The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology the Works and Days of Hesiod, is part of the description of temporal decline of the state of peoples through five Ages, Gold being the first and the one during which the Golden Race of humanity lived. Those living in the first Age were ruled by Kronos, after the finish of the first age was the Silver the Bronze, after this the Heroic age, with the fifth and current age being Iron. By extension "Golden Age" denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony and prosperity. During this age peace and harmony prevailed, people did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance, they lived to a old age with a youthful appearance dying peacefully, with spirits living on as "guardians". Plato in Cratylus recounts the golden race of humans, he clarifies that Hesiod did not mean made of gold, but good and noble. In classical Greek mythology the Golden Age was presided over by the leading Titan Cronus. In some version of the myth Astraea ruled.
She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, but in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra. European pastoral literary tradition depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and peace, set in Arcadia, a region of Greece, the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them; the earliest attested reference to the European myth of the Ages of Man 500 BCE–350 BCE appears in the late 6th century BCE works of the Greek poet Hesiod's Works and Days. Hesiod, a deteriorationist, identifies the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age, the Iron Age. With the exception of the Heroic Age, each succeeding age was worse than the one. Hesiod maintains that during the Golden Age, before the invention of the arts, the earth produced food in such abundance that there was no need for agriculture: lived like gods without sorrow of heart and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them.
When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, they had all good things. They dwelt in peace. Plato in his Cratylus referred to an age of golden men and at some length on Ages of Man from Hesiod's Works and Days; the Roman poet Ovid simplified the concept by reducing the number of Ages to four: Gold, Bronze and Iron. Ovid's poetry, known to schoolboys from Antiquity through the Middle Ages and beyond, was a prime source for the transmission of the myth of the Golden Age during the period when Western Europe had lost direct contact with Greek literature. In Hesiod's version, the Golden Age ended when the Titan Prometheus conferred on mankind the gift of fire and all the other arts. For this, Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock in the Caucasus, where an eagle eternally ate at his liver; the gods sent the beautiful maiden Pandora to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus. The gods had entrusted Pandora with a box; the Orphic school, a mystery cult that originated in Thrace and spread to Greece in the 5th century BCE, held similar beliefs about the early days of man denominating the ages with metals.
In common with the many other mystery cults prevalent in the Graeco-Roman world, the world view of Orphism was cyclical. Initiation into its secret rites, together with ascetic practices, was supposed to guarantee the individual's soul eventual release from the grievous circle of mortality and communion with god. Orphics sometimes identified the Golden Age with the era of the god Phanes, regent over the Olympus before Cronus. In classical mythology however, the Golden Age was associated with the reign of Saturn. In the 5th century BCE, the philosopher Empedocles, like Hesiod before him, emphasized the idea of primordial innocence and harmony in all of nature, including human society, from which he maintained there had been a steady deterioration until the present. A tradition arose in Greece that the site of the original Golden Age had been Arcadia, an impoverished rural area of Greece where the herdsmen still lived on acorns and where the goat-footed god Pan had his home among the poplars on Mount Maenalus.
However, in the 3rd century BCE, the Greek poet, writing in Alexandria, set his pastoral poetry in on the lushly fertile island of Sicily, where he had been born. The protagonist of Theocritus's first Idyll, the goat herder, Daphnis, is taught to play the Syrinx by Pan himself. Writing in Latin during the turbulent period of revolutionary change at the end of the Roman Republic, the poet Virgil moved the setting for his pastoral imitations of Theocritus back to an idealized Arcadia in Greece, thus initiating a rich and resonant tradition in subsequent European literature. Virgil, introduced into his poetry the element of political allegory, absent in Theocritus intimating in his fourth Eclogue that a new Golden Age of peace and justice was about to return: Somewhat shortly before he wrote his epic poem the Aeneid, which dealt with the establishment of Roman Imperial rule, Virgil composed his Georgics, modeled directly on Hesiod's Works and Days an
Interpretatio graeca is a discourse in which ancient Greek religious concepts and practices and myths are used to interpret or attempt to understand the mythology and religion of other cultures. It is thus a comparative methodology that looks for shared characteristics; the phrase may describe Greek efforts to explain others' beliefs and myths, as when Herodotus describes Egyptian religion in terms of perceived Greek analogues, or when Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Plutarch document Roman cults and practices under the names of equivalent Greek deities. Interpretatio graeca may describe non-Greeks' interpretation of their own belief systems by comparison or assimilation with Greek models, as when Romans adapt Greek myths and iconography under the names of their own gods. Interpretatio romana is comparative discourse in reference to ancient Roman religion and myth, as in the formation of a distinctive Gallo-Roman religion. Both the Romans and the Gauls reinterpreted Gallic religious traditions in relation to Roman models Imperial cult.
