Saturn (divinity)

Article

May 25, 2022

Saturn (in Latin Saturnus) is an ancient deity revered by the Romans, whose origin is problematic.

Characteristics of divinity

Saturn was the Latin equivalent of the Greek titan Cronus. He was depicted as a bearded elder, dressed in a cloak and holding a scythe. It was believed that, expelled from Olympus, for a period he had reigned in Lazio, in the cd. golden age, an age of peace and progress. One day he would suddenly disappear, causing the progressive decay of humanity. Already in ancient times it was considered not indigenous but coming from Greece which denounces at least a very precocious Hellenization. A significant detail is that the sacrifices dedicated to him were performed in the "Greek" (Graeco ritu) way, that is, with bare head (open capite) and crowned. Another characteristic of this divinity consists in the fact that the cultural image of him was represented with the compedes (laces) of wool on his feet: it should be noted that the characteristic of the compedes is typical of slaves. And this explains another characteristic that is instead linked to the feast of the god, the Saturnalia, celebrated starting from the 17th day of December (December): this day was a day of total freedom for the slaves who could feast on the their masters, by whom they were also served. These characteristics indicate in Saturn a divinity, and therefore a holiday, which promotes the transgression of the current order in order to generate a lack of rules, a condition thanks to which it is possible, with the new year upon us, to regenerate the order as soon as lost that proceeds under the dignitas of Jupiter. In this sense, Mircea Eliade recalls: Among the characteristics of these religious festivals Eliade recalls: Since the god Saturn and his feasts, the Saturnalia, evoke the golden age (aurea aetas), devoid of conflicts and social differences, when prosperity and abundance reigned and these were not the result of fatigue or suffering. . Bringing the period at the end of the year back to that golden age allows the Roman religious tradition to regenerate sacred time, to start the new year which begins precisely with Ianuarius (January), the month of the god of beginning: Janus. But Saturn is not only the god of regeneration, he is not referred to only for the golden period of abundance, Saturn is the god who taught men the technique of agriculture and with it civilization, hence a possible interpretation the lighting of the candles during its rites, also celebrated on the occasion of the opening of the granaries and the consequent distribution of spelled to the citizens. Significant is the fact that one of the names of Saturn was Stercutus (also Stercutius, Sterculius, Sterces) or the divinity of the fertilizer, also understood as fertility, wealth. The name of Saturn was gladly approached, by ancient and modern, for its etymology to sowing but this etymology is completely indemonstrable. Saturn, as rex is also considered the founder of a community located on Mons Saturnus before he was referred to as Capitolium, as well as Rome as well as Italy, was indicated with the name of Saturnia. So as Janus has its sovereign seat on Mons Ianiculus, Saturn owns Mons Saturnus, or the subsequently named Capitolium (Campidoglio), this after having arrived in exile, by sea, expelled from his kingdom, living hidden in that region which for this reason he wanted to call Latium (Lazio). His "exile" leads us to his juxtaposition, and therefore to his identification, with the Greek god Cronus, an identification made by Roman antiquists as early as the first century BC, for example, due to the Saturnalia festivities connected to the Kronia of Athens, such as recalls the Roman poet Lucio Accio (2nd century BC) in the Annales reported by Macrobius: Yet, the Italian scholar Dario Sabbatucci remembers behind