Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saturn

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Saturn (Latin: Saturnus) was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many Roman authors. In medieval times he was known as the Roman god of agriculture, justice and strength. He held a sickle in his left hand and a bundle of wheat in his right. His mother was Terra and his father was Caelus.

Saturn's wife was Ops (the Roman equivalent of Rhea) and Saturn was the father of Ceres, Jupiter, Veritas, Pluto, Neptune, and Juno, among others. Saturn had a temple on the Forum Romanum which contained the Royal Treasury. Saturn is the namesake of both Saturn, the planet, and Saturday (dies Saturni).

He was identified in classical antiquity with the Greek deity Cronus, and the mythologies of the two gods are commonly mixed. In Hesiod's Theogony, a mythological account of the creation of the universe and Zeus' rise to power, Cronus is mentioned as the son of Uranus (the Greek equivalent of Roman Caelus), the heavens, and Gaia (the Greek equivalent of Terra), the earth. Hesiod is an early Greek poet and rhapsode, who presumably lived around 700 BC. He writes that Cronus seizes power, castrating and overthrowing his father Uranus. However, it was foretold that one day a mighty son of Cronus would in turn overthrow him, and Cronus devoured all of his children when they were born to prevent this. Cronus's wife, Rhea (often identified with the Roman goddess Ops), hid her sixth child, Zeus, on the island of Crete, and offered Cronus a large stone wrapped in swaddling clothes in his place; Cronus promptly devoured it. Zeus later overthrew Cronus and the other Titans, becoming the new supreme ruler of the cosmos.

In the Roman tradition, in memory of the Golden Age of man, a mythical age when Saturn was said to have ruled, a great feast called Saturnalia was held during the winter months around the time of the winter solstice. It was originally only one day long, taking place on December 17, but later lasted one week. During Saturnalia, roles of master and slave were reversed, moral restrictions loosened, and the rules of etiquette ignored. It is thought that the festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia were the roots of the carnival year.

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