Dimitris Stamatios | November 29, 2022


In Greek mythology, Cronus (in ancient Greek Κρόνος Kronos, in Latin Cronus) was the chief (and in some myths the youngest) of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaea (the earth) and Uranus, (the sky). Cronus overthrew his father Uranus and ruled during the mythological golden age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus or sent to rule the paradise of the Elysian Fields.

He was often depicted with a sickle or scythe, which he used as a weapon to castrate and dethrone his father, Uranus. In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hecatombeon a festival called Chronia was held in honor of Kronos to celebrate the harvest, suggesting that, as a result of his relationship with the virtuous golden age, he continued to preside as patron of the harvest. Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the Roman god Saturn.

H. J. Rose pointed out that attempts to give Kronos a Greek etymology had failed.

Michael Janda offers an authentically Indo-European etymology of ”the cutter”, from the root *(s)ker-, ”to cut” (Greek κείρω), motivated by Cronus” characteristic action of “cutting the sky” (or the genitals of the anthropomorphic Uranus). The Indo-Iranian reflex of the root is kar, which generally means ”to make”, ”to create” (hence karma), but Janda argues that the meaning, original to ”cut” in a cosmogonic sense is still preserved in some verses of the Rig-veda about Indra”s heroic ”cutting”, which like Crono”s resulted in creation:

This may point to a Proto-Indo-European mytheme reconstructed as *(s)kert wersmn diwos, ”by a cut created the majesty of the sky”. The myth of Cronus castrating Uranus has parallels with the Song of Kumarbi, in which Anu (the heavens) is castrated by Kumarbi. In the Song of Ullikummi, Teshub uses the “sickle with which heaven and earth were once separated” to defeat the monster Ullikummi, and establishes the “castration” of the heavens with a sickle as part of a creation myth, originally a cut creating an opening or gap between heaven (imagined as a stone vault) and earth that allowed the beginning of time and human history.

Chronos has been recast with the name Chronos (Χρόνος), the personification of time in classical antiquity. In the Renaissance, the combination of Chronos and Chronos gave rise to “Father Time” who wields a scythe to reap.

One theory debated in the 19th century, and still sometimes offered somewhat apologetically, holds that Kronos is related to ”horned”, assuming a Semitic derivation from the trilithic root Q-R-N. Andrew Lang”s objection about Kronos never being depicted with horns in Hellenistic art, which he argued that in Semitic usage, as in the Hebrew Bible, qeren meant ”power”. When Greek writers encountered the Levantine deity El, they translated his name as Kronos.

In the ancient myth recorded by Hesiod in his Theogony, Cronus had an intense grudge against Uranus. He had earned the enmity of Gaea, mother of Kronos and the other Titans, because after having begotten them, he kept them in his mother”s womb and did not allow them to see the light. Gaea created a great flint sickle and gathered Cronus and his brothers to convince them to kill Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do her bidding, so Gaea gave him the sickle and had him ambushed. When Uranus met Gaea, Cronus attacked him with the sickle and castrated him. From the blood (or, according to a few sources, from the semen) that splashed on Earth came the Giants, the Erinias and the Melias. Cronus threw into the sea the sickle (which was said to be under the island of Corfu) and the amputated genitals of Uranus. For this, Uranus swore vengeance and called his sons Titans (according to Hesiod ”those who abuse”, the source of the name “Titan”, but this etymology is disputed) for exceeding their limits and daring to commit such an act.

In an alternate version of this myth, a more benevolent Kronos overthrew the evil serpent Titan Ophion. In doing so he freed the world from its bondage and for a time ruled justly.

After defeating Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned in Tartarus the Hecatonchires and Cyclops, whom he feared, and left them in the custody of the monstrous jailer Campe. He ascended the throne together with his sister Rhea as kings of the Titans. This time of Cronus” reign was called the golden age, for the people of that time did not need laws or rules: everyone did what was right and there was no immorality.

