- Pronunciation: kroh-nuh-s
- Other Names: Kronos
- Origin: Greece
- Cult Center: Athens, Gades, Lebadeia, Olympia
- Role: Ruler of the Heavens
- Symbols: grain, harpe, scythe, sickle, snake
- Wife: Rhea (his twin sister)
- Children: Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, Zeus
Who is Cronus?
Cronus, son of Uranus and Gaia, sat alone as King of the Elysian Fields, a blessed place awaiting the righteous dead. He reflected on his time in the dark prison of Tartarus with its high walls of bronze, where he had nothing but time and darkness. “After all this…” he thought. “I am now the lord of time. It is all I have left.” Time to reflect deep in the pit of Tartarus on things he had done. Time to reflect on things that had been done to him. And time to reflect on what he needed to do now that he had been freed.
Long ago, before existence, there was a vast space of emptiness known as Chaos. Erebus, a place of death along with Night, came into being. Then Love and Light emerged and with it, the goddess of the earth, Gaia. Gaia eventually gave birth to Uranus, the god of the sky, and together they produced six sets of twins, one of whom was Cronus. He had grown quickly, as gods do, and soon realized his incredible strength.
Cronus’ mother, Gaia, bore several children of Uranus including the 12 twins; Iapetus and Themis, Cronus and Rhea, Hyperion and Theia, Coeus and Phoebe, Crius and Mnemosyne, and Oceanus and Tethys. Uranus had already deemed these children worthy. They were uncommonly beautiful, and each personified a force of nature in their own unique way. They were even given the name “Titans” in recognition of their incredible strength, and each grew with the grace and majesty one would expect of divine beings.
But after the Titans were born, Cronus’ monstrous other siblings were birthed. The Cyclopes, horrors with their single round eye and their stubborn, violent, and emotionless nature could never be worthy of anything but destruction. The Hecatonchires were even worse. They were incredibly strong and fierce, even more so than the mighty Cyclopes. With their 100 arms and 50 heads, Cottus, Briareus, and Gynes were total abominations in their father’s eyes, and he imprisoned his youngest offspring in Tartarus.
Cronus Rises to Power
The story of Cronus’ reign began when he alone stood by his mother to free his monstrous siblings. He met with his mother, Gaia, in the silent evening with the other twins. He couldn’t stand seeing her state of grief and despair over the imprisonment of her monstrous children.
“My children, I seek a great hero among the Titans. One who will overthrow their father and liberate their siblings!” Gaia said to them. Only Cronus would agree to do what must be done.
Seizing his opportunity, Cronus said, “I will stand by you, mother!”
Together, they worked out a plan, and Cronus promised to his mother that her children would be released. Silently, their plan began to take form. Even gods had desires that needed to be satisfied, and Uranus was no exception. Cronus could recognize that Gaia was desired and beautiful. Gaia would arrange to meet with Uranus in the night, while Cronus would be secretly waiting in ambush. At whatever cost, Uranus had to feel the bitterness that Gaia had been enduring for so long. Her time for revenge was at hand and through that revenge, so would come power.
Cronus was given a mighty sickle made of stone. The large adamantine blade glistened and was ready to taste blood and castrate Uranus. Tonight, Gaia’s children would be set free. “And tonight,” thought Cronus, with a glint of greed in his eyes, “I will rule the universe in my father’s place!”
Cronus waited patiently until Gaia and Uranus met. As she seduced him one last time at the gate of her imprisoned children, Cronus swiftly leaped forward bearing the sickle. With a great slice, Uranus’ blood and testicles spilled into the sea. The swirling blood began to change and take the form of two enormous beings, Erinyes and Meliae, the race of Gigantes. White foam spilled out of the testicles, taking shape as the beautiful goddess, Aphrodite.
Uranus fell to the ground, enraged and in terrible pain. The vicious attack upon him by his own son was realized too late. Swearing vengeance, he gathered what little strength he had left and disappeared, leaving Cronus alone to witness the monstrous forms at the gates of their prison, Tartarus.
Cronus Begins His Reign
“The time for the mighty reign of Cronus will begin today!” he proclaimed. But then Cronus gazed over towards the gate. He quickly realized why his younger siblings were imprisoned when he saw their violent twisted faces, staring eyes, and many hands. They shouted viciously and angrily at him. He had never seen them before; they had been so swiftly hidden away. Instantly he knew that they were dangerous. He cared for his mother, but these creatures were a threat to his throne and his power. They could not be set free, promise or no promise. Gaia would never understand this, being blinded by a mother’s love, but Cronus’ eyes were wide open to the threatening horror within that pit.
