Origin of the Seven-Day-Week

By Peter Myers



Date: 11/7/08 3:09 PM
Subject: Origin of the Seven-Day-Week

What is the origin of the Seven-Day-Week and similar names?

The Jewish Bible claims that the Seven-Day-Week was created by God, because he created the world in seven days (Genesis chapter 1).

Since the Week is not a natural time-period, yet a key feature of civilized life, the Genesis 1 creation story portrays Civilization as Jewish (instigated by a Jewish God and vested in Jews as its upholders) - just as Aryanists proclaimed Civilization an Aryan creation.

But the Jewish Bible was written (assembled & edited) by Jewish scribes in Babylon during the Persian Empire; and the Babylonians and Sumerians had introduced the Seven-Day-Week 2,000 years earlier.

Wikipedia has two conflicting pages on this topic. Although they give credit to the Babylonians, the second article ends by saying, "The Jewish week had been in use for at least 1,000 years before its adoption by the Roman Empire."

Items 1 to 3 show that this last claim is wrong. The Seven-day week was adopted, by the whole world, from the Sumerians and Babylonians.

(1) Names & Order of the Days of the Week, by C. Hartley
(2) The power of seven - From the Economist Dec 20th 2001
(3) The Week - from Encyclopædia Britannica
(4) Days of the week - Wikipedia
(5) The Week - Wikipedia

(1) Names & Order of the Days of the Week, by C. Hartley


The names of the days of the week in the Julian calendar are Sunday, the Sun's day, Monday, or Moon's day, Tuesday or Tiw's day, Wednesday or Woden's day, Thursday or Thor's day, Friday or Frie's day and Saturday or Saturn's day. At first sight this seems a strange mixture of Sun, Moon and Saturn, clearly of astronomical significance, and some other less familar names. It makes more sense when we note that Tiw is the norse god which corresponds to the Roman god Mercury, Woden is the Norse god of war corresponding to the Roman Mars, and Frie is the norse god of love, simial to the Roman god Venus. And Thor is Jupiter. Now we have Sun's day, Moon's day, Mercury's day, Mars's day, Jupiter's day, Venus's day and Saturn's day. Clearly the days of the week are named for the five planets which are easily visible with the naked eye (not including the Earth, which would not have been considered as a planet by ancient people) and the Sun and Moon.

But why the particular order. The first day of the week is named for the Sun, the brightest object in the sky; the second day for the Moon the second brightest object; the third day is named for the dimmest of all the planets, Mercury. Jupiter is the next brightest object and yet it is the fifth day. The days are apparently not ordered by the brigheness of the astronomical objects they celebrate.

To some ancient observers the slower the object the potentially the more powerful the object. Fast moving objects might have been interpreted as flighty and less serious, slow were ponderious and powerful. Let us consider the speeds at which the Sun, Moon and five visible planets move across the sky against the background of stars. Naturally we will consider their motion as seen from the Earth. The Sun takes a year to pass completely around the celestial sphere, 365 days. The Moon moves along almost the same path, the ecliptic, in just over 27 days. Mercury is always quite close to the Sun and darts from one side of the Sun to the other completing a full cycle around the Sun in 116 days. Venus can wander a bit farther from the Sun and takes about 584 days to cycle back and forth in its dance about the Sun. Mars takes about 780 days to move around the celestial sphere. Jupiter takes longer than Mars and Saturn longer than Jupiter. Thus in order of slowest, a most powerful, to the fastest, we have Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Well, that is still not the order of the days of the week. But we are on the right track.

