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Not to be confused with Cronus, the Titan father of Zeus.
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 shape 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, similar to 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]


During antiquity, Chronus was occasionally interpreted as Cronus,[4] according to Plutarch the Greeks believed that Cronus was an allegorical name for Chronos.[5] 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.

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,[disambiguation needed] Chronos is a magician 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.[6]
  • 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 who 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.
  • In the animated series Johnny Bravo, Chronos is depicted as a bear with highly acute sense of time. Much of his problems come from the fact that Johnny tends to disturb his hibernation.
  • In the fantasy pentalogy Percy Jackson & the Olympians, the titan Cronus is depicted as having control over time, and is likely merged with Chronus. In the series, the name is spelled Kronos.

See also[edit]



  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. ISBN 9780521274555. 
  4. ^ LSJ entry Κρόνος
  5. ^ Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 32
  6. ^ "Destino" by disney and Dali: