Father Saturnus and the Saturnalia

The Romans idealized and remembered in their remote past--a time which was a Golden Age where rustic life was simpler...

Father Saturnus was one of the most ancient of the Gods. Contrary to the Roman tradition, offerings made in his honor were done with uncovered heads. He was usually represented as a bearded old man, bare-headed and balding. He held a bundle of wheat in one hand and a sickle in his other. Father Saturnus taught men many things which helped them so they all lived a simple life in peace and wisdom. Saturday is named after this God.

According to myth, the Roman agricultural God, Saturnus was father of many children. The Romans identified him with the Greek Chronos. Saturnus once ruled as the patriarch of the Italian Gods. Saturnus was overthrown by his son, Jove, also known as Jupiter (Father Jove)--as Chronos was overthrown by Zeus. Yet, whereas Greek myth claimed Chronos was castrated and slain, the Romans had a slightly different myth.

After Saturnus was unseated from power, he fled to Rome, which was just a village. During the stay of the agricultual God in Rome, men and women lived in peace and harmony. An abundance of berries, fruits, grains, and flowers grew. There was plenty of food to easily harvest. Work and toil were almost nonexistent. While Saturnus dwelt in Rome, people mostly spent their time in happy pursuits. Life was long and good, there was little or no disease, and when death eventually came, it was not a tragedy.

It was the Golden Age of Saturnus. There was no need of fighting or conquest. There was no need of masters or slaves. There was no need of vast wealth or symbols of status. There was no need for the bureaucracy necessary for running a large and powerful empire.

The Golden Age of of Saturnus was not viewed as an invention of fiction. The Romans claimed that the Capitoline Hill was originally called Mt. Saturnius, and from this Latium got the name ôLand of Saturn."

However, the Romans also said that Jupiter pursued and found Saturnus in hiding in Rome. Then, the patriarch, Jupiter, bound and imprisioned the God.

Hesiod, in his didactic poem, said that Saturnus was banished to the Isles of the Blessed, at the end of the earth.

Without the presence of the God, the Romans had to toil and struggle. Life became hard and bitter. The earth now yielded its bounty only when cultivated by the heavy labor of man and beast.

Eventually, Rome became great. Through its might, Rome ruled the world and maintained the Pax Romana.

Nevertheless, the festival of Saturnalia recalled those happy days before all the pressures and demands of the strict hierarchical Roman society and rule of the world.

During the Saturnalia, the strict codes of Roman culture were briefly held in abeyance, or in many cases the social order was inverted. The festival was in part a celebration of a cultural myth of the "good old days."

copyright 2011 Myth Woodling

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