The ancient Babylonians ordered the Sun, Moon and planets in the order of slowest to fastest as we have listed them above. They divided each day into twelve hours and each night into twelve hours for a total of twenty four hours a complete day. (footnote; more correctly, apprently the ancient Egyptian contemporaries of the ancient Bablylonians divided the day and night into 24 hours). Each hour was assigned a celestial god. The first hour for example would be Saturn, the second Jupiter, the third Mars etc. assigned in the order of slowest object to fastest. Because the first hour was assigned to Saturn the day would be known as Saturn's day. Saturn was the gardian of the first hour of the day and was honored to have the day named after him. The assignment of gods continued and when they reached the eighth hour, having exhausted the list of seven gods, they started the list from the top and asigned the eighth hour to Saturn, ninth to Jupiter, etc. The twenty fourth hour of the first day would be assigned to Mars and thus the first hour of the next day would be assigned to the Sun and that would be the Sun's day. Continuing in this way the first hour of the next day would fall to the Moon, Moon's day. The following days would then be Mars's day, Mercury's day, Jupiter's day, Venus's day, and finally back to Saturn's day. Thus, with a little help from the norse names and some very old ordering due to Babylonian astrologers, we have Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday again.

If you would like to learn more about all kinds of calendars consult the excellent site Calendarland!

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This page prepared by C. Hartley, Director of the Ernest B. Wright Observatory at Hartwick College in the City of Oneonta, NY. Contact : hartleyc@hartwick.edu

All text, drawings and photographs by C. Hartley, unless otherwise noted, copyright ©1997.

(2) The power of seven - From the Economist Dec 20th 2001


The week, to which we are all enslaved, has a strange and erotic history

WHY does The Economist appear every seventh day? The answer is because we, like you, still regulate our lives by a septimal law that Mesopotamian star-gazers framed, and local warlords imposed, more than 40 centuries ago. Our weekdays and weekends and weeks off, our dress-down Fridays, hectic Saturday nights, Sundays sacred or profane, and Monday-morning blues all have their origin in something that happened around 2350BC.
To the Sumerians, ultimately, we owe not only the week but also the 60-minute hour

Sargon I, King of Akkad, having conquered Ur and the other cities of Sumeria, then instituted a seven-day week, the first to be recorded. Ur was probably using weeks, less formally, long before Sargon came marching in. The Sumerians were great innovators in matters of time.It is to them, ultimately, that we owe not only the week but also the 60-minute hour. Such things came easily to people who based their maths not on a decimal system but on a sexagesimal one.

Why were these clever chaps, who went for 60 because it is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30, fascinated by stubbornly indivisible seven? In ancient Egypt and ancient China, "weeks" of ten days were long in use -- much more understandable, as people have ten fingers to count on, not seven. (And yet you have to wonder, if the Pharaohs' long week was intended to drive their workforce harder, whether it provoked the Exodus?) Above all, why should the Sumerian system have not merely endured but become an almost universal conqueror? Ur's posterity now sways regions Sargon never knew. Its lead has been slavishly followed by Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus ancient and modern, Muslims and most of the present inhabitants of Europe and the Americas. Even China surrendered a good thousand years ago. The year, the day and (not quite so obviously) the month are natural divisions of time. The week is an oddity. The moon's four phases are a near miss, but still a misfit, for weeks. You will be in trouble (like H.G. Wells's "The Man Who Could Work Miracles") if you try to make the moon perform every 28 days, instead of its usual 29 and a bit.

The Sumerians had a better reason for their septimalism. They worshipped seven gods whom they could see in the sky. Reverently, they named the days of their week for these seven heavenly bodies. So do most of us today. Greeks, Slavs, and many Jews and Muslims, although loyal to Ur's seven-day week, have shaken off its planet-gods; but a great majority of Christians and of Hindus, and virtually all "unbelievers", still pay their respects daily to the Sumerian seven -- under changed names, of course. For the Sumerians themselves, seven was a very special number. They conceived of a seven-branched Tree of Life, and of seven heavens, that were passed to Babylon and symbolised there in seven-tiered ziggurats, or hanging gardens. Sumeria's Gilgamesh epic describes the rite of passage through which Enkidu the ape-man became human, thanks to the obliging Shamhat: While the two of them together were making love, He forgot the wild where he was born. For seven days and seven nights Enkidu was erect and coupled with Shamhat. In spite of all that, Ur's seventh day was not holy. On the contrary, it represented danger and darkness. It was risky to do anything at such a time. So it became a day of rest.

