Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Am Saturn

In Greek mythology there is an account of the Titan Cronus (Κρόνος, "the cutter"), who overthrew his parents, Gaia, (Γαῖα, "earth") and Uranus (Οὐρανός, "sky"), and imprisoned them. He then ruled during the Golden Age of the world with his wife (and sister) Rhea (Ῥέα, "ground"). He sired six children, Hestia (Ἑστία, "hearth"), Hades (ᾍδης, "the unseen"), Demeter (Δημήτηρ, "earth mother"), Poseidon (Ποσειδῶν, "earth lord"), Hera (Ἥρα, "season"), and Zeus (Ζεύς, "sky god").[1] Angered by their son's betrayal, Gaia and Uranus prophesied that Cronus, too, would be overthrown by his own sons. So, to prevent this, as each of his children was born, he devoured them.[2] The Romans later adopted this myth, though their name for Cronus was Saturn and their name for Zeus was Jupiter. This myth has since spawned two rather gruesome paintings [3] of the Titan engaged in 'autonepiophagy'.[4] Why do I mention all this? Simply to establish that there is a historical precedent for fathers eating their babies.

Om nom nom!


[1] The meanings of several of these names are uncertain. See the respective Wikipedia article for each one for more details.

[2] By a trick of Rhea's, Zeus was spared this fate. He eventually gave Cronus an emetic, causing him to regurgitate the others. Then, with the help of his brothers and sisters, Zeus led a revolt against Cronus, eventually overthrowing him. This war is known as the Titanomachy. Read my review of Clash of the Titans, where I discuss the Titanomachy further, here.

[3] See (at your own risk) Saturn, Jupiter's father, devours one of his sons, Neptune by Peter Paul Rubens (here) and Saturno devorando a su hijo by Francisco de Goya (here, and the study here).

[4] I coined this term from Gr. αὐτός autós "self" + Gr. νήπιο nēpio "infant", "baby" + Gr. φαγεῖν phagein "to eat", "to devour", "to consume"—i.e. the act of eating one's own babies.

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