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Cronos the God? - Mythology, Overview

Instructor: Mary Deering

Mary has a Master's Degree in History with 18 advanced hours in Government. She has taught college History and Government courses.

Meet Cronos, the father of the Greek gods. Discover how Cronos killed his own father and learn how he tried to avoid the same fate at the hands of his children.

Cronos, the God

Ancient peoples often believed in stories about powerful, immortal beings who created and protected various aspects of human life. The heroes, gods, and monsters of ancient Greece continue to be remembered, and their stories are still told in the modern world. Many students read stories of heroes like Hercules or watch movies that feature versions of Greek gods, such as the recent film, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

The Greeks created a complex family group of gods and goddesses. Cronos was the son of Gaea, or Mother Earth, and Uranus, or Father Sky. He was one of thirteen Titans, a group of beautiful, immortal children of Gaea and Uranus. Cronos was married to his sister, Rhea, the goddess of the earth.

Statue of Cronos
Statue of Cronos

The Defeat of Uranus

Before the birth of the Titans, Gaea and Uranus had six monstrous children. Three were Cyclops, enormous creatures with one eye set in the center of their foreheads. The others were hundred-handed giants. Although Gaea loved her children, Uranus found them to be frightening and he imprisoned them deep in the pit of Tartarus, the deepest, darkest place in the underworld.

Gaea was distraught at the loss of her children and eventually persuaded Cronos to help her to free them from Tartarus. She gave her son a sharp piece of flint and hid him near his father's sleeping place. When Uranus was fast asleep, Cronos cut him into pieces with the sharp flint and threw his body into the ocean.

With Uranus dead, Gaea believed Cronos would free his brothers imprisoned in Tartarus; however, Cronos refused to release his siblings and so Gaea remained without her other children. Angry and disappointed, Gaea predicted that her son would be defeated at the hands of one of his children, just as he had defeated his father.

The Mutilation of Uranus by Girogrio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi from Palazzo Vecchio
The Mutilation of Uranus by Girogrio Vasari and Cristofano Gherardi from Palazzo Vecchio

The Father and the Son

In time, Cronos and his wife, Rhea, would have children of their own. The first was their daughter, Hestia, who later would become the goddess of the hearth. Although Cronos loved his wife, as he gazed down at his infant daughter he became frightened that the baby would one day become more powerful. Cronos picked up his daughter and quickly swallowed her whole. Each time Rhea presented Cronos with a new baby, he would swallow the newborn whole, believing that he was preventing the possibility that his child would grow into a powerful adult god.

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