Ever since the time when Abraham trekked westward from Ur, Mesopotamian influences had helped to form Hebrew traditions. The Jews got the story of the Flood from Sumeria. They got the seven-day-week idea early enough to use it in the account of the Creation given in Genesis. But there may have been some garbling in the transmission. The Sumerians would not have depicted the Creator as just sitting back, satisfied, on the seventh day; to them, he would seem to have stopped work, wisely, because anything attempted on that day must end in tears. The week reached India from Mesopotamia more than 2,000 years ago, in time to get into some of the Hindu scriptures. But the Hindus' creation stories were far more complex than Hebrew ones. They never accepted a Sabbath; their scriptural references to the week, as in the Brahmavaivarta Purana, were almost casual: When Brahma had fashioned this universe, he placed his seed in Savitri, his best wife. When she was ready to give birth, she bore the year, the month, the days of the week, the seven Pleiades. The Hindus were keen sky-watchers and sometimes keen septimalists. They had noted the Pleiades (Krttikas). Noting also the Great Bear's seven stars, they identified them with the Seven Sages who survived the Flood, combined these starry sevens, and made the Pleiades the wives of the Sages. Yet, in their absorbent way, they happily adopted the seven planet-gods who arrived with the original Sumerian week. And, in their retentive way, they held on to them. In modern Hindi, as in ancient Sanskrit, the planets we call Mars and Mercury are Mangal and Budh. The days called Tuesday and Wednesday in English, and mardi and mercredi in French, are Mangalvar and Budhvar.Elsewhere, new names have been showered on the old gods and their planets. Yet, to an astonishing extent, they have retained their identities -- and kept their places in the order of the days of the week.
Enter Ishtar and Venus

The first recorded change came when the Sumerian week-system was transposed into the Semitic language spoken in the Babylonian empire. The day-names used in Babylon around 700BC (running as if from our Sunday to our Saturday) were: Shamash (Sun), Sin (Moon), Nergal (god of war), Nabu (god of scribes), Marduk (supreme god), Ishtar (goddess of love) and Ninurta (god of farming). They had simply replaced their Sumerian predecessors; for example, Ishtar had succeeded Inanna both as a planet and as the presiding deity of love. The seven-day system has leapt blithely from one religious base to another, from Ur of the Chaldees to Israel, to Islam.

By the time the Romans had adopted the system, the planet-gods wore names more familiar to us: (in the same order) Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercurius, Jupiter, Venus, Saturnus. But their identities remained almost intact. The name-chain Inanna-Ishtar-Astarte-Aphrodite had led to Venus. Nergal lived on in Mars. Aptly, the god of scribes had mutated into the heavenly messenger, Mercurius. In English and the other Germanic languages, Mars, Mercurius, Jupiter and Venus were, in time, renamed in honour of Teutonic gods. From Tiw, Woden, Thor and Freya came the names of our weekdays from Tuesday to Friday. Even so, the chain remained unbroken. Although English Wednesday and Scandinavian Onsdag salute the god Woden or Odin, this came about only because he was identified with Mercurius. Similarly, the love-goddess Freya took the place of Venus -- and her place in the weekly sequence. Among Europe's Romance and Celtic languages, the Ur-idea of naming days from planet-gods is obvious. Mercurius is as recognisable in the French mercredi as in Romanian Mercuri or Welsh Mercher. The Slav languages, however, taking a lead from Greek, prefer numbering systems. (Five, in Russian, is pyat; Friday is Pyatnitsa. In Greek, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are Deutera, Triti and Tetarti; i.e., second, third and fourth.) Saturnus, alone among the planet-gods, resisted Germanisation.

