Temple of Saturn

December was the tenth month of the year after March, which was the first one on the old Roman calendar. The names of most months originated in this first calendar, with an uncounted gap from December to March when no agricultural work was done.

The Faunalia Rustica (December 5) honored Faunus in his manifestation as protective deity of agriculture and of shepherds.

The Saturnalia (December 17-23) was a winter solstice festival to honor Saturnus as the god of sowing and recalled the "Golden Age" of Roman mythology when he ruled Latium at the beginning of the world. It was reportedly the most popular of all Roman festivals. Shops, law courts, and schools were shut; it was a time of relaxation and general merriment.

The festival opened with a great sacrifice at the temple of Saturn, the ruins of which are shown on the left. It was situated at the foot of the Capitoline hill and served as Rome's treasury. Within the temple was a hollow statue of Saturnus that was filled with oil. On the first day of the festival, the woollen bonds that fettered the statue were undone. Perhaps it was a gesture to retain both the presence of the god and his goodwill.

Here is some additional information about various other festivals in December.

  • An article in Wikipedia provides basic facts about the Faunalia Rustica (December 5), a festival that honored Faunus, protective god of fields and flocks.
  • An entry in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities  describes the Consualia (December 15), a festival that honored Consus, god of secret deliberations.
  • Another entry describes the Opalia (December 19), a festival that honored Ops, wife of Saturnus and goddess of plenty and fertility.
  • A brief article explains the role of Acca Larentia in the Larentalia (December 23), a performance of funeral rites at her supposed tomb.
  • Another Roman calendar details the festivals of Neptune (December 1), Bona Dea (December 3), and Faunus (December 5).
  • A calendar for The Roman Month of December shows various festivals and other notable dates, like the festival of Tiberinalia (December 8) and the execution of Cicero (December 7).

    A calendar for the Advent of Saturnalia provides thirty-one daily surprises during the month of December in 2018.

    photo courtesy of Maecenas

    [ back to the vicus ]