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Personification of Toil
Personal information
Nyx and Erebus[2]
Roman equivalentLabor

Ponos /ˈpˌnɒs/ or Ponus /ˈpnəs/ (Ancient Greek: Πόνος Pónos) is the personification of hardship or toil.



According to Hesiod's Theogony (226–232), "painful" Ponos was the child of Eris (Strife), with no father, and the brother of many other personifications:

And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos (Hardship),
Lethe (Forgetfulness) and Limos (Starvation) and the tearful Algea (Pains),
Hysminai (Battles), Makhai (Wars), Phonoi (Murders), and Androktasiai (Manslaughters);
Neikea (Quarrels), Pseudea (Lies), Logoi (Stories), Amphillogiai (Disputes)
Dysnomia (Anarchy) and Ate (Ruin), near one another,
and Horkos (Oath), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath.[3]


According to Cicero, Ponos's was called the son of the primordial gods, Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness) and brother to other personifications:[4]

Their [Aether and Hemera's] brothers and sisters, whom the ancient genealogists name Amor/ Eros (Love), Dolus (Guile), Metus/ Deimos (Fear), Labor/ Ponus (Toil), Invidentia/ Nemesis (Envy), Fatum/ Moros (Fate), Senectus/ Geras (Old Age), Mors/ Thanatos (Death), Tenebrae/ Keres (Darkness), Miseria/ Oizys (Misery), Querella/ Momus (Complaint), Gratia/ Philotes (Favour), Fraus/ Apate (Fraud), Pertinacia (Obstinacy), the Parcae/ Moirai (Fates), the Hesperides, the Somnia/ Oneiroi (Dreams): all of these are fabled to be the children of Erebus (Darkness) and Nox/ Nyx (Night).[5]


The Cynics promoted living a life of ponos. For the Cynics, this did not seem to mean actual physical work. Diogenes of Sinope, for example, lived by begging, not by doing manual labor. Rather, it means deliberately choosing a hard life — for instance, wearing only that thin cloak and going barefoot in winter.[6]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226
  2. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  3. ^ Caldwell, p. 42 lines 226-232, with the meanings of the names (in parentheses), as given by Caldwell, p. 40 on lines 212–232.
  4. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  5. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  6. ^ Adamson, Peter (2015). Philosophy in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds. Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-19-872802-3.