And Saturday was "different" from other weekdays long before the two-day weekend developed. In ancient Rome it became somewhat inauspicious. Then it was, for a time, the Sabbath, both for Jews and for many early Christians. It is still Sabato in Italian, Sabado in Spanish, Sobota or Subota in the Slav languages. Over the naming of Sunday some confusion has crept in, for which Constantine the Great is much to blame. In 321AD, when he ordered the cities of his empire to rest on this day, his edict was related to the sun, rather than to Christianity. Three centuries earlier, Augustus had officially recognised the week, with its Sumerian-style planet-gods. Dies solis, the sun's day, was mildly auspicious, but only the Christians made it really special as their day for congregational prayer, linked with the Resurrection and called the Lord's Day. Constantine chose to boost that day while invoking not Christ but the Unconquered Sun (the emperor himself, at that point, saw the two deities as one). He thereby gratified Christians without offending sun-worshippers. So it was a shrewd move, at the time.

But it left the naming of the day in schism. In its Germanic versions it is now strictly the Sun's day (Sonntag, Zonday, etc). But it is given to the Lord (Latin dominus, Greek kyrios) in Romance languages (Domingo, Domenica, dimanche) and Greek (Kyriaki), and the Celts are split, Welsh Dydd Sul confronting Gaelic De Domhnaic. Most striking of all Sunday's names is the Russian Voskresenye ("Resurrection"), which endured through long years of imposed atheism.

Do not imagine that Sumeria's week and its day-names have never faced any challenges

The French Revolution brought in a ten-day "week" whose days were, literally, numbered (the experiment lasted, officially, for 12 years, but never really took). As soon as the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 they tried, but failed, to imitate the French revolutionaries (or the Pharaohs?). Later, for 11 years starting in 1929, Stalin imposed first five-day and then six-day weeks on the Soviet Union. The elimination of Sunday, with its strong religious associations, was one purpose of his experiments. They all failed, abjectly. Warned by this, the communist regimes established in other countries after 1945 did not even try to tamper with the Ur-old seven-day week.


Sumeria's 4,400-year-old feat of cultural imperialism is triumphantly intact and more assured of universal acceptance than ever. How can this be explained? Seven is a thoroughly awkward number. It gives us a year of 52 weeks (another awkward number), plus the annoying extra one or two days which force us to keep buying new calendars. The seven-day system's ability to challenge and, in time, overlay all others has always rested on its religious inspiration, not on its practical value. It has leapt blithely from one religious base to another, from Ur of the Chaldees to Israel, then on to Christendom, to Islam. It infiltrated the Roman empire before Christianity and reached India many centuries before the first Muslim invaders. European colonisers spread it through the Americas, but in the Old World, wherever Hindu or Muslim influences had penetrated, even the earliest European explorers found it was there before them. Today, most of the human race takes it for granted that their activities are recorded in weeks. There are two groups: those who feel that the week has real religious significance and that there is something holy about one day in seven, and those who have no such feeling. In neither group will you find many people who know how the week came into existence, or came to matter. "Men of old" knew. They could read it in the heavens. In a song of great antiquity like "Green grow the rushes O", it was natural, perhaps unavoidable, to include the line "Seven for the seven stars in the sky". They are all still there: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn. We may send out spacecraft to ring them round, but we ourselves are still held in the hebdomadal grip of the Seven. ==

(3) The Week - from Encyclopedia Britannica




period of seven days, a unit of time artificially devised with no astronomical basis. The origin of the term is generally associated with the ancient Jews and the biblical account of the Creation, according to which God laboured for six days and rested on the seventh. Evidence indicates, however, that the Jews may have borrowed the idea of the week from Mesopotamia, for the Sumerians and the Babylonians divided the year into weeks of seven days each, one of which they designated a day of recreation.

