In Greek mythology, Cronus, Cronos or Kronos (in ancient Greek Κρόνος / Krónos), son of Ouranos (Heaven and Life) and Gaia (Earth), is the king of the Titans, the husband of his sister Rhea and the father of Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. His main attribute is the sickle, with which he defeated his father Ouranos. The Titans were the most intelligent offspring of Gaia and her son Ouranos, the first divine couple in mythology.
Cronus or Saturn is a cruel figure of Greek theogony and master of the Universe who ruled during the Golden Age.
According to a tradition dating back to Hesiod, in the eighth century BC, the first men appeared in the time of Cronos, during which they experienced the Golden Age, living without any worries, without even having to work. In fact, Cronos was already venerated as a god before the Greeks settled on their land. He was probably overshadowed by Zeus and the other Olympians, who took his place at the highest level. It has been assimilated to Saturn in Roman mythology.
The Forgotten Moderns sometimes confuse it with its paronym Chronos (Χρόνος / Khrónos), the primordial divinity of time in Orphic traditions.
Cronos coveted the beautiful Oceanid Phylira and to avoid his wife Rhea’s surveillance he metamorphosed into a horse to approach her. That is why Chiron was half man, half horse.
Cronus dethrones his father Ouranos
According to the best-known version, his mother, Gaia, had complained to him about Ouranos’ treatment of him; he had pushed the Giants of the Hundred Arms (Hecatonchires) and the Cyclops back into his womb, as she was about to give birth to them, (or, he had imprisoned them).
She then gave Cronos a flint sickle with which he attacked Ouranos when he came to join Gaia and emasculated him. Cronos threw the sliced genitals behind him, and the blood drops gave birth to the Erinyes, Giants, and Nymphs. So Cronos reigned in Ouranos’ place; but quickly, he became as brutal as his father.
Cronos eats his children
He imprisoned the Giants and Cyclops again in the earth, and having been warned that one of his own children would dethrone him in the same way that he himself had dethroned his father, he swallowed them one by one, as they were born. His wife, Rhea, a Titanid, and also his sister, gave birth successively to Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Cronos managed to eat them all, except Zeus, whom Rhea had entrusted to his mother Gaia; she replaced him with a large stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, which his father devoured in his place.
Zeus was raised in secret by the nymphs of Mount Dictation (or Ida) in Crete, fed on the milk of the Amalthea goat while the Curts struck their shields with their spears to prevent Cronos from hearing the baby’s cries.
Saturn consuming her children
GOYA, © Prado Madrid
Zeus later married the Oceanid Metis, whom he persuaded to give Cronos a vomit, in order to make him return the other five children. A war followed, at the end of which Cronos was dethroned, in favor of Zeus, by his children, and with the help of the Giants and Cyclops that Zeus had liberated. Cronos was thrown into the depths of Tartarus, with Japet and other Titans, and the Hecatonchires were charged with guarding them. Before regurgitating his children, he had returned the stone that had been substituted for Zeus; this stone was erected at Delphes, to mark the center of the world (Omphalos).
According to a different tradition, Cronos would not have been a fierce tyrant, but a beneficent ruler, ruling during a Golden Age; after his deposition, he left to rule on the islands of the Blessed, west of the Ocean.
The oldest version of the legend of Cronos is reported to us by Hesiod in Theogony. This aspect of Cronos connects him to Saturn, the Roman God with whom he was identified.
The name Cronos (in Greek: Κρόνος Kronos) is wrongly associated with Chronos (in Greek: Χρόνος, Chronos) which is the personification of Time and, as a result, describes him as an old man armed with a scythe. It is true that confusion is all the more possible because Cronos also has attributes of time.
Cronos’ love and posterity
Initially limited to the first six Olympians, Cronos’ posterity was to grow among the more recent authors. Thus, the Cretan poet Epimenides gave birth to Aphrodite, the Moires and Eumenides of his loves with Évonyme, while an isolated tradition attributes to him the authorship of the Dactyls by the Calliope muse. The Orphic Hymns also recognize her as one of the Phrygian god Sabazios and various scholiasts still give her the nymph Pluto, lover of Zeus and mother of Tantalum, as her daughter. Finally, Eustathios recognizes a seventh child for him by Rhea in the person of the war god Ényalios, more generally considered as a son of Ares (or even as an epithet of the latter).
The Catalogue of Women attributed to Hesiod mentions her adultery with the Oceanid Philyra. Surprised by Rhea, Cronos metamorphosed into a horse, so Philyra, once her child was born, gave birth on Mount Lime Tree at the Centaur Chiron (motif is notably taken up by the poets Le pseudo-Apollodore, Apollonius of Rhodes, Ovid, and Hygin). From Cronus and Philyra were stillborn Dolops and the king of Libya Aphros, ancestor of the Carthaginian and Libyan peoples.
Thus, the historian Philo of Byblos, in his History of the Ouranids, claims that having married Rhea, Cronos simultaneously took as mistresses two of her sisters, Dione, and Aphrodite or Astarte, then begotten with the latter Pothos, one of the gods of Love.