Myths of Jupiter


Courtesy of The University of Texas McDonald Observatory

Jupiter has been in opposition since October 29, 2011 and will remain in this position until 2022.  So what does the opposition of Jupiter mean?  If you could look down upon the solar system plane at this time, you’d see the sun, Earth and Jupiter making a straight line in space, with Earth sitting in between the sun and Jupiter. Because Jupiter is opposite the sun at opposition, Jupiter rises in the east at sunset, soars to its highest point in the sky at midnight and sets in the west at sunrise, so it is visible all night long for this time.  Right now, Jupiter is the closest it has been to Earth in a long time and will remain in this position until the year 2022, when the opposition ends.

Jupiter is a planet that has been part of many myths and legends, it plays a crucial role in most ancient civilizations.  In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove is the king of the gods, and the god of the sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon. Jupiter may have begun as a sky-god, concerned mainly with wine festivals and associated with the sacred oak on the Capitol. If so, he developed a twofold character. He received the spolia opima and became a god of war; as Stator he made the armies stand firm and as Victor he gave them victory.  As the sky-god, he was the first resort as a divine witness to oaths..

Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians, was the planet Jupiter.  The role of Jupiter-Marduk was preeminent in Babylon, for he was credited with the world’s creation, bringing order out of chaos.    In the myth, Marduk establishes order by killing Tiamat, the dragon of primordial chaos. From the monster’s body he fashions the sky and the sea. Then he prepares to take advantage of his victory. His price for his service is the right to fashion an ordered cosmos. First, he organizes the sky, apportioning it among the other gods, symbolized in the constellations overhead. The year is next. Marduk decides how long it will be and subdivides it into months, their passage regulated by the stars he chooses. More celestial references, contrived by Marduk, put the world in order. He also marks the horizon, the zenith, and the points where the sun might emerge and depart. He puts up the moon and assigns it to light the night and count the days of the month. Clearly Marduk was the ruler of the sky.

Amon was the name by which the Egyptians called Jupiter, who had a famous temple at Thebes.  He was depicted as a human with a ram’s head. He was one of the chief gods, and was adopted by the Greeks as Zeus and the Roman’s as Jupiter.

Zeus of the Greeks was associated with Jupiter, and adopted by the Romans as their God Jupiter.  In the Greek-influenced tradition, Jupiter was the brother of Neptune and Pluto, each of them presiding over one of the three realms of the universe, The Sky, The Land, and The UnderWorld.  In their mythology his weapon is a thunderbolt which he hurls at those who displease him. He is married to Hera but, is famous for his many affairs. He is also known to punish those that lie or break oaths.

Jupiter of the Romans, as the name shows, was again the same planet. Jupiter evolved into a protector of the city and state of Rome.  In the early Republican era, when Rome was an agricultural city, he first appeared as an agricultural god in charge of sun and moonlight, wind, rain, storms, thunder and lightning, sowing, creative forces and the boundary stones of fields.  His main temple was the “Capitolim Vetus”, which is situated on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

In Vedic astrology, Brihaspati or Jupiter is a karaka or indicator of fortune, wealth, fame, luck, devotion and faith, spirituality, charity, morality, meditation, mantra, children, magistrates, ministers, lawyers and leaders in government and religion. Jupiter represents sacred scripture, wisdom, benevolence and philosophy. Jupiter’s most favored position is in the first.

Why was this planet chosen as the most exalted deity by all of these civilizations?

In Greece it was called “all-highest, mighty Zeus,” in Rome “Jupiter Optimus, Maximus” in Babylon it was known as “the greatest of the stars” as Ahuramazda it was called by Darius “the greatest of the gods.” In India Shiva was described as “the great ruler” and considered the mightiest of all the gods he was said to be “as brilliant as the sun.” Everywhere Jupiter was regarded as the greatest deity, greater than the sun, moon, and other planets.

Homer makes Zeus say that all the other gods together could not pull him down, but he could pull them along with the Earth. Homer stated, “That is how far I overwhelm you all, both gods and men.” Commenting on this passage, Eustathius wrote that according to some ancient authorities Homer meant the orbits of the planets from which Jupiter could drive the rest of them, but they could not drive it. This sentence of Homer is close to the truth. Jupiter is greater and more powerful than Saturn, its rival, together with Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury. Jupiter is more than a thousand times greater than the Earth or Venus in volume, and six thousand times greater than Mercury. But it appears that one could not guess this from observation with the naked eye. Even through a very powerful telescope Jupiter looks like an inch-large flat disc, surrounded by its four larger satellites.

The English word Jupiter originated as a vocative compound of the Old Latin vocative *Iou and pater (“father”) and came to replace the Old Latin nominative case *Ious. Jove is a less common English formation based on Iov-, the stem of oblique cases of the Latin name. Linguistic studies identify the form *Iou-pater (meaning “O Father Sky-god”).

The name of the god was also adopted as the name of the planet Jupiter, and was the original namesake of Latin forms of the weekday now known in English as Thursday, but originally called Iovis Dies in Latin, giving rise to jeudi in French, jueves in Spanish, joi in Romanian, giovedì in Italian, dijous in Catalan, Xoves in Galcian, Joibe in Friulian, Dijóu in Provençal.

It seems those in ancient civilizations revered something unknown to us in modern historical record, when they asserted that Jupiter can overpower all other planets, the Earth included.


Filed Under: Ancient Culture


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