The Babylonians named each of the days after one of the five planetary bodies known to them and after the Sun and the Moon, a custom later adopted by the Romans. For a time the Romans used a period of eight days in civil practice, but in ad 321 Emperor Constantine established the seven-day week in the Roman calendar and designated Sunday as the first day of the week. Subsequent days bore the names Moon's-day, Mars's-day, Mercury's-day, Jupiter's-day, Venus'-day, and Saturn's-day. Constantine, a convert to Christianity, decreed that Sunday should be a day of rest and worship.

The days assigned by the Romans to the Sun, Moon, and Saturn were retained for the corresponding days of the week in English (Sunday, Monday, and Saturday) and several related languages. The other weekday names in English are derived from Anglo-Saxon words for the gods of Teutonic mythology. Tuesday comes from Tiu, or Tiw, the Anglo-Saxon name for Tyr, the Norse god of war. Tyr was one of the sons of Odin, or Woden, the supreme deity after whom Wednesday was named. Similarly, Thursday originates from Thor's-day, named in honour of Thor, the god of thunder. Friday was derived from Frigg's-day, Frigg, the wife of Odin, representing love and beauty, in Norse mythology.


week. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 06, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/638786/week

(4) Days of the week - Wikipedia


Days of the week

... [edit] Origins

It is suggested that the seven day week derives from early human observation that there are seven celestial objects (the five visible planets plus the Sun and the Moon) which move in the night sky relative to the fixed stars.[1] Seven days is also the approximate time between the principal phases of the Moon (new, first quarter, full, last quarter). Various sources[who?] point to the seven day week having originated in ancient Babylonia or Sumer.[citation needed] It has been suggested[who?] that a seven day week might be much older.[citation needed] The seven day planetary week was known to be presesent in Hellenistic Egypt.[citation needed]

The oldest Greek attestation of a seven day week associated with heavenly luminaries are from Vettius Valens, an astrologer writing ca 170 CE in his Anthologiarum. The order was Sun, Moon, Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Cronos; the similarity of Cronos with Chronos was remarked as early as Ptolemy. Valens had studied Egyptian astrology in Alexandria and there had probably also been exposed to Babylonian astrology. From Greece the planetary week names passed to the Romans.

Sanskrit attestations of the navagraha "nine astrological forces", seven of which are used for day names, date to the Yavanajataka "Sayings of the Greeks", a 150 CE translation of a 120 CE Greek Alexandrian text. The Manicheans carried the system to Tibet and China in the 3rd and 4th century.

The earliest known reference in Chinese writings is attributed to Fan Ning, who lived in the late 4th century, while diffusions via India are documented with the writings of the Chinese Buddhist monk Yi Jing and the Ceylonese or Central Asian Buddhist monk Bu Kong of the 8th century. The Chinese transliteration of the planetary system was soon brought to Japan by the Japanese monk Kobo Daishi; surviving diaries of the Japanese statesman Fujiwara Michinaga show the seven day system in use in Heian Period Japan as early as 1007. In Japan, the seven day system was kept in use (for astrological purposes) until its promotion to a full-fledged (Western-style) calendrical basis during the Meiji era.

The seven day week is known to have been unbroken for almost two millennia via the Alexandrian, Julian, and Gregorian calendars. The date of Easter Sunday can be traced back through numerous computistic tables to an Ethiopic copy of an early Alexandrian table beginning with the Easter of 311 as described by Otto Neugebauer in Ethiopic astronomy and computus. Only one Roman date with an associated day of the week exists from the first century and it agrees with the modern sequence, if properly interpreted (see below). Jewish dates with a day of the week do not survive from this early period.

[edit] Christianization

The early Christian Church, uncomfortable using names based on pagan gods, introduced a simple numerical nomenclature which persists in some European languages such as Portuguese and Greek. The Christian names are derived from Hebrew, which numbers all days of the week beginning with "First day" for Sunday but ending with the "Sabbath" for Saturday. Arabic names for Sunday through Thursday are first through fifth days; Friday (the day when Muslims are expected to perform noon prayers as a group) is named the "gathering day" and Saturday is Sabt which means "the End" because the count of the days of the week end with it.

