Macrobius

Macrobius, fully Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, also known as Theodosius, was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, at the transition of the Roman to the Byzantine Empire, and when Latin was as widespread as Greek among the elite. He is primarily known for his writings, which include the widely copied and read Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis ("Commentary on the Dream of Scipio"), which was one of the most important sources for Platonism in the Latin West during the Middle Ages, the Saturnalia, a compendium of ancient Roman religious and antiquarian lore, and De differentiis et societatibus graeci latinique verbi ("On the Differences and Similarities of the Greek and Latin Verb"), which is now lost.

Name

The correct order of his names is "Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius", which is how it appears in the earliest manuscripts of the Saturnalia, and how he is addressed in the excerpts from his lost De differentiis. Only in later manuscripts were his names reversed as "Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius", which James Willis then adopted for his edition of the Commentary. Alan Cameron notes that Cassiodorus and Boethius both refer to him as "Macrobius Theodosius", while he was known during his lifetime as "Theodosius": the dedication to the De differentiis is addressed Theodosius Symmacho suo ("Theodosius to his Symmachus"), and by the dedicatory epistle to Avianus's Fables, where he is addressed as Theodosi optime.[1]

Life

Macrobius and Eustachius
Macrobius presenting his work to his son Eustachius. From an 1100 copy of Macrobius' Dream of Scipio.

Little is known for certain about Macrobius, but there are many theories and speculations about him. He states at the beginning of his Saturnalia that he was "born under a foreign sky" (sub alio ortos caelo), and both of his major works are dedicated to his son, Eustachius.[a] His major works have led experts to assume that he was a pagan.

Which "foreign sky" Macrobius was born under has been the subject of much speculation. Terrot Glover considers Macrobius either an ethnic Greek, or born in one of the Greek-speaking parts of the Roman Empire, such as Egypt, due to his intimate knowledge of Greek literature. J. E. Sandys went further and argued that Macrobius was born in one of the Greek provinces. However other experts, beginning with Ludwig van Jan, point out that despite his familiarity with Greek literature Macrobius was far more familiar with Latin than Greek—as evidenced by his enthusiasm for Vergil and Cicero—and favor North Africa, which was part of the Latin-speaking portion of the Roman Empire.[3]

Scholars have attempted to identify him with a Macrobius who is mentioned in the Codex Theodosianus as a praetorian prefect of Spain (399–400), and a proconsul of Africa (410).[4] The Codex Theodosianus also records a praepositus (or lord chamberlain) named Macrobius in 422.[5] A number of older authorities go so far as to identify Macrobius the author with the first, and date his floruit to 399–410. There are objections to either identification: as Alan Cameron notes, the complete name of the first candidate is attested in an inscription to be "Flavius Macrobius Maximianus", while the second is excluded because "A praepositus must at this period have been a eunuch."[6]

However, since Macrobius is frequently referred to as vir clarissimus et inlustris, a title which was achieved by holding public office, we can reasonably expect his name to appear in the Codex Theodosianus. Further, Cameron points out that during his lifetime Macrobius was referred to as "Theodosius", and looking for that name Cameron found a Theodosius who was praetorian prefect of Italy in 430. "It is significant that the only surviving law addressed to this Theodosius sanctions a privilege for Africa Proconsularis on the basis of information received concerning Byzacena," Cameron notes.[7]

Works

Commentary on the "Dream of Scipio"

Macrobius's most influential book—and one of the most widely cited books of the Middle Ages—was a commentary in two books on the Dream of Scipio narrated by Cicero at the end of his Republic. The nature of the dream, in which the elder Scipio appears to his (adopted) grandson and describes the life of the good after death and the constitution of the universe from a Stoic and Neo-Platonic point of view, gave occasion for Macrobius to discourse upon the nature of the cosmos, transmitting much classical philosophy to the later Middle Ages.[8] In astronomy, this work is noted for giving the diameter of the Sun as twice the diameter of the Earth.[9] Of a third work On the Differences and Similarities of the Greek and Latin Verb, we only possess an abstract by a certain Johannes, doubtfully identified with Johannes Scotus Eriugena (9th century).[8]

