-written by Atharva Patil, Around our burning Sun revolve eight celestial bodies. These massive divine objects look beautiful as well humbling from our home planet and their names should suit their massive forms. All of these planets, except Earth, have their names from Roman Mythology since they were named by the Romans. Earth wasn’t named after a divine being simply because no one in those days recognized earth as a different planet, since even the concept of our home being a floating rock in space was considered absurd.
During the Roman Empire, only Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were named by them while the remaining planets were discovered and named after telescopes were invented, keeping in line with the existing nomenclature. Given here is the picture of the Roman Pantheon situated in Rome inside which are the sculptures of all the major Roman Gods. With all this in mind, let us see what the planets’ names stand for –
The closest planet from the sun, it is named after the Roman god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication. It is made up of rocks, being one of the four terrestrial planets of our solar system. The god Mercury, served as the Messenger of the Pantheon Gods and was also the god of thieves. He was a child of Maia, one of the daughters of Atlas (the giant who holds up the globe). He was immensely popular in Rome due to his importance in trade and commerce. His popularity in culture can be seen in literature as well, seen in the significance given to him in Virgil’s The Aeneid.
Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Venus is also a terrestrial planet with a dense atmosphere filled mostly with carbon dioxide, which in turn, makes it the hottest planet in our solar system. Venus was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity, and victory. In myths, Aphrodite is said to be already in adult form, born from the sea foam created from the death of primal Roman gods. Venus is an odd one out from the Roman Pantheon, while all the other members had only transactional relations with mortals, she had emotional ones. She was said to temper the male essence and bring about the union of a man and a woman. She was also said to be a goddess of prostitutes. Venus has had a strong effect on our modern culture which can be seen in Cupid, our much-beloved angel on Valentine’s Day, who was the son of Venus.
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The fourth planet from the Sun is named after the Roman god of war. Mars has a large amount of iron oxide on its surface which gives it a reddish appearance and it is therefore called the red planet. It is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere. Mars has a core of iron, nickel, and sulfur with a silicate mantle. Mars, the god, was very important to the Romans since the Roman Empire was a military state with a history of conquests. Mars was the embodiment of the military power that solidified peace and was also regarded as the father of the Roman people. He was also a guardian of agriculture. Hence virility was one of his vital traits directed both, in war and the growth.
The largest planets in the solar system, it is only apt that it is named after the leader of the gods of the Pantheon. It is a gas giant composed of mostly hydrogen and a small but significant amount of helium. It has a small rocky core made up of heavier elements. Jupiter of the Pantheon, sometimes called Jove, is the god of sky and thunder. He is marked by his weapon, the thunderbolt, and his sacred animal, the eagle. The eagle then further became the most auspicious bird for the Romans as well as the symbol for their army. Jupiter was given many sacrificial offerings – animals such as white ox and lambs were considered as the standard. In the Punic Wars, the Romans offered every animal born that year to the god.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and the second largest after Jupiter. It is also a gas giant with a mean radius of about nine and a half times earth. The most prominent feature of Saturn is its rings which are made up of icy particles and dust and moonlets. Saturn was the god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal, and liberation. His reign in the myths was termed as the Golden Age of plenty and peace. In this, he is described as having arrived in Italy as a fugitive and transformed the land and people there before becoming king there himself. By doing this, he was seen as someone who protected the land of Rome before Romans actually came there and established their Empire and was hence regarded as the first king of Italy.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun and is named after, surprisingly, a Greek god. Uranus’ standard structural model consists of three layers – a silicate/iron-nickel core, a rocky mantle, and a hydrogen-helium gaseous envelope. It has no well-defined solid surface but the outer part of Uranus that can be accessed through remote sensing is termed as its atmosphere which is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. Uranus was a Greek God and was one of the primordial beings in Greek mythology before the gods of Olympus reigned. Uranus (Father Sky) along with Gaia (Mother Earth) was the first generation of gods and is the ancestor of every god in Greek Mythology. In the Greek creation myth, it is said that every night Uranus used to cover the sky and mate with Gaia, but he hated the Titans, Hekatonkheires, and Cyclops that she bore him. For this, Gaia had him killed by Chronos, one of her Titan children.
It is the last planets of our solar system and is named after the Roman god of the sea. The existence of Neptune was hypothesized by Alex Bouvard by observing unexpected orbital changes in Uranus. This was later confirmed by telescopic observations. Like Uranus, Neptune is an ice giant with its mantle being rich in ammonia, water, and methane. In Roman religion, Neptune is the god of the sea and freshwater. Neptune’s sacred animal was the horse which is seen as a reflection of his own brutal and violent nature. His close relation with equines hence earned him the epithet “Neptunus equestris”. Neptune was one of the few gods to whom sacrificing a bull was considered appropriate, which was of significance to the Romans since one wrong sacrifice could mean denial of that person’s welfare at sea by Neptune. ENJOYED READING THIS ARTICLE? CONSIDER READING: BE IT HALLEY’S COMET OR COVID-19 – CHAOS IS INEVITABLE