Cottus, Briareus, Gynes, and the Cyclopes screamed in terrible anguish and fury as their gate was shut yet again, and the shade of darkness pulled over their eyes. A mighty dragon, Campe, was set in front of their prison as a guard. Cronus sat alone in the firelight from the dragon’s breath, deep in thought over what he had seen and done. He had just overthrown his own father and seized the throne with his sister, Rhea. He had broken a promise to his beloved mother, justifying it to himself over and over again to relieve himself of his guilt. “I am no monster, they are,” he thought to himself.
Together with Rhea, Cronus declared that a new golden age of righteousness would begin. The mortals on earth celebrated and began to live in a time where there was no need for laws or rules, without immorality and without evil. But Cronus knew better than to believe it was any kind of age of righteousness. He realized that if he could overthrow his own father, what was to stop him from suffering the same fate? What would stop an uprising from any one of his children? And his grief-stricken mother would never accept having her other children re-imprisoned within Tartarus. She knew, and had prophesized, that he would suffer the same fate as his father and he became consumed with fear. Cronus knew that something would have to be done about his own children as soon as they were born.
Cronus Establishes His Line
Rhea soon gave birth to Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. As each was born, Cronus quickly dispatched them by devouring them. They would be prevented from ever carrying out the prophecy as long as they were imprisoned within his belly. Already hardened by what happened with his mother and father, he could see no other option.
A sixth child was soon to be born. Cronus knew that Rhea could not bear to see her latest child born into the heavens only to be rapidly devoured. But he did not know that she was meeting in secret with Gaia, who had already suffered the loss of her own children.
“I cannot bear to watch you lose any more of your children any more than I could bear to lose mine. Together we must stop this next tragedy from taking place. I know what to do. Take this Omphalos Stone and quickly have it wrapped in swaddling cloth,” instructed Gaia to Rhea. “Zeus will be birthed secretly in Crete and cared for under our guidance until he is old enough to free his siblings, free my children, and then depose his father.”
Cronus Falls From Power
The time had come for Zeus’ birth. Cronus saw his impending victory over this last threat and without question grabbed the stone from Rhea’s arms, quickly swallowing it. This was it! Delicious victory and the last portion of the prophecy was defeated! Nothing could stop him now from keeping his power. The mortals on earth would go on celebrating their Golden Age, never knowing what had taken place above in the heavens.
Cronus, however, would never know about the child hidden away on Mount Ida, and who would cause him to suffer the same fate as his father, until it was too late. A group of armored male dancers called the Kouretes shouted, clapped their hands, and rattled their shields to mask the baby’s cries from Cronus. And the aid of a nymph, Adamanthea, would help suspend Zeus between the heavens and earth, far from Cronus’ gaze until he was of age.
Time and more time passed. Time enough for Cronus to forget the prophecy and let his guard down. “MORE WINE!” bellowed Cronus. Drunk on his own power as well as wine, he couldn’t see past his own vision of never-ending glory in the dregs of his empty cup. Rhea emerged bearing a flask of wine; concealed within it was an emetic potion that had been given to Zeus by Gaia. Cronus gulped it down, and then suddenly collapsed to the ground clutching his stomach.
“What treachery was this?” cried Cronus, but that was the extent of the words he could get out. A torrent of sickness poured out of him as he twisted and moaned in agony.
First, the stone wrapped in swaddling cloth was regurgitated. Then, in the reverse order in which they were devoured, out came the other siblings of Zeus. Cold with sweat and sickness, Cronus could only watch in terror as the prophecy became fulfilled. Zeus sliced him open, just as he had done to his own father, spilling his blood onto the ground. As each child emerged and stood, they were fully-grown and in complete command of their godly powers. Together with Zeus, they would stand united and form half of a new pantheon, the Olympians (the remaining half would later be formed of Zeus’ children), and soon the great war of Titanomachy began.
Cronus didn’t wallow in pain and fury for long. He joined with some of the Titans, and the great war between pantheons raged on for 10 long years until Zeus released the Hecatonchires and Cyclopes. With the aid of these new monstrous allies, Zeus quickly defeated Cronus.
Cronus’ imprisonment ended with an act of mercy and pity from Zeus.
“Father, I see that you have begun to understand what it means to be the lord of time. At last you understand what it means to be a true god. I release you from Tartarus,” said Zeus.
“I grant you the Elysian Fields, a blessed place awaiting the righteous dead. Begin your rule over this place as King, under a second golden age.” Cronus wept tears of relief at Zeus’ pity and mercy. No longer did he have to suffer the same fate as his father. The people on earth would forever know him as a god of benevolence, kindness, and generosity.
Cronus to this day is often personified as “Father Time,” depicted with a scythe representing harvest.