What the heck am I on about?
It’s the Christian emperor Constantine’s clever hijacking of the Roman pagan Midwinter Festival, originally ‘Saturnalia’ then later the celebration of ‘Sol Invictus’ – the ‘Undefeated Sun’ and reinventing it as the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Saturnalia was celebrated close to and around modern Christmas, with gift giving, hanging of pine branches in the home and singing in the streets, it’s easy to see some of the origins of our modern celebration. Being ancient Rome they did do a few things slightly differently, like having massive orgies, abandoning morality, and the novel idea of ‘swapping places’ with the slaves for the day, I guess we can’t have everything.
Though we can’t be too harsh on old Sol, he paved the way for that other crazy(to the polytheist Romans) monotheistic cult from the East, Christianity.
So why am I rabbiting on about ancient Roman festivals? I’ve been having a ‘Historical’ couple of months listening to Mike Duncan’s excellent podcast, ‘The History of Rome’ .
If you’re so inclined it’s well worth a listen and definitely best to start at the first chapter. Highlights include the most profitable Fire Fighting Service in history, the notorious emperor whose name lives on as synonymous with debauchery and excess but which actually means ‘little boot’ after how cute he looked in his soldiers outfit as a child, not to mention Hannibal, Spartacus and Caesar. If you think politics is brutal or scandalous these days…
Great listening while you draw.
In other news it’s looking less and less likely I’ll complete my Paleo Project Challenge painting before the end of year deadline. It’s proving more difficult to work on as the silly season approached and doing very similar things at work has made it harder to wield the digital paintbrush at night. On the up side Sanja(my brilliant wife and home based art critic) finds it difficult to look at as it’s (intentionally) a little disturbing, so it’s having the desired effect! (not bad for ‘another dinosaur painting’)
Anyway, here’s a little snippet to whet your appetites until I can finish it off.