Io, Saturnalia Essay, Research Paper
In the Roman calendar Saturnalia was designated a holy day, or holiday. The name is derived from the god Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing. At the time of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus was honored with a festival. It was officially celebrated on December 17 (a.d. XVI Kal. Ian.), in the middle of two other agricultural festivals: the Consualia, which celebrated the opening of the granaries and was named after Consus, god of the granary; and the Opalia, honoring the Ops, who personified abundance and the fruits of the earth, and was the consort of Saturn.
Roman Saturnalia was a day on which religious rites were performed. Saturn, himself, was sacrificed with the head uncovered. The Temple of Saturn is the oldest temple ever recorded by the pontifices. This was dedicated on the Saturnalia, and the woolen bonds on the feet of the ivory cult statue were loosened on that day to symbolize the liberation of the god. On this festive day, after the sacrifice, there was a public banquet which was introduced in 217 BC. Afterwards, the celebrants shouted Io, Saturnalia! The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. In Cicero s time, the Saturnalia lasted seven days (Dec. 17-23), but Augustus attempted to limit it to three so that the civil courts would not have to be closed any longer than necessary. The reign of Caligula extended the holiday to five days, although most people still continue to celebrate it for seven. It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles, perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and little earthenware figures or dolls.
During the Saturnalia holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public and even slaves were permitted to use dice and not required to work. Togas were not worn, but instead replaced with less formal dinner clothes and a pilleus, or felt cap that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within ones family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated equal to others and waited on by their masters at meal times, in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. Saturnalia continued to be celebrated as Brumalia down to the Christian era, when, by the middle of the fourth century AD, its rituals had evolved and become absorbed in the celebration of Christmas.