Jan Assmann considers the polytheistic approach to internationalizing gods as a form of "intercultural translation": The great achievement of polytheism is the articulation of a common semantic universe.... The meaning of a deity is his or her specific character as it unfolded in myths, rites, so on; this character makes a deity comparable to other deities with similar traits. The similarity of gods makes their names mutually translatable. … The practice of translating the names of the gods created a concept of similarity and produced the idea or conviction that the gods are international. Pliny the Elder expressed the "translatability" of deities as "different names to different peoples"; this capacity made possible the religious syncretism of the Hellenistic era and the pre-Christian Roman Empire. Herodotus was one of the earliest authors to engage in this form of interpretation. In his observations regarding the Egyptians, he establishes Greco-Egyptian equivalents that endured into the Hellenistic era, including Amon/Zeus, Osiris/Dionysus, Ptah/Hephaestus.
In his observations regarding the Scythians, he equates their queen of the gods, Tabiti, to Hestia and Api to Zeus and Gaia and Argimpasa to Aphrodite Urania, whilst claiming that the Scythians worshipped equivalents to Herakles and Ares, but which he doesn't name. Some pairs of Greek and Roman gods, such as Zeus and Jupiter, are thought to derive from a common Indo-European archetype, thus exhibit shared functions by nature. Others required more expansive theological and poetic efforts: though both Ares and Mars are war gods, Ares was a minor figure in Greek religious practice and deprecated by the poets, while Mars was a father of the Roman people and a central figure of archaic Roman religion; some deities dating to Rome's oldest religious stratum, such as Janus and Terminus, had no Greek equivalent. Other Greek divine figures, most notably Apollo, were adopted directly into Roman culture, but underwent a distinctly Roman development, as when Augustus made Apollo one of his patron deities.
In the early period, Etruscan culture played an intermediary role in transmitting Greek myth and religion to the Romans, as evidenced in the linguistic transformation of Greek Heracles to Etruscan Hercle to Roman Hercules. The phrase interpretatio romana was first used by the Imperial-era historian Tacitus in the Germania. Tacitus reports that in a sacred grove of the Nahanarvali, "a priest adorned as a woman presides, but they commemorate gods who in Roman terms are Castor and Pollux." Elsewhere, he identifies the principal god of the Germans as Mercury referring to Wotan. Some information about the deities of the ancient Gauls, who left no written literature other than inscriptions, is preserved by Greco-Roman sources under the names of Greek and Latin equivalents. A large number of Gaulish theonyms or cult titles are preserved, for instance, in association with Mars; as with some Greek and Roman divine counterparts, the perceived similarities between a Gallic and a Roman or Greek deity may reflect a common Indo-European origin.
Lugus was identified with Nodens with Mars as healer and protector, Sulis with Minerva. In some cases, however, a Gallic deity is given an interpretatio romana by means of more than one god, varying among literary texts or inscriptions. Since the religions of the Greco-Roman world were not dogmatic, polytheism lent itself to multiplicity, the concept of "deity" was expansive, permitting multiple and contradictory functions within a single divinity, overlapping powers and functions among the diverse figures of each pantheon; these tendencies extended to cross-cultural identifications. In the Eastern empire, the Anatolian storm god with his double-headed axe became Jupiter Dolichenus, a favorite cult figure among soldiers. Roman scholars such as Varro interpreted the monotheistic god of the Jews into Roman terms as Caelus or Jupiter Optimus Maximus; some Greco-Roman authors seem to have understood the Jewish invocation of Yahweh Sabaoth as Sabazius. Interpretatio germanica is the practice by the Germanic peoples of identifying Roman gods with the names of Germanic deities.