See editions by Ludwig von Jan (1848–1852, with a bibliography of previous editions, and commentary), Franz Eyssenhardt (1893, Teubner text), James Willis (1994, new Teubner), and R. A. Kaster (OCT and Loeb, 2011); on the sources of the Saturnalia see H. Linke (1880) and Georg Wissowa (1880). The grammatical treatise will be found in Jan's edition and Heinrich Keil's Grammatici latini; see also Georg Friedrich Schömann, Commentatio macrobiana (1871).

Saturnalia

Macrobii scipionis saturnalorium ludguni paganum 1560
Early printed edition of Macrobius's Somnium Scipionis and Saturnalia.

Macrobius's Saturnalia (Latin: Saturnaliorum Libri Septem, "Seven Books of the Saturnalia") consists of an account of the discussions held at the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus during the holiday of the Saturnalia. It contains a great variety of curious historical, mythological, critical, antiquarian and grammatical discussions. "The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet."[10]

Editions and translations

  • Robert A. Kaster (ed.), Macrobius: Saturnalia. Loeb classical library 510-512. Cambridge, MA/ London: Harvard University Press, 2011. 3 volumes.
  • Percival Vaughan Davies (trans.), Macrobius: The Saturnalia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.
  • William Harris Stahl (trans.), Macrobius: Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952. (Second printing, with revisions, 1966)
  • Macrobius, Ambrosius Aurelius Theodosius (1400s). Seven Books of the Saturnalia: Codex from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence (in Latin). World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-02-28.

Legacy

A prominent lunar crater is named after Macrobius.[11]

Macrobius Cove in Antarctica is named after Macrobius.

Gallery

Cicero's Dream of Scipio described the Earth as a globe of insignificant size in comparison to the remainder of the cosmos.[12] Many early medieval manuscripts of Macrobius include maps of the Earth, including the antipodes, zonal maps showing the Ptolemaic climates derived from the concept of a spherical Earth and a diagram showing the Earth (labeled as globus terrae, the sphere of the Earth) at the center of the hierarchically ordered planetary spheres.[13] (See also: flat Earth).

Images from a 12th-century manuscript of Macrobius's Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis (Parchment, 50 ff.; 23.9 × 14 cm; Southern France). Date: ca. 1150. Source: Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, ms. NKS 218 4°.

Macrobius

Initial E shaped in the form of a writing man, probably representing Macrobius himself.

Macrobius, universe with the earth in the centre

The Universe, the Earth in the centre, surrounded by the five planets, the sun and the moon, within the zodiacal signs.

Macrobius, climatic zones

The five climes of the Earth. Frozen climes in yellow; Temperate climes in blue; Torrid clime in red.

Macrobius, mappa mundi

Sketch map showing the inhabited northern region separated from the antipodes by an imagined ocean at the equator.

Macrobius, lunar eclipse

Diagram showing a lunar eclipse.

Macrobius, solar eclipse

Diagram showing a solar eclipse.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Alan Cameron notes that several of the earliest manuscripts of his works spell his son's name Eustathius, then after pointing out that a certain Plotinus Eustathius was Urban prefect in 462 observes "Plotinus would be a peculiarly appropriate name for a neoplatonist philosopher and keen admirer of the great Lycopolitan (cf. Comm. I, 8, 5) to have given his son." There is also a Macrobius Plotinus Eudoxius who collaborated with Memmius Symmachus over an edition of Macrobius' Commentary.[2]

