Friday, August 8, 2014

Saturnalia – An Ancient Roman Festival

Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival was celebrated in honour of the deity Saturn which is held on the 17th of December according to the Julian calendar which later expanded with festivals all through the 23rd of December.

Saturnalia originated as a farmer’s festival, commemorating the dedication of the templeof Saturn the Roman god of harvest and agriculture.

It originally was celebrated only for a day in Ancient Rome but it became popular and the celebration lasted for a week inspite of Augustus’s efforts of reducing it to three days as well as Caligula’s to five days.

The celebration began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn the Roman forum together with a public banquet which was followed with a private gift sharing, continual partying as well as a carnival celebration which overturned the Roman social norms.

 Gambling was permitted with masters providing table service for their slaves. It was a time of honour to Saturn, the god of sowing and like Christmas, it was a feast day – dies festus, wherein a public banquet was prepared with an effigy of the god placed in their midst which was probably one of the guest in the crowd.

Festival Time – Temporary Exchange of Roles

According to poet Catullus he termed it as `the best of days’. During the festival it was a time for celebration wherein people visited their friends and indulged in gift sharing especially of wax candles known as cerei and earthenware figurines known as sigillaria.

It was a great moment especially for the slaves which were a temporary exchange of roles wherein masters served meals to their slaves who were given the unaccustomed benefit of leisure and gambling. Clothing was sober which included the peaked woollen cap symbolizing the free slave that looks similar like Santa’s peaked red hat.

The characteristic shout or salutation of the festival used the phrase `io Saturnalia’, which originally commenced after the public banquet on the single day of 17th December. It was a strong emotive ritual exclamation which was used in announcing triumph or celebrating Bacchus and also as a joke.

Saturnalia – Work of Macrobius, Latin Writer

According to Roman mythology, Saturn seems to be an agricultural deity who it is believed to have reigned over the world during the Golden Age. Saturnalia, probably the best known Roman holiday, as a whole, is not detailed from beginning to end in any single ancient record. From modern understanding with regards to the festival, details have been gathered together from various accounts which have dealt with many aspects.

Saturnalia was the work of a Latin writer, by the name Macrobius from late antiquity who is the major source of information regarding the holiday. According to one of the interpretation in Macrobius’s work Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice along with the presence of abundant of candles which symbolises the quest for knowledge and truth.

With the renewable of lights as well as the coming of the New Year, it was celebrated in the later Roman Empire of Sol Invictus at the Dies Natalis as the `birthday of the unconquerable Sun’, on 25th December.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.