Strange & Unusual Spotlight:
Ancient Roman holiday
Inspiration for The Purge
Saturnalia is the ancient Roman holiday dedicated to the god (you guessed it) Saturn. It was a week-long celebration from December 17th-23rd where, supposedly, all crime was legal. Christians adopted the holiday as its own. And it is the inspiration to the blockbuster Purge franchise.
For those of you who haven’t seen The Purge, the basic idea is that one night a year, for 12 hours, all crime is legal. Of course, instead of just robbing a bank to pay off those student loans, everyone jumps straight to murder. The whole point of the Purge is to allow people one night to get out all of their frustrations in order to keep society running smoothly. Now, this may sound ridiculous and a complete work of fiction but it’s actually a lot more real than you’d realize.
Saturnalia’s purpose was almost identical to that of the Purge. For one week, lawlessness ruled the streets and this was to show the citizens of the Roman Empire just how much they needed law and order to be able to survive. Gambling which was usually frowned upon was completely legal, people cross-dressed, slaves were able to fight back against their masters, and, yes, even human sacrifices were made.
Of course, the festival evolved over the years and eventually ended completely when Christianity swept through Europe and the Church chose to adopt both Saturnalia of the Mediterranean and Yule of Scandinavia and transformed them into their biggest holiday of the year: Christmas.
So if you find yourself sitting in the movie theater this holiday weekend, watching The First Purge, thank the Romans (for that and many other things, I suppose…).
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