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his reign was crossed by a dark shadow : his altars are said to have been stained with the blood of human victims, for whom a more merciful age afterwards substituted effigies." Of this gloomy side of the god's religion there is little or no trace in the descriptions which ancient writers have left us of the Saturnalia. Feasting and revelry and all the mad pursuit of pleasure are the features that seem to have especially marked this carnival of antiquity, as it went on for seven days in the streets and public squares and houses of ancient Rome from the seventeenth to the twenty-third of December. But no feature of the festival is more remarkable, nothing in it seems to have struck the ancients themselves more than the licence granted to slaves at this time. The
distinction between the free and the servile classes was · temporarily abolished. The slave might rail at his master,
intoxicate himself like his betters, sit down at table with them, and not even a word of reproof would be administered to him for conduct which at any other season might have becn punished with stripes, imprisonment, or death.S Nay, more, masters actually changed places with their slaves and waited on them at table ; and not till the serf had done eating and drinking was the board cleared and dinner set for his master. So far was this inversion of ranks carried, that each household became for a time a mimic republic in which the high offices of state were discharged by the slaves, who gave their orders and laid down the law as if they were indeed invested with all the dignity of the consulship, the praetorship, and the bench.” Like the pale reflection of power thus accorded to bondsmen at the Saturnalia was the mock kingship for which freemen cast lots at the same season. The person on whom the lot fell
cullor habetur, nominatus a satu, tenensque falcem effingitur, quae est insigne agricolae."
Dionysius Halicarn. Ant. Rom. i. 38; Macrobius, Sat. i. 7. 31; Lactantius, i. 21 ; Arnobius, ii. 68.
2 For the general dissipation of the Saturnalia see Seneca, Epist. 18; for the seven days of the popular sestival see Martial, xiv. 72. 2; Macrobius, Sat, i. 10. 2; Lucian, Saturnalia, 21.
3 Horace, Sat. ii. 7. 4 sq.; Macro. bius, Sat. i. 7. 26; Justin, xliii. 1. 4; Plutarch, Sulla, 18; Lucian, Saturnalia, 5, 7.
4 Macrobius, Sat. i. 12. 7, i. 24. 23; Solinus, i. 35; Joannes Lyrlus, De mensibus, iii. 15; Athenaeus, sis. p. 639 B; Dio Cassius, lx. 19.
6 Seneca, Epist. 47. 14. Compare Porphyry, De abstinentia, ii. 23.
enjoyed the title of king, and issued commands of a playful and ludicrous nature to his temporary subjects. One of them he might order to mix the wine, another to drink, another to sing, another to dance, another to speak in his own dispraise, another to carry a flute-girl on his back round the house.
Now, when we remember that the liberty allowed to slaves at this festive season was supposed to be an imitation of the state of society in Saturn's time, and that in general the Saturnalia passed for nothing more or less than a temporary revival or restoration of the reign of that merry monarch, we are tempted to surmise that the mock king who presided over the revels may have originally represented Saturn himself. The conjecture is strongly confirmed, if not established, by a very curious and interesting account of the way in which the Saturnalia was celebrated by the Roman soldiers stationed on the Danube in the reign of Maximian and Diocletian. The account is preserved in a narrative of the martyrdom of St. Dasius, which has lately been unearthed from a Greek manuscript in the Paris library, and published by Professor Franz Cumont of Ghent Two briefer descriptions of the event and of the custom are contained in manuscripts at Milan and Berlin ; one of them had already seen the light in an obscure volume printed at Urbino in 1727, but its importance for the history of the Roman religion, both ancient and modern, appears to have been overlooked until Professor Cumont drew the attention of scholars to all three narratives by publishing them together a few years ago. According to these narratives, which have all the appearance of being authentic, and of which the longest is probably based on official documents, the Roman soldiers at Durostolum in Lower Moesia celebrated the Saturnalia year by year in the following manner. Thirty days before the festival they chose by lot from amongst themselves a young
1 Tacitus, Annals, xiii. 15; Arrian, Epicteti Dissert. i. 25. 8; Lucian, Saturnalia, 4.
courteously sending me a copy of this important paper. The bearing of the new evidence on the Saturnalia has been further discussed by Messrs. Parmentier and Cumont("Le roi des Saturnales," Revue de Philologie, xxi. (1897), pp. 143-153).
2 « Les Actes de S. Dasius," Ana. kita Bollandiana, xvi. (1897), pp. 5. 16. I have to thank Prof. Cumont for
and handsome man, who was then clothed in royal attire to resemble Saturn. Thus arrayed and attended by a multitude of soldiers he went about in public with full licence to indulge his passions and to taste of every pleasure, however base and shameful. But if his reign was merry, it was short and ended tragically; for when the thirty days were up and the festival of Saturn had come, he cut his own throat on the altar of the god whom he personated. In the year 303 A.D. the lot fell upon the Christian soldier Dasius, but he refused to play the part of the heathen god and soil his last days by debauchery. The threats and arguments of his commanding officer Bassus failed to shake his constancy, and accordingly he was beheaded, as the Christian martyrologist records with minute accuracy, at Durostolum by the soldier John on Friday the twentieth day of November, being the twenty-fourth day of the moon, at the fourth hour.
