Chronos, Cronus, and Saturn

SickleSince I finally managed to get The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: A Walker is Born out, and am just about ready to release Cronus Attacks, I was refreshing my memory on some of the mythology so I could move forward with writing the third book of The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III.  We call it ‘refreshing the memory’ for a reason, usually because it’s something we used to know but have since forgotten.  This was definitely true in my case.

When we mention Cronus, most of us (okay, maybe just me) think of the Titan who castrated his father and took over control of the cosmos.  He was the ruler of the Golden Age, Titan of the harvest, and was associated with the Roman god Saturn, from whom we get the Saturnalia that became Christmas.  All good stuff.  Well, maybe not the castrating his father and eating his children part, but the Golden Age sounds pretty good.

Cronus was told by Gaia and Uranus that he, too, would be overthrown by his son, so he devoured them all until his wife, Rhea, gave him a stone to eat instead of their youngest child, Zeus.  Zeus was hidden until adulthood (pick a myth as to where he was), then he rose up against his father and took over.  After a lengthy war (hey, we’ve all seen Clash of the Titans.) Cronus and the other Titans were confined to Tartarus.   In some of the myths, Cronus was later released and given rule over Elysium, while others state things weren’t quite that confrontational to start with.  Cronus was often shown with a harpe, a scythe, or a sickle because of his association with agriculture.

Now, the part I had forgotten was that Cronus (Kronus/Kronos) is not the same as Chronos. Chronos is the god of time in Greek mythology.  This is the god with the serpent shape, three heads (snake, bull, lion), and wings.  (In Aztec mythology, the god Quetzcoalt is also shown as a winged serpent.  These also exist in Egyptian mythology, but they’re on the same side of the world.)  He personified the idea of time as a never-ending cycle that embodied death and rebirth, ends and beginnings.  (Time was later seen more as destructive and devouring.)  He was pictured as an old, bald man, and he is the icon we know as Father Time.

Here’s the thing.  These two were mixed up even back in ancient Greece.  Apparently, they couldn’t keep their gods straight, either.  So, what we have is a god of agriculture and time who ate his children and was banished to Tartarus.  This figure is the one that made it into Roman mythology as the god Saturn.  So, Saturn is actually an amalgamation of two other gods who were combined by their own people in their own time.

These combinations lead us to the imagery we have today of the old Father Time (we can probably toss death in, too) figure with a scythe or sickle and an hourglass or a wheel of fate who comes through and devours all things.  It from this that we get riddles such as the one Gollum gave to Bilbo about Time.

There are, of course, plenty of references in the ancient writings, and these writings are well worth the read, even if they are a touch archaic.

Best wishes!