Cronus knew from Gaea that he was destined to be overthrown by one of his own children, as he had overthrown his father. Therefore, although he fathered with Rhea the gods Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia and Poseidon, he swallowed them as soon as they were born. When his sixth son, Zeus, was about to be born, Rhea asked Gaia to come up with a plan to save them so that Cronus would finally have the just punishment for his acts against his father and his own children. Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus on the island of Crete and gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as Omphalos, which he immediately swallowed without mistrust, believing it to be his son.

Rhea kept Zeus hidden in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to some versions of the story, Zeus was raised by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Curetes or Corybantes, armed dancers, shouted and clapped their hands to make noise so that Cronus would not hear the cries of the child. In other versions Amalthea was not a goat but a nymph, and she hung Zeus” cradle on a tree, so that he would be suspended between the earth, the sea and the sky (over which his father, Cronus, ruled). Even in other versions, Zeus was raised by his grandmother Gaea; by a nymph named Cinosura, to whom Zeus climbed among the stars in gratitude after her death; or by Melisa, daughter of Melysseus, king of Crete, who together with her sisters Ida and Amalthea hid little Zeus in a cavern of Mount Ida, on the island of Crete, and fed him with honey and the milk of Amalthea.

When he grew up, Zeus used a poison given to him by Gaea to force Kronos to regurgitate the contents of his stomach in reverse order: first the stone, which he left to Python under the glens of Parnassus as a sign to mortal men, and then to the rest of his brothers. In some versions, Metis gave Kronos an emetic to force him to vomit the children, and in others Zeus opened Kronos” stomach. After freeing his brothers, Zeus released from Tartarus the Hecatonchires and the Cyclops, who forged for him his thunderbolts, the trident for Poseidon and the helmet of invisibility for Hades. In a great war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters overthrew Cronus and the other Titans with the help of the Hecatonchires and the Cyclops. After this, many of them were imprisoned in Tartarus, although others were not (such as Rhea, Metis, Epimetheus, Menetius, Hecate, Oceanus and Prometheus among others). Gaea engendered the monster Typhon to avenge the imprisoned Titans, but Zeus would end up defeating him.

Accounts of Cronus” fate after the Titanomachy differ. In the Homeric and Hesiodic tradition, he was imprisoned with the other Titans in Tartarus. An interpolation in Works and Days indicates that Cronus was later released by the will of Zeus, and that from then on he was king of the islands of the Blessed. Pindar shows the influence of this version in some verses.

In a Libyan version related by Diodorus Siculus (1st century B.C.), it is said that Cronus or Saturn, son of Uranus and Thythe – who, according to this version, was initially mortal and was later divinized with the name of Gaea – reigned over Italy, Sicily and North Africa. Diodorus cites as evidence the peaks of Sicily that his time were called Cronia. Cronus, together with the Titans, fought and ended up defeating his brother Jupiter, who reigned in Crete, and his brother-in-law Hamon, who reigned in Nisa, an island in the river Triton, somewhere in Africa. Cronus took his sister Rhea from Hamon to be his own wife. In turn, Cronus was defeated by Bacchus or Dionysus, the son of Hamon, who appointed the son of Cronus and Rhea, Jupiter Olympus, ruler of Egypt. Bacchus and Jupiter Olympus then joined forces to defeat the remaining Titans in Crete, and upon the death of Bacchus, Jupiter Olympus inherited all the kingdoms, becoming lord of the world.

Cronus is named in the Sibylline Oracles, particularly in Book III, where Cronus, Titan and Japetus, the three sons of Uranus and Gaea, each receive a third of the Earth, and Cronus is named king of all. After the death of Uranus, the sons of Titan attempted to destroy the male offspring of Kronos and Rhea as soon as they were born, but at Dodona Rhea secretly gave birth to her sons Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, sending them to Phrygia to be raised in the care of three Cretans. Upon learning this, sixty Titan men imprisoned Cronus and Rhea, causing her sons to declare and wage the first of all wars against them. This version mentions nothing of the death of Uranus at the hands of Kronos or of the attempt to kill his sons.

