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Io Saturnalia!

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Laughing Roman legonists in Rome
Laughing Roman legonists in Rome

Fact that Claudius took the power in 41 CE meant that his freedmen and advisors, Narcissus, Callistus and Pallas, would be involved in ruling in Rome. They were slaves who shared power in such a way that they did no get in the way each other. Narcissus in particular had enormous support from emperor and had a really big influence on his decisions. He often acted on his behalf and represented him.

An interesting story is connected with Narcissus’ activities. Reportedly, in 43 CE, during the preparations for the invasion of Britain, he was to appeal to the rebellious legions. The legionaries were afraid to go to unknown lands claiming they were inhabited by wild creatures. The centurions, or the commander-in-chief (Aulus Plautius) of the operation, could not control the discipline.

The soldiers saw the former slave speaking to them and began shouting “Io Saturnalia!” – a typical greeting during the December public holiday – Saturnalia, during which the roles of the master and the slave changed for one day. Laughing legionaries ended their rebellion, set off to the islands and founded the new province of Britain.

Thanks to the victory, Claudius legitimized his rule and gained popularity among the Roman people.

  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Suetonius, Claudius

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