References

Citations

  1. ^ See Cameron, "The Date and Identity of Macrobius", Journal of Roman Studies, 56 (1966), p. 27 and notes.
  2. ^ Cameron, "Date and Identity", p. 38.
  3. ^ William Harris Stahl, Macrobius: Commentary on the Dream of Scipio (New York: Columbia University, 1952), pp. 4f
  4. ^ Codex Theodosianus XIV.10.15, VIII.5.61, XI.28.6
  5. ^ Codex Theodosianus VI.8.1
  6. ^ Cameron, "Date and Identity", pp. 25f
  7. ^ Cameron, "Date and Identity", pp. 26f
  8. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Macrobius, Ambrosius Theodosius" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 269.
  9. ^ Hall, Graham; Elliott, Ian; Joeveer, Mihkel; Bònoli, Fabrizio; Langermann, Y. Tzvi; Casulleras, Josep; Sarma, Ke Ve; Bell, Trudy E.; Gurshtein, Alexander A.; Cunning, David; Wegner, Gary A.; Berggren, Len; Bònoli, Fabrizio; Hatch, Robert Alan; Jarrell, Richard A.; Durham, Ian T.; Durham, Ian T.; Snedegar, Keith; Trimble, Virginia; Dick, Steven J.; McCarthy, Dennis D.; Charette, François; Bolt, Marvin; Belenkiy, Ari; McFarland, John; Jackson, Francine; Green, Daniel W. E.; Ikeyama, Setsuro; Snedegar, Keith; et al. (2007). "Macrobius, Ambrosius (Theodosius)". The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer. p. 723. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-30400-7_882. ISBN 978-0-387-30400-7.
  10. ^ "Seven Books of the Saturnalia". World Digital Library. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
  11. ^ International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature". USGS. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  12. ^ Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, transl. W. H. Stahl, (New York: Columbia Univ. Pr., 1952), chaps. v-vii, (pp. 200-212).
  13. ^ B. Eastwood and G. Graßhoff, Planetary Diagrams for Roman Astronomy in Medieval Europe, ca. 800-1500, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 94, 3 (Philadelphia, 2004), pp. 49-50.

Bibliography

  • Brigitte Englisch: Die Artes liberales im frühen Mittelalter (5.–9. Jahrhundert). Das Quadrivium und der Komputus als Indikatoren für Kontinuität und Erneuerung der exakten Wissenschaften zwischen Antike und Mittelalter. Steiner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-515-06431-1
  • Frateantonio, C., "Praetextatus – Verteidiger des römischen Glaubens? Zur gesellschaftlichen (Neu-)Inszenierung römischer Religion in Macrobius' Saturnalien," Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum, 11,2 (2007), 360–377.
  • Kaster, R. (ed), Studies on the Text of Macrobius’s ‘Saturnalia’ (New York, 2010) (American Philological Association. American Classical Studies, 55).
  • Cameron, A., The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford, 2011).

External links

Aphroditus

Aphroditus (Greek: Ἀφρόδιτος Aphroditos) was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens in a transvestite rite.

Aphroditus was portrayed as having a female shape and clothing like Aphrodite's but also a phallus, and hence, a male name. This deity would have arrived in Athens from Cyprus in the 4th century BC. In the 5th century BC, however, there existed hermae of Aphroditus, or phallic statues with a female head.According to Macrobius, who mentions the goddess in his Saturnalia, Philochorus, in his Atthis (referred to by Macrobius), identifies this male-female god with the Moon and says that at its sacrifices men and women exchanged clothing. Philostratus, in describing the rituals involved in the festivals, said that the image or the impersonator of the god was accompanied by a large train of followers in which girls mingled with men because the festivals allowed "women to act the part of men, and men put on woman's clothing and play the woman".Aphroditus is the same as the later god Hermaphroditus, whose name means "Aphroditus in the form of a herm"—a statue shaped as a quadrangular pillar surmounted by a head or bust, and first occurs in the Characters of Theophrastus. Photius also explained that Aphroditus was Hermaphroditus, and cited fragments from Attic comedies mentioning the divinity. In later mythology Hermaphroditus came to be regarded as the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.One of the earliest surviving images from Athens is a fragment (late 4th century BC), found in the Athenian agora, of a clay mould for a terracotta figurine. The figurine would have stood about 30 cm high, represented in a style known as άνασυρόμενος (anasyromenos), a female lifting her dress to reveal male genitals, a gesture that was believed to have apotropaic qualities, averting evil influences and bestowing good luck.This combination of the male and female in one divinity and being associated with the moon, both of which were considered to have fertilizing powers, was regarded as having an influence over the entire animal and vegetable creation.

