kids encyclopedia robot

Saturn (mythology) facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
God of the Capitol, time, wealth, agriculture, and liberation
Saturn with head protected by winter cloak, holding a scythe in his right hand, fresco from the House of the Dioscuri at Pompeii, Naples Archaeological Museum (23497733210).jpg
Saturn wearing his toga “capite velato” and holding a sickle (fresco from the House of the Dioscuri at Pompeii, Naples Archaeological Museum)
Major cult center Temple of Saturn
Abode Capitoline Hill
Planet Saturn
Symbol Sickle, scythe, veil
Day Saturday
Gender male
Festivals Saturnalia
Personal information
Consort Ops
Children Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres and Vesta
Parents Caelus and Terra
Siblings Janus, Ops
Greek equivalent Cronus
Norse equivalent Odin
Etruscan equivalent Satre

Saturn (Latin: Sāturnus) was a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in Roman mythology. He was described as a god of time, generation, dissolution, abundance, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Saturn's mythological reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace. After the Roman conquest of Greece, he was conflated with the Greek Titan Cronus. Saturn's consort was his sister Ops, with whom he fathered Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres and Vesta.

Saturn was especially celebrated during the festival of Saturnalia each December, perhaps the most famous of the Roman festivals, a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry. The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury and archives (aerarium) of the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. The planet Saturn and the day of the week Saturday are both named after and were associated with him.


The Romans identified Saturn with the Greek Cronus, whose myths were adapted for Latin literature and Roman art. In particular, Cronus's role in the genealogy of the Greek gods was transferred to Saturn. As early as Andronicus (3rd century BC), Jupiter was called the son of Saturn.

Saturn had two mistresses who represented different aspects of the god. The name of his wife, Ops, the Roman equivalent of Greek Rhea, means "wealth, abundance, resources." Saturn was earlier associated with Lua ("destruction, dissolution, loosening"), a goddess who received the bloodied weapons of enemies destroyed in war.

Under Saturn's rule, humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in the "Golden Age" described by Hesiod and Ovid. He became known as the god of time.

Etymology and epithets

According to Varro, Saturn's name was derived from satus, meaning "sowing". Another epithet, variably Sterculius, Stercutus, and Sterces, referred to his agricultural functions; this derives from stercus, "dung" or "manure", referring to re‑emergence from death to life.

Farming was important to Roman identity, and Saturn was a part of archaic Roman religion and ethnic identity. His name appears in the ancient hymn of the Salian priests, and his temple was the oldest known in the records of the pontiffs.

Balbus asserts that the name Saturn comes from the Latin word satis; Saturn was an anthropomorphic representation of Time, which is filled, or satiated, by all things or all generations.


The temple of Saturn was located at the base of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, and a row of columns from the last rebuilding of the temple still stands. It housed the state treasury (aerarium) throughout Roman history.

Festival's time

Saturn is associated with a major religious festival in the Roman calendar, Saturnalia. Saturn's festival was associated with concepts of time and the beginning of the New Year. In the Greek tradition, Cronus was sometimes associated with Chronus, "Time". The fact that he had devoured his sons at birth (he did so because a prophecy said that one of them would overthrow him) was taken as an allegory for the passing of generations. Cronus-Saturn's attribute was the sickle or scythe of Father Time that symbolized his connection with agriculture. His aged appearance represented the waning of the old year with the birth of the new. In late antiquity, Saturn begins to be depicted as winged.

Saturnalia celebrated the harvest and sowing, and ran from December 17–23. During Saturnalia, the social restrictions of Rome were relaxed. The figure of Saturn, kept during the year with its legs bound in wool, was released from its bindings for the period of the festival. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Macrobius (5th century CE) presents an interpretation of the Saturnalia as a festival of light leading to the winter solstice. The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun," on December 25.

Roman legend

Saturn was sometimes regarded as the first king of Latium or even the whole of Italy. At the same time, there was a tradition that Saturn had been an immigrant god, received by Janus after he was usurped by his son Jupiter and expelled from Greece.

He arrived in Italy "dethroned and fugitive," but brought agriculture and civilization for which he was rewarded by Janus with a share of the kingdom, becoming himself king. He was considered the ancestor of the Latin nation as he fathered Picus, the first king of Latium, who married Janus's daughter Canens and in his turn fathered Faunus.

Porta Maggiore Alatri
Alatri's main gate of the cyclopean walls

Saturn was also said to have founded the five Saturnian towns of Latium: Aletrium (today Alatri), Anagnia (Anagni), Arpinum (Arpino), Atina and Ferentinum (Ferentino, also known as Antinum) all located in the Latin Valley, province of Frosinone. All these towns are surrounded by cyclopean walls; their foundation is traditionally ascribed to the Pelasgians.

Gladiatorial munera

In 3rd-century AD sources and later, Saturn is recorded as receiving gladiatorial offerings (munera) during or near the Saturnalia. These gladiator combats, ten days in all throughout December, were sponsored with funds from the treasury of Saturn.

On coins

Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Saturn driving a quadriga on the reverse of a denarius issued by Saturninus

In 104 BCE, the plebeian tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus issued a denarius depicting Saturn driving a four-horse chariot (quadriga), a vehicle associated with rulers, triumphing generals, and sun gods. The head of the goddess Roma appears on the obverse. The Saturnian imagery played on the tribune's name and his intent to alter the social hierarchy to his advantage, by basing his political support on the common people (plebs) rather than the senatorial elite.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Saturno (mitología) para niños

kids search engine
Saturn (mythology) Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.