It was Saint Martin of Dumio (c. 520€“580), archbishop of Braga, who decided that it was unworthy of good Christians to call the days of the week by the Latin names of pagan gods and decided to use the ecclesiastic terminology to designate them (Feria secunda, Feria tertia, Feria quarta, Feria quinta, Feria sexta, Sabbatum, Dominica Dies), from which came the present Portuguese numbered system. Martin also tried to replace the names of the planets, but in that he was not successful. In Middle Ages, Galician-Portuguese still retained both systems (as seen in older texts), nowadays only Portuguese's sister language Galician uses the old Roman gods system. For that reason, the first day of the week in Portuguese is Sunday (Domingo).

The Slavic languages adopted numbering but took Monday rather than Sunday as the "first day".

[edit] Indic languages

In the Hindu Calendar followed in South Asia and South-East Asia the days of the week (named after the planets, starting from Sunday) are called bhaanu vaasara (Sun), indu vaasara (Moon), mangal vaasara (Mars), saumya vaasara (Mercury), guru vaasara (Jupiter) bhrigu vaasara (Venus), sthira vaasara (Saturn).

The names of days in Hindi and Marathi are Ravivar (Sunday), Somvar (Monday), Mangalvar (Tuesday), Budhvar (Wednesday), Guruvar (Thursday), Shukravar (Friday) and Shanivar (Saturday)

In the linguistically unrelated South Indian dravidian languages language Tamil the days of the week are also named after the planets, in the same order as in the Romance languages and the Indo-Aryan languages - Thingal (Monday, Moon), Sevvaay (Tuesday, Mars), Puthan (Wednesday, Mercury), Viyaazhan (Thursday, Jupiter), Velli (Friday, Venus), Sani (Saturday, Saturn), Nyayiru (Sunday, Sun).

In the Sino-Tibetan language of Burmese, the days of the week, except for Sunday and Monday, named after the planets, are Sanskrit loan words. In order starting from Sunday, they are: Taninganway (Sino-Tibetan), Taninla (Sino-Tibetan), Inga (from Sanskrit 'Angara', "Mars"), Boddhahu (from Sanksrit 'Budha' "Mercury"), Kyathabaday (from Sanskrit "Vakyasapati"/"Bavahasapati"), Thaukkya (from Sanskrit 'Shukra' and combined with Pali 'Sukka') and Sanay (from Sanskrit "Shani").

The names of days in Urdu are Itwaar (Sunday), Peer (Monday), Mangal (Tuesday), Budh (Wednesday), Jumaaraat (Thursday), Jumaah (Friday) and Haftah (Saturday).[clarify meanings]

[edit] Japanese and Korean

In Japanese and Korean, the days of the week are named after the Chinese astrological week, which is based on the Indian luminary week. The Chinese associated the five classical planets with the Five Elements. Notably, the order of the planets follows the Indian week, and not the order of the Chinese elements. (See table below.) For example, the planet Mercury is associated with the element Water, and Wednesday (dies Mercuris) is called "day of water" (suiyoubi, in Sino-Japanese). These names of days of the week were introduced by the end of the first millennium CE to Japan and Korea, but they were not widely used in Japanese or Korean daily life until the late 19th century.

[edit] Chinese

In modern Chinese, days of the week are numbered from one to six, except Sunday. Literally, the Chinese term of Sunday means "week day"(??? or ???). Monday is named literally "week one" in Chinese, Tuesday is "week two", and so on. However, China adopted the Western calendar, putting Sunday at the beginning of the calendar week, and Saturday (???, meaning "week six" in Chinese) at the end.[citation needed]

A second way to refer to weekdays is using the word zhou (?), meaning "cycle." Therefore Sunday is referred to as zhoumo (??), meaning "cycle's end" and Monday through Saturday is termed accordingly zhouyi (??? "first of cycle," zhouer (?? ) "second of cycle," and etc.