The Phoenician Chrono

When the Hellenes encountered the Phoenicians and then the Hebrews, they identified the Semitic El, through interpretatio graeca, with Cronus. The association was recorded ca. 100 A.D. by Philo of Byblos in his Phoenician history, as recounted by Eusebius in his Praeparatio evangelica. Philo”s version, attributed by Eusebius to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan War Phoenician historian Sanjuniaton, states that Cronus was originally a Canaanite ruler who founded Byblos and was subsequently deified. This version gives as an alternative name Elus or Ilus, and states that in the 32nd year of his reign, he emasculated, murdered and deified his father Epigee or Autocton “whom they later called Uranus”. He also states that after the invention of ships, Cronus, visiting the “uninhabitable world”, bequeathed Attica to his own daughter Athena and Egypt to Tot, the son of Misor and inventor of writing. Jean Marquès-Rivière, in his book ”Talismans, amulets and pantacles”, equates the Roman Saturn, to whom Georges Brassens dedicated a song, ”Beautiful name that of Saturn, but he is a god, beware of him”, to the Hebrew Moloch.

Consorts and offspring

The name Cronidas is applied to the children of Cronus and Rhea.

While the Greeks considered Cronus a cruel and tempestuous force of chaos and disorder, believing that the Olympian gods had brought about an era of peace and order by wresting power from the rude and malicious Titans, the Romans adopted a more positive and innocuous view of this deity by merging him with their indigenous god Saturn. Consequently, while the Greeks considered Kronos a mere intermediate stage between Uranus and Zeus, he was a much more important aspect of Roman mythology and religion: the Saturnalia was a feast celebrated in his honor, and there was at least one temple dedicated to him already in the ancient Roman monarchy.

His association with the golden age eventually led to his becoming the god of “human time,” i.e., calendars, seasons, and harvests (although he should not be confused with Chronos, the unrelated personification of time in general, as was often the case among Alexandrian researchers and during the Renaissance). As a result of the importance of Chronos to the Greeks, his Roman variant, Saturn, has had a great influence on Western culture. The seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week was called Dies Saturni (”Saturn”s Day”) in Latin, which is the source of the name of this day in languages such as English (Saturday). In astronomy, the planet Saturn is named after the Roman god, being the outermost of the celestial objects visible unaided.

Sometimes the idea of Chronos is used to refer to the way in which certain conditions impede the development of something. It is thus a metaphor that compares the impediment to starting a project with the way in which Cronos devoured his children.


  1. Crono
  2. Cronus
  3. Véase “Diccionario de mitología griega y romana”.
  4. Eric M. Moormann (Eric Maria Moormann, n. 1955): arqueólogo clásico neerlandés.
  5. Van Aktaion tot Zeus.
  6. El mito (Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures, 1970).
  7. ^ a b RSKD / Κρόνος[*][[RSKD / Κρόνος (dictionary entry)|​]]  Verificați valoarea |titlelink= (ajutor)
  8. ^ Titanomachy[*][[Titanomachy (battles between gods and Titans in Greek mythology)|​]]  Verificați valoarea |titlelink= (ajutor)
  9. ^ Teogonia
  10. ^ RSKD / Rhea[*][[RSKD / Rhea (dictionary entry)|​]]  Verificați valoarea |titlelink= (ajutor)
  11. ^ Campbell, Mike, Meaning, origin and history of the name Cronus (în engleză), Behind the Name
  12. Απολλόδωρος (ψεύδo) – Βιβλιοθήκη Α”
  13. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης -Βίβλος 5,65
  14. ^ Per l”interpretazione cfr. ad es. Thomas Mannack, The Late Mannerists in Athenian Vase-painting, Oxford University Press, 2001 p. 70.
  15. ^ In Iliade, XIV 201, Oceano è detto «padre degli dèi». Aristotele, in Metafisica I (A) 3,983 intende questo, «Oceano e Teti genitori del divenire», come anticipazione delle teorie di Talete.
  16. ^ Pindaro Istmica V la canta; da intendere come divinità della luce (cfr. Colonna p.83)
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