Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily
3.1 Cronos (Saturn)

Cronos - Saturn

Origins of the myth

Kronos and UranusCronos was considered by the Greeks the youngest son of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth), he was therefore a titan, belonging to the divine generation that preceded the caste of the Olympic gods. At the instigation of his mother, he cut the "phallo " of his father, who fell to earth: from the spilled blood Aphrodite was born, while part of it fell on Sicily making it, since then, very fertile. [1] The sickle fell in the direction of the Strait of Messina, where it formed that thin, sickle-shaped tongue of land which still today constitutes the inlet of the port of Messina (Arm of S. Raineri). Another legend has it that the sickle fell instead in Trapani forming the promontory of Trapani ("Drépanon" in Greek means sickle). After castrating his father, Cronos took his place in heaven but Uranus predicted that he would be dethroned by one of his own sons. For this reason, after marrying Rea (his sister), he devoured his children as they were born. Rhea, pregnant with Zeus and in an attempt to save at least one of her children, escaped giving birth secretly and giving the unsuspecting father, in place of the son, a stone wrapped in diapers. When Zeus grew up, helped by his mother and Meti, one of the daughters of the Ocean, he made Cronos drink a magical potion that forced him to return all the sons previously devoured. These, led by his brother Zeus, declared war on his father eventually managing to defeat him, for which Zeus took the place of Cronos in command of the Universe by fixing his seat on Olympus.

Madrid, Prado Museum - Francisco de Goya
Saturn devours its children


Cronos was represented with a scythe and, often, also in the company of a crow; in fact the name Kronos is perhaps to be related to the Greek word Corone which means crow. It should be noted that the crow has also been associated with Saturn, with which the Romans identified Cronus, and the Latin term to indicate the crow has a sound similar to the Greek, that is cornice. Later, however, perhaps for a play on words, the Greeks themselves wrote, to indicate divinity, Chronos, which means Time, thus leading to think that Cronos was the personification of time.

chronos-rheaCronos and Rea (Metope of Selinunte)

Cronos was identified with the Italian Saturn; Latin mythology tells that Saturn, after being dethroned by Jupiter (ie Zeus), settled on the Capitoline Hill, in the same place where Rome will rise, founding a village that took the name of Saturnia. In Rome, in the month of December, the Saturnaliaquite licentious parties in which social differences were made to disappear, even if for a short time; it was not uncommon for slaves to wear the clothes of their masters and for the latter to serve at the tables.

Cult of Cronos and the places of Sicily

Not much is known about the cult of Cronos in Sicily, apart from the fact that it was associated with the cult of the Punic Baal. It is therefore probable that the Cronus of Sicily, worshiped mainly in the western areas, is actually the incarnation of the god Baal. It is well known, in fact, that the ancient Italic god Saturn, when in the imperial era there was a development of Romanization in Sicily and Africa, also incarnated the Punic god Baal.

Arm of S. Raineri (Messina) and Promontory of Trapani 
These are the places where the different versions of the myth make the "phallo " of Uranus severed from Cronos

In Caltabellotta, testifying to the ancient custom of making human sacrifices in honor of Baal, there is the sacrificial altar dedicated to Cronos where in the Greek and Roman period even human sacrifices took place.

According to the historian Diodorus Siculus (lib. III.61), Cronos was the king of Sicily, Libya and also of Italy. He established his power over the western regions of Sicily, occupying all the most important hills of the region with garrisons. Precisely for this reason, according to Diodorus, in Sicily and in other western regions, many mountainous areas were called, from his name, Chronia. Diodorus speaks of a place called Cronio about the defeat suffered by the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysus, by the Carthaginians in 383 BC 

Mount Scuderi (Fiumedinisi, Messina)
Finally, a legend tells that the tomb of Cronos would be found near Monte Scuderi (formerly Monte Saturno).

Cronos and religious syncretism

Marsala and Sciacca
The hypothesis has been formulated that, with the arrival of Christianity, the cult of Cronos was replaced with that of St. Calogero. According to the legend, St. Calogero was born in Chalcedon [2], as a young man, he retired to a forest where he received from God the gift of working miracles and the ability to prophesy. He then began to preach Christianity, was persecuted and forced, in 303, to exile in Sicily where he lived for many years in a cave in Lillibeo (Marsala), from where he only came out to preach Jesus Christ. In old age he retired to Mount Cronio, not far from Sciacca, later called Mount S. Calogero, where he spent the last days inside a cave [3].

Mount Kronio (Sciacca, Palermo, Termini Imerese)
The Cronii mountains were more than one, another mountain to which this name is associated is Monte Pellegrino, following the name Cronio (Kronio) that of San Caloggero was replaced as is the case for example of Monte San Caloggero near Termini Imerese. An ancient belief in Agrigento has it that the saints who respond to the name of Calogero were even four, all brothers who lived as hermits and who eventually became the patrons of the villages of Agrigento, Sciacca, Licata e Naro[4].

Signs that suggest the replacement of a pagan divinity with a Christian saint derive from the unfolding, not really Christian, of one of the feasts in honor of St. Calogero. Every year, on the Tuesday after Pentecost, it was celebrated on the mount Cronio a solemn feast in honor of the saint, which often degenerated into a real bacchanal. In this regard, Pitre remembers:

 ".. and even today it is an exhilarating spectacle that of such pilgrims, who have gone with the best religious intentions, and who return too happy, if not drunk ...".

 Another interesting element that can be found in the legend of San Calogero is the coincidence, perhaps not entirely by chance, of the fact that the saint, who had the gift of prophecy, lived for a certain period in a cave in Lillibeo, and precisely in a cave of Lillibeo it was the seat of the Sibyl of Lillibeo, the prophetess of Apollo, whose cult was replaced in the Christian era by another prophet, St. John the Baptist.  

Cronos and the Genius of Palermo
The Genius of Palermo is considered the secular symbol that represents the civic virtues and identity of the people of Palermo in its different social classes, in a certain sense, for the Palermo people it represents a sort of secular god of happiness and independence and is often put in contrast with Santa Rosalia. He is depicted as a mature man with a split beard, crowned and embraced by a snake feeding on his chest.

An anonymous manuscript, preserved in the Municipal Library of Palermo, perhaps from the end of the 500th century, puts the Genius of Palermo with Saturn (Cronos) in fact represents the Genius as the representation of "Saturn, god of earth and time, father of times and father of the gods and of men "[5]. Another element that connects Cronos with the Genius of Palermo is the phrase "suos devorat, alienos nutrit" ("devours his children and feeds foreigners"), engraved in the rim of the basin of the statue of the Genius placed inside Palazzo Pretorio. In fact, cronos devoured his children as they were born.

The Places of the Myth of Cronus - Saturn have been entered by the Region of Sicily in the Register of Places of Identity and Memory of Sicily (sector of Places of Myth and Legends). We have inserted a card in the Data Bank of the Intangible Cultural Heritage with indication and georeferencing of the places concerned. (see the sheet: Myth of Cronus - Saturn

[1] Solarino Raffaele: The County of Modica vol. I. p.85.

[2] Ancient city of Asia Minor (Turkey) near the Bosphorus.

[3] Giuseppe Pitre: Patronal feasts in Sicily. p.368.

[4] Giuseppe Pitre: Patronal feasts in Sicily. p.380.

[5] Giuseppe La Monica: Mystery Sicily p.58

Ignazio Caloggero


Cults Myths and Legends of Ancient Sicily by Ignazio Caloggero


Cronos - Saturn 

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