Personification of Time
Member of the Protogenoi
Time Clipping Cupid's Wings (1694), by Pierre Mignard
Symbol Harvesting Scythe, Zodiac Wheel
Consort Ananke
Offspring Chaos, Aether, Phanes, Erebus, The Moirai, Hemera, Horae

Chronos (/ˈkrnɒs/; Greek: Χρόνος, "time", pronounced [kʰrónos], also transliterated as Khronos or Latinised as Chronus) is the personification of Time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature. Chronos governed linear, chronological time, contrasted with the other Greek word for time, kairos, meaning the indeterminate moment that is right for something to occur.[1]

Chronos already was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, the Titan Cronus in antiquity due to the similarity in names.[2] The identification became more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe.

He was depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning the Zodiac Wheel. Chronos might also be contrasted with the deity Aion as Eternal Time[3] (see aeon). Chronos is usually portrayed as an old, wise man with a long, grey beard, similar to Father Time. In some Greek sources, Kairos is mentioned as a brother of Chronos. However, other sources point out that it is his son.

Name and etymology

During antiquity, Chronos was occasionally interpreted as Cronus.[4] According to Plutarch, the Greeks believed that Cronus was an allegorical name for Kronos.[5] In addition to the name, the story of Kronos 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, Kronos 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.[6] English words derived from it include chronology, chronometer, chronic, anachronism, and chronicle.


In the Orphic tradition, the unaging Chronos was "engendered" by "earth and water", and produced Aether and Chaos, and an egg.[7] It produced the hermaphroditic 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.[8]

See also


  1. "(Dictionary Entry)". Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
  2. LSJ entry: Κρόνος
  3. Doro Levi, "Aion," Hesperia 13.4 (1944), p. 274.
  4. LSJ entry: Κρόνος
  5. Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 32
  6. Beekes, R. S. P.. (2009). Etymological Dictionary of Greek, pp. 1651–1652. Brill.
  7. West, p. 178.
  8. G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge University Press. pp. 24, 56. ISBN 9780521274555. Archived from the original on 2017-07-10.


  • West, M. L. (1983), The Orphic Poems, Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-814854-8.
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