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Early 20th century statue of a sleeping Chronos by Hans Latt, on the grave of Georg Wolff in Berlin, Germany.

In Greek mythology, Chronos (Ancient Greek: Χρόνος) in pre-Socratic philosophical works is said to be the personification of time. Often the figure is named Aeon (Eternal Time), a common alternate name for the god. He is also called Herakles.

Chronos was imagined as an incorporeal god. Serpentine in form, with three heads—that of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke (Inevitability), circled the primal world-egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky.

He was depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning the Zodiac Wheel.

Chronos is usually portrayed through an old, wise man with a long, gray beard, such as "Father Time". Some of the current English words whose etymological root is khronos/chronos include chronology, chronometer, chronic, anachronism, and chronicle.

Mythical cosmogonies

In the Orphic cosmogony the unageing Chronos produced Aether and Chaos, and made a silvery egg in the divine Aither. It produced the bisexual god Phanes, who gave birth to the first generation of gods and is the ultimate creator of the cosmos.

Pherecydes of Syros in his lost Heptamychos (the seven recesses), around 6th century BC, claimed that there were three eternal principles: Chronos, Zas (Zeus) and Chthonie (the chthonic). The semen of Chronos was placed in the recesses and produced the first generation of gods.[1]

Name and etymology

During antiquity, Chronus was occasionally interpreted as Cronus,[2] according to Plutarch the Greeks believed that Cronus was an allegorical name for Chronos.[3] In addition to the name, the story of Cronus eating his children was also interpreted as an allegory to a specific aspect of time held within Cronus' sphere of influence. As the theory went, Cronus represented the destructive ravages of time which consumed all things, a concept that was definitely illustrated when the Titan king devoured the Olympian gods — the past consuming the future, the older generation suppressing the next generation. During the Renaissance, the identification of Cronus and Chronos gave rise to "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe.

The original meaning and etymology of the word chronos are uncertain.[4]

His name in Modern Greek also means "year" and is alternatively spelled Chronus (Latin spelling).


  1. G.S.Kirk,J.E.Raven and M.Schofield (2003). The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge University Press. pp. 24, 56. 
  2. LSJ entry: Κρόνος
  3. Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 32
  4. R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 1651–2.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Chronos. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.