Lucian, Pieces relating to Kronos

1 Introduction

For those who would keep Greek and Roman religion as fundamentally separate, the “Pieces relating to Kronos” (Ta pros Kronon) of Lucian of Samosata are a real challenge. They were written by an Assyrian who achieved fame across the Roman Empire in the 2nd century CE for his mastery of the Greek language, and has remained a model of good Attic style ever since. One subject he turned his attention to as a writer was a popular festival, which originated in the city of Rome but was then observed across the Empire, called Saturnalia in Latin, but Kronia in Greek – since the ancients, without any known exceptions, thought that the names Saturn (lat. Saturnus) and Kronos (gr. Κρόνος) referred to the same god.

In his Saturnalian/Kronian pieces, Lucian (exactly like authors writing in Latin) takes it for granted that the Greek myths about Kronos refer to the same deity honored at Rome. As such, they are most Roman and most Greek at once, or rather indivisibly Greco-Roman. Besides, they are, as virtually everything by Lucian, simply good literature. And while he was no revolutionary, the humane spirit of these texts also shows that the egalitarian moral values on whose basis we now abhor ancient slavery as unjust were by no means alien to the ancients; they were just not allowed to flourish beyond curtailed moments of holiday licence.

2 Translation