According to Rudolf Simek, this occurred around the 1st century AD, when both cultures came into closer contact. Some evidence for interpretatio germanica exists in the Germanic translations of the Roman names for the days of the week: Sunday, the day of Sunnǭ, the sun, was earlier the day of Sol Invictus, th
Saturn is a god in ancient Roman religion, a character in myth as a god of generation, plenty, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. In developments, he came to be a god of time, his reign was depicted as a Golden Age of peace. The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury. In December, he was celebrated at what is the most famous of the Roman festivals, the Saturnalia, a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry. Saturn the planet and Saturday are both named after the god; the Roman land preserved the remembrance of a remote time during which Saturn and Janus reigned on the site of the city before its foundation: the Capitol was called mons Saturnius. 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 Livius Andronicus, Jupiter was called the son of Saturn. Saturn had two mistresses.
The name of his wife, the Roman equivalent of Greek Rhea, means "wealth, resources." The association with Ops is considered a development, however, as this goddess was paired with Consus. Earlier was Saturn's association with Lua, 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. According to Varro, Saturn's name was derived from satu, meaning "sowing". Though this etymology looks implausible on linguistic grounds it does reflect an original feature of the god. A more probable etymology connects the name with Etruscan god Satre and placenames such as Satria, an ancient town of Latium, Saturae palus, a marsh in Latium; this root may be related to Latin phytonym satureia. Another epithet, variably Sterculius and Sterces, referred to his agricultural functions. Agriculture was important to Roman identity, Saturn was a part of archaic Roman religion and ethnic identity.
His name appears in the ancient hymn of the Salian priests, his temple was the oldest known to have been recorded by the pontiffs. Quintus Lucilius Balbus gives a separate etymology in Cicero's De Natura Deorum. In this interpretation, the agricultural aspect of Saturn would be secondary to his primary relation with time and seasons. Since Time consumes all things, Balbus asserts. Since agriculture is so linked to seasons and therefore an understanding of the cyclical passage of time, it follows that agriculture would be associated with the deity Saturn; the temple of Saturn was located at the base of the Capitoline Hill, according to a tradition recorded by Varro known as Saturnius Mons, a row of columns from the last rebuilding of the temple still stands. The temple was consecrated in 497 BC but the area Saturni was built by king Tullus Hostilius as confirmed by archaeological studies conducted by E. Gjerstad, it housed the state treasury throughout Roman history. The position of Saturn's festival in the Roman calendar led to his association with concepts of time the temporal transition of the New Year.
In the Greek tradition, Cronus was sometimes conflated with Chronus, "Time," and his devouring of his children taken as an allegory for the passing of generations. The sickle or scythe of Father Time is a remnant of the agricultural implement of Cronus-Saturn, his aged appearance represents the waning of the old year with the birth of the new, in antiquity sometimes embodied by Aion. In late antiquity, Saturn is syncretized with a number of deities, begins to be depicted as winged, as is Kairos, "Timing, Right Time"; the figure of Saturn is one of the most complex in Roman religion. G. Dumézil refrained from discussing Saturn in his work on Roman religion on the grounds of insufficient knowledge. On the contrary, his follower Dominique Briquel has attempted a thorough interpretation of Saturn utilising Dumézil's three-functional theory of Indoeuropean religion, taking the ancient testimonies and the works of A. Brelich and G. Piccaluga as his basis; the main difficulty scholars find in studying Saturn is in assessing what is original of his figure and what is due to hellenising influences.
