The REAL Purge – Saturnalia

Saturnalia the real purge

The REAL Purge - 120 AD Festival called Saturnalia

A holiday with no rules, where all crime including murder is legal? Does this sound familiar? Well believe it or not but it is not the 12-hour annual holiday from the movie “The Purge”, but a real ancient Rome holiday. This is the 120 AD festival called Saturnalia.
In the beginning Saturnalia involved many interesting activities, including sacrificing animals and partying non-stop, and it originally only lasted one day. Throughout this day the people would indulge themselves in plenty of alcohol and food and the focus was around enjoying yourself and letting off some steam.
By the year 120 AD, Saturnalia had gone from a day of celebration to a whole week, lasting from the 17th of December to 25th. During this time the rulers of Rome started to notice a potential rebellion within their people. In order to deescalate anything bad from potentially happening, the rulers let the people know that during Saturnalia, not only were they allowed to break any rules including violence on this week, but they were also encouraged to do this. The powerful rulers thought that this would be a great way for their people to let out any pent-up anger on each other, rather then it being aimed at them. They thought that this would lower the chances of a rebellion against their Government and would also give them a taste to see what life would be like without the ruling class’s rules. For them, it was a win-win.
During this week, all work environments were closed, meaning that if you have any tasks that need completing, it was certainly encouraged to get them done by the 16th of December. Another area within the week holiday that was relaxed was clothing. During Saturnalia people wore extravagant clothing with bright colours and creative styles. Executions were delayed to after Saturnalia and even any potential wars were put on pause. The courts were closed, so if someone was violent or breaking the law, there was nothing you could do.
Around the 120 AD mark this was said to be mostly just partying and fun, however during the later years this slowly took a rather sinister turn. Once people realised that there was little to no punishment for violence and abuse, people used this holiday to murder other’s that they hated, or to intimidate and threaten people by setting their homes on fire and vandalising their property. Deaths saw a large increase and so did murders and sexual assaults. Burglars began noticing who was partying at the time, and then would sneak off to rob from these party goers’ homes whilst they weren’t in. This once loved holiday full of festivity and cheer slowly became a nightmare of a week for some. Women were regularly sexually assaulted and murders became a regular occurrence. Even though these weren’t seen as illegal, the court would have normally been seen as a safe place, but with the court being closed for this week, for a lot of people there was nowhere to run.
The royalty was involved too. They would invite a “winner” to be treated like a king for the day, treated to all the best food, the sweetest wine and would even invite a lot of women to spend the night with him. They would then continue to brutally murder him at the steps of the Saturn’s temple as a sacrifice to the God’s.
Now, you might think that an event that got this out of hand, and allowed no rules to be the only rule, wouldn’t have lasted long. However, somehow, even though there was excessive amount of murder, violence, fires, robberies and much more this event went on for.. Wait for it, over 150 years until the week of anarchy had a change. By the year 312 AD, new laws were set in place that got in the way of the purge like activities. This still remained a carnival like holiday with fancy clothing and excessive drinking, however the murder and all crime being legal began to fade away. In the year 449 AD, the holiday of Saturnalia wasn’t celebrated, but a separate one was instead. You may know about this one, it’s a holiday named Christmas.
The Strangers

The true stories that influenced The Strangers