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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Saturnalia \Sat`ur*na"li*a\, n. pl. [L. See Saturn.]

  1. (Rom. Antiq.) The festival of Saturn, celebrated in December, originally during one day, but afterward during seven days, as a period of unrestrained license and merriment for all classes, extending even to the slaves.

  2. Hence: A period or occasion of general license, in which the passions or vices have riotous indulgence.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

time of merrymaking, 1590s, from Latin Saturnalia, ancient Roman festivals of Saturn (held in December), a time of merrymaking for all, from neuter adjective Saturnalis "pertaining to Saturn," from Saturnus (see Saturn). They correspond to the Greek Kronia. The extended sense of "period of unrestrained revelry" is first attested 1782. Related: Saturnalian.


n. A period or occasion of general license, in which the passions or vices have riotous indulgence; a period of unrestrained revelry.


Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the deity 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. The poet Catullus called it "the best of days".

Saturnalia (dinosaur)

Saturnalia is an extinct genus of basal sauropodomorph dinosaur known from the Triassic of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil.

Saturnalia (webcomic)

Saturnalia is a science fiction comic by Nina Matsumoto, also known as space coyote. It won in the 2004 Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards. The story is on indefinite hold while Matsumoto is working on her recently published series, Yōkaiden, as well as other projects. There are no plans to continue the story at this time; however if it does then it may be redrawn with the intentions of being published.

Saturnalia (Callin novel)

Saturnalia was a 1986 science fiction novel by Grant Callin, published by Baen Books. It was based on a short story named "Saturn Alia". It was followed by a sequel, A Lion on Tharthee.

Saturnalia (Davis novel)

Saturnalia is a 2007 historical mystery crime novel by Lindsey Davis and the 18th book of the Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series. Set in Ancient Rome, the novel stars Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent. The title refers to the Saturnalia feast held annually on 17 December, at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. Over the years, it expanded to a whole week, up to 23 December.

Saturnalia (disambiguation)

Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Saturn.

Saturnalia may also refer to:

  • Saturnalia (dinosaur), a genus of dinosaur
  • Saturnalia (webcomic), a science fiction cartoon series by Nina Matsumoto
  • Saturnalia (Callin novel), a 1986 science fiction novel by Grant Callin
  • Saturnalia (Davis novel), a 2007 crime novel by Lindsey Davis
  • Saturnalia (The Gutter Twins album), 2008
  • Saturnalia (The Wedding Present album), 1996
  • Saturnalia (PBM), a swords and sorcery Play-by-mail game
  • Saturnalia (Macrobius), work of 5th century philosopher Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius
Saturnalia (The Gutter Twins album)

Saturnalia is the first studio album by The Gutter Twins, a collaboration between Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan. The album, which was started as far back as 2003, was released on March 4, 2008. Prior to the album's release, the duo began posting songs on their official MySpace page. Joseph Arthur sings backing vocals on "Idle Hands." The song was also the first single, released April 14, 2008.

Saturnalia (The Wedding Present album)

Saturnalia was the 5th studio album released by The Wedding Present. It was released in 1996.

Saturnalia (PBM)

Saturnalia was one of the first single-character sword and sorcery fantasy Play-by-Mail role-playing games run in the United Kingdom. The game started in 1984, being created by Neil Packer and Simon Letts and grew from its initial players at the University of Southampton up to over three thousand scattered across the United Kingdom and beyond. A company, Sloth Enterprises was formed, with many full-time GMs running Saturnalia from offices above a tyre/brakes/exhaust garage in the red-light district of Southampton.

In time, the company gradually faded away, with several former players taking on the role of GM to run either existing campaigns or to open up new areas. Most of these successors ran through the early 2000s (decade), and the Harlequin Games Exile campaign in the Southern Isles remains active.

The game was named for the Roman festival of Saturnalia, in that making the game, forming the rules and applying for the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, was total chaos. The word "Saturnalia" was one which turned up under the entry for "Chaos" in a thesaurus. Players took on the roles of adventurers. The game started on two sets of islands off the North and South coast of the continent, Erythria. This was named for no reason better than it sounded good. The Northern Isles included Faldeheim, Jorleheim and Tafkhim. The Southern Isles were Alagas, Krang and Ghan.

Usage examples of "saturnalia".

It was a cross between Saturnalia, Oktoberfest, the Olympics, and May Day.

And I had a practically inexhaustible supply of Reality Pills for Halloween, saturnalia, and bar mitzvahs.

Just as the great end-of-the-year festival was getting under way, Plautia provided Sabinus with a tiny, warm Saturnalia present whom they named Flavius Clemens.

During the licentious days of the Saturnalia, the streets of the city resounded with insolent songs, which derided the laws, the religion, the personal conduct, and even the beard, of the emperor.

He could complain authoritatively about the lonelinessof a stranger in Athens during the Eleusyian Mysteries, in ancient Baghdadduring Ramadan, in Rome at Saturnalia, in China at New Year, in the Cave of theOld Ones at the Feast of the Great Bear .

Saturnia, several miles inland and halfway to Monte Amiata, was now just a small village beside a great stone wall, built round the hot sulphur springs which had made it a favourite spot for the Romans, who celebrated the feast of Saturnalia there.

But in some cultures it developed as a religious holiday peculiar to theocracies: the safety-valve holiday, the day of excesses, of sin without punishment, the saturnalia.