The Saturnalia: An Analysis of Religious Ritual and Family Relationships




Bradley, Caroline

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Festivals in the Roman Empire were more than religious events; they had social implications for the city, the neighborhood and the nuclear household. Members of the household experienced these festivals in different ways based upon various social factors, including gender, social status and slave status. The interactions among household members during the festivals served to confirm relationships and aspects of social identity, and encouraged the fixed standards associated with one’s position in society. This thesis looks specifically at the Saturnalia, a Roman festival celebrating Saturn that also served to solidify the segregation of status between slaves and masters. In order to specifically analyze this festival and its impact on the Roman household, this thesis begins by establishing the importance of religion and physical space, and transitions into looking at the impact on each member of the household with a specific emphasis on the male master of the household, the master’s wife and a household slave.



Saturnalia., Roman household., Family relationships., Sociology., Roman religion., Gender and social status.