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Chronos, sleeping on the grave of Georg Wolff, a merchant

Chronos (Ancient Greek: Χρόνος, "time," also transliterated as Khronos or Latinized as Chronus) is the personification of Time in pre-Socratic philosophy and later literature.


Chronos was imagined as a god, serpentine in form, with three heads—those of a man, a bull, and a lion.[citation needed] 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.

Chronos was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, due to the similarity in name, the Titan Cronus already in antiquity,[1] the identification becoming 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.[citation needed] Chronos, however, might also be contrasted with the deity Aion as Eternal Time[2] (see aeon).

Chronos is usually portrayed through an old, wise man with a long, grey 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[edit]

In the Orphic cosmogony, the unaging Chronos produced Aether and Chaos, and made a silvery egg in the divine Aether. 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.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the Japanese-French animated science fiction television series Ulysses 31, Chronos hopes to use Ulysses as leverage to re-enter the world of the Gods.
  • In the video game Smite, Chronos is a Mage type of god who has the power to manipulate time, and has skills that can make him one of the most powerful, dangerous and elusive heroes in the game.
  • In season 7, episode 12 of the TV series Supernatural, Dean Winchester goes back in time to 1944 and hunts Chronos with the famous Eliot Ness. In an alternate timeline, Chronos kills Dean before disappearing through time, but his brother Sam manages to summon Chronos and Dean back to the present with the help of Sherriff Jody Mills at the last second, averting this. At the end of the episode, Chronos is killed by Sam, but delivers a terrible prophecy with his dying breath: black goo, the true form of the season's enemies, the Leviathans, is everywhere in the future, indicating that the Leviathans will win the war Sam and Dean are waging against them. The future Chronos predicted is eventually averted when the Winchesters manage to defeat the Leviathans.
  • In the Disney short movie Destino, Chronos is portrayed falling in love with a mortal woman.[4]
  • In Bearing an Hourglass, the Piers Anthony novel, Chronos is a "mantle" thrust upon the main character, Norton, and he lives his life backward through time.
  • In DC Comics, Chronos is the name used by two different characters. The first was a criminal who used clock-themed weapons as his gimmick. The second was a Time Traveller that protected the timeline of the DC Universe.
  • Chronos appears in the Family Guy episode "3 Acts of God." When Peter Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, Cleveland Brown, and Joe Swanson are looking for God, they arrive at Mount Olympus where they meet Chronos. Chronos gives Peter a gift basket and tells him the current time.


  1. ^ LSJ entry Κρόνος
  2. ^ Doro Levi, "Aion," Hesperia 13.4 (1944), p. 274.
  3. ^ G.S.Kirk,J.E.Raven and M.Schofield (2003). The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge University Press. pp. 24, 56. 
  4. ^ "Destino" by disney and Dali: