Why Are The Planets Named After Gods?

Laika looks for Mars & Postcard Replies

Dear Classical Wisdom Kids, 

Did you know that all the planets are named after ancient Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses.... Except for one? 

Earth is actually an old English/German name which simply means the ground. It comes from the Old English words 'eor(th)e' and 'ertha'.

The rest - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and the sometimes planet Pluto - all derive their names from ancient deities. 

Now... why are the planets named after gods? Good question! I’m glad you asked... 

Well, it’s actually a very long tradition that started with the Babylonians. Staring up at the sky, it’s only natural that they would assign these ‘wandering stars' names after their gods. The Babylonians named Venus after the Sumerian goddess of love, Ishtar; Mars after their god of war, Nergal; Mercury after their god of wisdom Nabu; and Jupiter after their chief god, Marduk.

Later on, the Greeks took this same tradition and named the planets according to their gods of love and war, etc. Sometimes the names didn’t correspond perfectly, but that’s to be expected since they had different stories and myths. 

...And of course after that, the Romans did the same. What’s important to remember is that the Romans basically took the same gods from Greek mythology, they just changed their names (except for Apollo).

Why do we STILL use the Roman gods' names? Another good question! 

Interestingly in modern Greece, they continue to use their ancient names for the planets... but other European languages use the Roman (Latin) names because of the influence of the Roman Empire and, later, the Catholic Church.

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And so why is earth the only one that isn’t named after a deity? Wow! You are on fire with your questions, dear reader... I love it. 

Earth does not have the honor of being called after an ancient mythological divinity because it was only generally accepted as a planet in the 17th century! So, there is no historic tradition of naming it after a god.

We’ll go over the names of the planets and who they are named after (as well as their Greek counterparts) more in the next lesson... for now, you can enjoy the brief introduction from Laika (Owly’s friend on the scene) on the topic, as well as our Postcard replies, below!

As always, send your kiddo’s questions to Frida and Owly at classicalwisdomkids@gmail.com or reply to this email. You can also put some in the comments below. 

All the best,

Anya Leonard

Founder and Director

Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids

P.S. Even the word planet, come from the ancient Greek πλάνητες ἀστέρες (planētes asteres, "wandering stars") or simply πλανῆται (planētai, "wanderers").

Classical Wisdom Kid Club Members: Have a look out for fun planet games, activities and more coming your way… If you aren’t a Member, subscribe today to enjoy our resources AND support this budding project!


Postcard Responses

Hi Frida and Owly, 

I would put whatever kind of soda I had in there (the shoe goblet) and chug it!

Do you like playing games? I like playing games. If you do not say YES, I would be surprised! 

- Jameer (Age 6)

Frida: I Love playing games! My favorite game is Monopoly. What’s yours?  What kind of soda do you like? There’s only one soda I like. It’s in America. It’s a sort of flavored bubble water. 

______________

Hello Frida and Owly, 

Have you found an ancient sock, yet? 

-Taffy (Age 7 1/2)

Frida: No, I don’t think they had socks back there... but it would have been a good idea. I’ll try to sitch one for the ancient shoe. So then when the ancient people come back to get their shoe, they’ll have a sock too!

__________________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

Do you see some ducks, and dolphins, and penguins on the way? 

- Cutie Pie (Age 5) 

Frida: I saw ducks... but I didn’t see penguins and dolphins. But I’ve seen penguins in Australia and Argentina. 

___________________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

If you had a fake name what would it be?

- Peeper (Age 10)

Frida: Hmmm.... Maybe Carolina? 

_________________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

I have never been to a ballet. What was it like? What was the story you watched? Do you eat popcorn at the ballet? 

- Gold (Age 7)

Frida: No you weren’t allowed to eat in the Ballet. Ballet is where they wear frilly frilly dresses of any color. They jump around, they twirl and they leap and they stand on their very very tippy toes... but don’t try it at home because they spend years and years learning how to do it and they wear special shoes to do it. We watched “Masquarade”. I don’t exactly know what the story was about... but I loved it!

________________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

Why do you travel all over the world? I would like to travel all over the world! 

- Puppy (Age 5)

Frida: I don’t exactly know, but it’s fun and it helps me learn. If you were to travel around the world, which country would you go to? 

_________________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

What did you see inside the museum gift shop? If there was one, did you buy anything? 

- Box (Age 9) 

Frida: I don’t think that museum had a gift shop. But we did do something else! We went to a market next door. In there I got a few little dolls. They are very cute.

__________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

Did you see any Horrible History books? Or anything like Horrible History? 

Finn (Age 7)

Frida: No, I haven’t seen any Horrible History book. Are they fun? Or are they truly hoorrrible?? 

___________

Hi Frida and Owly,

Can I have a candy? 

- Kai (Age 6)

Frida: From where? What kind of candy do you like?

______________

Hi Frida and Owly, 

Can we see skeletons that have all of their bones connected on their body, at the museum? Did you see any like that? 

- Luke Skywalker (Age 7) 

Frida: No, in the Houston natural science museum, you might be able to find something like that. I have an app on my ipad that shows me really cool body games. I think you would love it. I’ll take a screenshot of it on my ipad and send it to my mom’s laptop to send to you! 

[Frida’s favorite human body app: https://tinybop.com/apps/the-human-body]

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