Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Classical planets and the names of the week days

In antiquity the classical planets were the non-fixed objects visible in the sky, known to various ancient cultures. The classical planets were therefore the Sun and Moon and the five non-earth planets of our solar system closest to the sun (and closest to the Earth); all easily visible without a telescope. They are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

The name planet comes from the Greek term πλανήτης, planētēs, meaning "wanderer", as ancient astronomers noted how certain lights moved across the sky with the other stars. They called these objects asteres planetai, or wandering stars.

Together they form the seven classical planets, as well as the names of the seven days of the week -

  • Sun-day 
  • Moon-day 
  • Martis (Mars, Tuesday)
  • Mercurii (Wednesday)
  • Iovis (Jupiter, Thursday)
  • Veneris (Venus, Friday)
  • Saturn-day  

The earliest attestation of a seven day week associated with heavenly luminaries are from Vettius Valens, an astrologer writing ca 170 AD in his Anthologiarum. The order was

  • Sun 
  • Moon 
  • Ares 
  • Hermes 
  • Zeus 
  • Aphrodite 
  • Cronos. 

From Greece the planetary week names passed to the Romans, and from Latin to other languages of southern and western Europe, and to other languages later influenced by them.

Note the Germanic replacement of the god names except for Saturn:
  • Sun-day 
  • Moon-day 
  • Tyr-day 
  • Wodan-day 
  • Thor-day 
  • Freij-day 
  • Saturn-day  
(Read more about these in wikipedia)

In comparison to the classical world, in Biblical Hebrew week days are simply named by their number as in the story of Creation in Genesis 1 - First day, Second day...

In Judaism the Seventh day is usually called Sabbath, the rest or cessation (from work).

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