The eight majestic columns of the Temple of Saturn make it one of the most prominent monuments in the Forum Romanum. The columns, which are made of Egyptian granite, are almost 11 m (36 ft) high.
The Temple of Saturn was one of the earliest sanctuaries to be erected in the Forum, probably dating back to 498 BCE. However, the temple we see today only dates back to the late 4th century CE, when it was rebuilt after a fire. The surviving inscription reads: SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS/INCENDIO CONSVMPTVM RESTITVIT (The Senate and People of Rome, restored following destruction by fire).
The temple acted as the state treasury (aerarium), where gold and silver ingots were stored. It might have been chosen because of the god’s link with agriculture, which was the original source of Roman wealth: pecunia, the Latin word for money, comes from pecus (sheep).
Saturn was worshipped in the 'Saturnalia', one of the jolliest festivals in the Roman calendar, which took place on December 17th. It was a time of merry-making and gifts were exchanged. Businesses, schools and law courts were all closed so that people could devote their time to feasting, gambling, dancing and generally enjoying life to the full.
One of the most curious aspects of the festival involved the temporary reversal of roles, whereby masters served their slaves!
Over time the festival was expanded until it lasted for a full week.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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