This account sets in a new and lurid light the office of the King of the Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of Horace and of Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merryandrew whose only care was that the revelry should run high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to the north, Soracte showed his coronal of snow.
When we compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilised metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on the Danube, and when we remember the long array of similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapt in sceptred palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a
1 The phrase of the Paris MS. is mock king perished by his own hand ambiguous (τοις ανωνύμοις και μυσαρούς (μέλλοντα εαυτόν επισφάξαι το βώμη του ειδώλοις προσεκόμιζεν εαυτόν σπονδήν,
, Κρόνου, Berlin ΜS. ; εαυτόν επισφάξαι. αναιρούμενος υπό μαχαίρας); but the autoxeipws TÔ Kpóry, Milan MS.). other two versions say plainly that the
feeble emasculated copy of that original, whose strong features have been fortunately preserved for us by the obscure author of the Martyrdom of St. Dasius. In other words, the martyrologist's account of the Saturnalia agrees so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere, which could not possibly have been known to him, that the substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as established ; and further, since the custom of putting a mock king to death as a representative of a god cannot have grown out of a practice of appointing him to preside over a holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, wherever the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditionary privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another's hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself and other great towns the growth of civilisation had probably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may long have survived ; and even if after the unification of Italy the barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude soldiery on the outskirts of the empire over whom the once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grasp."
1 The opinion that at Rome a man used to be sacrificed at the Saturnalia cannot be regarded as in itself improbable, when we remember that down apparently to the establishment of Christianity a human victim was slaughtered every year at Rome in honour of Latian Jupiter. See Tertullian, Apologeticus, 9, Contra Gnos.
ticos Scorpiace, 7; Minucius Felix, Octavius, 22 and 30; Lactantius, i. 21; Porphyry, De abstinentia, ii. 56. We may conjecture that at first the sacrifice took place on the top of the Alban Mountain, and was offered to Saturn, to whom, as we have seen, high places were sacred.
The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and the Carnival of modern Italy has been often remarked ; but in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to identity. I have shown that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, the master of the revels, the real man who personated Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death in his assumed character. The King of the Bean on Twelfth Night and the mediæval Bishop of Fools, Abbot of Unreason, or Lord of Misrule are figures of the same sort and may perhaps have had a similar origin."
1 As to the King of the Bean, see Sachsen (Vienna, 1885), p. 282 ; Boemus, Nores, leges et ritus omnium Witzschel, Sagen, Sitten und Gebräuche gentium (Lyons, 1541), p. 222; Laisnel, aus Thüringen, p. 175, $ 29; Schneller, de la Salle, Croyances et Légendes du Märchen und Sagen aus Wälschtirol, Centre de la France, i. 19-29; Leccur, p. 231, § 4; Montanus, Die deutsche Esquisses du Bocage Normand, ii. 125 ; Volksfeste, p. 18; Lecæur, Esquisses Schmitz, Sitten und Sagen des Eifler du Bocage Normand, ii. 20 sq. ; E. Volkes, i. 6 sq. ; Brand, Popular Meier, Deutsche Sagen, Sitten und Antiquities, i. 21 599. ; Cortet, Fétes Gebräuche aus Schwaben, p. 473, § religieuses, p. 29 $99.
As to the 237 ; Kuhn und Schwartz, Nord. Bishop of Fools, Abbot of Unreason, deutsche Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche, Lord of Misrule, etc., see Brand, op. cit. p. 411, § 163 ; A. Kuhn, Sagen, i. 497 599. ; Bérenger-Féraud, Super- Gibräuche und Märchen aus Westfalen, stitions et Survivances, iv. 4 s99. А ii. p. 115, $ 354. May we conjecture clue to the original functions of the that the King of the Bean formerly King of the Bean on Twelfth Night reigned during these twelve days, and is perhaps furnished by the popular that one of his chief functions was to belief that the weather for the ensuing perform magical ceremonies for en. twelve months was determined by suring good weather throughout the the weather of the twelve days from coming year? It is at least notice. Christmas to Twelfth Day, the weather able that the number twelve meets of each particular month being prog- us often in the present line of inquiry. nosticated from that of one particular In Gloucestershire on the eve of the day. See Brand, op. cit. i. 28 ; Twelfth Day the farm - servants used Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche to assemble in a cornfield and kindle aus Meklenburg, ii. 250, § 1292 ; twelve fires in a row, round the largest Birlinger, Volksthuimliches aus Schwa- of which they drank to the health of ben, i. 468 Sq., 470; Haltrich, their master and the success of the Zur Volkskunde der Siebenbürger harvest (Pennant, “ Tour in Scot