Just before the end of the Hellenic year, I am going to wrap up the Constellation Series. Quite a milestone as I started this series in September 2012. I already added one bonus post about the Milky Way, and today we will add the last installment: the planets of our solar system.

Today, we recognise eight planets: in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune (I still miss you, Pluto!). The ancient Hellenes recognised only six, including the Earth. The others were: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. They did not consider them planets, though, but stars. From the Roman Cicero's 'De Natura Deorum':

"Most marvellous are the motions of the five stars, falsely called planets or wandering stars — for a thing cannot be said to wander if it preserves for all eternity fixed and regular motions, forward, backward and in other directions. And this regularity is all the more marvellous in the case of the stars we speak of, because at one time they are hidden and at another they are uncovered again; now they approach, now retire; now precede, now follow; now move faster, now slower, now do not move at all but remain for a time stationary. On the diverse moons of the planets the mathematicians have based what they call the Great Year, which is completed when the sun, moon and five planets having all finished their courses have returned to the same positions relative to one another. The length of this period is hotly debated, but it must necessarily be a fixed and definite time." [2.20]

The ancient Hellenes ascribed the planets to a particular God, although its not always clear whom the planet belongs to. We'll run through them in order, combining Jupiter and Saturn:

Jupiter and Saturn
The Hellenic names for these planets are Kronion and Dios, but which is which depends on who you read. Depending on that identification, these planets belong either to Zeus (or Kronos) or to Helios and are either Phainôn or Phaethôn, placed into the sky by the Gods.

Phainon is a son of the heavenly Gods Astraios and Eos, or alternatively, a handsome youth crafted by the Titan Prometheus who was placed amongst the stars by Zeus. In the second version, Prometheus did not want to present the youth to Zeus because he was so beautiful and He wanted to keep Him, but when Zeus saw him, he was preserved forever in the sky. Two versions exist, represented here by the words of Hyginus and Cicero:

"Planets. It remains for us to speak of the five stars which many have called wandering, and which the Greeks call Planeta. One of them is the star of Jove [Zeus], Phaenon by name, a youth whom Prometheus made excelling all others in beauty, when he was making men, as Heraclides Ponticus [Greek academician C4th B.C.] says. When he intended to keep him back, without presenting him to Jove as he did the others, Cupid [Eros] reported this to Jove [Zeus], whereupon Mercurius [Hermes] was sent to Phaenon and persuaded him to come to Jove [Zeus] and become immortal. Therefore he is placed among the stars." [Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42]

"Most marvellous [of all the stars of heaven] are the motions of the five Stellae, falsely called planets or Stellae Errantes (Wandering Stars) . . . For the Stella (Star) that is called Saturnus [Greek Kronos], the Greek name for which is Phaenon (the shiner), which is the farthest away from the earth, completes its orbit in about thirty years, in the course of which is passes through a number of remarkable phases, at one time accelerating and at another time retarding its velocity, now disappearing in the evening, then reappearing in the morning, yet without varying in the least degree throughout all the ages of eternity, but always doing the same things at the same times . . . This regularity therefore in the Stellae, this exact punctuality throughout all eternity notwithstanding the great variety of their courses, is to me incomprehensible without rational intelligence and purpose. And if we observe these attributes in the Stellae, we cannot fail to enrol even them among the number of the gods." [Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.20]

Alternatively, as said, either Jupiter or Saturn represents Phaethôn, the son of Helios by Klymene. The story is told to us by Ovid, a roman poet. In it, Klymene boasts to Phaethôn that his father is the sun God Himself, and so, Phaethon goes up to Olympus to confirm. To prove His paternity, Hēlios swears of the river Styx to give Phaethôn anything he desires. Phaethôn grabs this opportunity to demand of his father to let him drive his golden chariot the next time the sun rises. First, Phaethôn drove them too high, and the Earth below cooled and the people suffered. Then, he flew too low and entire cities burned, lakes and rivers dried up, and even the seas were affected. Mighty Poseidon tried to stop Phaëthon, but had to flee from the heat. It was Zeus who threw His lightning bolt and killed Phaethôn.