Carmichael (crater)

Carmichael is a lunar impact crater that is located along the eastern edge of the Sinus Amoris, in the northeastern quadrant of the Moon's near side. Its diameter is 20 km. It was named after American psychologist Leonard Carmichael. It lies within a couple of crater diameters south-southwest of the smaller crater Hill. Further to the east-northeast is the prominent crater Macrobius. Carmichael was designated Macrobius A before being given its current name by the IAU.

Carmichael is generally circular, with a small floor at the middle of the sloping interior walls. There is a low rise of scree along the southeast inner wall. The crater is free of notable impacts along the rim or the interior, although a tiny craterlet is situated in the lunar mare just outside the rim to the south-southwest.

Esclangon (crater)

Esclangon is a lunar impact crater that is located in the rugged terrain to the northwest of the prominent crater Macrobius, and east of Sinus Amoris. Its diameter is 15 km. It was named after French astronomer Ernest Esclangon. This formation was previously designated Macrobius L. Just to the west-southwest is the crater Hill. Lacus Bonitatis, the Lake of Good, is located to the east and northeast of Esclangon.

The interior of this crater has been flooded, leaving only a low rim above the surface being only about 400 meters deep. The rim is not quite circular, having bulges to the northeast and northwest, most likely the result of smaller craters that have merged with the main rim. The interior surface is level and nearly featureless.

Fauna (deity)

In ancient Roman religion, Fauna [fau̯na] is a goddess said in differing ancient sources to be the wife, sister, or daughter of Faunus (the Roman counterpart of Pan). Varro regarded her as the female counterpart of Faunus, and said that the fauni all had prophetic powers. She is also called Fatua or Fenta Fauna.

Franz (crater)

File:

Franz is a small lunar impact crater identified during the Apollo mission in August 1971 and located along the eastern edge of the Sinus Amoris, a bay that forms a northern extension to the Mare Tranquillitatis. Its diameter is 25 km. It was named after German astronomer Julius Heinrich Franz. It lies to the southwest of the prominent crater Macrobius. To the north is the smaller Carmichael, and to the northwest is the diminutive Theophrastus.

The rim of this crater has been eroded due to subsequent impacts, although it retains a generally circular form. The interior has been flooded, leaving only a narrow inner wall and a low surviving rim. This floor has the same albedo as the surrounding terrain, and is not as dark as the lunar mare surface to the north and west. Attached to the exterior of the eastern rim is Proclus E, a merged double-crater formation. Proclus lies to the east across the Palus Somni, or Marsh of Sleep.

Fredholm (crater)

Fredholm is a small lunar impact crater that is located in the rugged ground to the west of the Mare Crisium. It was named after Swedish mathematician Erik I. Fredholm. It was previously designated Macrobius D. It lies midway between the prominent craters Macrobius to the north and Proclus almost due south.

This is a circular, symmetrical formation with a bowl-shaped interior. The inner walls gradually slope down towards the small, central floor, which is less than one quarter the total diameter of the crater. Neatly attached to the northern rim is the smaller Macrobius E.

Janus

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (; Latin: IANVS (Iānus), pronounced [ˈjaː.nus]) is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus (Ianuarius), but according to ancient Roman farmers' almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The gates of a building in Rome named after him (not a temple, as it is often called, but an open enclosure with gates at each end) were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often). As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbor and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.

