Myth

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Jupiter

By NASA/JPL/University of Arizona [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jupiter a.k.a Marduk a.k.a. Jove a.k.a. Zeus a.k.a. Bṛhaspati

The most massive planet in the solar system.

Jupiter is 11.3 times the size of earth and twice as massive as all the other planets combined. So many different cultures around the world designated this planet as King of the Heavens and the Earth. In English, we refer to the planet by the designation ascribed by the Romans. In Ancient Babylon, it’s name was Marduk. In Greece the planet was known as Zeus. Bṛhaspati is what you would call it in India. No matter when or where on Earth you found yourself, if you were pointing to Jupiter, everyone would understand that you are calling their attention to the Alpha and the Omega, the Keeper of Order, whose dominion was all and everything.

When characterizing the planet in his epic poem The Iliad, the ancient poet Homer said that all the other gods together could not pull him down, but he could pull them along with the Earth. Funny enough, this is actually scientifically accurate as Jupiter’s size and gravitational pull, second only to that of the Sun, has an effect on the orbits of each the planets in the solar system. Its gravitational force is also said to have played a crucial role in the formation of solar system during its early history and it is believed to attract and deflect space debris that could otherwise potentially bombard our home, the Earth. How’s that for the maintainer of order and the king of the realm?

Jupiter’s name in India is the root word for the Hindu Calendar’s designation for Thursday, or Thor’s Day, referring to the Lord of Lighting. It’s quite peculiar that, almost everywhere on Earth, this is how Jupiter was characterized especially given the fact that it wasn’t until we were able to closely observe the planet with modern telescopes that we knew that the giant spot, visible since the 1600’s, was a giant hurricane 3 times in size as the diameter of the the Earth! Almost every human culture developed to understand this planet as the symbol for the master of the universe, making it a core, if not central, figure in the mythologies found across our own.