Moreover, some features of the god may be common to Cronus but are nonetheless ancient and can be considered proper to the Roman god, whereas others are later and arrived after 217 BC, the year in which the Greek customs of the Kronia were introduced into the Saturnalia. Among the features which are authentic of the Roman god, Briquel identifies: the time of his festival in the calendar, which corresponds to the date of the consecration of his temple; these three elements in Briquel's view indicate. The god's strict relationship with the cults of the Capitoline Hill and in particular with Jupiter are highlighted by the legends concerning the refusal of gods Iuventas and Terminus to leave their abode in the shrines on the Capitol
The festival calendar of Classical Athens involved the staging of a large number of festivals each year. The Panathenaea was the most important festival for Athens and one of the grandest in the entire ancient Greek world. Except for slaves, all inhabitants of the polis could take part in the festival; this holiday of great antiquity is believed to have been the observance of Athena's birthday and honoured the goddess as the city's patron divinity, Athena Polias. A procession assembled before dawn at the Dipylon gate in the northern sector of the city; the procession, led by the Kanephoros, made its way to the Areopagus and in front of the Temple of Athena Nike next to the Propylaea. Only Athenian citizens were allowed to enter the Acropolis; the procession passed the Parthenon and stopped at the great altar of Athena in front of the Erechtheum. Every four years a newly woven peplos was dedicated to Athena; the Dionysia was a large religious festival in ancient Athens in honor of the god Dionysus, the central event of, the performance of tragedies and, from 487 BCE, comedies.
It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia. The Dionysia comprised two related festivals, the Rural Dionysia and the City Dionysia, which took place in different parts of the year, they were an essential part of the Dionysian Mysteries. The Lenaia was an annual festival with a dramatic competition but one of the lesser festivals of Athens and Ionia in ancient Greece; the Lenaia took place in the month of Gamelion corresponding to January. The festival was in honour of Dionysus Lenaius. Lenaia comes from lenai, another name for the Maenads, the female worshippers of Dionysus; the Anthesteria, one of the four Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus, was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. At the centre of this wine-drinking festival was the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, the beginning of spring. Athenians of the Classical age were aware. Since the festival was celebrated by Athens and all the Ionian cities, it is assumed that it must have preceded the Ionian migration of the late eleventh or early tenth century BCE.
The Boedromia was an ancient Greek festival held at Athens on the 7th of Boedromion in the honour of Apollo Boedromios. The festival had a military connotation, thanks the god for his assistance to the Athenians during wars, it could commemorate a specific intervention at the origin of the festival. The event in question, according to the ancient writers, could be the help brought to Theseus in his war against the Amazons, or the assistance provided to the king Erechtheus during his struggle against Eumolpus. During the event, sacrifices were made to Artemis Agrotera; the Thargelia was one of the chief Athenian festivals in honour of the Delian Apollo and Artemis, held on their birthdays, the 6th and 7th of the month Thargelion. An agricultural festival, the Thargelia included a purifying and expiatory ceremony. While the people offered the first-fruits of the earth to the god in token of thankfulness, it was at the same time necessary to propitiate him, lest he might ruin the harvest by excessive heat accompanied by pestilence.
The purificatory preceded the thanksgiving service. On the 6th a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Chloe on the Acropolis, a swine to the Fates, but the most important ritual was the following: Two men, the ugliest that could be found were chosen to die, one for the men, the other for the women. On the day of the sacrifice they were led round with strings of figs on their necks, whipped on the genitals with rods of figwood and squills; when they reached the place of sacrifice on the shore, they were stoned to death, their bodies burnt, the ashes thrown into the sea. The Adonia, or Adonic feasts, were ancient feasts instituted in honour of Aphrodite and Adonis, observed with great solemnity among the Greeks, etc, it lasted two days, was celebrated by women exclusively. On the first day, they brought into the streets statues of Adonis; the second day was spent in feasting. The Thesmophoria was a festival held in Greek cities, in honour of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone; the name derives from laws by which men must work the land.
The Thesmophoria were the most widespread festivals and the main expression of the cult of Demeter, aside from the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Thesmophoria commemorated the third of the year when Demeter abstained from her role of goddess of the harvest and growth, their distinctive feature
Chronos is the personification of time in pre-Socratic philosophy and literature. Chronos was confused with, or consciously identified with, the Titan Cronus in antiquity due to the similarity in names; the identification became more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe. He was depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning the Zodiac Wheel. Chronos might be contrasted with the deity Aion as cyclical Time. Chronos is portrayed as an old, wise man with a long, grey beard, similar to Father Time. In some Greek sources, Kairos is mentioned as a brother of Chronos. However, other sources point out. During antiquity, Chronos was interpreted as Cronus. According to Plutarch, the Greeks believed. In addition to the name, the story of Cronus eating his children was interpreted as an allegory to a specific aspect of time held within Cronus' sphere of influence; as the theory went, Cronus represented the destructive ravages of time which consumed all things, a concept, expressed when the Titan king devoured the Olympian gods — the past consuming the future, the older generation suppressing the next generation.
