Or Saturnus, a mythical king of Italy to whom was ascribed the introduction of agriculture and the habits of civilized life in general. The name is, notwithstanding the different quantity, connected with the verb sero, sevi, saturn, and although the ancients themselves invariably identify Saturn with the Greek Cronus, there is no resemblance whatever between the attributes of the two deities, except that both were regarded as the most ancient divinities in their respective countries. The resemblance is much stronger between Demeter and Saturn, for all that the Greeks ascribe to their Demeter is ascribed by the Italians to Saturn, who in the very earliest times came to Italy in the reign of Janus.1 Saturnus, then, deriving his name from sowing, is justly called the introducer of civilization and social order, both of which are inseparably connected with agriculture. His reign is, moreover, conceived for the same reason to have been the golden age of Italy, and more especially of the Aborigines, his subjects. As agricultural industry is the source of wealth and plenty, his wife was Ops, the representative of plenty.
The story related of the god, is that in the reign of Janus he came to Italy, was hospitably received by Janus, and formed a settlement on the Capitoline hill, which was hence called the Saturnian hill. At the foot of that hill, on the road leading up the Capitol, there stood in aftertimes the temple of Saturn.2 Saturn then made the people acquainted with agriculture, suppressed their savage mode of life, and led them to order, peaceful occupations, and morality. The result was that the whole country was called Saturnia or the land of plenty.3 Saturn, like many other mythical kings, suddenly disappeared, being removed from earth to the abodes of the gods, and immediately after Janus is said to have erected an altar to Saturn in the Forum.4 It is further related that Latium received its name (from lateo) from this disappearance of Saturn, who for the same reason was regarded by some as a divinity of the nether world.5
The Saturnalia was the festival solemnized by the Romans in honor of Saturn. The statue of Saturnus was hollow and filled with oil, probably to denote the fertility of Latium in olives;6 in his hand he held a crooked pruning knife, and his feet were surrounded with a woolen riband.7 In the pediment of the temple of Saturn were seen two figures resembling Tritons, with horns, and whose lower extremities grew out of the ground;8 the temple itself contained the public treasury, and many laws also were deposited in it.9 It must be remarked in conclusion that Saturn and Ops were not only the protectors of agriculture, but all vegetation was under their care, as well as every thing which promoted their growth.10
- Virgil. Aeneid viii, 314 ff.; Macrobius. Saturnalia i, 10; Aurelius Victor. The origins of Roman Race, 1, ff.
- Dionysius, vi, 1; Livy. The History of Rome xli, 27; Aurelius Victor, l.c. 3; De Regionibus Urbis Romae viii.
- Virgil. Aeneid viii, 358; Justin, xliii, 1; Macrobius. Saturnalia i, 7; Varro. On the Latin Language v, 42; Festus, s.v. Saturnia; Victor, l.c.
- Macrobius, l.c.; Arnobius, iv, 24; Ovid. Fasti i, 238.
- Plutarch. Roman Questions, 24.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xv, 7.7.
- Virgil. Aeneid vii, 179; Arnobius, vi, 12; Macrobius, l.c.; Martial, xii, 6.1.
- Macrobius. Saturnalia i, 8.
- Servius on Virgil's Aeneid viii, 319.
- Macrobius. Saturnalia i, 7, 10; comp. Hartung, J.A. Die Religion der Römer. Vol. 2, p. 122 ff.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.