Saturn (mythology) facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsSaturn
|God of the Capitol, time, wealth, agriculture, and liberation|
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|
|Symbol||Sickle, scythe, veil|
|Children||Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres and Vesta|
|Parents||Caelus and Terra|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Spanish: Saturno (mitología) para niños
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