During the Renaissance, the identification of Cronus and Chronos gave rise to "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe. The original meaning and etymology of the word chronos are uncertain. English words derived from it include chronology, chronic and chronicle. In the Orphic tradition, the unaging Chronos was "engendered" by "earth and water", produced Aether and Chaos, an egg, it produced the hermaphroditic god Phanes who gave birth to the first generation of gods and is the ultimate creator of the cosmos. Pherecydes of Syros in his lost Heptamychos, around 6th century BC, claimed that there were three eternal principles: Chronos and Chthonie; the semen of Chronos was produced the first generation of gods. Kirk, G. S. J. E. Raven, M. Schofield; the Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521274559. Plutarch, Volume V: Isis and Osiris; the E at Delphi. The Oracles at Delphi No Longer Given in Verse; the Obsolescence of Oracles. Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt.
Loeb Classical Library No. 306. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936. ISBN 978-0-674-99337-2. Online version at Harvard University Press. West, M. L; the Orphic Poems, Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-814854-8
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was the major urban center of the notable polis of the same name, located in Attica, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Isagoras; this system remained remarkably stable, with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 180 years, until 322 BC. The peak of Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of Pericles. In the classical period, Athens was a center for the arts and philosophy, home of Plato's Akademia and Aristotle's Lyceum, Athens was the birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, Aristophanes and many other prominent philosophers and politicians of the ancient world, it is referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization, the birthplace of democracy due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then-known European continent.
Hippias, son of Peisistratus, had ruled Athens jointly with his brother, from the death of Peisistratus c527. Following the assassination of Hipparchus c514, Hippias took on sole rule, in response to the loss of his brother, became a worse leader and disliked. Hippias exiled 700 of the Athenian noble families, amongst them Cleisthenes' family, the Alchmaeonids. Upon their exile, they went to Delphi, Herodotus says they bribed the Pythia to always tell visiting Spartans that they should invade Attica and overthrow Hippias; this worked after a number of times, Cleomenes led a Spartan force to overthrow Hippias, which succeeded, instated an oligarchy. Cleisthenes disliked the Spartan rule, along with many other Athenians, so made his own bid for power; the result of this was democracy in Athens, but considering Cleisthenes' motivation for using the people to gain power, as without their support, he would have been defeated, so Athenian democracy may be tinted by the fact its creation served the man who created it.
The reforms of Cleisthenes replaced the traditional four Ionic "tribes" with ten new ones, named after legendary heroes of Greece and having no class basis, which acted as electorates. Each tribe was in turn divided into three trittyes, while each trittys had one or more demes – depending on their population – which became the basis of local government; the tribes each selected fifty members by lot for the Boule, the council which governed Athens on a day-to-day basis. The public opinion of voters could be influenced by the political satires written by the comic poets and performed in the city theaters; the Assembly or Ecclesia was open to all full citizens and was both a legislature and a supreme court, except in murder cases and religious matters, which became the only remaining functions of the Areopagus. Most offices were filled by lot. Prior to the rise of Athens, Sparta, a city-state with a militaristic culture, considered itself the leader of the Greeks, enforced a hegemony; the silver mines of Laurion contributed to the development of Athens in the 5th century BC, when the Athenians learned to prospect and refine the ore and used the proceeds to build a massive fleet, at the instigation of Themistocles.
In 499 BC Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling against the Persian Empire. This provoked two Persian invasions of Greece, both of which were repelled under the leadership of the soldier-statesmen Miltiades and Themistocles. In 490 the Athenians, led by Miltiades, prevented the first invasion of the Persians, guided by king Darius I, at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 the Persians returned under a new ruler, Xerxes I; the Hellenic League led by the Spartan King Leonidas led 7,000 men to hold the narrow passageway of Thermopylae against the 100,000–250,000 army of Xerxes, during which time Leonidas and 300 other Spartan elites were killed. The Athenians led an indecisive naval battle off Artemisium. However, this delaying action was not enough to discourage the Persian advance which soon marched through Boeotia, setting up Thebes as their base of operations, entered southern Greece; this forced the Athenians to evacuate Athens, taken by the Persians, seek the protection of their fleet.
