janda 2010, p. 54 and passim.
^ "We would like to consider whether the Semitic stem q r nmight be
connected with the name Kronos," suggests A. P. Bos, as late as 1989,
in Cosmic and Meta-cosmic Theology in Aristotle's Lost Dialogues,
1989:11 note 26.
^ As in H. Lewy, Die semitischen Fremdwörter in Griechischen,
1895:216. and Robert Brown, The Great Dionysiak Myth, 1877, ii.127.
"Kronos signifies 'the Horned one'", the Rev.
Alexander Hislop had
previously asserted in The Two Babylons; or, The papal worship proved
to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife, Hislop, 2nd ed. 1862 (p.46).
with the note "From krn, a horn. The epithet
Carneus applied to Apollo
is just a different form of the same word. In the Orphic Hymns, Apollo
is addressed as 'the Two-Horned god'".
^ Lang, Modern Mythology 1897:35.
^ Brown, Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology, 1898:112ff.
^ "Philôn, who of course regarded Kronos as an Hellenic divinity,
which indeed he became, always renders the name of the Semitic god Îl
or Êl ('the Powerful') by 'Kronos', in which usage we have a
lingering feeling of the real meaning of the name" (Brown 1898:116)
^ Graves, Robert (1955). "The
Castration of Uranus". Greek Myths.
London: Penguin. p. 38. ISBN 0-14-001026-2.
^ Walcot, "Five or Seven Recesses?" The Classical Quarterly, New
Series, 15.1 (May 1965), p. 79. The quote stands as Philo Fr. 2.
^ Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica Book 1, Chapter 10.
^ Sokol, Josh (21 September 2017). "Star nicknamed Kronos after eating
its own planetary children". New Scientist. Retrieved 15 October
^ This chart is based upon Hesiod's Theogony, unless otherwise noted.
^ According to Homer,
Iliad 1.570–579, 14.338,
Hephaestus was apparently the son of
Hera and Zeus, see Gantz, p. 74.
^ According to Hesiod,
Hephaestus was produced by
Hera alone, with no father, see Gantz, p. 74.
^ According to Hesiod,
Theogony 886–890, of Zeus' children by his
Athena was the first to be conceived, but the last to be
Zeus impregnated Metis then swallowed her, later
gave birth to
Athena "from his head", see Gantz, pp. 51–52, 83–84.
^ According to Hesiod,
Aphrodite was born from
Uranus' severed genitals, see Gantz, pp. 99–100.
^ According to Homer,
Aphrodite was the daughter of
Odyssey 8.308, 320) and Dione (
Iliad 5.370–71), see Gantz,
Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by
Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, MA,
Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online
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Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic
Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes:
ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3
Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English
Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, MA., Harvard
University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version
at the Perseus Digital Library.
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two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William
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Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D.
in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London,
William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Online version at the Perseus Digital
Ancient Greek deities by affiliation
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Alexiares and Anicetus