Sometimes research will lead one down strange alleys.
I spent the afternoon doing some research into the Aristotlean and Ptolemaic conceptions of the geocentric universe. In so doing I discovered an unusual belief held by ancient Mesopotamian and Greek cultures (and written about by Plato in the Epinomis), that Saturn was a star like the sun and it was identified with the sun dieties.
If I’m remembering my etymologies correctly, “planet” means “wandering star.” So in some sense, the ancients believed the planets were stars that weren’t fixed in the sky. Yet, the other planets weren’t associated with sun dieties. Saturn was.
The obvious question might be this. Why would the ancients associate Saturn with a sun diety? Why would Plato associate Saturn with Helios? Perhaps Saturn was much brighter as recently as twenty-five hundred years ago. Outgassing? A cosmic collision?
Or it could just be a mistranslation of ancient Mesopotamian and Greek texts. One of my favorite lines from John M. Ford’s seminal Star Trek novel The Final Reflection is that “The translator is a traitor,” the meaning of that being that in bringing a text from one language to another the translator is a traitor to the original meaning of the text as not every word, every concept has a corresponding word, meaning in another language.
Fortunately, my researches into the philosophical underpinings of the Aristotlean conception of the universe were more fruitful. 😉