Janus had no flamen or specialised priest (sacerdos) assigned to him, but the King of the Sacred Rites (rex sacrorum) himself carried out his ceremonies. Janus had an ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies throughout the year. As such, Janus was ritually invoked at the beginning of each ceremony, regardless of the main deity honored on any particular occasion.The ancient Greeks had no equivalent to Janus, whom the Romans claimed as distinctively their own.

Julia the Elder

Julia the Elder (30 October 39 BC – AD 14), known to her contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia (Classical Latin: IVLIA•CAESARIS•FILIA or IVLIA•AVGVSTI•FILIA), was the daughter of Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor, and his second wife, Scribonia. Julia was also stepsister and second wife of the Emperor Tiberius; maternal grandmother of the Emperor Caligula and the Empress Agrippina the Younger; grandmother-in-law of the Emperor Claudius; and maternal great-grandmother of the Emperor Nero.

Julian calendar

The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC (708 AUC), was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect on 1 January 45 BC (709 AUC), by edict. It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

The Julian calendar is still used in parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in parts of Oriental Orthodoxy and Anabaptism, as well as by the Berbers.

During the 20th and 21st centuries, the date according to the Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian date, and after the year 2100 will be one day more.

Lacus Bonitatis

Lacus Bonitatis (Latin for Lake of Goodness) is a small lunar mare that lies to the northwest of the prominent crater Macrobius. Further to the north of Lacus Bonitatis is the Montes Taurus mountain range.

This mare is an irregular region of basaltic lava with uneven borders. The mare lies within a diameter of 122 km and the longest dimension trends from the southwest to the northeast. The centre coordinates of Lacus Bonitatis are 23.2°N 44.3°E / 23.2; 44.3.

Macrobius (crater)

Macrobius is a prominent lunar impact crater located to the northwest of the Mare Crisium. Its diameter is 63 km. It was named after ancient Roman writer Macrobius. It lies on the southeast edge of the Lacus Bonitatis, a small lunar mare. The somewhat smaller crater Tisserand lies just to the east.

The outer wall of Macrobius has a multiply terraced inner surface, with some slumping along the top of the rim. The small satellite crater Macrobius C lies across the western rim, but the wall is otherwise relatively free of significant wear. In the center of the floor is a central mountain complex. There is a low ridge in the western interior, but the remainder of the floor is relatively level.

Macrobius (priest)

Macrobius was an Irish priest in the twelfth century: he was Archbishop of Dublin then Bishop of Glendalough.

Maia

Maia ( or ; Greek: Μαῖα; Latin: Maia), in ancient Greek religion, is one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes.

Maia is the daughter of Atlas and Pleione the Oceanid, and is the oldest of the seven Pleiades. They were born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and are sometimes called mountain nymphs, oreads; Simonides of Ceos sang of "mountain Maia" (Maiados oureias) "of the lovely black eyes." Because they were daughters of Atlas, they were also called the Atlantides.

Nundinae

The nundinae, sometimes anglicized to nundines, were the market days of the ancient Roman calendar, forming a kind of weekend including, for a certain period, rest from work for the ruling class (Patricians).The nundinal cycle, market week, or 8-day week (Latin: nundinum or internundinum) was the cycle of days preceding and including each nundinae. These were marked on fasti using nundinal letters from A to H. The earliest form of the Roman calendar is sometimes said to have included exactly 38 such cycles, running for 304 days from March to December before an unorganized expanse of about 50 winter days. The lengths of the Republican and Julian calendars, however, were not evenly divisible by 8; under these systems, the nundinae fell on a different letter each year. These letters formed the basis of the later Christian dominical letters.

Poplifugia

The poplifugia or populifugia (Latin: the day of the people's flight), was a festival of ancient Rome celebrated on July 5, according to Varro, in commemoration of the flight of the Romans, when the inhabitants of Ficuleae and Fidenae appeared in arms against them, shortly after the burning of the city by the Gauls (see Battle of the Allia); the traditional victory of the Romans, which followed, was commemorated on July 7 (called the Nonae Caprotinae as a feast of Juno Caprotina), and on the next day was the Vitulatio, supposed to mark the thank-offering of the pontifices for the event. Macrobius, who wrongly places the Poplifugia on the nones, says that it commemorated a flight before the Tuscans, while Dionysius refers its origin to the time when the patricians murdered Romulus after the people had fled from a public assembly on account of rain and darkness.

