The Three Fates: 3 Goddesses Of Greek Mythology Who Control All Mortal Life

By Karen Harris
The Three Fates: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, 1558–59. After Giulio Romano. Artist Giorgio Ghisi. (Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

If you remember the 1997 animated Disney film Hercules, you probably recall the Fates, three old women who determined how long a person lived by rolling out a string and then cutting it. Although many of the characters in Hercules were Disney inventions, others were based on Greek mythology, including the Fates. Cartoon depictions aside, the Three Fates offered a unique lens through which the people of Ancient Greece understood death, longevity, and destiny.

Who Were The Three Fates?

The Fates, also called the Moirai, were three figures in Greek mythology who represented half of Zeus's six children with Themis, the goddess of justice. (The other three were collectively known as the Horai, or the Hours.) Their names were Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, and like their Disney counterparts, they were in charge of human destiny via balls of thread that determined how long a human would live. Clotho's task was to spin the thread, determining who would be born and when; Lachesis measured the thread according to how long that new person would live; and Atropos, the oldest, was responsible for cutting it when the time time. She also selected the manner in which the person died.