Fast Facts on: Kronos

Chronos and his child painting
Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain 

One of the 12 Titans of Greek mythology, Kronos, pronounced Kro·nus (krō′nəs). is the father of Zeus. Alternate spellings of his name include Chronus, Chronos, Cronus, Kronos, and Kronus.

Kronos's Attributes

Kronos is depicted as either a vigorous male, tall and powerful, or as an old bearded man. He doesn't have a distinct symbol, but he's sometimes pictured showing part of the zodiac—the ring of star symbols. In his old man form, he usually has an exceptionally long beard and may carry a walking stick. His strengths include determinedness, rebelliousness, and being a good keeper of time, while his weaknesses include jealousy of his own children and violence.

Kronos's Family

Kronos is the son of Ouranus and Gaia. He is married to Rhea, who is also a Titan. She had a temple on the Greek island of Crete at Phaistos, an ancient Minoan site. Their children are​ Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. In addition, Aphrodite was born from his severed member, which Zeus threw into the sea. None of his children were particularly close to him—Zeus had the most interaction with him, but even then, that was only to castrate Kronos, just as Kronos himself had done to his own father, Uranus.

Kronos's Temples

Kronos generally did not have temples of his own. Eventually, Zeus forgave his father and allowed Kronus to be king of the Elysian Islands, an area of the Underworld.

Background Story

Kronos was the son of Uranus (or Ouranus) and Gaia, goddess of the earth. Uranus was jealous of his own offspring, so he imprisoned them. Gaia asked her children, the Titans, to castrate Uranus and Kronus obliged. Unfortunately, Kronos later became afraid that his own children would seize his power, so he consumed each child as soon as his wife, Rhea, gave birth to them. Upset, Rhea finally substituted a rock wrapped in a blanket for her last newborn son, Zeus, and took the real baby to Crete to be raised there in safety by Amaltheia, a cave-dwelling goat nymph.

Zeus eventually castrated Kronos and forced him to regurgitate Rhea's other children. Fortunately, Kronos had swallowed them whole, so they escaped without any lasting injury. It's not noted in the myths whether or not they ended up being a bit claustrophobic after their time in their father's stomach.

Interesting Facts

Kronos was conflated with Chronos, the personification of time, all the way back in antiquity, though the confusion became more solidified during the Renaissance when Kronos was considered the God of Time. It's natural that a God of Time should endure, and Kronos still survives in New Year's celebrations as "Father Time" who is replaced by the "New Year's Baby," usually swaddled or in a loose diaper—a form of Zeus that even recalls the "rock" wrapped with cloth. In this form, he is often accompanied by a clock or timepiece of some kind.

There is a New Orleans Mardi Gras crew named for Kronos. The word chronometer, another term for a timekeeper such as a watch, also derives from the name of Kronos, as does chronograph and similar terms. In modern times, this ancient deity is well represented.

The word "crone," meaning an aged woman, may also derive from the same root as Kronos, though with a change of sex.

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