Answer by Jaspal Rana
Cronus — or more accurately, Kronos (Κρόνος) — ascended the throne after defeating his father Uranus (the Sky). Soon, he was warned by a prophecy (some say by his mother Gaia, the earth) that he would be dethroned by his own son. In order to avoid this fate, he swallowed each of his children as they were born. The last child, Zeus, was spared because Cronus’s wife Rhea handed him over to Gaia as soon he was born, to be raised in secret. After he was grown up, Zeus confronted Cronus and killed or imprisoned him (accounts vary) but not before Cronus had regurgitated all his siblings (who, along with Zeus, came to be known as the Olympians).
Cronus, also known as “Father Time”, represents the devouring aspect of time. His defeat symbolized the victory of Olympians over mortality and their elevation to Godhood.
In Hesiod’s poem Works and Days (Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι), it is mentioned that the first age of men — the Golden Age — was ruled by Cronus and it was a land without sorrow, sickness and old age. End of the Golden Age and by extension, Cronus’s reign, symbolizes the loss of an era of pure, unadulterated bliss (Arcadia, Atlantis, Eden — you name it). It may have been an inspiration of the Biblical “Fall of Man”.
Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell was of the opinion that Cronus represented the proverbial ‘belly of the whale’ of his heroic cosmogony, a trial of fire the hero has to pass to prove his worth.
Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?"
Although Zeus was not swallowed by his father, as his siblings were, his exile serves a similar purpose in the Greek mythological narrative. And this is not a unique feature of Greek mythology either. Campbell writes:
The Irish hero, Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill), was swallowed by a monster of indefinite form, of the type known to the Celtic world as a peist. The little German girl, Red Ridinghood, was swallowed by a wolf. The Polynesian favorite, Maui, was swallowed by his great-great-grandmother, Hine-nui-te-po … This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation ... But here, instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again.
Sigmund Freud based his theory of psychosexual development on the tragedy of Oedipus, but he was not unaware of the mythology of Cronus. In at least one of his extant works, he mentions that:
At this point, it is impossible to forget a primitive fragment of Greek mythologywhich tells how Kronos, the old Father God, swallowed his children and sought to swallow this youngest child Zeus like the rest, and how Zeus was saved by the craft of his mother and later on, castrated his father.
Notice that Freud associates Cronus with a much more savage and pre-human phase of mythic history. He also mis-remembers Zeus castrating his father, while it was Cronus who castrated his father Uranus with his scythe. This was, some workers suggest, due to Freud’s obsession with the child’s fear of his father (the so called “castration anxiety”) in the family dynamics, while the myth pays greater attention to the father’s fear of his children.
Carl Jung labels the myth of Cronus to be psychologically anti-developmental. The child (Zeus = future) is unwanted because it poses a threat to the parent (Cronus = present), and a struggle is inevitable if the present is allowed to stand in the way of future. It is interesting that Jung likened the role of the psychoanalyst to Cronus: It was the analyst’s job to dismember and “eat” the patient’s psychopathology, while regurgitating the psyche whole and undiseased.