Contrary to the somewhat superficial views of some commentators, it was only at a comparatively late period that the Romans identified their god, Saturn, with the Greek god, cronos. Saturn’s association with King Janus, who appears to have welcomed him to Rome, left behind memories of a golden age and, in this context, he symbolizes the culture-hero and especially the one who teaches the arts of agriculture. At his festival, the Saturnalia, the social order was reversed and slaves ruled their masters, the latter serving their slaves at table.
This may perhaps have been a faint echo of the fact that Saturn had dethroned his father Uranus (ouranos), before being dethroned in his turn by his son Zeus or Jupiter. Similarly, such ceremonies might be interpreted in the psychoanalytic sense of the Oedipus complex, the overthrow of the god, father or master. For the brief period of the Saturnalia the people imposed upon their leaders the fate which the latter had imposed upon their fathers, and the fate which Saturn had held in store for his own father.
The Sumerians and Babylonians regarded the planet Saturn as that of righteousness and justice and here we find echoes of the significance it must originally have had in Rome. Saturn was apparently connected with the Sun’s office of fecundation, of government and of continuity, one ruler succeeding another as season succeeds season.
In astrology, Saturn embodies the principle of concentration, contraction, fixation, condensation and inertia. That extraordinary powers of working evil are attributed to the planet is only just, since it symbolizes obstacles of all sorts, barriers, dearth, misfortune, impotence and paralysis. Its good influence provides a depth of penetration which is the fruit of profound reflection and constant striving, and corresponds with loyalty, constancy, knowledge, self-denial, chastity and piety. Its two Houses - Capricorn and Aquarius - are opposed to those of the stars and therefore to the light and joy of being. Physically, Saturn rules the skeletal frame.