Cronus, despite being the ruler of the Titans and the universe after the overthrow of his father, was not known for his keen perception. When your throne (and your life) are on the line, it’s probably a wise decision to pay attention to the things that are happening around you, particularly when there’s a newborn child that is prophesied to destroy you. Maybe take a second look at that thing in the swaddling clothes before you eat it and call it a day, hm?
I’m just saying, babies and rocks aren’t exactly the same thing! When my little brothers were born, I was sure to check twice before I ate them, though the youngest DID look a bit stony…
I’ve recounted a bit of the story of Cronus and Rhea in a previous comic and subsequent blog post regarding Cronus consuming his other children and his preparedness for such a meal. Check that out here if you like.
To recap: Cronus, a Titan, envies his father Uranus the lord of the universe and, with the help of his mother, overthrows his old man and takes over his throne, ruling over the “Golden Age” of the world. Unfortunately for him, Cronus then learns that he will be overthrown by one of his children in a fit of universal poetic justice. Of course, what does Cronus do? Like all mythological figures that learn their fate, he tries desperately to fight against it.
Cronus, apparently very hungry at the time, decides that he will eat his children so that they cannot fulfill the prophecy. As his wife, Rhea, gives birth, he consumes each child. Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and finally Poseidon are all devoured by the vicious Titan and Rhea is helpless to stop him, that is, until Zeus is born. After giving birth to Zeus, Rhea hides him in a cave on the island of Crete, and then hands Cronus a rock covered in swaddling clothes and tells him it is their child. Cronus, stupidly, believes this and apparently does not look at all at what he is holding before swallowing the rock and calling it a day.
Naturally, Zeus grows up though there are many different versions of that particular story. Some say he was raised by a goat, others that he was raised by his grandmother, Gaia, and still others say he was raised by a nymph. What matters is that Zeus eventually grows old enough to deal with his father and uses an emetic to force Cronus to regurgitate his siblings as well as the brave and noble rock that sacrificed it’s stony freedom for Zeus. Zeus and his siblings then wage war against their father and eventually win, locking him away with most of the other Titans in Tartarus, a deep and terrible place below the realm of Hades.
Of course, Zeus as the now first-born son (sorry Hades) becomes king of the gods of Olympus. The stone that Cronus swallowed in his place was placed near Mount Parnassus and became known as the Omphalos, though there are other stones in Greek mythology that bear the same name.
In the end, we learn a valuable lesson from this tale, that one cannot escape their fate. Particularly if one decides not to make sure that you are actually eating a kid and not a rock.
Jeez! You’d think a god would know better!