Kratos – Origins, Family, Meaning, Symbols & Powers

To the ancient Greeks, Kratos was the deity who best personified brute strength. By virtue of that particular trait, he is popular for his use of brute force and needless violence in Greek mythology.

A staunch ally of Zeus, Kratos was present when the Greek Titan Prometheus was bound to a rock as punishment for giving fire to mankind. There have been some mythographers that describe Kratos as nothing short of being a pawn to Zeus.

What else is the Greek deity Kratos most known for? Below World History Edu dives straight into the major myths and stories surrounding Kratos in Greek mythology.

Origins

Much of what we know about Kratos comes from two main sources – Prometheus Bound by ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus, and the Theogony, a poem by ancient Greek poet Hesiod. In Hesiod’s work, Kratos (also known as Cratos) is said to be son of Styx and Pallas.

Kratos’ family

Kratos’ mother Styx in turn is described as one of the many daughters of first generational titans Oceanus and Tethys. Styx is both a river and a river deity. With regard to the former, ancient Greek historian and geographer stated that the Styx River’s source can be found near Pheneus (present-day Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece). Zeus, the chief of the gods, became forever grateful to the goddess Styx after she offered the Olympians invaluable support in their fight against the Titans during the Titanomachy. As a result, Zeus, who went on to be the king of the gods, handsomely rewarded Styx and her children, including Kratos (strength).

Kratos’s father Pallas, similar to Styx, is a second generation Titan. Pallas is the son of the Titans Eurybia and Crius. Pallas’ siblings include Eos, the personification the dawn; Astraeus, a deity associated with the winds and the father of the four Anemoi; and Perses, whose name means “to ravage” or “to plunder”. In some accounts, Pallas is seen as a Titan of magic and witchcraft.

Siblings

According to Hesiod, second generational titans Pallas and Styx gave birth to deities like the goddess Nike (Victory), Zelus (Emulation), Bia (Force), and Cratos (Strength).

It’s been said that Kratos and his siblings are the things – strength, victory, zeal, and force – Zeus needed to establish his reign; while deities like Eirene (“Peace”), Eunomia (“Good Law”), and Dike (“Justice”) are the ideals that Zeus and his Olympian deities thrive to attain.

Kratos’ special privileges from Zeus

Zeus and Kratos

Zeus declared that every oath sworn by a god be take by the sacred waters of Styx. This was Zeus’s way of repaying Styx for the support she gave to the Olympians during the Titanomachy. Image: A bust of Zeus.

Kratos and siblings are said to reside with Zeus. This special privilege was given to Kratos and his siblings as part of efforts by Zeus, king of the gods, to show his immense gratitude to Styx. It’s been said that Styx was the first deity to come to the aid of Zeus in his fight against the Titans during the Titanomachy. Therefore, Zeus elevated Styx and her family to a very high status on Mount Olympus. Zeus also decreed that all gods take their oaths upon the sacred River Styx – because Styx came to the aide of Zeus during the Titanomachy.

He and his siblings are literally the embodiment of the ingredients needed to overcome adversity. Therefore, the support provided by Styx and her family proved to be invaluable to Zeus’ cause against the Titans.

Kratos’ involvement in the binding of the Titan Prometheus

Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan (Greek Hephaestus) (1623) by Dutch painter Dirck van Baburen.

By his nature Kratos, whose name means “strength”, is more of brawn than tactics and strategy. This is why in some of the myths he’s been employed to do the bidding of Zeus. One such example came when he Zeus tasked Kratos and his sister Bia (Force) to apprehend the Titan Prometheus. The ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus opens his famous tragedy Prometheus Bound with a scene that shows Kratos and Bia leading the Titan Prometheus to the dense Scythian forest.

Prometheus, often known as the progenitor of human beings, had such a strong devotion and loyalty to the humans that he stole fire from Mount Olympus’ hearth. He then gave this sacred fire to the humans. For this action of his, Zeus decided to inflict the heaviest of punishment on the trickster Titan Prometheus. Zeus ordered Prometheus to be chained to a rock in the Scythian wilderness, where an eagle would feast on his liver every day, only for his liver to regenerate the next day.