Subsequently, the Athenians and their allies, led by Themistocles, defeated the Persian navy at sea in the Battle of Salamis. Xerxes had built himself a throne on the coast. Instead, the Persians were routed. Sparta's hegemony was passing to Athens, it was Athens that took the war to Asia Minor; these victories enabled it to bring most of the Aegean and many other parts of Greece together in the Delian League, an Athenian-dominated alliance. Pericles – an Athenian general and orator – distinguished himself above the other personalities of the era, men who excelled in politics, architecture, sculpture and literature, he fostered arts and literature and gave to Athens a splendor which would never return throughout its history. He improved the life of the citizens. Hence, he gave his name to the Athenian Golden Age. Silver mined in Laurium in southeastern Attica contributed to the prosperity of this "Golden" Age of A
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, masters provided table service for their slaves. A common custom was the election of a "King of the Saturnalia", who would give orders to people and preside over the merrymaking; the gifts exchanged were gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it "the best of days". Saturnalia was the Roman equivalent to the earlier Greek holiday of Kronia, celebrated during the Attic month of Hekatombaion in late midsummer, it held theological importance for some Romans, who saw it as a restoration of the ancient Golden Age, when the world was ruled by Saturn.
The Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry interpreted the freedom associated with Saturnalia as symbolizing the "freeing of souls into immortality". Saturnalia may have influenced some of the customs associated with celebrations in western Europe occurring in midwinter traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Epiphany. In particular, the historical western European Christmas custom of electing a "Lord of Misrule" may have its roots in Saturnalia celebrations. In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity, said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in a state of innocence; the revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia, celebrated on the twelfth day of the month of Hekatombaion, which occurred from around mid-July to mid-August on the Attic calendar; the Greek writer Athenaeus cites numerous other examples of similar festivals celebrated throughout the Greco-Roman world, including the Cretan festival of Hermaia in honor of Hermes, an unnamed festival from Troezen in honor of Poseidon, the Thessalian festival of Peloria in honor of Zeus Pelorios, an unnamed festival from Babylon.
He mentions that the custom of masters dining with their slaves was associated with the Athenian festival of Anthesteria and the Spartan festival of Hyacinthia. The Argive festival of Hybristica, though not directly related to the Saturnalia, involved a similar reversal of roles in which women would dress as men and men would dress as women; the ancient Roman historian Justinus credits Saturn with being a historical king of the pre-Roman inhabitants of Italy: The first inhabitants of Italy were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, undivided, as one estate for the use of every one. Although the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects; the Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity, the major source for information about the holiday.
In one of the interpretations in Macrobius's work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth. The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the "Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun", on 23 December; the popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, many of its customs were recast into or at least influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year. Saturnalia underwent a major reform in 217 BC, after the Battle of Lake Trasimene, when the Romans suffered one of their most crushing defeats by Carthage during the Second Punic War; until that time, they had celebrated the holiday according to Roman custom. It was after a consultation of the Sibylline books that they adopted "Greek rite", introducing sacrifices carried out in the Greek manner, the public banquet, the continual shouts of io Saturnalia that became characteristic of the celebration.
Cato the Elder remembered a time before the so-called "Greek" elements had been added to the Roman Saturnalia. It was not unusual for the Romans to offer cult to the deities of other nations in the hope of redirecting their favor, the Second Punic War in particular created pressures on Roman society that led to a number of religious innovations and reforms. Robert Palmer has argued that the introduction of new rites at this time was in part an effort to appease Ba'al Hammon, the Carthaginian god, regarded as the counterpart of the Roman Saturn and Greek Cronus; the table service that masters offered their slaves thus would have extended to Carthaginian or African war captives. The statue of Saturn at his main temple had its feet bound in wool, removed for the holiday as an act of liberation; the official rituals were carried out according to "Greek rite". The sacrifice was officiated by a priest.