As the myth goes, Kronos swallowed this children as they were presented to him, so he could prevent the prophecy. But why couldn't he kill them?

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    Possibly because they're also gods? I think the Greeks treated their gods as unkillable, unlike the Norse. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 9:58
  • Another story says that Ares was captures by giants, and he was put into a jar. There he was left to wither. He didn't die, but the was broken. Couldn't Cronus do that?
    – user6252
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 14:40
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    Probably "evil contains the seeds of its own destruction." Remember, these stories were meant both to entertain and to teach — these aren't histories of real beings. Characters can do stupid things because the plot needs them to. Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 15:07
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    @FuzzySquid If we go into "couldn't Cronus do that" territory, the most obvious question is: Couldn't Cronus avoid procreating in the first place?
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 10:48
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    @yannis: Perhaps he couldn't. Note the account of Cronus' emasculation of Uranus--the seed that fell on land and sea made them conceive and give birth to various divinities, Aphrodite among them. If divine seed has such potency, I doubt that any prophylactic would have been effective. ;-)
    – Ralf B
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


Cronus's children were gods, and therefore immortal. Until the "Pan is dead" tale, which was only related in the first century AD, no death of a deity is related in Greek mythology. Gods and Titans alike may be imprisoned or transformed, but not killed. This is unlike some other mythologies: whereas Osiris, Tammuz, or Baldur are clearly described as dead, the Greek equivalent, Persephone, is merely kidnapped by Hades.

In the story of Chiron, the immortal centaur, he is mortally wounded and wishes to die, but death does not come to the immortal. Chiron is described in myth as giving his immortality away to Prometheus, in order to die; even then he does not truly die, but is transformed into a constellation.

From this account it may be inferred that the Hellenes took immortality literally: not just unaging, but actual unkillability. This is supported by the myth of Tithonus, where it is apparent that agelessness and immortality were distinct concepts to the Greek mind: the former not being subject to growing old, the latter not being subject to death.

Thus, in answer to the question: Cronus did not kill his divine offspring because he could not---they were immortal, in the sense of unkillable. The most he could do was imprison them. Likewise, the gods later imprisoned Typhon and the defeated Titans, but did not kill them instead---not for want of will, but because even they could not kill immortals.

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    Good answer. it's the "eternal present". Was reading Graves' Homer's Daughter this weekend, and he notes that we don't say "Homer recorded", but "Homer records".
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 21:25

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