It may seem unbelievable, but The Purge used to be a real thing.
Yup, even if it's not your cup of tea, you've likely heard of The Purge movies. They're the ones about a dystopian future where, one night a year, the public are allowed to do anything they like without consequences.
Basically, all crimes are legal, and every person has the right to do whatever they want, from theft to murder and anything in between.
It sounds horrific, right? Well, almost unbelievably, this used to be a real thing. The Roman Festival of Saturnalia goes back thousands of years, with the earliest written records dating back to the 5th Century B.C. But, historians believe it was based on Pagan rituals from centuries before.
It started off innocently enough, with farmers celebrating the winter solstice and the beginning of spring. As the Roman Empire spread through Europe, this Pagan ritual spread too, ending up in Roman culture and mythology.
Eventually, it evolved into the Festival of Saturnalia, a week-long celebration of the religious cult of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. It was a time of fun and indulgence but, eventually, would transform into something far darker.
You see, as the ruling class grew, they realised that festivals and celebrations were the perfect way to control the masses. By 120 A.D., the holiday was celebrated from the 14th to the 25th of December every year. During this time, many establishments and government granted a reprieve for the population on particular fees or taxes.
Eventually, even crime itself was allowed as the courts closed for the week. This meant that literally anything was allowed, and the public loved it. Many people simply partied, drinking, dancing and fornicating to their heart's content.
However, this was also the perfect opportunity for neighbours who had issues to resolve the matter without the pesky law getting in the way. This often ended in bloodshed, with the possibility of death waiting around any corner.
It may sound like those in charge were nuts, but they had a reason for allowing the debauchery to continue. They thought that a lawless week would help the populous understand how important law and order was. Just how much better life is with them in charge, leading to lower crime rates during the rest of the year.
In 312 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and banned any pagan rituals that threatened its authority. This would see the progressive demise of Saturnalia until 449 A.D.
The Romans weren't the only ancient civilisation to have a 'purge' festival. The Greeks, Egyptians and others had their own forms of Saturnia. Eventually, though, they would all disappear.
The YouTube channel, The Infographics Show, has put together a video that goes into more detail about real-life purges throughout history. Check it out by clicking on the play button below. It may seem barbaric to us in 2021 but, heck, maybe we've just become soft!