Another Chinese numbering system, found sometimes in spoken Chinese of southern languages (i.e. Cantonese/Yue, or Fukinese/Min), refers to Sunday as the "day of worship" (??? or ???) and numbers the other days "first [day after] worship" (Monday) through "sixth [day after] worship" (Saturday). The Chinese word used for "worship" is associated with Christian and Muslim worship, and the system's use may be connected with the arrival of Christianity, especially prevalent during in the 18th and 19th centuries in south coastal port cities.

In traditional Chinese calenders, days may still be referred to by their association with the sun, moon, and the Chinese elements of fire, water, wood, metal, and earth.

[edit] Astrology

The following text needs to be harmonized with text in Week.

Between the 1st and 3rd centuries the Roman Empire gradually replaced the eight day Roman nundinal cycle with the seven-day week. The astrological order of the days was explained by Vettius Valens and Dio Cassius (and Chaucer gave the same explanation in his Treatise on the Astrolabe). According to these authors, it was a principle of astrology that the heavenly bodies presided, in succession, over the hours of the day. The Ptolemaic system asserts that the order of the heavenly bodies, from the farthest to the closest to the Earth, is: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. (This order was first established by the Greek Stoics.)

In astrological theory, not only the days of the week, but the hours of the day are dominated by the seven luminaries. If the first hour of a day is dominated by Saturn ( ), then the second hour is dominated by Jupiter ( ), the third by Mars ( ), and so on, so that the sequence of planets repeats every seven hours. Therefore, the twenty-fifth hour, which is the first hour of the following day, is dominated by the Sun; the forty-ninth hour, which is the first hour of the next day, by the Moon. Thus, if a day is labelled by the planet which dominates its first hour, then Saturn's day is followed by the Sun's day, which is followed by the Moon's day, and so forth, as shown below.

According to Vettius Valens, the first hour of the day began at sunset, which follows Greek and Babylonian convention. He also states that the light and dark halves of the day were presided over by the heavenly bodies of the first hour of each half. This is confirmed by a Pompeian graffito which calls 6 February 60 a Sunday, even though by modern reckoning it is a Wednesday. Thus this graffito used the daylight naming convention of Valens whereas the nighttime naming convention of Valens agrees with the modern astrological reckoning, which names the day after the ruler of the first daylight hour.

These two overlapping weeks continued to be used by Alexandrian Christians during the fourth century, but the days in both were simply numbered 1€“7. Although names of gods were not used, the week beginning on Wednesday was named in Greek ton theon ([day] of the gods), as used by the late fourth-century editor of the Easter letters of Bishop Athanasius, and in a table of Easter dates for 311€“369 that survives in an Ethiopic copy. These overlapping weeks are still used in the Ethiopic computus. Each of the days of the week beginning on Sunday is called a "Day of John" whereas each of the days of the week beginning on Wednesday is called a "tentyon", a simple transcription of the Greek ton theon.

[edit] References

Brown, Cecil H. Naming the days of the week: A cross-language study of lexical acculturation , Current Anthropology 30 (1989) 536€“550.

Falk, Michael (1999). "Astronomical Names for the Days of the Week ", Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 93:122€“133.

Neugebauer, Otto (1979). Ethiopic astronomy and computus, –sterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische klasse, sitzungsberichte, 347 (Vienna)

Zerubavel, Eviatar (1989). The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week, Chicago: University of Chicago Press ISBN 0-226-98165-7

This page was last modified on 5 November 2008, at 03:57. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) ==

(5) The Week - Wikipedia



A week (also called sennight or sevennight) is a unit of time longer than a day and shorter than a month. In most modern societies the week is a period of seven days. The weekly cycle of seven days runs independently of the cycle of a calendar. The common denominator in both cases is the day.


