Few other Roman gods have the same name recognition and respect as Saturn. Saturn was a prominent god to the Romans who was in charge of many of the most important aspects of their lives. However, his name also lives on today in several ways. Anybody interested in history, astronomy, or the roots of today’s calendar needs to take a look at Saturn.
Roman gods all derive their names and foundation myths, to a certain degree, from the earlier Greeks. The god Saturn was originally a deity known as Cronus. Cronus was the Greek deity in charge of time. He was one of the Titans who ruled the world prior to the advent of the gods. As part of the Greek Pantheon, Cronus was a frequently worshiped deity throughout the Greek city-states in the first millennium BCE.
Eventually, the Greek city-states were invaded and taken over by the Romans. The Romans saw themselves as carrying on the heritage of the Greeks through their art, culture, and religion. A number of Greek deities made their way into Roman myths and gained Latin names in the process. After this shift, Cronus was adopted by the Romans and became known as the god Saturn. The Romans also changed the foundation story of Saturn to a certain degree. They associated his past with the city of Roman instead of as a titan in Greece.
Saturn was one of the most important gods in the Roman pantheon. He was known as a god of time, wealth, and seasons. Saturn was viewed as a mythical ruler of Rome who had been in charge of the land around the city. He reigned peacefully along with the two-headed god Janus. As a result, his name was affixed to one of the largest temples in ancient Rome. The Romans also viewed Saturn as a god of agricultural wealth. Like other gods of agricultural wealth across the ancient world, the Romans held a festival every year dedicated to him. The festival, known as Saturnalia, was one of the largest and most extravagant on the Roman calendar. Saturnalia occurred around December 17-23 at the time of the winter solstice. It was performed in order to ensure the best possible harvest.
The clearest legacy of Saturn today is the planet. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second gas giant. All of the eight planets in the solar system are named after Roman gods. Jupiter received its name because of its massive size. Since the planet Saturn was similar to Jupiter, it received the name of Jupiter’s father Saturn. While Saturn today is known for its massive rings, those rings were only discovered during the 17th century. It was originally known purely as a large planet that reminded most viewers of the planet Jupiter.
Another way in which Saturn’s legacy has carried on to the present day is through the name of one of the days of the week. Saturday is derived from a Roman day meaning “Saturn’s day.” This name is similar to other aspects of the calendar named after Roman gods. For instance, January is named after the two-faced Roman god Janus and May is named after the Roman god Maia. In addition, the current image of Father Time comes from earlier depictions of Saturn as the god of time and agriculture.
Saturn was a curious god for the Romans. He was not the most substantial or powerful god in the Roman pantheon. He did not attract all of the attention from the Romans or lend his name to all of their greatest temples. But his legacy, in the form of Saturn and Saturday, make his name more ready to most people than the names of nearly every other Roman god.