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The Kronia was an Athenian festival held in honor of Cronus (Greek Kronos) on the 12th day of Hekatombaion, the first month of the Attic calendar and roughly equivalent to the latter part of July and first part of August. The festival was also celebrated in parts of Ionia, and in these places the month was known as Kronion after the festival.[1]

The Roman playwright Accius says that to celebrate the Kronia, "In nearly all fields and towns they happily feast upon banquets, and everyone waits upon his own servants."[2] Slaves and the free, rich and poor, all dined together and played games such as dice (kyboi), knucklebones (astragaloi), and the board game pessoi. The freedom from work and social egalitarianism enjoyed on the day represented the conditions of the mythical Golden Age, when Cronus still ruled the world. In the Golden Age, the earth had spontaneously supported human life, and since labor was unneeded, slavery had not existed: "it was a period of thorough harmony in which hierarchical, exploitative, and predatory relationships were nonexistent."[3] Accius describes the Kronia in order to explain its perceived influence on the Roman Saturnalia.[4]

The Kronia was a time for social restraints to be temporarily forgotten. Slaves were released from their duties, and participated in the festivities alongside the slave-owners. Slaves were “permitted to run riot through the city, shouting and making a noise.”[5] It is usually regarded as a celebration of the harvest.[6] Other than the Kronia, there is only limited evidence of religious devotion to Cronus.[7]

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  1. ^ Jan N. Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Brill, 2008), p. 82; William F. Hansen, Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature (Cornell University Press, 2002), p. 385.
  2. ^ Accius, fragment 3, as cited by Jan Bremmer, "Ritual," in Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 38. Accius's purpose is to claim the Kronia as an influence on the Roman Saturnalia, held in honor of Saturn, the Roman equivalent of Cronus.
  3. ^ Hansen, Ariadne's Thread, pp. 385 and 391 (note 34); Fritz Graf, "Myth," in Religions of the Ancient World, p. 52 (see also p. 268). The festivities are also described by the Roman-era Greek writer Lucian, who is probably describing the Saturnalia of his day rather than the Attic-Ionic Kronia.
  4. ^ Bremmer, "Ritual," in Religions of the Ancient World, p. 38. The Saturnalia was held in honor of Saturn, the Roman equivalent of Cronus.
  5. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 231.
  6. ^ Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, p. 83.
  7. ^ Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, p. 83.