SATURNIAN METRE (Lat. Saturnius, i.e. which relates to Saturn), the name given by the Romans to the crude and irregular measures of the oldest Latin folk-songs. The scansion is generally of the following type:
◡–́ ◡–́ ◡–́ ◡|–́ ◡–́ ◡–́ ◡
with which Macaulay compares the nursery rhyme, “The Queen was in her parlour, eating bread and honey.” There was, however, considerable licence in the scansion, and we can gather only that the verse was generally of this type, and had a light and vivacious movement. It occurs in a few inscriptions (the verses on the tombs of the Scipios: cf. Bücheler, Anthologia Latina, 1895) in fragments, Livius Andronicus and the Bellum Panicum of Naevius. Subsequently it was ousted by Greek metres. The question as to whether it depended upon accent or upon quantity has been much discussed.
See Keller, Der saturnische Vers (Prague, 1883 and 1886); Thurneysen, Der Saturnian (Halle, 1885); Havet, De saturnio Latinorum versu (Paris, 1880); Müller, Der saturnische Vers und seine Denkmäler (1885); Leo, Der saturnische Vers (1905); Du Bois, Stress Accent in Roman Poetry (New York, 1906); also Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, i. chap. xv.