The first written evidence of the Carnival of Venice dates back to the 12th century, although it is thought to have derived from the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia.
The latter, it is said to have had its origins from the Greek festival of Dionysus and the Oriental festivals. The pagan celebrations were loved by the common people because of the exchange of social roles and the freedom it created. Gradually, the ecclesiastical rulers assimilated the pagan celebrations and added them to the Christian calendar. Therefor, the Carnival became this great feast comprised of a series of opulent banquets before the Lent (the period of fasting right before Easter every year). Other than the Carnival of Venice, there are similar celebrations in Ivrea, Viareggio, Sicily and Milan.