" The second star is that of Sol [Helios]; others say of Saturnus [Kronos]. Eratosthenes claim that it is called Phaethon, from the son of Sol. Many have written about him--how he foolishly drove his father’s chariot and set fire to the earth. Because of this he was struck with a thunderbolt by Jove [Zeus], and fell into the river Eridanus, and was conveyed by So l [Helios] to the constellations." [Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42]

"Below this [the planet Phainon, or Saturn] and nearer to the earth moves the Stella of Jupiter, called Phaethon (the blazing), which completes the same circuit of the twelve signs of the zodiac in twelve years, and makes the same variations during its course as the star of Saturnus . . . This regularity therefore in the Stellae, this exact punctuality throughout all eternity notwithstanding the great variety of their courses, is to me incomprehensible without rational intelligence and purpose. And if we observe these attributes in the Stellae, we cannot fail to enrol even them among the number of the gods." [Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.20]

The ancient Hellenes called Mars 'Areios'. Pyroeis is the God of this 'wandering star'. His name was derived from the Hellenic word for fire pyra, so-called for his reddish tinge. He was also named Mesonyx, the Midnight Star. Unlike his brother Eosphoros (Venus the dawn-star), Pyroeis was scarcely personified.

"The third star is that of Mars [Ares], though others say it belongs to Hercules. The star of Mars follows that of Venus, as Eratosthenes says, for the following reason: When Vulcan [Hēphaistos] had married Venus [Aphrodite], and on account of his careful watch, Mars [Ares] had no opportunity to see her, Mars [Ares] obtained nothing from Venus [Aphrodite] except that his star should follow hers. Since she inflamed him violently with love, she called the star Pyroeis, indicating this fact." [Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42]

"The orbit next below is that of Pyroeis (the fiery), which is called the star of Mars, and this covers the same orbit as the two planets above it in twenty-four months all but (I think) six days." [Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.20]

Eosphoros and Hesperos are the Gods of Venus. They were originally regarded as two quite distinct divinities--the first, whose name means 'dawn bringer', was the God of the dawn-star, while the second, 'Evening', was the star of dusk. The two star-Gods were later combined. As such, it was called 'Eosphoros' when seen in the morning before sunrise, and Hesperos when it appeared after.

"The fourth star is that of Venus [Aphrodite], Luciferus [Eosphoros] by name. Some say it is Juno’s [Hera's]. In many tales it is recorded that it is called Hesperus, too. It seems to be the largest of all stars. Some have said it represents the son of Aurora [Eos] and Cephalus, who surpassed many in beauty, so that he even vied with Venus [Aphrodite], and, as Eratosthenes [Greek poet C3rd B.C.] says, for this reason it is called the star of Venus. It is visible both at dawn and sunset, and so properly has been called both Lucifer [Eosphoros] and Hesperus." [Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42]

"Lowest of the five planets and nearest to the earth is the star of Venus, called in Greek Phosphoros (the light-bringer) and in Latin Lucifer when it precedes the sun, but when it follows it Hesperos; this planet completes its orbit in a year, traversing the sod with a sausage movement as do the planets above it, and never distant more than the space of two signs from the sun, though sometimes in front of it and sometimes behind it." [Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.20]

Hermaon is the name of this planet, according to the ancient Hellenes. It's God is Stilbon, derived from the Greek verb stilbô meaning "to gleam" or "glitter." Out of all the five planets, He was the least personified. The star belonged to Hermes. "

This fifth star is Mercurius’ [Hermes], named Stilbon. It is small and bright. It is attributed to Mercurius because he first established the months and perceived the courses of the constellations. Euhemerus [Greek writer C4th-3rd B.C.] says that Venus [Aphrodite] first established the constellations and taught Mercurius [Hermes]." [Hyginus, Astronomica 2.42]

"Below this in turn is the star of Mercury [Hermes], called by the Greeks Stilbōn (the gleaming), which completes the circuit of the zodiac in about the period of a year, and is never distant from the sun more than the space of a single sign, though it sometimes precedes the sun and sometimes follows it." [Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.20]

And thus ends the Constellation Series. I had a lot of fun doing them and I thank you for following along with all the posts over the years. Keep your eye to the sky, alright? Lots of mythology to be found right there.