S A T U R N : Part 2
The ORIGIN of the GODS IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY
From earliest of Greek times, the world was said to have been created from the original god, Chaos who was said to comprise of nothingness. It was from his sheer will that the objects of the universe were created. In time he then produced the first beings named Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) as the sole children of Chaos alone. After the further passing of time, both female Gaia and male Uranus who had twelve children of their own. These were equally six sons and six daughters collectively were known in Greek mythology as the Titans.
All twelve Titans were believed to be omnipotent race of godlike giants. (Confusingly, the Titans are also divided as the males, while the Titaness were the females, though the Titans can often refer to both!) Each god in this legend become based on their overall individual personalities, whose embodiment and strength lay solely in their influence and control of their assigned forces over Nature. In time, each brother and sister, along with their parents, were paired together as; Cronus and Rhea (spontaneously converted into Titans like their children), Oceanus and Tethys, Iapetus and Themis, Hyperion and Theia, Crius and Mnemosyne, and Coeus and Phoebe.
This particular myth was again revamped partly into the Roman mythology, where there were six children. Here the Roman names of Tellus (Gaia) and Coelus (Uranus), produced their children Saturn and Cybele / Ops (Rhea; Mother Earth). In turn, their offspring became the third race, being by name; Hades (Pluto), Poseidon (Neptunus) and Zeus (Iupiter or Jupiter) (male) with Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres) and the eldest daughter, Hera (Juno) (female).
Between each paired relationship were divided all phenomena seen as sky, earth, sea — as well as the gamut of the abilities and emotions commonly experienced by all human beings. For example, Mnemosyne nine children were associated with the Muses, and even these had influences on people such as memory or sleep. As another example, was the union of Oceanus and Tethys made the sea nymphs. The most well known of these nymphs was Dione — also now a moon of Saturn and the principal name of the bright stars of the Pleiades in Taurus.
The subsequent intermarriage between each brother and sister, and sometimes even with their parents, then created the other offspring of the fourth and subsequent generations of gods. This established the renown Greek ‘Pantheon of Gods ’.
One of the important parts of this story was that parents eventually fought with their siblings in a war known as the Titanomachy or the so-called Titan War. After ten long bitter years of fighting, the classical Olympian Gods eventually prevailed, and immediately they placed themselves in power. Here the spoils were then divided;
ZEUS (Jupiter), as the wisest and strongest was made to rule as the king of all gods, and was to dominate the air and sky.
POSEIDON (later as known as Neptunus or Neptune to the Romans) ruled the sea.
HADES (Pluto) took possession of the underworld.
SATURN in GREEK LEGEND
C R O N U S, also known as the god Kronos, derives from the Ancient Greek word, khronos meaning literally ‘time’, who was later to rise as the unchallenged “King of the World”. He is the third oldest of all the ancient gods, being the first-born of Gaia and Uranus (Roman names; Tellus and Coelus). In the Greek myths, Cronos castrated Uranus and obtain the throne for himself, and in doing so, then married his sister Rhea. Terrified to lose his own throne and be usurped by one of his offspring, Cronos then went about swallowing all his children except for his youngest son Zeus (Jupiter), whom his mother had replaced with a stone and then hid the child on Crete. In ancient history, this particular thrilling account is thought the oldest in Greek Mythology, whose origins dates back more than 7,000 years. It also remains an established horrific allegorical tale of family rivalry!
SATURN in ROMAN LEGEND
S A T U R N I S or SATURN in Roman mythology, derives his name from the ancient Italian god of agriculture, obtained from the Latin word ‘satus ’ meaning ‘sown’. His legend has been corrupted and changed down the ages. Within the gods Roman genealogy, Saturn was the father of Jupiter, shared with two other notable sons — Neptune and Pluto. Two of his daughters also became important Roman goddesses. These were, Juno, the sacred overseer of marriages, and Ceres, who was assigned the successful production of grain and the grain harvest the field, His three main sons, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto after dethroning Saturn, later formed the main triumvirate that ruled of all the dominions of the Earth. Saturn fall from grace was made worst by Jupiter, who expelled him from Olympus, and sent him across the sea to Latinium (Italy). On arrival in Rome, he was greeted by Janus. Saturn soon reemerge as king ruling from Capitoline Hill and over the Earth and early Italy, bring continued peace and prosperity to the Italian State. After establishing his influence and presence, he then unexpectedly disappeared, but his works in this apparent Golden Age were not forgotten. It is for this reason Saturn was greatly venerated and adored by Rome, being worshipped in the Temple of Saturn on Capitoline Hill.
