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Personification of Old age
Geras, detail of an Attic red-figure pelike, c. 480–470 BC, Louvre
ParentsNyx[1] and Erebus[2]
Roman equivalentSenectus

In Greek mythology, Geras /ˈɪərəs/ (Ancient Greek: Γῆρας, romanizedGễras), also written Gēras, was the god of old age. He was depicted as a tiny, shriveled old man. Gēras's opposite was Hebe, the goddess of youth. His Roman equivalent was Senectus.[citation needed] He is known primarily from vase depictions that show him with the hero Heracles; the mythic story that inspired these depictions has been lost.


According to Hesiod, Geras is one of the many sons and daughters that Nyx produced parthenogenetically.[3] However, both Hyginus and Cicero add Erebus, Nyx's consort, as his father.[4][5]

In the myth of Tithonus, the mortal prince received immortality, but not agelessness, from the gods so when old age came to him he kept aging and shrinking but never dying. In the end Eos turned Tithonus into a cicada.[6] In several ancient Greek vases Geras is depicted fighting Heracles, although no relevant written myth survives. Geras is presented as an old, wrinkled bald man begging for mercy.[7]

Philostratus claimed that the people of Gadeira set up altars to Geras and Thanatos.[8]


Geras as embodied in humans represented a virtue: the more gēras a man acquired, the more kleos (fame) and arete (excellence and courage) he was considered to have. In ancient Greek literature, the related word géras (γέρας) can also carry the meaning of influence, authority or power; especially that derived from fame, good looks and strength claimed through success in battle or contest. Such uses of this meaning can be found in Homer's Odyssey, throughout which there is an evident concern from the various kings about the géras they will pass to their sons through their names.[9] The concern is significant because kings at this time (such as Odysseus) are believed to have ruled by common assent in recognition of their powerful influence, rather than hereditarily.[10][11] The Greek word γῆρας (gĕras) means "old age" or in some other literature "dead skin" or "slough of a snake"; this word is the root of English words such as "geriatric".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 225
  2. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface; Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 225
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface
  5. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  6. ^ Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 218 ff; Scholia on the Odyssey 5.1
  7. ^ Williams, Mark E., M.D (June 22, 2016). The Art and Science of Aging Well: A Physician's Guide to a Healthy Body. University of North Carolina Press. p. 137. ISBN 9781469627403.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.4
  9. ^ "The Internet Classics Archive | The Odyssey by Homer". Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  10. ^ For an example of this, see Homer, The Odyssey, 24.33-34
  11. ^ Thomas, C. G. (1966). "The Roots of Homeric Kingship". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 15 (4): 387–407. ISSN 0018-2311. JSTOR 4434948.
  12. ^ "Definition of GERIATRIC". Retrieved 16 December 2021.