Kratos – Greek God of Strength

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Kratos or Cratos is an intriguing figure in Greek mythology, with conflicting stories surrounding his origins and later life. While many younger people know the name from the God of War video game franchise, the actual character from Greek mythology is very different from the one portrayed in the game. So much so that the two have almost nothing in common.

History of Kratos

In Greek mythology, Kratos was a god and the divine personification of strength. He was the son of the Titans Styx and Pallas and had three siblings – Bia who represented force, Nike, the goddess of victory, and Zelus who represented zeal.

The four of them were first seen in Hesiod’s poem Theogony with Kratos being the first to be mentioned. In Theogony, Kratos and his siblings lived together with Zeus as their mother Styx had requested a place for them in Zeus’ regime.

In some myths, however, Kratos is described as being Zeus’ son with a mortal woman, and therefore a demi-god. This version isn’t very popular, however, but has been mentioned in a few different sources.

As a god of strength, Kratos is described as incredibly brutal and merciless. In both Theogony and subsequent works by other Greek authors, Kratos is often shown mocking and tormenting other gods and heroes, resorting to unnecessary violence whenever he desired.

Kratos and Prometheus Bound

Kratos binds prometheus
Kratos and Bia hold Prometheus down while Hephaestus chains him to the rock. Illustration by John Flaxman – 1795. Source

Probably the most famous role Kratos plays in Greek mythology is as one of the gods who chained the Titan Prometheus to a rock in the Scythian wilderness. This story was told in Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus.

In it, Prometheus’ punishment is ordered by Zeus because he stole fire from the gods to give to the people. Zeus ordered Kratos and Bia – two of the four siblings who most represented tyrannical authority – to chain Prometheus to the rock where an eagle would eat his liver every day only for it to grow back every night. During the completion of Zeus’ task, Kratos forced the blacksmith god Hephaestus to chain Prometheus as firmly and violently as possible and the two argued extensively about the brutality of Kratos’ methods. Kratos eventually forces Hephaestus to chain Prometheus by brutally nailing his hands, feet, and chest to the rock with steel nails and a wedge.

The brutality of this punishment isn’t viewed so much as cruel or evil but just as the exercising of Zeus’ unquestionable authority over everyone and everything. In the story, Kratos is just an extension of Zeus’ justice and a literal personification of his strength.

Kratos in God of War

The name Kratos is very well-known to a lot of people from the God of War video game series. There, the video game’s protagonist Kratos is portrayed as a tragic Herculian-type anti-hero whose family was murdered and so he wanders ancient Greece and battles gods and monsters seeking revenge and justice.

The fact that this story has nothing to do with that of the Kratos from Greek myths is easy to notice. The creators of the God of War games have admitted that they had never heard of the god of strength and chose the name Kratos simply because it means strength in the modern Greek language too.

It is a funny coincidence, however, especially given that in God of War II, Kratos is the one who frees Prometheus from his chains. Stig Asmussen, director of God of War III, also notes that the two characters still fit together in a way given that they are both presented as “pawns” of higher powers. The only difference being that the video-game-Kratos struggles against this role of “pawn” and fights against the gods (killing most of them by God of War III) while the Kratos from Greek mythology happily accepts his role as a pawn.

Kratos Facts

1- Is Kratos a real Greek character?

Kratos is the god of strength and appears in Greek mythology as an important executor of Zeus’ will.

2- Is Kratos a god?

Kratos is a god but he isn’t an Olympian god. Instead, in some versions he’s a Titan god, although certain accounts describe him as a demi-god.

3- Who are Kratos’ parents?

Kratos’ parents are the Titans, Pallas and Styx.

4- Does Kratos have siblings?

Yes, Kratos siblings are Nike (Victory), Bia (Force) and Zelus (Zeal).

5- What does Kratos represent?

Kratos signifies brute strength and force. However he isn’t an evil character, but a necessary part of building Zeus’ universe.

In Brief

Kratos is an intriguing character of Greek mythology. Although he’s brutal and merciless, he defends this as necessary in order to build up Zeus’ reign. His most notable myth is related to the chaining of Prometheus.