12 Apr 2008

The celestial bodies Etruscan-style

I'm not updating my blog as frequently as I'd like to. As I said, crazy stuff is happening in my offline life and, well, let's just say that karma owes me bigtime at this point. Grrr. Anyways, I'm so distracted by things that I'm almost at a loss for content and the only thing that's springing to mind is the connection of the classically-known celestial bodies to Etruscan deities. What the hell, let's talk about it.

When you look at the days of the week, you'll notice that each day was originally associated with a deity. In English, the names of the week are based on Germanic mythos (Sunday = day of the sun, Monday = day of the moon, Tuesday = day of Tiw, Wednesday = day of Woden, Thursday = day of Thor, Friday = day of Frige and Saturday = day of Saturn). In French, the gods associated with each day are functionally the same but are derived from Roman mythology instead (Dimanche = day of the Sun, Lundi = day of the Moon, Mardi = day of Mars, Mercredi = day of Mercury, Jeudi = day of Jove, Vendredi = day of Venus, Samedi = day of Saturn). The symbolism of 'seven' was long ago associated with the seven known celestial bodies since the times of Babylon. In Roman terms, we see the following order Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Each are represented by the Roman gods Sol, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn respectively.

So in that light, I have a simple question that still vexes my brain: What deities did the Etruscans associate with each of these known celestial bodies? Surely they must had some similar belief system of the cosmos as that of the contemporaneous cultures surrounding them. Further, if we are so bold as to reconstruct these seven celestial deities, how can we be sure that the connections that we propose are correct ones even when based on the existing artifacts? Are there subtle symbolisms on mirrors and paintings that might give us a hint, and how can we be sure of any of our interpretations?


  1. A few notes: It seems strange that for Saturday, English, from the Germanic family, would have something so transparently Latinate - Saturn's day. The French samedi, like the German Samstag, as far as I know, are truncated forms of "Sabbath Day." (Older forms referred to Saturn.) Dimanche, like Sp. domingo, is the day of the Lord (Domenicus in Latin?).

    Given that the mappings between the days of the week are similar but not quite identical from Germanic to Romance, and for that matter between Greek and Roman deities, I think it would be tricky to get beyond the roughest idea of equivalences in Etruscan unless somebody was kind enough to note it down somewhere. Maybe the archeologists need to do more digging.

  2. Indeed, French samedi is believed to be directly from Vulgar Latin Sabbati Dies 'Day of the Sabbath, a clearly Christian term. However the Classical Latin term (the original 'pagan' one) is Dies Saturni 'Day of Saturn'.

    What we have here is an original, common set of pre-Christian terms for weekdays that have been later corrupted by Christian influence. (Note also French dimanche 'Sunday' from Vulgar Latin Dies Dominica 'Day of the Lord'.)

    So once we filter out later sociolinguistic changes, it would be rather unlikely that these seven standardized, celestial bodies didn't have some effect on neighbouring Etruria. Or for that matter, Etruscans could very well be the source of this Near-Eastern import. Afterall, if Etruria arose amidst the Orientalization Period, it would be practically absurd to think that the Etruscans didn't have a similar mythological construct to those found in the Near East, don't you think? (And need I mention the already-proven importation of haruspicy from Anatolia yet again?)