Ponos /ˈpˌnɒs/ or Ponus /ˈpnəs/ (Ancient Greek: Πόνος Pónos) is the personification of Hardship and Toil. In the epic poem the Shield of Heracles, attributed to Hesiod, Phonos (singular) was one of the many figures, depicted on Heracles' shield.

Personification of Toil
Member of the Family of Eris
Personal information
Nyx and Erebus[2]
Roman equivalentLabor


Hesiod's accountEdit

According to Hesiod's Theogony, Ponos was the "painful" son of the goddess Eris ("Discord"), who was the daughter of Nyx ("Night").[3] His siblings include Forgetfulness (Lethe), Stories (Logoi), Lies (Pseudea), Broken Oaths (Horkos), Quarrels (Neikea), Dispute (Amphillogiai), Manslaughter (Androktasiai), Battle (Hysminai) and War (Makhai), Anarchy (Dysnomia), Starvation (Limos), Pain (Algea), and Ruin (Ate).

And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos ("Hardship"),
Lethe ("Forgetfulness") and Limos ("Starvation") and the tearful Algea ("Pains"),
Hysminai ("Battles"), Makhai ("Wars"), Phonoi ("Murders"), and Androktasiai ("Manslaughters");
Neikea ("Quarrels"), Pseudea ("Lies"), Logoi ("Stories"), Amphillogiai ("Disputes")
Dysnomia ("Anarchy") and Ate ("Ruin"), near one another,
and Horkos ("Oath"), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath.[4][5]

Cicero's accountEdit

In some accounts, Ponos's was called the son of the primordial gods, Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness) and brother to other daemones.[6]

Their [Aether and Hemera's] brothers and sisters, whom the ancient genealogists name Amor/ Eros (Love), Dolus (Guile), Metus/ Deimos (Fear), Labor/ Ponus (Toil), Invidentia/ Nemesis (Envy), Fatum/ Moros (Fate), Senectus/ Geras (Old Age), Mors/ Thanatos (Death), Tenebrae/ Keres (Darkness), Miseria/ Oizys (Misery), Querella/ Momus (Complaint), Gratia/ Philotes (Favour), Fraus/ Apate (Fraud), Pertinacia (Obstinacy), the Parcae/ Moirai (Fates), the Hesperides, the Somnia/ Oneiroi (Dreams): all of these are fabled to be the children of Erebus (Darkness) and Nox/ Nyx (Night).[7]


The Cynics promoted living a life of ponos. For the Cynics, this did not seem to mean actual physical work. Diogenes of Sinope, for example, lived by begging, not by doing manual labor. Rather, it means deliberately choosing a hard life — for instance, wearing only that thin cloak and going barefoot in winter.[8]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226
  2. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  3. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226
  4. ^ Caldwell, p. 42 lines 226-232, with the meanings of the names (in parentheses), as given by Caldwell, p. 40 on lines 212–232.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226–232   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17
  7. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Adamson, Peter (2015). Philosophy in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds. Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-19-872802-3.