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Former King of the gods
Titan of Farming
Abode Earth
Symbol Sickle
Consort Rhea
Parents Uranus and Gaia
Siblings Rhea, Oceanus, Hyperion, Theia, Coeus, Phoebe, Iapetus, Crius, Mnemosyne
Children Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter
Roman equivalent Saturn

Cronus or Kronos[1] (Ancient Greek Κρόνος, Krónos) was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky. He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own sons, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, and imprisoned in Tartarus.

Cronus was usually depicted with a sickle, which was also the weapon he used to castrate and depose Uranus. In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hekatombaion, a festival called Kronia was held in honor 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 harvest. Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the Roman deity Saturn.



In the Alexandrian and Renaissance periods, Cronus was conflated with the name of Chronos, the personification of "Father Time",[2] wielding the harvesting scythe.

H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology,[3] observes that attempts to give Kronos a Greek etymology have failed. A theory debated in the 19th century, and still offered somewhat apologetically,[4] holds that Kronos is related to "horned", assuming a Semitic derivation from qrn/krn.[5] Robert Brown made the assertion in The Great Dionysiak Myth, 1877.[6] "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,[7] 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'".</ref> Andrew Lang's objection, that Cronus was never represented horned in Hellenic art,[8] was addressed by Robert Brown,[9] demonstrating that in Semitic usage, as in the Hebrew Bible qeren was a signifier of "power". When Greek writers encountered the Levantine deity El, they rendered his name as Kronos.[10]

In Greek mythology and early myths

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens of Cronus devouring one of his children, Poseidon

In 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' mother, Gaia, when he hid the gigantic youngest children of Gaia, the hundred-armed 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. Only 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 by cutting off his genitals, castrating him and casting the severed member into the sea. From the blood (or, by a few accounts, semen) that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. From the member that was cast into the sea, Aphrodite later emerged.[11] For this, Uranus threatened vengeance and called his sons titenes (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 Cronus overthrew the wicked serpentine Titan Ophion. In doing so, he released the world from bondage and for a time ruled it justly.

After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, 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. This period of Cronus' rule 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.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to preempt the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on 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.

Rhea kept 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, who hid 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 a poison given to him by Gaia to force 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, then the goat, and then his two brothers and three sisters. In other versions of the tale, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the children, or Zeus cut Cronus' stomach open. After freeing his siblings, Zeus released the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires, and the Cyclopes, who forged for him his thunderbolts. In a vast war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, with the help of the Gigantes, Hecatonchires, and Cyclopes, overthrew Cronus and the other Titans. Afterwards, many of the Titans were confined in Tartarus. Some Titans were not banished to Tartarus. Atlas, Epimetheus, Menoetius, Oceanus and Prometheus are examples of Titans who were not imprisoned in Tartarus following the Titanomachy. Gaia bore the monster Typhon to claim revenge for the imprisoned Titans, though Zeus was victorious. 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 King of 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.

Other children Cronus is reputed to have fathered include Chiron, by Philyra.

Cronus is again mentioned in the Sibylline Oracles, particularly 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' and Rhea's male offspring as soon as they are born, but at Dodona, Rhea secretly bears her sons Zeus, Poseidon and 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.

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 as late as Philo of Byblos' Phoenician history, reported in Eusebius' Præparatio Evangelica I.10.16, as Peter Walcot observed.[12] Philo's account, ascribed by Eusebius to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan War Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, indicates that Cronus was 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 Egypt to Thoth the son of Misor and inventor of writing.[13]

In Roman mythology and later culture

Giorgio Vasari: The Mutilation of Uranus by Saturn (Cronus)
Temple of god Saturn in the Roman Forum

While the Greeks considered Cronus a force of chaos along with disorder, believing that 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 view of the deity by conflating their indigenous deity Saturn with Cronus. Consequently the Romans venerated Saturn much more than the Greeks did Cronus. In Roman religion the Saturnalia was a festival dedicated in his honor, and at least one temple to Saturn already existed in the archaic Roman Kingdom.

While Cronus was considered a cruel and tempestuous deity to the Greeks, his nature under Roman influence became more innocuous, with his association with the "Saturnian" Golden Age eventually causing him to become the god of "human time", i.e., calendars, seasons, and harvests — not to be confused with Chronos, the unrelated embodiment of time in general. While the Greeks largely neglected Cronus, considering him a mere intermediary stage between Uranus and Zeus, he was a larger aspect of Roman mythology and Owing to the abundance of isolated cities in ancient and classic times, numerous myths were developed and adopted to the local regions. As technology allowed cultures of common descent to rejoin, people made accommodations to create a unified pantheon or understanding of the universe.

As a result of Cronus' importance to the Romans, his Roman variant, Saturn, has had a large influence on Western culture. In accordance with the Near Eastern tradition, the seventh day of the Judaeo-Christian week was also 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 seventh and outermost of the seven planets that are visible with the naked eye.

Argive genealogy in Greek mythology

Argive genealogy in Greek mythology


  1. ^ Andrew Lang habitually called him Cronus, a form neither Greek nor Latin, as Robert Brown observed in Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology, 1898:112-13.
  2. ^ LSJ entry Κρόνος
  3. ^ Rose, A Handbook of Greek Mythology 1928:43.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ As in H. Lewy, Die semitischen Fremdwörter in Griechischen, 1895:216.
  6. ^ Brown 1877:ii.127.
  7. ^ Hislop, 2nd ed. 1862 (p.46).
  8. ^ Lang, Modern Mythology 1897:35.
  9. ^ Brown, Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology, 1898:112ff.
  10. ^ "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
  11. ^ Hesiod, Theogony. 188ff.
  12. ^ Walcot, "Five or Seven Recesses?" The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 15.1 (May 1965), p. 79. The quote stands as Philo Fr. 2.
  13. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica Book 1, Chapter 10.

External links

  • TheoiProject: Kronos in classical literature, a collection of translated source texts confirming most of the statements in this article.
Preceded by
King of the Gods Succeeded by
Preceded by
Leader of the Titans Succeeded by


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Ancient Greek

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Alternative spellings



  • (Classical): IPA: [krónos]
  • (Koine): IPA: [krˈo̞no̞s]
  • (Byzantine): IPA: [krˈonos]

Proper noun

Κρόνος (genitive Κρόνου) m, second declension; (Kronos)

  1. Cronus


Related terms

Derived terms




Proper noun

Κρόνος (krónos) m.

  1. Cronus (greek mythology)

This Greek entry was created from the translations listed at Cronus. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Κρόνος in the Greek Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) October 2009

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