[edit] Astronomy

All early cultures were exposed to the night sky. The seven celestial objects visible with the naked eye (that moved in a way that clearly indicated they were not stars) worked their way into the myths and legends of most early cultures. Time was and still is easily measured by celestial events, the spring equinox for example, occurs approximately every 365 days. It was easy to adapt the other 7 objects clearly seen floating about in the sky to measure the passage of time. The Sun, Moon and five visible planets gave their names to the weekly cycle of days.

Celstial Object Sumerian Babylonian Greek Latin English Day name
Moon Nanna Sin Selene Luna Moon Monday
Mars Gugalanna Nergal Ares Mars Mars Tuesday
Mercury Enki Nabû Hermes Mercurius Mercury Wednesday
Jupiter Enlil Marduk Zeus Iuppiter Jupiter Thursday
Venus Inanna Ishtar AphroditeVenus Venus Friday
Saturn Ninurta Ninurta Kronos Saturnus Saturn Saturday
Sun Utu Shamash Helios Sôl Sun Sunday

This pattern lent itself to early religious teachings (Greek mythology for example) for most all knowledge -- astronomy, reading and writing, and most forms of education -- came from religious centers. Two in particular -- astronomy and religion -- often went hand in hand.

[edit] European and Near Eastern week

The origin of the concept of the Jewish and Christian seven-day week (Hebrew "shavua") may be attributed to Genesis 1 and 2 in the Torah, which contains the creation account of the universe, earth, animals, and man in six days, with the Sabbath of rest on the seventh day (Genesis 1:2-4). Its existence in ancient cultures may be traced to a divine or spiritual origin for this institution, since there is no celestial explanation to account for it, such as exists with the day, the month, and the year.

The week as a subdivision of the month may have independently arisen in Babylonia (or Sumer) and spread westward through Aramaea and Canaan, where each lunar month was divided into four parts, corresponding to the four phases of the moon. The first week of each month began with the new moon, so one or two days of the lunar month were not reckoned at all (or else some weeks were eight days). Every seventh day ("sabbatum") was regarded as an unlucky day. In Judaism, with emphasis on the Shabbat and the significant number seven, the week did not retain a lunar connection; by the time of the second temple it was defined only as a period of seven days, independent of the new moon. The new moon, heralding a new calendar month and observed as Rosh Chodesh, and the days of the month, are calculated according to the rules of the lunisolar Hebrew calendar. From Judaism the week passed over to Christianity.[1]

Weekday heptagram used for the planets or the days of the week

It has been suggested that a seven-day week might be much older. The seven-day planetary week originated in Hellenistic Egypt.

The Roman Republic and Empire, like the Etruscans, also used a "market week" of eight days (known as the nundinal cycle). From around the 1st century CE, with the spread of Christianity, the Roman eight-day week was replaced gradually by the seven-day week.

The seven-day weekly cycle is known to have remained unbroken in Europe for almost two millennia despite changes to the Alexandrian, Julian, and Gregorian calendars. The date of Easter Sunday can be traced back through numerous computistic tables to an Ethiopic copy of an early Alexandrian table beginning with the Easter of 311 CE as described by Otto Neugebauer in Ethiopic astronomy and computus. Only one Roman date with an associated day of the week exists from the first century and it agrees with the modern sequence, if properly interpreted. Jewish dates with a day of the week do not survive from this early period. The Jewish week had been in use for at least 1,000 years before its adoption by the Roman Empire.

[edit] References

1.^ Cohen, Simon, director of research (1943). "Week", Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Landman, Isaac, ed. 10, 482.

2.^ Weeknumber sorted by definition

3.^ Calendar Weeks

Falk, Michael (1999). "Astronomical Names for the Days of the Week ", Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 93, p.122. 1999JRASC..93..122F.

F. H. Colson, The week (1926).

Eviatar Zerubavel, The seven day circle (1989) ISBN 0226981657.

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.

This page was last modified on 2 November 2008, at 16:02. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) ==

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