In later times, after the end of Second Punic War in about 200 BC, these divinities were refined and eventually worshipped individually. Many of the original Italian and Roman gods were either replaced or discarded, being mainly changed by a large immigration of Greeks to Rome when the city and state become the dominate power throughout the Mediterranean. In all, only twelve of most important gods were generally revered. (See Table 2)
Table 2. The TWELVE MAIN GODS (ROMAN and GREEK)
LASTING LEGACY of SATURN
SATURN was highly revered as a Roman god. He was prominently worshipped in the Temple to Saturn, which was first consecrated in the Rome capitol in 497 BC. This same temple in later times even housed the Roman Treasury. Each year the Romans made his veneration was celebrated in the joyous Saturnalia winter festival that was held in his honour. This traditional event was always conducted over seven days, from the 17th to 23rd December. Its earliest aim was solely to give praise to the prosperity endowed by Saturn and to commemorate the beginnings of the Roman “Golden Age”. Sometimes even an imitation king was nominated to rule for one week, mimicking the rule of Saturn during this time, Often the event featured the suspension of all wars and commercial activities, deferring court and legal proceedings being halted and even against punishments to criminals. Others, at least among patrician noble society, gave presents of candles or small wooden dolls or statues for children. They also held great feasts shared among both the slaves and the populous. In some cases, the master of the house would serve his slaves during the festival, showing all men were essentially equal. During the Christian Era, and after about 400 A.D., the Romans moved the event to New Year’s Day. Later this celebration became part of our main Western society tradition of Christmas. Saturn name was also given to one day of the seven days of the week, being ‘Saturn Day’ or Saturday.
From the earliest of days, Saturn has also always been associated with time, and the name Cronos / Chronos is now applied towards accurate time devices. I.e. Chronographs or to the study of Chronology — written records of the order of past events. This perhaps can be considered an aetiological myth as the planet does very slowly crawl quite methodically against the background stars. Any person can almost count the years as the planet slowly lumbers through the zodiac.
King Cronos, often portrayed as the Father of Time is often described in classical literature as the ideal ruler of the entire world, namely, from the place known as Acadia in Central Greece. In myth, he allowed for an idyllic and peaceful environment for Mankind to learn, think and live during the so-called “Golden Age”. After the eventual fall of this ideal Utopian paradise, the Greeks believed the World will only grow into a colder and darker place, to be always destined to have the future as dismal and pessimistic. These common Stoic themes appear in all of the ancient literature, where humankind continues to dream of the more wondrous and halcyon days of the now distant past.
Pictures of Saturn are always portrayed an old man. This comes from the idea that time is old and eternal. Often Saturn is also seen carrying the scythe, which was depicted in the Greek myth as the implement used to castrate Uranus. The story also in mythology represents the live cycle of plants as well as people. Here, with the curved scythe tells of the harvesting of the crops in spring. Although this may seem the end of life, setting aside or unused seed from maybe replanted for the next generation of crops. Saturn oversees this cycle which is marked by the passage of time and of the aged-based seasons for all living things. Cronos and his wife Rhea relationship is also interesting. Metaphorically, Gaia is the goddess mother who creates all life, where in direct contrast, Cronos takes it away — even from his own children, as seen in the Greek myth. During the days before the rise of the ancient Greek civilisation, Cronus had likely had taken on this role, and was worshipped because of it. When revived by the Romans, Saturn became the god of agriculture. In later years, the role was transfered to Ceres, being the daughter of Saturn, who then oversaw the crops and the yearly harvest.
Yet this symbolism of the scythe has continued into modern times. Saturn stories are now associated with the fictional character of Old Father Time or The Grim Reaper (Death) - each still holding a scythe in their hands. Father Time these days is often recognised on New Year’s Day who finishes the old year then brings in the new.
From the early Middle Ages, the Grim Reaper has often been represented as arriving at the time of death. Generally, as in the Greek mythology, this is not given as a bad thing. He exists only to guide us from this world to the life beyond, therefore illustrating the end of the natural life-cycle. In literature, the Grim Reaper is also associated with crows. Its derivation is probably from close similarities in the given name of the god Cronos to the Greek word corone, meaning crow. Crows these days are shown in movies as being associate with death, as either feeding on corpses or stealing grain or corn from the field.
We likely base Saturn’s ‘time’ association with the long thirty-odd year orbital period of the planet around the Sun. During ancient times, and up to the mid-19th Century, an average human lifetime lasted only about thirty years. A whole Saturnian orbital period is about this long, and so, this formed the allegorical myths such as Father Time and the Grim Reaper. Both meticulously watch over our lives and counts the number of days — from the cradle to the grave — before guiding each of us away from our World into the next. Today human life expectancy is far more than this. The passing of Saturn through one full orbital cycle can now be seen as people moving into their middle-age. A second cycle then heralds the twilight years of our lives.
(My personal astronomical endeavours has seen one whole complete cycle of Saturn along the ecliptic. When I had my first telescope, Saturn was in Taurus. In 2002, it appeared in almost in the same place!)
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Last Update : 16th August 2012
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