A Mathematical and Philosphical Dictionary
, a division of time that comprises seven days.
The origin of this division of Weeks, or of computing time by sevenths, is much controverted. It has often been thought to have taken its rise from the four quarters or intervals of the moon, between her changes of phases, which, being about 7 days distant, gave occasion to the division: but others more probably from the seven planets.
Be this however as it may, the division is certainly very ancient. The Syrians, Egyptians, and most of the oriental nations, appear to have used it from the earliest ages: though it did not get footing in the west till brought in by christianity. The Romans reckoned their days not by sevenths, but by ninths; and the ancient Greeks by decads, or tenths; in imitation of which the new French calendar seems to have been framed.
The Jews divided their time by Weeks, of 7 days each, as prescribed by the law of Moses; in which they were appointed to work 6 days, and to rest the 7th, in commemoration of the creation, which being effected in 6 days, God rested on the 7th.
Some authors will even have the use of Weeks, among the other eastern nations, to have proceeded from the Jews; but with little appearance of probability. It is with better reason that others suppose the use of Weeks, among the eastern nations, to be a remnant of the tradition of the creation, which they had still retained with divers others; or else from the number of the planets.
The Jews denominated the days of the Week, the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth; and the sixth day they named the preparation of the sabbath, or 7th day, which answered to our Saturday. And the like method is still kept up by the christian Arabs, Persians, Ethiopians, &c.
The ancient heathens denominated the days of the Week from the seven planets; which names are still mostly retained among the christians of the west: thus, the first day was called dies solis, sun-day; the 2d dies lunæ, moon-day; &c; a practice the more natural on Dion's principle, that the Egyptians took the division of the Week itself from the seven planets.
In fact, the true reason for these denominations seems to be founded in astrology. For the astrologers distributing the government and direction of all the hours in the Week among the seven planets, Θ , so as that the government of the first hour of the first day fell to Saturn, that of the second day to Jupiter, &c, they gave each day the name of the planet which, according to their doctrine, presided over the first hour of it, and that according to the order above stated. So that the order of the planets in the Week, bears little relation to that in which they follow in the heavens: the former being founded on an imaginary power each planet has, in its turn, on the first hour of each day.
Dion Cassius gives another reason for the denomination, drawn from the celestial harmony. For it being observed, that the harmony of the diatessaron, which consists in the ratio of 4 to 3, is of great force and effect in music; it was judged meet to proceed directly from Saturn to the Sun; because, according to the old system, there are three planets between Saturn and the Sun, and 4 from the Sun to the Moon
Our Saxon ancestors, before their conversion to Christianity, named the seven days of the Week from the Sun and Moon and some of their deified heroes, to whom they were peculiarly consecrated, and representing the ancient gods or planets; which names we received and still retain: Thus, Sunday was devoted to the Sun; Monday to the Moon; Tuesday to Tuisco; Wednesday to Woden; Thursday to Thor, the thunderer; Friday to Friga or Friya or Fræa, the wife of Thor; and Saturday to Seater. And nearly according to this order, the modern astronomers express the days of the Week by the seven planets as below: ΘSundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday.
In the same order and number also do these obtain in the Hindoo days of the Week. See Kindersley's Specimens of Hindoo Literature, just published, 8vo.