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On this page: Saturnalia – Saturnus – Satyric Drama – Satyrs



Saturnalia. A Roman festival in honour of Saturnus (q.v.).

Satnrnus (" the sower"). An ancient Italian god of seedtime and harvest, with a sickle as symbol; husband of Ops, father of Picus. In later times he was identified with the Greek Kronos, who, thrust out by Zeus, came across the sea to Latium, was received by Janus, settled as king on the Capitoline Hill (as it was called in after times), brought agriculture and its blessings to the people, and subsequently disappeared. His reign was regarded as the golden age of Italy. At the foot of the Capitoline Hill a temple, built by the last Tarquin on the site of a very ancient altar, was dedicated to him and to his wife Ops. Under this temple was the Roman treasury ((erarium Batumi; No. 4 in plan, s.v. forum). Ex­cept during his festival, his statue was, throughout the year, wound round the feet with woollen fillets. People offered sacri­fices to him with uncovered head, according to the Greek rites. His own festival, the Saturnalia, took place on December 17, and consisted of sacrifices in the open air in front of the temple and also of an outdoor banquet, at which the senators and knights appeared, after laying aside the tdga for a loosely fitting gown called synthesis. After the feasting, they separated with the cry, "lo Saturnalia!" The festival was also celebrated in private society; schools had holidays, law-courts were closed, all work was stopped, war was deferred, and no punishment of criminals took place for seven days from December 17 to 23. During that time there were all kinds of fantastic amuse­ments. The festival was symbolical of a return to the golden age. People gave presents to one another, in particular wax tapers (cerli) and dolls (slgilliirla). They also entertained one another, and amused themselves with social games; in particular, they gambled for nuts—the symbol of fruit-fulness. Every freedom was given to slaves, and they were first entertained at the banquet and served by their masters, in re­membrance that under the rule of Saturnus there had been no differences in social rank.

Satyric Drama. One of the three varieties of the Attic drama. Its origin may be traced back to Pratinas of Phllus (about 500 b.c.). It is probable that, after settling in Athens, he adapted the old dithyramb with its chorus of Satyrs, which was cus­tomary in his native place, to the form of tragedy which had been recently invented

in Athens. This new kind of drama met with so much approval, and was so much developed by Pratiuas himself, as well as by his sou Aristeas, by Choerllus, by jEschylus, and the dramatists who suc­ceeded him, that it became the custom to-act a satyric drama after a set of three tragedies. The seriousness of the preceding plays was thus relieved, while the chorus-of Satyrs and Slleui, the companions of Dionysus, served to indicate the original connexion between that divinity and the drama. The material for a satyric drama, like that for a tragedy, was taken from an epic or legendary story, and the action, which took place under an open sky, in a lonely wood, the haunt of the Satyrs, had generally an element of tragedy; but the characteristic solemnity and stateliness of tragedy was somewhat diminished, without in any way impairing the splendour of the tragic costume and the dignity of the heroes introduced. The amusing effect of the play did not depend so much on the action itself, as was the case in comedy, but rather on the relation of the chorus to that action. That relation was in keeping with the wanton, saucy, and insolent, and at the same time cowardly, nature of the Satyrs. The number of persons in the chorus is not known, probably there were either twelve or fifteen, as in tragedy. In accordance with the popular notions about the Satyrs, their costume consisted of the skin of a goat, deer, or panther, thrown over the naked body, and besides this a hideous mask and bris­tling hair. The dance of the chorus in the satyric drama was called slcinnls, and con­sisted of a fantastic kind of skipping and jumping. The only satyric play now ex­tant is the Cyclops of Euripides. The Romans did not imitate this kind of drama in their literature, although, like the Greeks, they used to have merry after-pieces follow­ing their serious plays. (See exodium.)

Satyrs. In Greek mythology, spirits of the woodland, in the train of Dionysus, with puck noses, bristling hair, goat-like ears, and short tails. They are depicted as. wanton, cunning, and cowardly creatures, and always fond of wine and women. They dwell in woods and on mountains, where they hunt, and tend cattle, dance and frolic with the Nymphs (for whom they lie in ambush), make music with pipe and flute, and revel with Dionysus. Their own special dance is called slcinnis. They were considered as foes to mankind, because they played people all kinds of roguish pranks,

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