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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 connected with the verb sero, sup. satum. The

Bust of Saturnus. (Vatican.)

Romans invariably identified Saturnus with the Greek Cronos, and hence made the former the father of Iupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Iuno, etc. (see Cronus); but there is, in reality, no resemblance 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. Saturnus, then, deriving his name from sowing, is called the introducer of civilization and social order, both of which are inseparably connected with agriculture. His reign is conceived for the same reason to have been the Golden Age of Italy, and more especially of the Aborigines, his subjects (Varro, R. R. iii. 1, 5). As agricultural industry is the source of wealth and plenty, his wife was Ops, the representative of plenty (Varro, L. L. v. 57). By a confusion of Saturn with Cronos and this with the word Χρόνος, he is also spoken of as the god of time (Cic. N. D. ii. 25, 64); and Curtius identifies him with the Sun god of the Phœnicians, i. e. Baal (iv. 3, 15).

The legend ran that the god came to Italy in the reign of Ianus, by whom he was hospitably received, and that he 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 to the Capitol, there stood in aftertimes the temple of Saturn. Saturn then taught the people agriculture, suppressed their savage mode of life, and introduced among them civilization and morality. The result was that the whole country was called Saturnia, or the land of plenty. Saturn was suddenly removed from earth to the abodes of the gods, whereupon Ianus erected an altar to him in the Forum. 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. The statue of Saturnus was hollow and filled with oil, probably to denote the fertility of Latium in olives; in his hand he held a crooked pruning-knife, and his feet were surrounded with a woollen ribbon. 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; the temple itself was used as the treasury of the State, and many records also were deposited in it. On the Saturnalia or feast held in honour of Saturn at Rome, see Saturnalia.

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