Roman calendar

The Roman calendar was the calendar used by the Roman kingdom and republic. The term often includes the Julian calendar established by the reforms of the dictator Julius Caesar and emperor Augustus in the late 1st century BC and sometimes includes any system dated by inclusive counting towards months' kalends, nones, and ides in the Roman manner. The term usually excludes the Alexandrian calendar of Roman Egypt, which continued the unique months of that land's former calendar; the Byzantine calendar of the later Roman Empire, which usually dated the Roman months in the simple count of the ancient Greek calendars; and the Gregorian calendar, which refined the Julian system to bring it into still closer alignment with the solar year and is the basis of the current international standard.

Roman dates were counted inclusively forward to the next of three principal days: the first of the month (the kalends), a day less than the middle of the month (the ides), and eight days—nine, counting inclusively—before this (the nones). The original calendar consisted of 10 months beginning in spring with March; winter was left as an unassigned span of days. These months ran for 38 nundinal cycles, each forming an eight-day week (counted inclusively, hence the name) ended by religious rituals and a public market. The winter period was later divided into two months, January and February. The legendary early kings Romulus and Numa Pompilius were traditionally credited with establishing this early fixed calendar, which bears traces of its origin as an observational lunar one. In particular, the kalends, nones, and ides seem to have derived from the first sighting of the crescent moon, the first-quarter moon, and the full moon respectively. The system ran well short of the solar year, and it needed constant intercalation to keep religious festivals and other activities in their proper seasons. For superstitious reasons, such intercalation occurred within the month of February even after it was no longer considered the last month.

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, years began to be dated by consulships and control over intercalation was granted to the pontifices, who eventually abused their power by lengthening years controlled by their political allies and shortening the years in their rivals' terms of office. Having won his war with Pompey, Caesar used his position as Rome's chief pontiff to enact a calendar reform in 46 BC, coincidentally making the year of his third consulship last for 446 days. In order to avoid interfering with Rome's religious ceremonies, the reform added all its days towards the ends of months and did not adjust any nones or ides, even in months which came to have 31 days. The Julian calendar was supposed to have a single leap day on 24 February (a doubled VI Kal. Mart.) every fourth year but following Caesar's assassination the priests figured this using inclusive counting and mistakenly added the bissextile day every three years. In order to bring the calendar back to its proper place, Augustus was obliged to suspend intercalation for one or two decades. The revised calendar remaining slightly longer than the solar year, the date of Easter shifted far enough away from the vernal equinox that Pope Gregory XIII ordered its adjustment in the 16th century.

Saturn (mythology)

Saturn (Latin: Saturnus pronounced [saˈtʊr.nʊs]) is a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in myth as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. In later developments, he also came to be a god of time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury. In December, he was celebrated at what is perhaps 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.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and 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 usually 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, which was 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 later celebrations in western Europe occurring in midwinter, particularly traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany. In particular, the historical western European Christmas custom of electing a "Lord of Misrule" may have its roots in Saturnalia celebrations.

Saturnalia (Macrobius)

Saturnalia (Latin: Saturnaliorum Libri Septem, "Seven Books of the Saturnalia") is a work written c. 400 AD by Macrobius. The Saturnalia consists of an account of the discussions held at the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus during the holiday of the Saturnalia. It contains a great variety of curious historical, mythological, critical, antiquarian and grammatical discussions. "The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet." There is little attempt to give any dramatic character to the dialogue; in each book some one of the personages takes the leading part, and the remarks of the others serve only as occasions for calling forth fresh displays of erudition.

Academics
Middle Platonists
Neoplatonists

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