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Exploring the Void – Their mythological origins

Etymology is always an interesting topic, especially when it comes to the naming of planets in our solar system. In this vast void of space so many of our solar system planets’ name origins are derived from Greco-Roman Mythology. Let’s take a closer look at the myths that inspired the names we are so familiar with today. SPOILER ALERT: Hades deserved better.

By:Viraaj and Anuran

Space, the fascination of many, and study of few. Essentially a void, Space has held
the fascination of humans for ages. Ancient humans have long worshiped planets
and stars, naming them after their gods.
Many civilisations have named planets after their gods, a good example of this would
be the Graeco-Roman civilisation. This civilization gave us the names for most of the
constellations identified in the night sky, all the planets in our solar system and so
many stars and galaxies.
Let’s understand the origins of some of these names.
Starting right at the ‘centre’ of our solar system, we have The Sun. The Sun was
worshipped by many civilisations, benignly called by different names. One of these
was Helios or the Titan or the God of Sun. He is said to ride a chariot in the sky from
the east to the west. It was said that he was the reason sunrise and sunsets
occurred. Alternatively, The Sun can also be represented by Apollo, son of Zeus and
Leto, the twin brother of the Virgin Goddess Artemis, one of the 12 Olympians, is also
referred to as the god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing
and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, and many many more titles. He gave rise to
the Oracle Of Delphi which was an important figure to Greeks as they would consult
the oracle on personal and political matters. Apollo was also the central focus of Rick
Riordan’s Trials Of Apollo, the third book series in the long-running Percy Jackson
Fandom.
58 million kilometers away from the Sun we have Mercury, named after the Roman
form of Hermes, the son of Zeus. He is seen as the Trickster God (much like Loki
from Norse Mythology) and the messenger of Gods. Being represented by many
symbols, Hermes is most commonly associated with the caduceus, a winged staff
with 2 intertwined snakes.
Next in our stop comes Venus, named after the Roman equivalent of Goddess
Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love), probably because it shines the brightest in the
night sky after the moon? Also, here we get an example of all that glitters ain’t gold –
Venus is actually the most inhospitable planet in our solar system (Hephaestus finally
can have some peace.)
Hopping on to the next stop, we have our very own Earth. Depicted by Terra, the
Roman equivalent of Gaea or Gaia. Here’s a twist though, Gaia wasn’t a God or a
Titan, she was the mother of the Titans and Giants and therefore the Grandmother of
the Gods, since they descended from Kronos and Rhea. She was also the mother of
Uranus and Pontus, giving birth to the Titans, Giants, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes
with Uranus and the Primordial Sea Gods with Pontus.

Moving another 54.6 million kilometers from earth we reach the red planet of Mars.
Speaking scientifically, we all know the reason for this red colour of the planet but
ancient astronomers connected this red colour to the Roman War God Mars or Ares
(if you prefer greek). The son of Zeus and Hera is seen more properly as the Spirit of
Battle, Ares represents the distasteful aspects of brutal warfare and manslaughter.
HE is one of the 12 Olympian gods seated on Mt. Olympus and acts as the
complementary to his sister Athena, the goddess of war strategy, intelligence, and
generalship.
Let’s jump ship beyond the asteroid belt now. A slight warning before we reach the
next planet, this next one is easily angered so be very careful because now we have,
Jupiter or Zeus, the God of the Sky and Thunder, is the one that rules Mt Olympus.
The King of the Gods! He is a child of the Titans Kronos and Rhea, the youngest among
the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades), though this fact is arguable since many
believe him to be the eldest (the others were eaten by Kronos and had to be
disgorged from his stomach), and the one to slay Kronos and retake Mt. Olympus for
the gods.
Symbolized by a thunderbolt, an eagle, a bull, and the Oaktree, Zeus has had many
children, some with other gods, some with humans and all of them have been seen
as heroes through the ages, these offsprings included: Athena (birthed from the
thoughts of Zeus), Apollo and Artemis (Twin gods born to Zeus and Leto),
Hermes(THe trickster god, son of Zeus and Maia), Persephone(goddess of death,
life, vegetation and destruction and the daughter of Demeter), Dionysus(The wine
god), Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the muses to name a few.
After Zeus, I mean Jupiter, we have the planet that represents the father to most
gods, Saturn the Roman equivalent of the Titan Kronos or Cronos. Usually depicted in
scriptures with a scythe or sickle, Kronos is the son of Primordial Gaia and Father
Sky Uranus, he is said to have been imprisoned in Tartarus after being overthrown
and chopped to pieces by his son Zeus. Kronos is said to be responsible for a good
harvest, being seen as the patron of the harvest.
Then comes Uranus – the Father of the Sky in Roman Mythology, son and husband
to Gaia and father to the Titans, Giants and Cyclopes and grandfather to Gods, it is
said that after Gaia gave birth, he imprisoned the youngest of his children in Tartarus.
This led to Kronos, youngest of the titans, on the orders of Gaia, castrating Uranus.
He is also known for hating the children he had with Gaia.
Our Penultimate destination, the blue planet, Neptune, the Roman equivalent of
Poseidon – and it’s as blue as him. Said to be the god of the seas, Poseidon is one of
the 12 Olympian gods and a part of the Big Three. He also holds the title of
Earth-Shaker and is responsible for the creation of Horses. Usually depicted with a

Trident, Poseidon is said to reside in the underwater city of Atlantis and it is believed
that he supported the Greeks during the Trojan War (you know the one with the big
horse.. Yeah that one.)
Our final destination for today, the planet that has been ignored for the longest of
time, PLUTO! It’s said to be a dark, cold planet and is named after the god of the
underworld, Pluto or Hades (again take your pick when it comes to the names), lord
of the underworld, and ruler of the dead. (No he is not the God of death, that is
Thanatos).
No not Hades as in the underworld, that is a different place altogether (and
apparently below the Hollywood sign last we checked), and quite nice if you ask
Cerebrus and Charon (Charon, not Chiron, they’re different people). Hades is married
to Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, who he kidnapped after being enamoured by
her.
Hades is usually seen as the ‘evil’ god, being depicted as such in movies (Disney,
we’re looking at you) and tv shows (cough Saint Seiya cough) but it’s quite the
contrary. Hades is the pacifist among the gods, seen as the one that helps maintain
the balance. HE is also a part of the Big Three. While scientifically it is understandable
why Pluto was removed from the quote-unquote official planets, we believe that it
should still keep its status as a planet and this is definitely not because of its
mythological importance.
Honestly, if it were up to us, we’d keep you here for hours telling you about mythology
and the space, but we know that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So until next time!

By thoughtstains

This blog page serves as a platform for the Editorial department of The Hindu Education Plus Club at VIT Vellore. We provide opportunities to budding authors across campus to hone their writing skills. We publish blogs four times a week, where writers can communicate their views on any topic of their choice with our readers.

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