Upon arriving at the spot, Kratos orders Hephaestus, the god of forge, to chain Prometheus to the rock. Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound makes the audience aware that Hephaestus was initially hesitant to chain Prometheus; however, Kratos was able to convince the blacksmith of the gods in the end. The Greek god of strength explains to Hephaestus that under the kind of monarchical system created by Zeus, freedom does not exist. Kratos further explains that his role in that system is to carry out Zeus’ decisions using fear, force, oppression and other unsavory techniques.

In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Kratos is the one who orders Hephaestus to chain Prometheus. Illustration of the binding of Prometheus by British sculptor and draughtsman John Flaxman, first published in Richard Porson’s 1795 translation of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. Image: Kratos and and his sibling Bia stand on either side holding Prometheus down as Greek god Hephaestus chains the Titan to the mountainside in Scythia (present day central Eurasia)

And even as Hephaestus was chaining Prometheus to the rock, Kratos demanded that Hephaestus cause the captive as much misery as possible. For example, he orders Hephaestus to hammer a nail into Prometheus’ hands and then pierce the Titan’s chest with steel.

With the binding of Prometheus over, Kratos stays behind for a while so he could rain insults on the chained Titan. He then tells Prometheus that he would remain held in chains forever.

Perhaps it would have come as a big disappointment to Kratos when the chains that held Prometheus was broken by the Greek hero and demigod Heracles (Roman Hercules).

Read More: Roman Gods and Goddesses and their Greek Counterparts

Kratos – the deity who enforces Zeus’s tyrannical decisions

In some regard, Kratos is a pawn for Zeus as he is ever willing to the bidding of Zeus. He is often portrayed as one who is at the beck and call of Zeus.

It’s interesting that of all Styx’s children, Zeus sent only Kratos (strength) and Bia (Force) to enforce the sentencing of Prometheus. So why weren’t Kratos’s other siblings Nike (victory) and Zelus (emulation) present when Prometheus was bound? This was perhaps the ancient Greeks’ way of expressing how tyrannical Zeus’ reign as king of the gods had become.

Therefore he can be seen as the muscle that Zeus and other Olympian gods use when enforcing undemocratic policies. He is most known for his immense physical strength, the use of brute force, and his mercilessness. His sister Bia (Force) can be seen in almost the same light.

Brute strength and force only

The myths portray him as one who shuns pity and mercy; instead, the Titan prefers the use of fear and oppression. In one of the stories by Aeschylus, He teams up with Dike (the goddess of justice) and Zeus to help Electra avenge the death of her father Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae.

Kratos’ family tree

Kratos’ three main siblings were said to be the embodiment of traits similar to his. For example, Zelus represented Zeal and Emulation; the goddess Nike personified victory; and Bia was the personification of force and might.

His mother Styx is an Oceanid nymph. This means that she is one of the three thousand daughters of first generational titans Tethys and her brother-husband Oceanus.

Kratos god

Kratos’ family tree

Other myths about Kratos

Kratos

Kratos in Greek Mythology | A very peculiar thing about Kratos has to do with him being one of the staunchest supporters of Zeus. He is portrayed as one of the chief enforcers of Zeus’ will and desires.

In some other Greek myths, Kratos is not seen as the son of Pallas and Styx; instead he is seen as one of Zeus’ children. That will mean that he is only a demigod since in those myths he is offspring of Zeus and a mortal woman.

According to Latin author Gaius Julius Hyginus, Kratos’ parents Pallas and Styx also gave birth the likes of Scylla, Lacus (“Lakes”), and Fontes (“Fountains”).

In some cases his father, Pallas, is believed to be the father of the moon goddess Selene.

Read More:

Kratos in Greek mythology versus Kratos in the God of War video game franchise

Kratos with the Leviathan Axe as he appears in 2018’s video game God of War

When the creators of the video game God of War were writing the character Kratos little did they know that Kratos was an actual mythological god in ancient Greece. Coincidentally, creators of the character Kratos in the video game made him very powerful.

In the video game, Kratos has a very tragic beginning as he killed his family with his own hands. Kratos then sets out on a series of adventures trying to cleanse himself so to speak. Creators of the game drew a lot of inspiration from many figures and heroes in Greek mythology. For example, like Heracles (Roman Hercules), Kratos kills his family after a powerful spell was cast on him. Similarly, the video game depict in almost the same light as the figure in Greek mythology. He is often seen as merciless, brutal and unnecessarily violent.

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