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Harsh old age (Geras) will soon enshroud you--ruthless age which stands someday at the side of every man, deadly, wearying, dreaded even by the gods.
Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite

Geras was the Greek god and personified spirit of old age and aging.


Geras was a brother to the goddess Philotes and had the same parents, the Primordials Nyx and Erebus.


Gears was depicted as a tiny shriveled-up old man. Gēras's opposite was Hebe, the goddess of youth. He is known primarily from vase depictions that show him with the hero Heracles; the mythic story that inspired these depictions has been entirely lost.

As with the Greeks, his shrunken, frail body symbolized not only old age, but the human fear of painful aging and death. The Romans also painted Geras as a frail old man leaning on a staff. Geras is surely what the Sphinx had in mind when it asked: What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?


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Myths and Legends

In ancient Greek literature, Geras can also carry the meaning of influence, authority or power; especially that derived from fame, good looks and strength claimed through success in battle or contest. Such uses of this meaning can be found in Homer's Odyssey throughout which there is an evident concern from the various 'Kings' about the Geras they will pass to their sons through their names. It was considered a virtue whereby the more gēras a man acquired, the more kleos (fame) and arete (excellence and courage) he was considered to have.

In this context, the concern with passing Geras on to their sons through association with their fathers' names is significant since kings at this time (such as Odysseus) are believed to have ruled by common assent in recognition of their powerful influence rather than hereditarily. Further analysis can be found here.

Geras' name is the root of the word "geriatric".