Father Time

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Father time 7765.jpg
A 19th-century Father Time with Baby New Year
Detail of Father Time in the Rotunda Clock (1896)
Fountain of Time July 2013 3.jpg
Father Time in Fountain of Time
Allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I with Father Time at her right in the background and Death at her left (~1610)

Father Time is the personification of time. In recent centuries he is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, sometimes with wings, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device (which represents time's constant one-way movement, and more generally and abstractly, entropy).


As an image "Father Time's origins are curious". [1] The ancient Greeks themselves began to associate chronos, their word for time, with the agricultural god Cronos, who had the attribute of a harvester's sickle. The Romans equated Cronos with Saturn, who also had a sickle, and was treated as an old man, often with a crutch. The wings and hour-glass were early Renaissance additions, and he eventually became a companion of the Grim Reaper, personification of Death, often taking his scythe. He may have as an attribute a snake with its tail in its mouth, an ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity. [2]

Father Time on an Irish memorial stone, displaying an empty hourglass to a mourning widow Grave memorial 3.jpg
Father Time on an Irish memorial stone, displaying an empty hourglass to a mourning widow

New Year

Around New Year's Eve, the media (in particular editorial cartoons) use the convenient trope [3] of Father Time as the personification of the previous year (or "the Old Year") who typically "hands over" the duties of time to the equally allegorical Baby New Year (or "the New Year") or who otherwise characterizes the preceding year. [4] [5] In these depictions, Father Time is usually depicted wearing a sash with the old year's date on it.

Time (in his allegorical form) is often depicted revealing or unveiling the allegorical Truth, sometimes at the expense of a personification of Falsehood, Fraud, or Envy. This theme is related to the idea of veritas filia temporis (Time is the father of Truth).

In the arts

Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, c. 1544-45, Agnolo Bronzino Angelo Bronzino - Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time - National Gallery, London.jpg
Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time , c. 1544–45, Agnolo Bronzino

Father Time is an established symbol in numerous cultures, and appears in a variety of art and media. In some cases, they appear specifically as Father Time, while in other cases they may have another name (such as Saturn) but the characters demonstrate the attributes which Father Time has acquired over the centuries.


Chronos and his child by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, National Museum in Warsaw, is a 17th-century depiction of Titan Cronus as "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe Romanelli Chronos and his child.jpg
Chronos and his child by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, National Museum in Warsaw, is a 17th-century depiction of Titan Cronus as "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe
Father Time statue atop a grave at Mount Moriah Cemetery Mt Moriah Philly John H Jones grave.JPG
Father Time statue atop a grave at Mount Moriah Cemetery


Business and industry

Comics, magazines and periodicals

Film and television


See also

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  2. Hall, 119-120
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